Mac Studio (M1 Max) as server

I’m thinking of getting a refurbished Mac Studio (M1 Max version) as a home server, namely to run Fedora Asahi on it. I’m also open to other distros, like Debian or even OpenBSD if needed.

Would Asahi Linux as it exists today be a good headless server? I only use FOSS packages (namely Tor, Caddy, and Nextcloud) and don’t use proprietary software on my server.

I’m okay with running cutting edge software and know Fedora is technically a poor choice for a server. I currently use a HPE ML30 running Rocky Linux.

Firstly, any Linux distribution (Fedora, RHEL, Ubuntu) work equally well as a server as they run the same FOSS packages, containers, and so on. Fedora is an excellent choice for a server (my own organization runs 5 Fedora servers, as well as 4 RHEL servers and 13 Debian servers on premises currently). I tend to prefer Fedora as a server if enterprise support (or a specific vendor platform for 3rd party software) is not needed - otherwise I prefer RHEL.

On Apple Silicon, you must first dual boot macOS with Asahi (it is possible to remove macOS later, leaving Asahi the sole native OS, but this is not recommended). However, you can choose to make Asahi the default boot target and configure it to boot automatically following a power failure to create a headless Fedora Asahi system.

  • To make Asahi the default boot target, hold down the Power button at system startup to get the startup menu, then hold down the Option/Alt key when choosing Asahi on this menu to make it the default always (Asahi is the default boot target following installation anyways IIRC).

  • To ensure that the system boots automatically following a power failure, you can run
    echo restore | sudo tee /sys/bus/platform/devices/*reboot*/ac_power_mode in Asahi (which is the equivalent of pmset autorestart in macOS, if you want to do that instead).

On a somewhat related note, my own dev workstation at home is also a Mac Studio and runs Asahi 24x7 as a server (it hosts my Nextcloud instance, K8s staging pipeline, a large FreeBSD VM, as well as a slew of other services that my other systems rely on). And while it is currently running the original Asahi distro based on Arch Linux ARM, I will be completely migrating it to Fedora at the end of this month.

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I have been testing Fedora in several scenarios for the last 6 months.

IMO, if you want a server get one of these (better than ) Mac mini killers with an AMD cpu.

You can get more info about them on a site called Serve the Home. You can get yourself for under a $/€1000 a fast machine with 65 watt CPU with up to 64GB DDR-5 RAM and PCIe-4 2 x SSD drive you can run in RAID 0/1. These machines have a minimum of 10gb USB or Thunderbolt 3/4 + at least one x 2.5gb ethernet port and minimal GPU cost (it’s a server, right).

As far as Fedora on a Mac goes, I have a server running on a broken MacBook Pro I5 (2018) with 16gb ram and 512GB SSD dual boot although to work on the Mac side requires safe mode.

I first installed the special ISO with KDE/Gnome options I found on GitHub but I want to test it was a server w/o a GUI and the screen still needs to go off LOL. I installed the server DVD and managed to figure out how to fix the console type size and get the screen to go off after 120 seconds.

Finally, I have been testing Fedora via UTM on my MBA M2. There are still some rpms missing. It’s not ready to be a prime time server but I trust it will get there.

If you want to play with it anyway, I would get a second hand Mac Mini with as much RAM as possible and you’ll need at least 512GB if you want to dual boot. Make sure it can get video out. Otherwise try an older M1 MBA or MBP


I probably won’t remove macOS, but would shrink it to the smallest size possible in case I ever want to sell the Mac. Well, I want the Apple resale values and a recovery environment if I ever need either.

I am aware of the initial dual-boot requirement. Also, thanks for the trick for auto-restart via Linux!

I’m interested in the Mac Studio because of Apple Silicon, not because it’s a Mac. If it was an Intel Mac, I’d then generally take a PC.

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I don’t need a fully baked “server”, just a barebones one. I just need the basic SSH as all I’m running are Tor relays and Nextcloud.

I am fully aware of the Chinese Mini PCs, but I want a Mac mainly because I want Apple Silicon and equivalent Intel/AMD chips use more energy than the sun. If I wanted x86 I’d be buying HPE (what I have now) and running Rocky instead of considering Fedora.

Not to hate on Chinese Mini PCs, they are perfect firewall boxes with my 1Gb CenturyLink Fiber, I’m using one right now, and are good low-end PCs if you don’t need a brand or warranty.

Asahi has made a good headless server ever since even before the original release in early 2022 :slight_smile:

Servers are the simplest workload, since they don’t need any “interesting” drivers. I use several Mac Minis and a Mac Studio as home servers. It’s rock solid, there is really very little to go wrong.

@mac2net Please don’t derail the thread. OP asked about Asahi on a Mac as a bare metal server, not for general server recommendations, opinions on Apple’s hardware strategy, anything relating to Intel Macs, or VMs.

Hi, thank you for doing this.

I am new to do this but very interested in doing what y’all have done i.e. using my MacStudio (M1 Ultra) 2022 as a homelab

  1. I have only one display (LG5k) which accepts USB C (TB) as the only input which as I understand isn’t still functional yet. I gather this from the Thunderbolt section here.
  2. Can I pre install something like OpenSSH and provide my auth keys when I setup Asahi using curl | sh? This way I can avoid using a monitor and still have access to homeserver.

Once again, please correct me if I’ve missed something, happy to learn :slight_smile:

I ultimately decided against Asahi as a server, namely due to requiring repos that lack a Fedora aarch64 repo. I’m currently using a HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen11 running Rocky 9, but thanks to supply chain issues it cost far more than HPE Gen10.

However, when I attempted to test Asahi as a server, you will need to configure Asahi with a monitor after booting it before going headless.

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