How to create a headless server with our old Mac and enjoy the advantages of a semi-virtual machine

What can we do with a Mac that we no longer use? A lot of things, besides selling it or giving it to the house, we can give it various uses. As Jose Jacas suggests on Twitter, one of the most attractive is locate it as a virtual machine type server. With this solution, we can access it from our main computer and use it for secondary tasks or as a virtual machine.

What is a server Headless

When we talk about a waiter headless, that is to say without head, we speak of a computer without a monitor or screen on which to display your information, it is therefore necessary that we connect to it remotely to be able to use it.

In this type of servers we can use both Mac and Windows computers, which opens up a lot of possibilities. In the case of the Mac, in general we understand that we are talking about an old computer that we want to use as a secondary device. In the case of a Windows, from the perspective of a person focused primarily on the Apple ecosystem, you can Serve as a virtual machine to work or play.

The best way to describe the end result of what we are going to achieve when mounting this type of server is exactly this: a virtual machine, with the difference that this machine is not a virtual machine itself, but is located in another space in our house. Thanks to that, and unlike virtual machines, our use of them will not affect the performance of our Mac at any time.. Do I like playing demanding games available only for Windows? As easy as opening an app on our Mac and starting to play, the whole process takes place on the server.

Once the objective we want to achieve with this installation has been described, we will go into a little more technical detail. In a nutshell we are talking about a computer, in the event that we are dealing with a Mac, which we will practically leave always on and from which we will share the screen connection in our local network. Then, from any Mac, iPad or iPhone, we will connect remotely using the VNC protocol and we will use it as if it were a virtual machine.

In this article, we will focus on connecting to the server computer from the same local area network i.e. from our office or home. The reason is that when we start to move infrastructure to grid load and connection times change drastically, not to mention security issues, etc.

Configuration and preliminary preparation

Alright, let’s get started, let’s get our Mac ready to be a server, the process will be surprisingly easy. First of all, we set up the computer as if we are going to use it, we connect a monitor to the Mac that we will use as a server if it lacks a screen, we connect it to the Internet (preferably by cable), etc. An important step is that we let the computer not sleep, necessary so that we can access it at any time:

  • In the Apple menu () we choose System Preferences.
  • We entered Saver.
  • If we are using a Mac type laptop, like the MacBook Air, we enter the tab AC adapter.
  • We adjust the slider to the far right, in Never.
  • We enable the option of * Prevent the computer from going to sleep automatically when the screen is turned off.
  • We deactivate Put hard drives to sleep when possible if the option appears.

With this configuration, we will make sure that the server is always available, now we will configure it to be able to access it remotely. The steps are as follows:

  • In the Apple menu () we choose System Preferences.
  • We entered Share.
  • If necessary, we touch the padlock at the bottom left and unlock it with our user’s password.
  • In the left sidebar we activate Share screen.

Connection and use

We will now connect to it from our main Mac. To do this, we will use the the tools that the operating system itself provides us, without having to install additional software. The steps are as follows.

How to connect from our Mac

The steps are very simple:

  • We open a window from Searcher.
  • In the sidebar we enter Net or press Shift (⇧) + Command (⌘) + K
  • We double-click on the name of the computer we have just configured.
  • We touch Share screen.
  • We enter the username and password of our Mac server.
  • We mark Save password.
  • We are pressing Start session.

We will automatically see that a window will appear with the screen of our Mac server. From here we can interact with the server in the same way as if we did on our Mac. When we’re done, we just close the window. The next time we want to log in, we follow the same steps except for five and six, because the password will already be saved.

How to connect from our iPad or iPhone

What if I want to connect to an iPad or iPhone? The process is very similar. In that case We will be using a free app from the App Store called VNC Viewer. Once downloaded, the steps are as follows:

  • We open the app VNC Viewer on our iPad or iPhone.
  • In the sidebar of the application, we tap on Hello.
  • We tap on the name of our server.
  • We deactivate Notify me every time and we play Carry on.
  • We enter the username and password of our Mac server.
  • We activate Remember password.
  • We touch Carry on.

Again, we’ll see how our server window appears on the iPad. The use, in this case, As it’s a touchscreen, it’s slightly different, but you can get used to it quickly. VNC Viewer It is designed so that the whole screen works like a trackpad, so moving your finger on the screen will move the cursor and with one touch (two fingers for a right click) we will click. When we’re done, we just touch the X at the top. When we want to reconnect, we will only follow steps one through three.

How to use Messages to share and control the screen of our Mac

Easy, right? With these steps, we can create a server in which, depending on its configuration (for example with an eGPU), we can run games or perform heavy tasks without any impact on our main Mac. And to go further, especially if we have a Smart Keyboard case, we can access it from our iPad. Really a setup that can give a lot of play.