Setting up Pi-hole on Ubuntu Mac Mini

by Steven Cooney
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I've wanted to set up a Pi-hole on my home network for a while but never found the time. Similarly, my old Mac mini has been laying around for a few years now, and I have meant to make use of it. After the recent announcement that MacOS Big Sur will not be compatible with my 2012 Mac mini, I have decided to turn my mini into an Ubuntu server and install PiHole.


As touched upon already, I re-purposed an old 2012 Mac Mini. The Mac has an i5-3210M processor, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk. Using a Mac mini that is a small form-factor allowed me to position it nicely underneath my router.

Image of Mac Mini

Install & Configure Ubuntu Server

The first step was to grab Ubuntu server and follow the installation instructions from the official website. I used a USB stick as the installation media. To boot from the USB, hold down the ⌘ Command key when powering on the Mac to open up the boot menu.

Update the System

After the initial installation, I updated everything before continuing any further.

apt update && apt upgrade -y

Install Postfix for Email

To keep the server up to date unattended-upgrades are used. Reports from unattended-upgrades get emailed using Postfix.

To install Postfix and initial config I ran the following:

apt install postfix mailutils
cp /usr/share/postfix/ /etc/postfix/

I used SendGrid as a relay host and followed their documentation for configuring Postfix. Below was the configuration I added to /etc/postfix/

smtp_sasl_auth_enable = yes
smtp_sasl_password_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
smtp_sasl_security_options = noanonymous
smtp_sasl_tls_security_options = noanonymous
smtp_tls_security_level = encrypt
header_size_limit = 4096000
relayhost = []:587

To authenticate against Sendgrid using an API key, I created /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd to store the API key.

[]:587 apikey:<yourSendGridApiKey>

Ensure the password file had the correct ownership and before restarting postfix.

chmod 600 /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
postmap /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
systemctl restart postfix

Test Postfix by sending an email:

echo "Just testing postfix" | mail -s "[Test Email]"

Unattended Upgrades

As mentioned before, to ensure the Ubuntu Server is always patched, I configured unattended-upgrades which installs updates without manual interaction.

Install unattended-upgrades:

apt-get install unattended-upgrades apt-listchanges

Frequency Configuration

The frequency of updates I used was based upon this setup which was suitable for my needs. Within /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades I set the following:

APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";
APT::Periodic::Download-Upgradeable-Packages "1";
APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "3";
APT::Periodic::AutocleanInterval "9";
  • APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";
    • I update the package lists daily. This is important because unattended-upgrades can fail if the sources are outdated.
  • APT::Periodic::Download-Upgradeable-Packages "1"
    • I also download the updates daily too rather than downloading them all in one go.
  • APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "3";
    • Perform the installation every three days.
  • APT::Periodic::AutocleanInterval "9"
    • Clean the package cache every nine days.

unattended-upgrades Configuration

In the unattended-upgrades configuration file, I set the Unattended-Upgrade::Mail property to my email address.

I also set automatic reboot and the time to reboot too:

Unattended-Upgrade::Automatic-Reboot "true";
Unattended-Upgrade::Automatic-Reboot-Time "02:00";

Install & Setup PiHole

The inspiration for setting up Pi-Hole came from reading a blog post by Scott Helme, where he outlined the steps he undertook. Alongside, setting up Pi-Hole to filter out advertisements on my home network, I also set up DNS over HTTPS (DoH). DoH facilitates the secure transmission of DNS.

Installing Cloudflared

Cloudflared is used as a proxy to enable DNS over HTTPS. Pi-Hole has good documentation for installing Cloudflared. I installed cloudflared the "automatic" way outlined in the link above, below are the steps I undertook.

Install Cloudflared:

apt-get install ./cloudflared-stable-linux-amd64.deb
cloudflared -v

To configure cloudflared, I used a config file to specify the upstream DNS location DoH requests should be routed.

mkdir /etc/cloudflared/
vi /etc/cloudflared/config.yml

config.yml file content points to CloudFlare's DNS servers.

proxy-dns: true
proxy-dns-port: 5053
#Uncomment following if you want to also want to use IPv6 for external DOH lookups
  #- https://[2606:4700:4700::1111]/dns-query
  #- https://[2606:4700:4700::1001]/dns-query

Once the config was in place, I installed cloudflared as a service:

cloudflared service install --legacy
systemctl start cloudflared
systemctl status cloudflared

To test DNS routed via cloudflared works you can run dig:

dig @ -p 5053

Installing and configuring the Pi-Hole

Installing Pi-Hole was trivial, I just ran the following command and proceeded through the install instructions:

curl -sSL | bash

After the installation was complete, I updated a couple of configuration files to ensure Pi-Hole was routing DNS through the cloudflared service.

Within /etc/pihole/setupVars.conf remove the values for PIHOLE_DNS_1 and PIHOLE_DNS_2. This stops Pi-hole from using the DNS configuration chosen when setting up Pi-hole.


I also created an additional configuration file for dnsmasq to route DNS through the cloudflared service.

Create /etc/dnsmasq.d/cloudflared-dns.conf:


I then restarted the pihole-FTL service to use the updated config.

systemctl restart pihole-FTL
systemctl status pihole-FTL

Configuring devices to use Pi-Hole

To enable all of my devices to utilise Pi-Hole, I chose to set the network DNS servers on my router so, all devices will be routed through Pi-Hole and DoH by default.

Image of DNS Settings on Router

A few resources that I used during my setup that may also be of use:

Have you installed and configured Pi-Hole? Do you have any feedback? Reach out and let's discuss.

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