How to Setup a Minecraft Server on Your Mac

Minecraft is a popular game, one that we awarded a perfect 10/10 in our review late last month. Many gamers choose to play the game in its single player mode, but the collaborative, multiplayer building is an immensely popular feature that powers hundreds, if not thousands, of gameplay servers.

You too can host a Minecraft server right on your Mac and, in this article, we’ll show you just how!

Vanilla vs Bukkit

The core Minecraft game can be played through services of two main types: the vanilla game and Bukkit. The former is the official server software, notably lacking any support for third-party mods and plugins and therefore not being the best solution for larger servers. If you’re looking to setup something basic and easy, though, then this is probably the best option.

The more popular of the two is CraftBukkit, a third-party server package that has more features and supports server-side plugins and mods. For servers that intend to support larger numbers of members, this is the more favourable option but note that support for new versions of the Minecraft client is a little slower than the official alternative. It can take a few days for new versions to be released after the official client and development snapshots of Minecraft won’t be supported.

You too can play Minecraft with friends.

Both are free and it’s completely up to you as to which you choose. The official game client works for both types of server, so there’s little difference on the player’s end. Let’s take a look at how to get both of them setup (you don’t need to run both, but we’ll cover how to get each one up and running separately).

The Setup Process

As mentioned before, the vanilla server package is the official release from Mojang that is co-released alongside updates and development snapshots of the game client. Alternatively, Bukkit provides a more featured multiplayer experience with support for third-party modifications and plugins.

Both the vanilla and Bukkit servers require the same setup process, which is performed in the following way.

Step 1. Setting Up

You’ll first want to setup create a dedicated folder somewhere on your system for all your server files to be stored in. Then, you’ll need to grab the server file from the Minecraft website and move it into said folder. If you’re looking to support development snapshots instead, you’ll want to grab the *.jar file from the relevant post on the Mojang blog instead.

Likewise, if you opt to use CraftBukkit, it can be downloaded from their homepage. You’ll want to rename the file to “craftbukkit.jar” to make the process, and upgrading in the future, easier.

The site you’ll want to head to in order to download Bukkit.

Step 2. Installation

Now that you’ve got a folder setup with your server file inside, it’s time to install the server and have its other dependent files created. This involves using Terminal but, fortunately, it’s a copy-paste job.

Open up TextEdit and paste in the following line. “1G” refers to the amount of RAM your server processes are given and this can be modified to a number of your choice. Be sure to change the number — in both locations — and nothing else, though. Then save the file as “start.command”.

If you’re installing CraftBukkit, there’s one more thing to change: you need to swap out the last parameter for “craftbukkit.jar” instead of “minecraft_server.jar”.

#!/bin/bash cd "$(dirname "$0")" exec java -Xmx1G -Xms1G -jar minecraft_server.jar

Now, open up Terminal and type “chmod a+x” — sans quotes — followed by a space. After the space, drag your “start.command” file and drop it in the terminal window before finally pressing the return key. This will grant the relevant permissions to allow your command to be run successfully.

Go ahead and open your command file and the server will setup for the first time, creating necessary files for managing the server’s properties, operator permissions, etc. You can learn more about configuring the properties file on the Minecraft wiki.

Step 3. Running

Whenever you want to launch your server, simply open the “start.command” file and allow the various necessary apps and processes to run. If you want it to run by default when you reboot your Mac, you can add it to your Startup Items under your OS X User Preferences.

Step 4. Installing Plugins (Bukkit Only)

If you opted for Bukkit (or CraftBukkit), you can now install third-party plugins and modifications. This is a simple process, requiring you to only download the plugins you want to run, drop them into the named plugins folder, and then restart your server to initialise and install them.

You can get plugins for your server directly from the Server Mods section of the Bukkit website.

Alternative: Open to LAN

Multiplayer Minecraft is an entertaining and addictive experience. It should be noted that Minecraft 1.3 introduces a new feature to open single player games up to being joined by other users on the same WiFi network. To let others on your same network join your local single player game, simply pause the game and then click the Open to LAN button. That provides a viable alternative to manually running a server if you don’t care about plugins and don’t want to take the extra steps to open you server to others online.


So that’s it: with these steps, you should have your multiplayer Minecraft experience running on your Mac in no time, ready for you to mod and tweak to your heart’s extent. Minecraft’s a great game on its own, but throw in multiplayer mode, and it becomes an even more immersive experience. Just be careful: you might have trouble leaving it alone when you should be working!