Headless Mode — Setting up Luna Display

What is Headless Mode?

Using Luna Display in headless mode allows you to turn your iPad or secondary Mac into the primary display for a Mac mini or Mac Studio. It allows you to combine the processing power of your Mac mini or Mac Studio with the touch display of the iPad or the screen real estate of a secondary Mac computer.

Note: Luna for Windows is currently not optimized to support headless mode. Similar steps can be followed to set it up, but we cannot guarantee that it will function as desired and our support for it is very limited. 

An external monitor is required for the initial setup to connect the Mac mini or Mac Studio and the iPad or secondary Mac computer. To avoid using an external display every time your computer is turned on after the initial setup, you will also need to:

  • Set up Automatic Login
  • Disable FileVault 
  • Add Luna Display to Login Items

Setting up Automatic Login, disabling FileVault, and adding Luna to your login items allows the Luna software to run at startup and connect to your iPad or secondary Mac computer.

Please note that the M1 Mac mini supports only one display using Thunderbolt/USB-C, so you would need to use an HDMI external display for the initial setup with Luna Display. 

If you are using a Mac Studio, you must plug Luna Display into one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports on the back of the Mac Studio as the ports in the front of the Mac Studio do not support Displays.

Setting Up Headless Mode

An external monitor is required for the initial setup process. We also recommend connecting an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad to your computer.

While your computer is connected to an external monitor, download the free Luna primary app.
Disable FileVault
In System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault, select "Turn Off FileVault". If the option is greyed out, click the padlock in the bottom left corner to make changes.

On macOS Ventura File Vault is under Privacy & Security > click the "Turn Off" button. It will ask you to confirm this change by entering your device's password.

Automatic Login
After disabling FileVault, go to System Preferences > Users and Groups > Login Options. Select your preferred account for automatic login. If the option is greyed out, click the padlock in the bottom left corner to make changes and make sure FileVault is disabled first. 

On macOS Ventura, this setting is still under Users and Groups. Turn on "Automatically Log in as".

Add Luna Display to your Login Items
Next, go to System Preferences > Users and Groups > Login Items.  Click the " +" below the list of items, select Luna Display from the next list of items that comes up, and then click " Add". Click the padlock in the bottom left to make these changes. 

On macOS Ventura, you will find Login Items in System Settings > General > Login Items. On Ventura, we have noticed that the macOS prevents certain apps from being added to Login Items and Luna Display is one of those apps. Adding it to Login Items for a headless setup is not required, though we recommend it as a failsafe in case Luna does not automatically start based on the toggle in the Luna settings.

To help get around this, we would recommend completing the following steps: 

  • Download and install Luna Display on your main Mac
  • Open the Luna Display application on your main Mac
  • Find the Luna Display application in the dock/taskbar at the bottom of your screen
  • Right-click the Luna Display application and select Options
  • Select Open at Login and Luna Display will be added to your login items in System Settings
  • If you're still unable to add Luna Display to login items after completing these steps, please reboot your Mac mini and try adding Luna Display to the login items once again.
Download the free Luna Display iPad app on your iPad or the Luna Secondary app on your secondary Mac.
Connect the iPad or secondary Mac to the same Wi-Fi network as the computer. If Wi-Fi is not available or unstable, you can connect your devices using a cable. Supported cables can be found here.
Launch both the Luna Mac app and the Luna iPad or Luna Secondary Mac app. Follow the instructions on your screen to connect. You will be prompted to plug Luna into your computer.
Once Luna has connected your devices, you can disconnect the external monitor from your computer.
A user must be logged in to run the Luna app. If you use FileVault, you may still need an external monitor to unlock your drive whenever you reboot. Having FileVault enabled can conflict with automatic login.

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