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A4orce84

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 17, 2012
400
44
Hello Everyone,

Background:
As the subject states, I am looking for anyone who has made an older mac mini into their home sever? I recently moved into a new home and I think having a central server (for photos, music, movies, etc.) makes a lot of sense. We are an "Apple Family" with MacBook laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc. to consume our media and surf the internet.

2012 Mac Mini Specs:
The 2012 Mac Mini I own has been upgraded (16GB of RAM, dual SSD kit, etc.) and I would say is a fairly capable mini computer. It is the i5 version. I picked it up 4-5 years ago and actually used it as a main desktop computer for a few years.

Goals:
I am also in IT (DevOps Engineer), so originally I thought of possibly installing Linux (Ubuntu) home server and going from there. So, a few questions that immediately come to mind:

1. What OS should I be using on a 2012 Mac Mini (macOS, Linux, etc.)?​
2. Any particular 'server' apps I should download and setup?​
3. I plan on running it headless (in a closet), so need to make sure I can either SSH / RDP / etc. into the device easily.​
4. I don't have any big goals besides central file / music / photo management at the moment.​


Thanks in advance for everyone's time and help, it is greatly appreciated.
 

Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,754
4,622
New Jersey Pine Barrens
Have been doing this for about 8 years or so myself. 2014 2.8ghz i5 8gb Mini with internal 128gb SSD runs Mojave with iTunes/Home Sharing and all my local media on a USB 4tb SSD with another 4tb hard disk for nightly CCC backups. Access it through two AppleTV's, another Mac, iPad and iPhone.

Then I have a 2012 2.6ghz i7 quad-core 16gb Mini with 256gb internal SSD running Catalina as a file server. It has four 5tb hard drives connected for legacy files and a network Time Machine destination.

No special software, they have virtually nothing on their startup disks, just the minimum standard MacOS distribution. The media server has a screen connected for watching video when I'm in that room and is also connected to my home stereo with speakers in different rooms.

The fileserver is headless with an HDMI "dummy plug" which makes it appear to have a 1080p monitor with screen sharing. These really meet all my needs and are dead simple to manage and use. No plans on installing anything else on them.
 
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A4orce84

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 17, 2012
400
44
Thanks for the reply. Any advantage to using some of these patching tools to get the mac mini running MacOS Ventura for example (latest and greatest)?

Also, how are you accessing files via your iPhone and iPad devices?
 
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Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,754
4,622
New Jersey Pine Barrens
For me, I see no advantage to running unsupported operating systems. Since they are just servers on my LAN, with no outside access, not too worried about security. I need Mojave on the 2014 Mini since it's the last version that supports iTunes. But that machine is capable of running Monterey. The 2012 Mini is on Catalina, which is the last supported version for that machine.

I don't access any files directly on the media server. It shows up under the "computers" app on the Apple TV's and is accessed with the Music and TV apps as a shared library on iOS and newer versions of MacOS.
 
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MultiFinder17

macrumors 68030
Jan 8, 2008
2,728
2,052
Tampa, Florida
I've used a 2012 i7 / 16GB mini as my home server for many years now. It runs High Sierra, and as it just lives at home to provide media and backup services, I'm not super worried about security risks. It's been a fantastic machine, and the little quad i7 is a peach at transcoding videos when I do so.
 

monkeybongo

macrumors regular
Sep 13, 2007
160
76
Canada
The main downside is reliability if you are using it to store anything important and lack of security patches. The 2012 Minis were great but they are over 11 years old ...
 

FreakinEurekan

macrumors 603
Sep 8, 2011
5,898
2,895
I ran my 2012 headless for a few years… but then put it on my workbench so that I could actually use it when I’m down there. Didn’t like the idea of having Catalina on a machine where I’m going to the web, etc. so I just replaced it with a M1 mini a few months ago. Sold the 2012 for more than I thought I would on eBay.
 

NewbiePPC

macrumors member
Mar 21, 2021
59
35
Mine is an i5, 16gb with 12 tb raid 5 and 2tb FireWire, 256 SSD for Os and the stock 500gb headless file, nas, time machine, VM under VirtualBox for price and simplicity, bridge (ppc, Intel, Mac, win, Linux) server under high Sierra because AFP, and it will be in that way for years to come, no reason to update or upgrade. Great form factor, serviceable, cheap, reliable, USB 3... It just fit all my needs. Awesome little box!
 
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MBAir2010

macrumors 603
May 30, 2018
6,433
5,923
there
Thanks for the reply. Any advantage to using some of these patching tools to get the mac mini running MacOS Ventura for example (latest and greatest)?

Also, how are you accessing files via your iPhone and iPad devices?
My Mac mini 2012 i7 12GB of RAM did run Monterey perfectly with the OCLP.
now I have Mojave installed on that and might use that for a entertainment hub downstairs.
everything synced well including airplay using an older tv, gen 3 and a TV from that era.
 

Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,754
4,622
New Jersey Pine Barrens
2014 2.8ghz i5 8gb Mini with internal 128gb SSD runs Mojave with iTunes/Home Sharing and all my local media on a USB 4tb SSD

Yesterday this Mini started making a terrible noise and (I think) the bearings on the internal hard drive are shot Or it might be the system fan, I can't really tell. I boot from the internal SSD and don't need the internal HD, but dismounting it didn't stop the noise. No tools to open it up (yet), but still had an unused 2014 1.4ghz/4gb/500gb HD in the closet. Cloned the media server SSD to an old Samsung T3 USB SSD and swapped computers. After the usual amount of screwing around, everything is up and running again.

Here's the interesting thing - so far, I really don't notice any difference between the two Mini's and the specs are very different: 1.4ghz vs 2.8ghz i5 CPU, 4gb vs 8gb RAM, 720MB/sec internal vs 400MB/sec external SSD, Intel HD5000 vs. Iris graphics. I'm only running iTunes (music, video and home sharing) and Safari (Sling TV and SiriusXM). So, I guess you really don't need much of a computer for this kind of use.
 

Chancha

macrumors 68020
Mar 19, 2014
2,129
1,918
Running macOS or not depends on how much you want Mac apps doing the serving. For instance, many people like using minis as iTunes server and Time Machine target.

Then Catalina is the latest officially supported which is already not receiving security patches. But of course with careful firewalling it is going to be fine. Some people like me even prefer to run Mojave (or older), due to Catalina's inability to run legacy 32bit apps.

Also I myself find the 2012 mini having something that newer Macs don't have: its native audio I/O are great. There are two independent 3.5mm input and output jacks with both supporting TOSLINK and analog line level in. And then its built-in HDMI port supports 8-ch 24bit/96kHz which is like double the rate supported on Apple Silicon Macs. So overall it makes a pretty good audio breakout box or even capture / passthrough box.

Hardware wise there is nothing to write home about but for a ten year old computer it is still respectable in some areas, especially for the quad core i7 which you don't have. The weakest link is the iGPU but for headless machine it is fine. The SATA interfaces are also somewhat slow in modern standard, so dealing with small files like a database or even Finder / Mail.app can feel much slower than a modern Mac.

It is also a rare Mac in that it has all USB3 TB2 and FW800, so it can also serve as a dock of legacy ports for plugging in random old drives and devices etc.
 
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VegetarianNachos

macrumors member
Jan 20, 2022
34
23
Parts Unknown
I just bought a 2012 Mac mini i7 quad-core (8GB / 500GB HDD) for $75. I want to turn it into a home server. The main purpose would be to allow 2 iPhones, 2 AppleTV 4ks, and various newer Macs the ability to look through 300GB of photos and videos which are currently on an iMac 5k. I know that using Photos on a network share is not recommended or advised. I am fine with installing a linux distribution if that is advisable. I originally was going to buy a raspberry pi 4b and turn it into a NAS using openmediavault, or nextcloud. Since a raspberry pi can not currently be purchased anywhere, I decided to go this route. How are other people allowing photos to be viewed on iPhones and AppleTVs from a file server? Any advice would be appreciated!
 
Last edited:

CausticPuppy

macrumors 68000
May 1, 2012
1,536
68
I’m using a 2011 quad-core i7 (server model) as my server. It has 16GB RAM and the main drive is a 1TB SSD.

It runs Plex, Channels DVR, and Homebridge. It’s still chugging along though it is stuck on High Sierra. My only regret is that the USB ports are only USB 2.0, limiting its potential for hosting a large external SSD on the network.
 

FFabian

macrumors regular
Aug 26, 2010
157
172
Bochum, Germany
I have an old 2012 mini connected to my living room TV for watching AppleTV stuff and SkyGo. It runs Catalina and is connected via Wi-Fi to my home network.

Would it be better to upgrade it to Ventura with OCLP? Will the responsiveness/speed suffer?

The mini regularly goes to sleep. I figured it will extend its lifespan. I set it to wake on network connection but I can’t figure out to get it to wake when I want to access it with my other Mac. Do I need a dedicated WOL tool or something?
 

tubular

macrumors 65816
Oct 19, 2011
1,299
3,119
I‘m using a 2012 mini as my music hub, Time Machine target, and a place for my local git repositories. I have it set not to sleep.
 

Slix

macrumors 65816
Mar 24, 2010
1,484
2,081
I've been using a 2005 G4 Mac Mini for my home server primarily for older Macs running from PowerPC processors. It's used for files, NetBooting, and helps gets files to really early Macs (OS 9, etc.) from my main MacBook Air (Mojave). It works great for this basic use case.

As others have stated, using a 2012 running Mojave or Catalina (or whatever else you want, really) for the things you want to do would work just fine. Setting up SSH and file sharing in macOS is really easy though the Sharing preferences pane in System Preferences.
 

thebart

macrumors 6502
Feb 19, 2023
370
314
On the PC, i think apps like Netflix are limited to 1080p. Is there a similar restriction on Mac?
 

MBAir2010

macrumors 603
May 30, 2018
6,433
5,923
there
My 2012 MacMini wont power on
I tried everything and think something on the board short circuited.
just the bottom part screws holding the cover are worth 30 buck on e-buy™
 

Minato1990

macrumors 6502
Aug 12, 2017
365
649
Yeah I'm about to pull the trigger on a late 2012 i5-3210M@ 2.50 Ghz with 8GB and a 500GB HDD on Ebay for 140$.
I'm planning to use it mainly as a nas server which I'll connect my ext hdds to it.
Will get it wired to my router.
My router that I had my ext hdd been acting weird with the smb on infuse so I'll go with that to add the share through infuse, and if necessary will set up plex through it.
Its a cheaper option instead of buying a nas server and having to buy more HDDs to put it in there since I already have a few ext hdd laying around.
 
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Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,754
4,622
New Jersey Pine Barrens
Yeah I'm about to pull the trigger on a late 2012 i5-3210M@ 2.50 Ghz with 8GB and a 500GB HDD on Ebay for 140$.

Are we talking about US dollars here? If so, that strikes me as a pretty high price for what is (aside from 4gb extra RAM) the bottom of the line 2012 Mini. I don't believe there's a lot of demand for this model, the quad-core models were more desirable, although also showing their age.

FWIW, MacSales (aka OWC) will sell you that same 2/5/8gb/500gb configuration for $89, including a limited warranty. (I am NOT endorsing them, just a data point to consider and my own experiences with them have been positive)
 
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Minato1990

macrumors 6502
Aug 12, 2017
365
649
Are we talking about US dollars here? If so, that strikes me as a pretty high price for what is (aside from 4gb extra RAM) the bottom of the line 2012 Mini. I don't believe there's a lot of demand for this model, the quad-core models were more desirable, although also showing their age.

FWIW, MacSales (aka OWC) will sell you that same 2/5/8gb/500gb configuration for $89, including a limited warranty. (I am NOT endorsing them, just a data point to consider and my own experiences with them have been positive)
Oh no its Canadian about 102$ in total USD
It was like 89 Canadian and 32$ canadian for shipping

I just looked up Macsales it would’ve been nice but the exchange rate would’ve been a killer since your $ is stronger and the shipping as well if they even ship to canada
 
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