Problem connecting to DS server when logging in on macOS

Users of macOS devices, particularly MacBooks, may encounter a message when logging into (rather than when unlocking) their account. The message is as follows:

There was a problem connecting to the server "". The server may not exist or it is unavailable at this time. Check the server name or IP address, check your network connection and then try again.

This message may appear for users of any version of macOS.

The message will only appear when logging into a domain account. Local accounts are unaffected.

There follows an explanation of the cause of the message and other possible associated issues.

What to know first

With the introduction of the Jamf management system in July 2022, we can now offer a different means of logging into Macs, which avoids this issue entirely. If you are experiencing this issue, please raise a ticket with the IT Service Desk to request maintenance on your device.

What follows is an explanation of the situation if your Mac has not been enrolled into the Jamf management system and is not using the Jamf Connect login system.


Standard practice was to join all computing devices to the university domain, regardless of which operating system they run. This allows for management of each device, as well as enabling services such as network drives and print queues to be accessed when the device is connected to the wired university network.


macOS devices which do not have a successful connection to the wired campus network at the time of logging into a user's domain account (indicated by a red dot on the menu bar or next to the username field) will display this message. It is important to note that this is not an error, merely an information message that the DS domain server cannot be contacted at that time, and that validation of the username and password by the domain server is not possible. Clicking the OK button will clear the message and the account will continue to log in as normal, by checking the entered username and password against "cached credentials" i.e. a secure, local store of the account . However, whilst the disconnection from the university network continues, services such as network drives and the MyPrint queue will not be available. If direct, physical reconnection to the campus network is not possible (e.g. you are working from home), these services may be accessed by connection to the VPN, or by Windows Virtual Desktop.

The VPN cannot be connected at the login screen, so is not available to counteract this issue at the point of logging in.

Associated issues

On occasion, macOS may take longer than normal to display the message and patience during logging in will be required. At other times, the window displaying the message may not appear at all and the login process would seem to be stuck, apparently requiring a reboot. However, what can happen is that the message is there but not "in focus" i.e. not displayed as the prominent window, and is hidden away. If the message does not appear within 2 minutes of logging in, please close the lid of your MacBook, wait several seconds, then re-open the lid. It's still possible that the message may not be there, but the machine has reverted to displaying the username and password fields. Simply re-enter your credentials and the message normally appears quickly, at which point you may click OK to complete logging in.

How to avoid