Configure a Mac Kiosk

How to use older Macintosh computers as a Kiosk



With the new Mac 10.5.x OS, setting up your computer as a Kiosk has never been easier. You will have to take a few things into account before you start. First you will have to have access to a Mac to configure, either an older Mac or a Mac Mini. Consider where you will be using this – will it need a internet connection? What type of access are you restricting? What Application are you targeting?

Selecting a Mac to use as a Kiosk
The minimum recommended system requirements for Mac OS 10.5.x are:

1.1 GHz processor with 1.0 GB of RAM

Most older Apple computers retain their value and used ones will range anywhere from $200-$500 depending on the vintage and the type. At $500 you are getting close to the purchase price of a
Mac mini Intel Core 2 Duo 1.83GHz
, which are continually on sale at Mac Mall for right around $500. You also could use one that you might be currently using as a short term Kiosk, possible for a trade show or exhibit. (If you plan on doing this skip to Step 2.)

Once you have the computer that you plan to dedicate as a Kiosk you should start by performing a clean install of 10.5.x Operating System. Begin by reformatting the Hard Drive and then reinstalling the system. Once complete you will have to perform all Software Updates to make sure your Security Updates are all up-to-date. Now you are ready to configure.


2. Configuring an Administrator’s Account After Reinstall.

Whether you have a clean system or if you plan on using you existing one you will have to set up User Accounts. For those who are using an existing configuration, skip this next part and move to part 3. If you have performed a clean reinstall you need to setup an Administrator Account:

  1. 1. Follow the prompts on restart and name your first user (First Name) “System” (Last Name) “Administrator”, shortname “admin”, and set a password. Make sure you set this account to “Allow user to administer this computer”.
  2. 2. Once complete you will be guided to the system screen. This is a good practice guideline and should be used any time you set up a new Mac. Next you will have to setup a guest account.
  3. 3. Start the Software Update process to make sure you are using the most current Mac OS 10.5.x.

3. Configuring Accounts, Preferences and Permissions.

Next you will have to configure a guest account.

  1. 1. Open System Preferences
  2. 2. Under System Select Accounts
  3. 3. If the lock is locked in the bottom left you will need to unlock it.
  4. 4. Next Click on the plus sign and create a new Account. Name it Guest and set an easy to remember password.
  5. 5. Do not check “Allow user to administer this computer”.
  6. 6. Check “Enable Parental Controls”.
  7. 7. Next “Open Parental Controls”
  8. 8. Select the user you want to modify, in this case “Guest”. Under System select Simple Finder and uncheck all Applications except the one you want to be your Kiosk. (In this case I am focusing on Firefox)
  9. 9. Check “Only Allow selected applications”.
  10. 10. Unckeck “Can Administer printers”, “Can burn CDs and DVDs” and “Can Change Password”.
  11. 11. Under Content you can restrict Website content. (In this case I am restricting it to AOL).
  12. 12. Under the additional restrictions you can Limit Mail, Limit iChat, set Time Limits and create Logs.

4. Killing the Dock

There are two ways of doing this, one uses Terminal the other is more primitive.

  1. 1. Launch Terminal (Still in the Admin Account)
  2. 2. Type: defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled Boolean YES;killall Dock


The more primitive method skips Terminal, simply go to your Hard Drive: System/Library/CoreServices/.

  1. 1. Drag and copy the Dock File to your desktop. Always have a backup.
  2. 2. Rename the Dock something else; like DOG.
  3. 3. Restart your computer and log back into the Guest Area.

5. Setup the Finder, Turn off Bluetooth, Set Screen Saver

Almost there! You will have to set up your Mac now to meet your needs. Before renaming the Finder you should log in to the user account and under File Turn off the Simple Finder.

  1. 1. Launch System Preferences from the Application menu by hitting APPLE (Command) + “N”.
  2. 2. Navigate to the System Preference and Turn-off Bluetooth.
  3. 3. Setup the Screen Saver to your liking, either turn it off or set it to a image.

Next you will have to Launch Terminal (still in Guest Account):

  1. 1. Close System Preferences.
  2. 2. Launch Terminal from the Application/Utilities menu by hitting APPLE (Command) + “N”. (You can also do this from the Admin area but will have to log in as guest in Terminal with the su guest command + password)
  3. 3. Once Terminal is open type the following:

    defaults write com.apple.loginwindow Finder /Applications/Path

  4. Tip! To set the Application path you can have the Applications Folder open behind Terminal and once you have typed com.apple.loginwindow Finder drag the Application from your Applications Folder in to the waiting cursor point in the Terminal window.
  5. 4. Type “exit” and Quit Terminal and Log Out of your Guest Account.
  6. 5. Next simply Log Out and re-Log In as Guest and you should only see the application launch instead of your Finder.

Learn more using my updated post: How to Configure a Mac Kiosk Part 2

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