How to boot Intel NUC in headless mode

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Intel NUCs are a great system to run your home media servers. I’ve ran my Gen 7 Intel NUC PC for years in headless mode without any issues. However, recently after upgrading the primary disk to the WD_Black 1TB SN750 NVMe SSD, the NUC stops booting up when it’s not connected to a monitor. This stumped me for a while until I figured out the fix to boot the Intel NUC in headless mode.

Intel NUC Kaby Lake i3
Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing)

The fix to boot Intel NUC in headless mode

Method 1: Update the BIOS

It’s funny how simple the fix was for my NUC’s headless problem. As the Intel NUC never had any major issues, I never worried about upgrading the BIOS at all. But since this problem of booting up the Intel NUC in headless mode started, I wondered if it had something to do with the NUC’s BIOS.

But I should warn you. If you aren’t remotely sure you know what updating the BIOS of your NUC is, I recommend you try an alternative method instead which I will describe below. While updating BIOS these days are relatively safe, there is still the risk of bricking the NUC.

Use the Intel Driver & Support Assistant to find the latest BIOS update for the NUC

To find the latest BIOS version, I recommend using Intel’s Driver & Support Assistant to do so. It will require a small component to be installed and once that’s done, the Driver & Support Assistant page will be able to scan your PC and recommend any updates that is available.

Intel Driver & Support Assistant

The screenshot above shows that my NUC is already running the latest version 0088 BIOS, otherwise, you will see the recommendation to download the BIOS update installer, and a link to the BIOS download page.

For my 7th Gen NUC7i3BNH, this was where I got the latest BIOS update. I initially tried using the Windows-based Express BIOS update utility, but it didn’t update the BIOS at all.

Getting the Intel NUC BIOS update

So I then downloaded the file and used the F7 BIOS Update method instead. This time, it properly updated the BIOS and after a reboot post update, my NUC is now running on the latest version.

And voila, after the update. My Intel NUC magically boots up again without any monitor connected to it. πŸ™„

Method 2: Use a HDMI dummy plug

This requires you to buy a device called a HDMI dummy plug. It simply a plug that emulates a monitor and therefore tricking the integrated GPU to think that there is a monitor plugged in and therefore allowing the system to boot up.

HDMI dummy plug

This is probably the easiest solution but it will cost you between $5-$10 depending which one you decide to buy. All of them honestly performs the same so just go with the cheapest one you can find.

Also, if updating the BIOS still didn’t work for your NUC, then you would have no other choice but to use the HDMI dummy plug anyway.

If this post has been useful, support me by buying me a latte or two πŸ™‚
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