Mac enrollment simplified: Apple Configurator comes to iOS

The new iPhone version of Apple Configurator makes configuring and enrolling Macs as easy as setting up an Apple Watch.

Apple’s Automated Device Enrollment (often referred to by its older name, Device Enrollment Program, or DEP) makes it possible to automatically enroll iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TV devices with zero touch from IT. When a device is activated, the activation server recognizes it as belonging to your organization and leverages Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager to automatically enroll the device in your mobile device management (MDM) platform and apply configuration profiles to the device. This occurs directly in the setup assistant and requires no additional work for the user.

As powerful as DEP is, it does have one key limitation. Only devices that are purchased directly from Apple or select Apple Authorized resellers can be configured by DEP. This is because the records of the device and its association with an organization are required to link the device to that organization and its Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager account.

For iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV devices purchased outside those official channels, Apple Configurator 2 allows IT departments to automate the setup and enrollment process. It isn’t a zero-touch option, but it is a pretty powerful tool. It requires iOS devices to be connected to a Mac running Apple Configurator 2. Apple TV devices can also be configured using a Wi-Fi or ethernet connection.

You have the option to add devices to Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager using Apple Configurator 2. If you do, users will have a 30-day trial period during which they can unenroll devices from management. After that, Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager treats them like any other corporate device. You can also choose whether to activate the device with enrollment immediately or allow the user to complete enrollment during setup.

What about Macs?

Up till now, Apple Configurator 2 hasn’t provided the ability to configure and manage Macs. But it has had some pretty useful Mac features, including the ability to restore a Mac to its initial state, remove all content, update the firmware and recoveryOS, and reinstall the latest version of macOS.

More helpful is its ability to revive Apple Silicon Macs and Intel Macs with the T2 security chip. Revive is designed for situations where macOS is unable to boot or when it has become stuck in DFU mode. This can happen in a variety of situations, but is most common when a software update (including security updates) fails or if the update is interrupted, typically because a loss of power or someone physically shut a Mac down mid-update.

The most important thing about revive is that it is designed to preserve user data if at all possible. This provides a better option than completely restoring the device. As with restoring a device, revive updates the firmware and recoveryOS, and installs recent macOS updates.

Configuring and enrolling Macs with Apple Configurator for iPhone

The biggest new feature in Configurator is that it now has the ability to configure and enroll Macs in addition to other Apple devices. Instead of enrolling Macs manually as in the past, you can now use a new iPhone version of Apple Configurator.

This new app was released in early December. It requires iOS 15 and will work with Macs running macOS Monterey. It will only support Macs with Apple Silicon chips or the T2 security chip.

Apple Configurator for iPhone is an extremely simple tool. The main screen has two buttons: one is for settings, and this is where you enter the Wi-Fi network Macs should connect to, either by sharing the network the iPhone is using or specifying a network.

To enroll a Mac, first restore it if it has been previously used. When the setup assistant runs, select the language, and at the next screen (the one for selecting country or region), bring the iPhone close to the Mac. The Mac will then display an animation. Much like when you set up an Apple Watch, centering the animation in the iPhone’s camera will pair the iPhone with the Mac, deliver the required enrollment information, and assign the Mac to your organization in Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager.

Next, you can find the enrolled devices in Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager and assign the Mac to your MDM platform. When the Mac reboots, it will automatically enroll and download the various configuration and provisioning data.

The second button in Apple Configurator for iPhone is the status button. It can let you see the status of any nearby Macs, indicating which ones have been enrolled and which ones have not.

It’s important to note that your will need to use the Mac version of Apple Configurator to enroll iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. The iPhone version of the tool can only enroll Macs, not other Apple devices.

Advanced Apple Configurator features

Although the primary use of Apple Configurator 2 is to assign and enroll Apple devices in MDM, the application offers a number of advanced features.

For small organizations, Configurator can be used as an alternative to an MDM platform, because it allows you to create and distribute configuration profiles and to directly apply them to Apple devices. To automate this process, it allows you to create blueprints that can apply the same set of configurations to devices.

Apple Configurator 2 also supports a range of Automator actions to automate common tasks, and it includes a set of command-line automation tools that can be installed to further automate common tasks.

For additional information about Apple Configurator 2 and the new Configurator app for iPhone, check out the following:

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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