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Mac Mini 2012 iTunes Media Server/Wireless External Drive Setup

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by HMI, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. HMI, Nov 18, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012

    macrumors 6502a


    Will a BASIC Mac Mini 2012 meet the needs of a full-time iTunes Media Server and also serve other content from connected external drives in a fast problem-free wireless solution, or will I have to upgrade it somehow?

    It will be connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station via Ethernet Cable.

    It will hopefully allow always-on wireless access to a LOT of high-res photos stored on an external drive for Photoshop/Aperture/Lightroom/iPhoto, and controlled wirelessly via iPad and MBP.

    It will hopefully allow always-on wireless access to a lot of high-bitrate music and movies stored on another external drive for iTunes Media served through iTunes to AppleTV2 and Airport Express, and controlled wirelessly via iPad and MBP.

    It will hopefully allow always-on wireless access to a Time Machine Backup Drive stored on another external drive for automatic, continuous, wireless backups of both the MBP and Mac Mini, along with all photos and iTunes Media.

    Will I have "too much" lag in the home wifi to meet these needs?
    Will the external drives "fall asleep" or become non-responsive / unmountable / unable to navigate wirelessly without trouble? How do you best manage an "always on" wireless drive setup?

    What external drives do you recommend?

    Will I need to upgrade (BTO) from the basic Mac Mini 2012 to something more capable to suit these needs?

    What are some cost/performance suggestions and setup configurations that you would recommend to serve these purposes for the foreseeable future?

    I want to spend as little money as possible, while being 100% assured that these needs will be met.

    If I need to look at other solutions please tell me, but I prefer to stay with Apple products for this setup.

    Is it best (low cost with enough capability) to stay with the mini, or better (value per $) to get an iMac or something else?

    Please advise. Thanks.
  2. macrumors regular

    Ignoring the Aperture etc my 2006 iMac acts as iTunes server to my network and Time Machine hub too with no problems. It serves 2 x ATV3's wirelessly with no problems. To work well e.g. allow server to sleep you will need an Airport Extreme at the centre of your network or the server will not wake when the ATV's etc ask it too.
  3. macrumors newbie

    I have a base Mini and external drive connected to a 1080p monitor currently. It is my media server but I do not leave it on 24/7 and I have full access to everything on the drives via iPad and iPhone. Everything works fine but I am considered maxing out the ram on my mini.... I like the Western Digital passport external drives, they are very small and do not required a power supply.
    Hope this helps.
  4. macrumors regular

    If you're using them to serve media then use drives with an external power supply to ensure they wake when you want them too ;)
  5. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    Awesome tips!

    Anything else I should know?
  6. macrumors regular

    I have a friend who is using a pair of the WD 3TB MyBook Live drives connected directly to his Airport Extreme (they only have ethernet connections) and can access them on any of the machines in his home. He uses one for storage and one for Time Machine backups. I'm planning on using a pair of the 2TB drives to do the same thing. WD also makes a 4TB and 6TB Duo version (2 drives in a single enclosure) but they are more expensive than two of the single drive units.
  7. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    Any specific drives you recommend?


    Any specific settings you recommend?
  8. macrumors regular

    Tbh I have a mixture from eBay serving as Time Machine targets & iTunes library but mainly Western Digital. No problems so far and always wake they should. Note the iMac only wakes from sleep when prompted by the ATV's if there's an AirPort Extreme acting as router. Unfortunate but true and I tried various alternatives before having to invest in one. Now with the exception of a printer and the ADSL modem is Apple and exceptionally reliable.
  9. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    How did you setup the Time Machine to use your iMac as a wireless backup solution? I'm guessing you used your iMac to select all your other wireless networked (computer) drives as additional drives to include in your overall "family" backup (which would take forever to sync the first time), but that guess may not be correct.

    I'm curious about potential connectivity issues dealing with HFS+ reads/writes on external drives over wireless networking protocols. I'm hoping that the Mac mini hub between the router and the external drives will remove these issues, but I don't want to spend money before knowing if the MBP will have problems auto mounting/unmounting and reading/writing and sleeping/waking these drives wirelessly without problems.

    I don't see as much point in wireless solutions if you have to walk into another room all the time to restart routers and servers and drives each time you use them, just to make them wake-up and mount correctly, and not fall asleep and break when you need to use them. I'm afraid of ruining some perfectly good external drives and important data by expecting them to work across a wirelessly networked system when they might not be able to.

    Please let me know how you set this up to work wirelessly without problems.

    Again, any other advice about these potential connectivity issues would be very helpful.
  10. macrumors regular

    To start with I had an old WD USB drive attached to the iMac, which was then cabled to the router. This was the target for the backups for the iMac, MB & MBP. Worked perfectly for all at least 99% of the time. Occasional 'backup delayed' on Time Machine but very rare and usually resolved by itself, like most Mac problems I find.
    When that router (TP-Link I think it was) started to get flakey after a few months Amazon replaced it once then refunded when the replacement went the same way even quicker. I'd tried sharing drives off it but it was just pointless. I replaced that with a refurbished Airport Extreme which is fabulous and 100% reliable so far. This is linked to a Draytek Vigor ADSL modem which, once you've worked out the settings are on the AE not on the modem, is also 100% reliable and both only ever get reset for firmware changes. Anyway to what you want. The drive that was previously attached to the iMac is now attached to the AE and performs the same function, again at least 99% reliably. Again when very first starting it was a little flakey for the first 24 hours and then everything seemed to click (with no intervention) and has been working without thought for the last 6 months. As for the time for first sync I got round that by plugging the portables into the network overnight that first time, job done.
  11. macrumors newbie


    Question for those who use the mini as a dedicated iTunes server:

    I have an iMac and MBA and would use iTunes on both to add to my library (songs, music, tv shows, etc). if say, I'm on my MBA and am in iTunes and am accessing the iTunes library on the mini (via home sharing) will I be able to add to (or delete from) the shared library? In other words, if I make music purchase, will iTunes store locally on the MBA and the mini simultaneously?

    If so, would there be a way to have purchases only go to the main server's (mini's) library and not the MBA local library?

    The reason I ask this is because my MBA only has 128gb and I'd rather not fill it up with itunes content, which will fill up my drive quickly. I'd rather just maintain the mini as the hub for all the content and access that content via ATV or home sharing on the iMac and MBA.
  12. NMF
    macrumors 6502a


    To anyone who is using Time Machine to backup to an external hard drive plugged in to a networked Mac -- how are you doing that? I'm trying to move all Time Machine duties to my Mac mini so that I don't have to feel OS X freeze every 5 minutes when it spins up the external HD for no reason. I can't get it to work though. I've given the mini a static IP, shared the drive, created an account for myself, etc. I can select the drive as the TM location, but I usually get an error during the "Preparing backup" phase. When it DOES go through, the back up is incredibly slow... after 14 hours it had only copied 6.5 GB. Both Macs are plugged directly into the router via ethernet. For comparison, CCC can do a complete clone in under 15 minutes.

    Any advice would be appreciated. :eek:

    I'm not sure what you're asking. If you're on the MBA and buy something, it's going to go to the MBA. There's no way to stop that. You can cancel the download, but it's still going to try and start downloading. It can also automatically go to the mini if you set the mini to automatically download new purchases (preferences option). As for stuff that's not from iTunes, you can add it to the mini by copying it to the "Automatically add to iTunes" folder (assuming you're sharing the drive containing the "server" iTunes library on your home network), but no, you can't delete anything or change stuff around. You'd have to remote in using "Back to my Mac" to do that. Or simply access the mini directly.
  13. macrumors 601

    You can get a mac app called ^^^^

    "TimeMachineEditor is a free, simple application that lets you change the default setting for your Mac's Time Machine hourly backups.

    TimeMachineEditor lets you set a new hourly interval, or even specify multiple calendar intervals for hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly backups--whether you want daily backups at 2 a.m., weekly backups at a certain time every weekend, or any other possible combination. You can also set Time Machine to automatically back up when disks are mounted or when the computer wakes from sleep.

    Time Machine's default setting may be adequate for most users, but for certain situations--for example, if you frequently deal with large files that don't require backup, or if multiple Macs are sharing the same backup drive and your network becomes extremely slow during backups--TimeMachineEditor provides an easy way to get more control over Time Machine."

    If you don't like the hourly backups
  14. HMI, Mar 12, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2013

    macrumors 6502a



    This is part of the reason why time machine doesn't like most network drives:

    "Time Machine requires an external harddrive to be connected via Thunderbolt, USB, or Firewire and formatted as HFS+ (Mac OS Extended), unless it is shared via AFP (like TimeCapsule by Apple). SMB or FTP won't do, sadly. Formatting the drive won't help you either, because then the network protocol would still get in the way."

    Here is an old MacRumors thread that seems to have some info about this:

    It mentions the process used here:

    Creating a "ComputerHostName_EthernetAddress.sparsebundle" according to their instructions should hopefully help solve the network drive issues, but I haven't tried it personally to say that it worked for me yet.

    I have read elsewhere that .sparsebundles can become corrupted leaving a drive of useless data if you're not careful, but I recommend you read more for yourself. I guess it seems to work fine for those people.

    If you want multiple computers to backup to the same external drive, then you need to create a separate HFS+ partition for each computer on that drive.

    Carbon Copy Clone says that you can use both CCC and Time Machine at the same time for extra protection, so I recommend using both if you are able, and especially if you want to experiment with time machine across a network.
  15. NMF
    macrumors 6502a


    I don't want to "experiment" with anything, I just want to set up a backup solution and have it work. Time Machine is supposed to do that for me. All this file system rubbish and formatting hostnames and blablabla, I don't care. Apple is supposed to take care of all that stuff in the background so I can simply click the button that sets my machine to back up to the Mac mini's external hard drive. That's what I pay the Apple Tax for!

    Oh well, at least Bombich still has a clue. CCC is simple to use and "just works." Imagine that!
  16. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    Apple's recommended and supported solution is to buy a Time Capsule, and use that for your Time Machine backups. It is easy and works well with little to no hassle, until it potentially doesn't work anymore after ~18 months (according to customer reviews).

    If you don't want to risk having your $300+ router/backup drive die randomly on you 12-24 months after you buy it, your only other (unsupported) solution is to "experiment" with adding your own external drives to your router and/or Mac mini. Some people say it works well and some people have problems with it, and Apple will not officially help you with unsupported solutions and setups.

    Those are your only two options (which is unfortunate), but technically Apple does have an easy supported solution for you if you don't want to "tinker" with anything. You have to decide if the price and potential risks are worth the added convenience for you.
  17. NMF
    macrumors 6502a


    There's actually a third option, and I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it earlier.

    OS X Server. $20 on the Mac App Store. I downloaded it and set the external hard drive attached to the Mac Mini as a shared Time Macine location. All Macs in the household are now backing up to it without issue, and this is an officially supported function of OS X Server. All I had to do was buy a damn app! :p
  18. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    Thanks for sharing!

    Ok here is what it says:
    "OS X Server can act as a designated Time Machine backup location for all the Mac computers on your network. Centralizing your backup storage helps protect valuable data and free up disk space on individual drives. And it eliminates the need for separate backup drives altogether. OS X Server also takes advantage of Time Machine to back up your server data — including shared files, calendars, mail, wikis, and more — to another hard drive, so you can easily restore to an earlier configuration. And now you can view the backup status for each Mac on your network. See which computers and users are backing up to your server, when they last backed up, and the total size of each backup."

    This makes it seem like the Mac mini server internal drives are supported for network Time Machine backups of all your other macs (but not necessarily external drives), and obviously the server itself has to backup elsewhere. It doesn't specifically say that other macs can backup over the network to an external drive connected to the Mac mini server. Is this supported or just another assumption?
  19. NMF
    macrumors 6502a


    It's supported; when you turn on Time Machine in OS X Server, it asks you to specify the Time Machine location. External hard drives can be selected if you wish. You can even back up the Mac Mini itself to the same external hard drive (I do). The external hard drive doesn't need to be shared or mounted to the client Macs (in fact, I've read that this can cause issues). You simply select the drive in OS X Server, and all the Macs on your network will now see it as a Time Machine location. It really is that easy!
  20. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    This is what I've been afraid of. I'm trying to do more than just wireless Time Machine backups of all household macs.

    I want all the computers to have wireless access to different drives with different kinds of data, but don't want those drives to have connection issues or die on me.

    Do you mind explaining this more, and possibly post some pics.
    That would be very helpful. Thanks.
  21. NMF
    macrumors 6502a


    Uh, they won't. It's only an issue if those drives are being used for Time Machine. As long as Time Machine has its own drive, you're fine.
  22. HMI
    macrumors 6502a


    Please understand that I'm just trying to be careful before assuming things "will" or "should" work correctly. I'm looking for a guarantee, not a theoretical "it should."

    I've already had a Maxtor drive with important photos die on me when it was connected to the USB slot of a new AEBS and mounted wirelessly to a new MBP. That should have worked for basic file navigation and copying/moving them wirelessly, but I had to pay for professional data rescue/recovery services to get those photos back.

    I want to avoid that ever happening again in the future.

    Will the external drives connected to the Mac mini server "fall asleep" or become non-responsive / unmountable on wireless computers on the network/ unable to navigate wirelessly without network connection troubles? Will they wake-up when I need to use them, and stay awake the whole time I need them, and never fall asleep or cause connection problems from falling asleep. If I start using them, will they fall asleep and become unresponsive, not waking up again when I need them. Will this cause mounting errors and connection problems across the wireless network?

    I would like a more detailed answer than just "Yes" or "No."
    If anyone has input on this I would appreciate it immensely.

    Thanks again for your help.
  23. NMF
    macrumors 6502a


    That all depends on the drive, man. Whether a drive "falls asleep" and "wakes up" when connected to a Mac depends on the actual drive's firmware, not your Mac set up. My Seagate Backup Plus drive never spins down. Ever. My Western Digital MyPassport sleeps and wakes right alongside my Mac. The Seagate is also the 3rd replacement after the previous 2 failures. I will only buy WD drives going forward. You'll find other people who had the exact opposite experience that I had. You have to make the decision that seems most right to you.

    Your Maxtor drive died because hard drives die. That's just what they do. Some are better than others. After about 3 years it's a matter of "when" they'll die, not "if" they'll die. If one dies before that then you just got a bad apple. There's nothing you can do about it except request a replacement from the manufacturer. That is why having a backup system is so important. That sucks that you had to pay for professional data recovery... but you should have had a backup process in place for those photos. You need a backup plan for all your data, especially important data that only exists on one hard drive.

    And again, plugging that hard drive into the AEBS had nothing to do with its failure. It failed because it failed.

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