How to Install and Set Up Mac OS X Lion Server

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How to Install and Set Up Mac OS X Lion Server

Apple’s offered the gift of Lion Server to anyone who’s willing to drop an extra $50. Previously, you could only get OS X Server bundled on your Mac mini Server or Mac Pro, or pay $499 for Snow Leopard Server. By lowering the price, now more end users can afford Apple’s server offerings. In this article, we’ll show you how to download and set up Lion server on your Mac.

What You Need:

>> Mac already running Lion
>> Always-on internet connection (DSL, Cable, etc.)
>> Mac App Store account
>> (Optional) Custom domain name with DNS hosting
Difficulty: Hard

A note about running Lion Server on your Mac: With Lion server, you can either purchase a new Mac mini server or Mac Pro with the Server installation already on it; or, you can download the Server application from the Mac App Store for $50, and run Lion Server on any Mac that you own that can run Lion (this includes Core 2 Duo Macs and up).

Why Would I Want Lion Server?

Lion Server gives you many tools that you may like, including the ability to share Files with other Macs over the internet or with an iPhone or iPad through WebDAV, a wiki server that lets you host a website that’s easy to edit and configure. There’s also a Web server, iCal server, Address Book server, VPN service, and more. Plus, because you’re hosting everything yourself, you’re not trusting your valuable files to any other company or service.

1. Get a Static IP Address and Domain Name

In order for our server to work properly we need to give the machine a static IP address, which is the machine’s unique address on the local network. This will also enable you to port forward the services from the router to the specific machine it’s hosted on. So, when you request a website from your server (hosted on port 80), the router recognizes port 80 as being hosted on your machine and “forwards” the port to the machine that the service is hosted on.

Since we have covered setting up a static IP address before, check out this article and complete Step 1 before returning and continuing on with this tutorial. Note that your router may have limitations on whether or not port forwarding is available.

If you want to make your server available publicly on the internet, we recommend setting upDynDNS. This free service gives you a domain name (example: that allows you to connect to your server without having to remember your internet connection’s IP address. You can find more information and instructions on setting up DynDNS in our previous article.

2. Download and Install Mac OS X Lion Server

Once you have successfully configured your static IP address and domain name, you can begin with the Lion Server installation. Head over to the Mac App Store’s Lion Server page and purchase the application. Once the application has downloaded, double-click on it in the Applications folder (it’s listed as “Server”).

You will be presented with the Welcome to Server screen. Click continue to begin the set up process.


Be sure to accept the terms of the software license agreement, or else you won’t be able to install the software.


When you get to the Install Software screen, click the Continue button, and you will be prompted to authenticate as an administrator.


After you have typed in your username and password, the application will begin downloading the Server components from Apple’s website. After the download has completed, it will proceed to install the Server application and services onto your Mac.


After download and installation has completed, the application will begin configuring your Mac and the services that have been installed.


When you reach the “Configuring Services Successful” screen, you know that your Mac has officially been converted to Lion Server. Click the Finish button to close out of the installer.

3. Configure Server Services

Now that you have Lion Server installed, you will be able to open the Server app (located in Applications). When you do this, you might see a login screen that authenticates your administrator credentials. Once you’ve logged in, however, you will get a Server administration panel, where you will be able to turn on and off different services that Lion Server can accommodate.

Mac OS X Lion Server can host the following services:

– Address Book
– File Sharing
– iCal
– iChat
– Mail
– Podcast
– Profile Manager
– Time Machine
– Web
– Wiki


To set up any of these services on your server, simply click on the service in the sidebar, and then click on the ON-OFF toggle switch to turn the service, well, on or off. Please note that the Mail service will not work unless you have purchased and/or configured Mail Exchange Records for a custom domain name from DynDNS or another DNS hosting provider.

4. Configure Port Forwarding

Now that you have turned on your services, you may have attempted to load your site by typing in your domain name (, etc.) into your web browser. Well, chances are, it’s not going to load until you configure Port Forwarding on your router.

Many of the services listed on the sidebar of the Server configuration have their own ports (with some exception). The most common port is port 80, or the Web server port. When you request a webpage from your server, traffic is opened on port 80; however, your router doesn’t know what to do with a traffic request on port 80 because you have not yet set up Port Forwarding. Port Forwarding will tell the router to “forward” incoming traffic on port 80 to the server’s IP address that we set as static. This allows the server to communicate with the outside world.

If you are using an AirPort router, the Server admin app can automatically update the Port Forwarding settings. However, if you have another brand of router, you will want to check for instructions on how to set up the different services on your specific router.

5. That’s all

You should now be able to connect to the different services that your Lion Server is providing through the domain name that you set up previously.

If you have problems connecting to any of the services, here are some great resources to check out:
Apple Discussions
Apple Telephone Support
Apple Lion Server Support

Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter.