Using and Old iMac as a Server

A random question…
I have a functioning 2013 iMac that is currently not being used as I replaced it with a new iMac in late 2020.
The 2013 iMac has an older OS, some of the apps are obsolete, and it operates rather slowly. I could happily wipe the hard drive and reload the OS.
I am aware that many people use a Mac mini as a home server. I wondered if I could use my 2013 iMac as such? I have not yet researched this at all and I am not even sure how I would use the old Mac as a server. It just seems a waste to have it sitting in a cupboard when it could potentially be useful.
Can anyone point me in the direction of an “idiot’s guide” to using a Mac as a home server?

You definitely can use it as server. If you want to keep using macOS with it, I would suggest to try “patching” it using OpenCore Lagacy Patcher. This would allow you to upgrade to Ventura and pretty soon Sonoma.

I would use this as some sort of automation or backup server. Having it on a more recent OS would allow it to take advantage of the latest versions of your favorite mac apps.

For me, this would be Shortcuts, Hazel, Keyboard Maestro and Bunch. I currently use KBM’s remote trigger feature to launch stuff on my 2016 MBP. That’s barely scratching the surface.

If you’re in to home automation, another favorite of mine is Home Assistant. There are different ways to install it, one of which is as it’s own OS. This would of course replace macOS.

I’m not sure how savvy you are with Linux but another idea is to replace the OS. There are a lot of Awesome Self-Hosted software that you can install that are accessible via browser. Media servers, document management, personal accounting, blogs, etc.


Has Apple said how long they’re going to support Intel? Replacing the OS might be the better solution.

Set up Mac mini as Linux Server

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While this article doesn’t exactly say, i feel like it’s suggesting Sonoma or the next major one will be the last.

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I’ve put Linux on my discarded MacBooks to run as servers or laptops, some with memory less than needed in today’s macOS. Using Ubuntu now. Has all the bells and whistles to be a server and/or laptop. Works well.


Many thanks for all the replies. I will think about my options and try to get something working.

Your biggest problem with Linux is alienation. If you thought running Linux on a regular Intel PC was limiting, you will quickly find the shortcomings of running Linux on a Mac to be infuriating and if you don’t have the specific hardware… particularly ATI/AMD GPUs then it’s even worse.

Luckily, there is good GPU support for these machines even with Sonoma with the Nvidia card in these macs of the 6xx variant. Open Core Legacy Metal works perfectly well and overall Sonoma provides better performance than native Catalina.

Ventura might be better…

If you really need Linuxy type stuff then you can install something like Home Brew which will give you something akin to apt with precompiled repositories of stuff.

As others have said I would use it as a main screen for something like HomeKit or Home Assistant. They are still quite nice to look at.

Or if you install Ventura or Sonoma you can use it to access all the continuity features.

Another benefit is if your disks are in one of the native Mac OS drive formats is that it can read HFS as well as the current standards natively, so you can also set up a simple SMB server.

Unix has better file permissions than Windows, especially if you live in a multi-family member household…. You can set up directories on the Mac that are user specific which is the true benefit of a multi-user bs. Multi-seat OS.

Finally, if you need to login and manage your entire network from one computer it has a relatively safe Remote Desktop environment. So you can use it to manage any network attached devices or even other computers remotely if you set up tunnelling on your router.

Mac OS isn’t Linux it’s fully fleshed Unix. It’s closest relative is BSD, but by now Mac OS is fully native Unix and, therefore, code compatible if you can find a repository.

The front end is a bit heavy but it’s still way overpowered, and you won’t really throttle it unless you’re doing something intensive like running multiple VM workstations.