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wtwall9
Aug 11, 2013, 10:05 PM
I'm thinking of setting up a media server on a Mac Mini in the coming weeks, and was hoping I could get some general thoughts from you guys before I start buying. I'm definitely an amateur here, in that I have tons of DVDs and very few movies on digital media. Ideally, I want to have everything converted, so that I can play on my main TV hooked up to the Mini, and access everything else on Mac devices --- either at home or on the road.

First step is to buy a Mac Mini, and I'm considering going the eBay route. Any advice on this first step would be very much appreciated. I think a 2011 or later model would be best, but if I can go earlier, it would be good to know --- always love to save a bit. Any thoughts on specs --- specifically RAM? I think I can use external storage plugged into the Mac Mini to store the movies, so that I won't have to worry about finding a Mini with large amounts of onboard storage, but thoughts here would be helpful too.

Second step is to do the conversion. Is it easier to do the conversion on the Mac Mini somehow? I have a new Air that I love, but no optical drive. I have a tower Windows PC with a DVD drive that I could use to convert media, but I can't use Mac software on that, and from what I gather Mac software is excellent for conversion. I think that if I buy a newer Mac Mini, I would have to get a superdrive, too, to conduct the transfer.



cxc273
Aug 12, 2013, 10:43 AM
Given your description, any of the unibody Mac Minis will do the job. You can get one of the older ones equipped with an optical drive to rip DVDs with. If you get a newer one without an optical drive, you can easily purchase an external USB DVD drive.

The unibody Mac Minis are all equipped with an HDMI port, which will allow you to hook up the computer to your TV.

I would certainly look at external storage, especially if you've got a large collection or intend to go HD.

As for the other specs, certainly more memory or a better processor would aid in ripping movies, but for serving files, it's not really a huge deal. You can always upgrade the memory, as Apple's design makes it pretty easy.

With regards on how to make digital versions of your movies, you can go to this sticky on the forums: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=805573

SpinalTap
Aug 12, 2013, 11:44 AM
I use the Apple's SuperDrive for ripping movies to my Mac Mini (with RipIt). So, given that you a MacBook Air this would be a useful dual purpose device.

However, the miniStack Max from NewerTech offers a Mac Mini proportioned accessory that offers either DVD and/or Bluray burner with your choice of hard drive. You can even buy a bare-bones version for you to add the disc burner and drive of your choice.

http://www.newertech.com/products/ministackmax.php

super_kev
Aug 12, 2013, 01:20 PM
Welcome! Search is your friend. Also view the Mac section of the Handbrake forums as well as the Plex forums. Several hours and you'll have a good idea of what you need.

But to get you started, I have a Mini (SuperDrive version, 2009 I believe) running Plex server as well as hooked up to my TV for about four years and love it. Plex is good with ram, and 2GB would be fine. For storage, OWC makes two-bay SATA cases that work great, either empty or can also purchase with drives installed. To read the DVDs since the internal Mini drive died, I have a stack of three external OWC DVD drives that I load the discs in, que up and rip. I picked up iStat Menus, made a high speed fan preset, and change to high when I rip with Handbrake to help keep the Mini cooler. You can get any cables needed for your Mini to TV (or USB, Firewire, Cat5/6, optical, etc. for that matter) from Monoprice. Been ordering from them for years - great company and high quality stuff.

I rip everything in Handbrake, with modified high profile settings. The Handbrake x264 tune thread (https://forum.handbrake.fr/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19426) is a good read once you get your feet wet. Also purchase the Plex iOS app for your iDevice; very cool, easy to use. Can start, stop, resume movies from anywhere. And with PlexPass you can sync movies onto your iDevice for trips so you can bypass iTunes for movies and tv shows. Yes, I love Plex, can't you tell?

cxc273
Aug 12, 2013, 03:08 PM
I use the Apple's SuperDrive for ripping movies to my Mac Mini (with RipIt). So, given that you a MacBook Air this would be a useful dual purpose device.

However, the miniStack Max from NewerTech offers a Mac Mini proportioned accessory that offers either DVD and/or Bluray burner with your choice of hard drive. You can even buy a bare-bones version for you to add the disc burner and drive of your choice.

http://www.newertech.com/products/ministackmax.php

I've got a miniStack Max with a Blu-ray drive and 4 TB of storage for my unibody Mac Mini. I pretty much use that to handle ripping because converting Blu-ray MKV files on an Air -- even on my top-of-the-line 2013 MBA -- is a painfully long experience!

I'd highly recommended the miniStack series of external drive enclosures if aesthetics are important to you in your home theater setup, as they go perfectly with the Mini.