How To Setup Your Mac Mini Without A Keyboard

How To Setup Your Mac Mini Without A Keyboard

If you’re using your Mac Mini as a home media server, gaming rig, or workstation, the setup process will feel slightly different than what you’re used to. For example, there is no “standard” way of connecting a keyboard and mouse to the Mac Mini. Instead, you will use various methods to set up your new computer without these accessories. Readers who are already familiar with OS X and how it works may think this article is fairly basic. After all, anyone who has used OS X on their personal computer knows how to navigate around it. The problem is that most desktops and laptops don’t come with an OS X user manual. That means we need to get into some details about exactly how you should go about setting up your new Mac mini computer without a keyboard and mouse.

How To Setup Your Mac Mini Without A Keyboard

Boot Your Mac Mini

Once you’ve unwrapped your new Mac mini, place it on a stable surface. Make sure that the Mac mini is not in a drafty area, and that there is enough space around it so that it can breathe. The last thing you want to do is put your computer in a tight corner or cupboard where the temperature fluctuates often. Once you’ve placed your computer somewhere safe and secure, plug it into an electrical outlet.

Connect The Ethernet Cable

Your Mac mini will most likely be connected to the internet through your router, which is a device that allows you to connect multiple computers to the internet simultaneously. If you have an ethernet cable, connect it to one of the ports on the back of your router.

Connect A Monitor To The Mini’s Thunderbolt port

If you bought a Mac Mini with a thunderbolt port, this will be easier than if you got one without it. If you did get one without a thunderbolt port, then you’ll need to buy a thunderbolt-to-HDMI cable or thunderbolt-to-DVI cable so that you can connect your computer to an external monitor. Thankfully these cables are usually pretty cheap (around $10). Once you’ve connected the lightning cable and plugged in your monitor, turn on your computer and take note of which input is being used by your monitor (usually HDMI or DVI). You’ll need this information later when we set up our keyboard and mouse.

Boot Your Computer Into Target Disk Mode

In order for us to properly set up our Mac mini, we need to put it into target disk mode so that we can access its hard drive from another computer. To do this:

  • Press “Cmd+S” on the keyboard
  • Hold down “T” on the keyboard
  • Hold down “D” on the keyboard
  • Release all keys

In order to use target disk mode, you will need another computer with an internet connection and a firewire or thunderbolt port. If you don’t have a Mac computer that can do this, then you’ll need to buy a firewire/thunderbolt cable.

Access Your Computer From Another Computer

Now that your Mac mini is in target disk mode, we can access its hard drive from another computer. To do this:

  • Connect your other computer to the same router that your Mac mini is connected to
  • Open up finder
  • Go to “Applications”
  • Go to “Utilities”
  • Open up “Disk Utility”
  • Select the internal hard drive of your Mac mini
  • Click on the “Restore” button
  • Select a time and date that is about 10 minutes into the future
  • Click on the “Restore” button
  • Wait for it to complete
  • Reboot your mac mini and remove the ethernet cable
  • Wait for it to boot back up
  • Remove your monitor and connect it back to one of its original ports

Install Your Keyboard And Mouse

Once you have rebooted without any monitors attached, you will be able to connect your keyboard and mouse directly to one of the USB ports on the back of your computer. You will also want to plug a monitor back in now so that you can see what you are doing.

The Difference Between Mac And Windows

No Desktop Icons

Mac OS X is a very different operating system from Windows. The biggest difference is that there are no desktop icons. There is no “desktop” in Mac OS X. Instead, all of your icons will be located on your dock at the bottom of the screen. You can get to your applications by clicking on the icon for your hard drive on the dock and then clicking “Applications”.

Application Menu

In windows, you typically go to “Start” -> “Programs” -> “Program Name” to open an application (the same goes for going to Control Panel). In Mac OS X, you don’t have a start menu or control panel instead, go to “Application” -> “Application Name”. When you are in an application and want to go back to the home screen, there is not a button that takes you back like in windows. Instead, press whichever key combination takes you back (for me it’s Command+Comma). This will bring up the dashboard which is sort of like an updated start menu with links to all of your applications as well as other places on your computer such as Time Machine (backup), App Store (applications), and System Preferences (settings).

Keyboard Shortcuts

The most important thing that I had trouble with when using a mac was navigating using keyboard shortcuts. However, once I got used to it, I found them incredibly useful. Here are some of the more common ones.

Control + Click to Open

To open an application, you can use the mouse to click on the icon for the application. However, you can also open applications by pressing Control + Click on its icon in your dock. This is especially useful when you want to quickly open an application and don’t want to go through the start menu or even have a mouse plugged in.

Command+Tab To Switch Between Applications

In Mac OS X, if you have multiple applications open at once, it is difficult to switch between them using your mouse. Instead, press Command+Tab and a list of all of your currently running applications will appear on the right side of your screen (depending on where you have your dock). Then use your arrow keys to select which one you would like to switch to. This is a great way of switching between multiple windows without having to constantly move back and forth with your mouse.

Open Finder

You will spend most of your time in Finder (the equivalent of My Computer). To open it, press Command+Spacebar and then type “Finder” (without quotes) into the box that appears and press enter or double click it if you are using a trackpad or touchpad. You can also access Finder by clicking on the hard drive icon at the bottom right corner of your screen (or any other folder that contains files).

Get Used To

The Dock is essentially like a start menu but instead contains icons for all of your applications. To access the dock, click on the icon at the bottom left of your screen or press Command+Comma. The dock can be configured in a number of different ways, but I like to have it set up so that it is on top of all other windows (instead of hiding under them), shows icons for all running applications, and only shows one window at a time.

Use Spotlight Search

Spotlight search is extremely useful if you know what you’re looking for because it allows you to search for anything on your computer. You can even use it to search for things that are not on your computer such as websites you have bookmarked or even songs on Spotify! To open the spotlight, press Command+Spacebar and type in what you are looking for (for example “Spotify” or “Facebook”). Then hit enter! 9 . Use Keyboard Shortcuts For Everything Another great way to speed up your workflow is by learning keyboard shortcuts for everything. That way, instead of clicking-through menus or clicking icons with your mouse, you can just use keyboard shortcuts (which also saves a lot of time).


Q: Can I install Windows on my Mac?

No. You cannot install Windows on a Mac machine because they are not compatible with each other. However, you can run Windows applications on your Mac by using a virtual machine program like VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop for Mac (which also allows you to run OS X and Windows simultaneously).

Q: Does the MacBook Pro have an HDMI port?

A: Yes. The MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt ports which can be used for numerous things, including connecting displays and external hard drives. However, you will need to purchase an adapter in order to connect an HDMI cable to it.

Erik McKenzie
Erik is an expert in technology trends and writes tech tips on blogs. He has a passion for helping people understand new technologies and how they can be used to improve their lives.