How set up a new Mac mini to use both as Plex server and main computer?

Hello, everyone! Long time listener, but just recently delved into the forums, which are an incredible resource.

I’ve just taken receipt of a refurb Mac mini in the i5, 256 SSD, and 8 Gb ram configuration. This is going to be my main computer, function as a Plex server, and serve as a Time Machine Server for my wife’s 2013 MacBook Air, which is still chugging along. I’ll also be setting up user accounts for our girls to use, should they need it (both typically use ChromeBooks). This mini is replacing a 2011 version that I tried to use as a Plex server, but which struggled and mostly didn’t work.

My plan is to set the new mini up from scratch.

I’ve got a couple of questions that I’ve tried to find the answers for, but haven’t been successful.

  1. I’d like to use this as a Plex server for the Apple TV that is used on our main television, and thus I’d like it to be available at all times. Do I need to set it up as a separate user account that stays on 24/7 and then just use fast user switching when I’m using it as a desktop? Would it still serve content even when I’m working on it?

  2. Same question for the Time Machine Server use, although I’d assume that it could use the same account to be accessible at all times (if that’s the answer to the question above).

Any particular setup recommendations or must-have apps are also very much welcome. In fact, through another posting, I found out about Moom, which I will be purchasing immediately and which will take care of one of my long-time nits (maximizing the window, but not to full-screen).


I think it should work fine. I don’t think you will need a different user to be running 24x7. Your account is just fine and you can lock it after you finish your work.
You are asking for app recommendations, which depends greatly on your use case, give us more details on what you are going to use it for and you also mentioned your girls will be using it, is it used as a shared file server for the family?

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Thanks, mina! If I understand correctly, then, Plex or Time Machine Server should work even when my account is logged out. That’s good to know—it never seemed to work on the old mini, so I thought it was a set up issue that I was missing and assumed it had to do with user accounts.

As to the software, I think I got a bit ahead of myself. I can think of one question in particular right now, but it’s nothing urgent and I believe I’ll poke around the forums a bit more to see if the subject has come up before. If not, I’ll ask at a later time. I hadn’t thought about it as shared file server, so I’ll look into that, as well.

Thanks again for the response!

I think you will need your own account logged in. I just said no need to have separate accounts.

Logging out would disable most software. But why would you need to log out?

As software goes, my mini is the go to place for all file actions with Hazel. This machine runs my entire plex, itunes and admin without any issues all through hazel (and maybe keyboard maestro)

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You don’t need to be logged in for
either Plex or TM to work.

In each case the “clients” will make
a call to the Plex and TM “service”

You will notice a Plex UID is created
when you install the Plex server, but
you should though log into your
Plex account, (that you created when
you downloaded the software)

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If Plex Media Server doesn’t require the user to login, that must be a new feature. I checked and mine is listed as a app that starts when I login.

Time Machine Server is a feature of macOS, so that can work without a user being logged in.

I’ll offer a different opinion, which is that when I did this, I did create a separate user, and I set that user to auto-login automatically and then drop back to the login screen.¹

The reason that I did that is so I could connect via Screen Sharing as the Plex user and do anything I need to do, even if someone else needs to use the computer. I also setup iTunes to auto-launch and anything else I needed to run. That makes sure that no one accidentally quits any of the apps that I want running.

Just another idea to consider, for what it’s worth.

¹ See Automatic Auto Login if you’d like to know how I do this.


You need to login to the Plex Server
from the Plex client to access the
Plex content.

You don’t have to have a user logged
on to the machine that hosts the Plex
Server in order to access content,
which is what I understood op asking.


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I totally agrree: If I’m not logged in my Plex does not work at all.

I have to be logged in, and I have to have the app running.

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All, thanks very much for the helpful replies! There are some great suggestions and I look forward to trying them. I’m hoping that the simple answer is, as csf111 stated, that Plex will find the server even if I’m logged out of the actual account on the mini.

I’ll start with that simple start and then move up the complexity scale if need be. Speaking of which, tjluoma, thanks for the information and link–that’s interesting stuff! By the way, I very much enjoyed your recent episode on MPU–learned a lot and got some great app suggestions, too.

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Hello TJ,
I have been trying to access the post on your blog where you explain how to auto login and then return to the login screen so that apps and services can load up without allowing anyone walking past to access your machine.

I have tried using the link in your post but your blog page returns an error, stating the page cannot be found.

Would it be possible for you to post the code here on here so that I can implement this on my own machine?

Darran West

Hi @darranwest

Yeah, sorry about that. I moved providers and haven’t fixed the broken links.

Until I do so you can find the article at

The image at the bottom can be found at

Thanks @tjluoma for sending through new links for the script.


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