macOS is not well-known for its capability as a server platform. In fact, you might say that the OS is ill-suited for it. But that would overlook the many network-based capabilities built into the base OS and macOS’s dedicated Server application. And if you have several Macs running on the same network, there’s no better way to connect them all.
1. Purchase the most recent version of Server from the Mac App Store. If you have an earlier version of Server, it won’t work with Sierra. You’ll need to purchase the most recent version, which is version 5.2.
2. Once Server is downloaded and installed, open the application from the Applications folder.
3. You’ll be greeted by a startup window. Click the “Continue” button.
4. Next, click “Agree” to accept Server’s licensing agreement. Note that “Use Apple services to determine this server’s Internet reachability” will be checked by default. Leave it that way.
5. Enter your administrator password and click “Allow” to finalize the installation.
6. Server will then do some configuration and setup which might take about sixty seconds or more.
Setting Up Server
1. Once Server has finished its first-time setup functionality, it will open to the main Server screen.
2. In the center of this window you’ll see some info about your server.
3. As you can see, my server’s default name is “Alexs-iMac.”
This is a bad name. To change it it to something more memorable, I’ll click on the button labelled “Edit Host Name…” This will also prompt me to do a little first-run server setup.
4. Now you’ll see a short dialog box explaining what a host name is (it’s your computer’s network name). Click the “Next” button. If the button is greyed-out at first, just wait a moment.
5. From the next popup, choose “Local Network” and click “Next.”
The “Local Network” setting will make your computer accessible by any computer on the same network, but you won’t be able to access it from outside networks. The “Internet” option is more difficult to set up and requires a domain name, but you can configure that later if you want to.
6. At long last we can give our server a better name. Click in the “Computer Name” text box and type in a different name.
You can only use the characters a-z, 0-9, the space, and the hyphen symbol (-) for your computer name. This is the name that you’ll see in the Finder sidebar when connected to the server.
7. Your host name will automatically change to match your new computer name. The host name is the name you’ll type when you want to connect to your server manually. Since spaces are valid characters for the host name, any spaces in your computer name will be converted to hyphens in your host name. When you’re done, click “Finish.”
8. Now your server will have a shiny new name!
Starting Server Services
We’ll make our server useful by setting up the File Sharing service.
1. Click on File Sharing in the Server window’s sidebar under “Services.”
2. Click the big “Off” toggle in the upper-right of the window to turn the File Sharing service on.
3. The toggle will switch to “On” and turn green. You’ll also see the Status turn green and indicate that your server is now available in the Finder sidebar.
4. To make specific folders accessible by connected users, click on the “plus” button under Shared Folders and select a folder from the popup Finder window.
Connecting to your server
Now that your server is active, you can connect to it with any computer on the same network.
1. Open Finder on another computer and look in the sidebar.
2. Under “Shared,” locate your server name and click on the server’s icon.
3. If you don’t see the icon in the sidebar, you can also choose “Connect to Server” from Finder’s “Go” menu.
4. Type in your server’s host name (which ends in “.local”) using the prefix “afp://” and click “Connect.”
5. Click the radio button next to Guest. Right now all our folders are accessible by Guest users. Them click “Connect.”
6. Choose the folder you want to mount, then click “OK.”
7. A Finder window will open showing your newly mounted folder. You’ll also see your connected server under the “Shared” sidebar.
Now that you have the basics of macOS Server set up, take a look at the other options under the Services sidebar to expand your server’s functionality.
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