How old of a Mac Mini can I get away with as an iTunes server, Air Video server, etc.

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by KylePowers, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. macrumors 68000


    Hey there,

    Just sold my 2011 iMac, as it was a whole lot of computer for very little use (and I needed some extra moneys).

    I'm looking into a Mac Mini, but merely to serve as an iTunes server for my AppleTV (gen 3) and Air Video server for a couple iOS devices.

    So my question is, how old of a Mac Mini can I go for that will serve my needs?

    I have a 2011 MBA and an external Blu-Ray drive to RIP/convert optical media using MakeMKV/Handbrake, so I'm not particularly concerned with the Mac Mini's performance, as long as it satisfies my streaming requirements. But upgrading the Mac Mini, if possible (more RAM, SSD, CPU, etc.) would be neat for the future.


    EDIT: My iTunes library is stored on a 4TB external HDD, and my iMac's TM backup is on an external 2TB external HDD.
  2. macrumors P6


    Air Video Server requires Snow Leopard, that limits it to a Intell based Mac Mini. You can easily use any Intell based Mac Mini, even the early 2006 Core Solo model. They can be nicely upgraded with a Core2Duo T7600 @ 2.33Ghz, 3.3GB of ram, and a large 12mm tall SATA drive.
  3. macrumors 68000

    Get the 2009 with 9400M graphics and replace the AppleTV with it. Much more capable machine as it allows BR playback, 24p output and is a damn fine computer too.
  4. macrumors 65816


    What he said... What you need doesn't actually require a strong computer. Any intel mac mini will do just peachy.
  5. macrumors 68000


    Thanks a bunch, and to everyone else as well!

    Went with a 2006 Mac Mini with retail box/accessories plus Apple keyboard from eBay. Bought an Intel T7200 ($18), 4GB of RAM ($35), 30GB OCZ SSD ($30), and a wired Apple mouse ($5) to go along with it. Haven't gotten everything yet, but I'm very excited!

    My next question is, for when the time comes, should I go with Snow Leopard or Lion (or heck, even Mountain Lion)?
  6. macrumors P6


    Put on it Snow Leopard. Lion won't run on it without a hack and Mountain Lion won't at all. If your Mini is a 1,1 make sure you flash the 2,1 firmware on it before you install the 4GB of ram or it won't boot.
  7. macrumors 68000


    Yeah, but the hack for Lion isn't too difficult from my understanding. Mainly curios to whether it'll run better (and whether its features) are worth the slight trouble. As for ML, I think it's possible using MLPostFactor ( But that seems more so of a hassle.

    And how would one go about checking the firmware / flashing a new one? Cheers!
  8. macrumors P6


    Lion doesn't run well on my 2006 Mini. Snow Leopard is the best performing of all the Mac OS X systems on it. This thread details how to flash the MacMini2,1 firmware.
  9. macrumors 68020

    I have a 1.83 Core (1) Duo mini and it is NOT 100% peachy. It just doesn't have the oomph for 720p streaming.

    So, I would say at least a Core 2 Duo.
    I may try to upgrade it.
  10. macrumors regular


    I don't have a Mac Mini, but I've had troubles purchasing HD content from my mini pc that I use as an iTunes Server. It's 1.7Ghz. It can stream without any problems, but when I try to buy HD content, it says my specs aren't high enough. Though, that may just be because it isn't a Mac Mini. I just buy from my iPad and then download it on my pc.

    All that to say, beware scaling back too much (or at least have another option when it comes to purchasing, if it comes to that).
  11. macrumors 6502

    Considering Lion was not ment to be run on 2007 or older models, I doubt it runs "better" than SL on those models. I run Lion on a 2007 Mini with 2 GB RAM and it works OK, but videos can be a bit choppy from time to time.
  12. macrumors Nehalem


    I have a 2009 C2D and it runs ML just fine (I am on the machine now). I also have an upgraded drive and upgraded ram from 2 to 4GB. I would say 2009 (early) or later.
    I personally wouldn't go any earlier.
  13. macrumors 68000

    The main reason is the 9400M. It does hardware decoding of H264 and keeps the fans running low speed. You might be able to upgrade older machines with 45nm C2D CPU's, but that does not solve the 1080p decoding.
  14. macrumors P6


    The older 2006/2007 Minis can't use those CPUs. They're limited by their 667Mhz bus speed to the T7600 at 2.3Ghz for the fastest.
  15. macrumors 68000


    Hi everyone!

    I successfully upgraded my 2006 Mini Core Solo, 512MB RAM, 60GB HDD to a 2.0 Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, and a 30GB SSD. So thank you to everyone who offered advice!

    It runs super smoothly and works very well. It's truly indistinguishable from my 2011 iMac in terms of every day usage. The only downside I've found is the ethernet isn't that great for network-to-network usage (not gigabit, I imagine) and using Handbrake takes forever!

    Also, the fan constantly runs at full blast, and I'm pretty sure I plugged everything in correctly (even tried PMU/SMC/etc resets to remedy it), but oh well... can't hear it over my AC and floor fan anyhow. At least it keeps the CPU cool!

    I tested some streaming to my iPhone via Air Video from a few states away, and it works flawlessly. Will test my Plex client on my MBA shortly, but I'd imagine similar results.

    Nevertheless, I'm very happy and am selling my AppleTV 3 to recoup my upgrade costs... which in turn, has given me a much more functional device!

    EDIT: I do very much prefer ML and Lion over Snow Leopard, however. But oh well.

    EDIT again: Just checked my Plex client via my MBA... works beautifully. Very happy and very impressed.
  16. macrumors 68000


    Follow-up questions:

    I have an external HDD connected to my Snow Leopard Mac Mini. How can I read/write to that hard drive from another Mac on the same network? I have file sharing enabled, and even added the hard drive as a shared directory, but whilst I can read/write the standard 'Macintosh HD' (using login credentials), my MBA can't see the aforementioned external HDD.

    Also, how can I remotely screen/file share with my Mac Mini? This was really easy in the past with the advent of iCloud (Back to my Mac) on my 2011 iMac, but I haven't the slightest clue on how to do it with Snow Leopard. I tried VNCing into it (with Finder) using the public IP (which I needed for PLEX anyhow, which works!), but it's behind a router so that may be complicating things? I'm not sure TBH.

  17. macrumors 68020

    You have to turn on sharing in the system preferences (both to allow screen sharing and sharing of drives). The macs have to be on the same network, bonjour should take care of the rest. Not sure why it isn't working.
  18. macrumors 68000


    I have indeed done that. I think it might be because the HDD is formatted as exFat and not HSF+. Not sure =\
  19. macrumors 68000

  20. macrumors 6502

    I'm a little confused here as H.264 encoding was described as the reason why you needed a 2011 Mac Mini to do AirPlay. The 2011 Mac Mini has HD3000 graphics. It is two generations after the 9400M.

    Early 2006 GMA 950
    Late 2006 GMA 950
    Mid 2007 GMA 950
    Early 2009 9400M
    Late 2009 9400M
    Mid 2010 320M
    Mid 2011 HD3000 <----- first H.264 encoder?
    Late 2012 HD4000
  21. macrumors P6


    There's an encoder and a decoder. The encoder takes images and makes it into a h264 video stream and is needed for AirPlay mirroring. The decoder takes a h264 video stream and makes it into images. The decoder is usually a part of the GPU. For Macs, the encoder is a part of Intell's QuickSync technology.
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Many of the suggestions in this thread don't make sense to me. I believe he was asking for recommendations for a *server* not a client. He was going to run iTunes and AirVideo and Plex to serve video to other clients. In that case, you want a decent CPU to do transcoding on-the-fly (assuming he's got non-MP4 video files). A GPU will not be used to help with that. I'm a bit surprised that the older model he went with is doing a good job at this, but it sounds like he's already tested out Plex and it worked well for him.

Share This Page