Advice Needed Looking for a Good but Cheap Introduction to a Mac Desktop or Laptop

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Bengalhawks, Mar 30, 2017.

  1. Bengalhawks macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 20, 2014
    #1
    Hello everyone, I was hoping I could get a few suggestions as to what Mac to get. I've been a Windows PC user basically all my life. I have a huge iTunes library with all the media saved on an external hard drive. I'm not planning on doing any gaming or anything hardcore, basically just light web browsing and using it as my iTunes server and sync machine. I'm hoping to spend around $500 or so. Does anyone have any suggestions what I should look for, Model and spec wise? I know it'll be used and probably 4-5 years old and I'm ok with that. I just want something reliable and something to get my home pc into the Apple ecosystem. Another question is will I be able to just hook up my external hard drive with my media or am I going to have to re download and re rip all my music and CDs to be able to import into iTunes? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you In advance!!
     
  2. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Between the coasts
    #2
    Presuming you have a display, you can get refurbished Late 2014 Mac Mini from Apple.com in the $420-$600 range (go with 8 GB of RAM) - that'll have a full, as-new 1-year warranty from Apple. You can spend the same money on an older, used iMac or laptop, of course. I don't know what's available in that price range, so I'll leave that advice to others.

    As long as your the external drive you use for iTunes is formatted FAT or Ex-FAT, it'll work fine on a Mac - just plug it in. (Mac can read/write to those formats, but not NTFS.)
     
  3. markfc macrumors 6502a

    markfc

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2006
    Location:
    Prestatyn, Wales, UK
    #3
    I picked up a 2012 MacMini from eBay for £200 and added 16gb ram, 256ssd and a 2tb drive all for around £450.
     
  4. Bengalhawks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 20, 2014
    #4
    Awesome I'll look into this
    --- Post Merged, Mar 30, 2017 ---
    Very solid pricing I'm in the us but that's close to what I was looking to spend.
     
  5. tjwilliams25 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2014
    Location:
    Montana
    #5
    For your iTunes library, copy the files in your Music folder and place them into your new Mac's Music folder. These are database files that keep track of your library and they take away the need for you to have to re-import all of your songs. It's a step that a lot of people miss when migrating their library.

    As for machines, I would suggest sticking as close to this year as your budget will allow because nothing sucks more than buying a new computer and being shut out from software and updates not long after you purchase them. Another oversight that a lot of people don't mention. Good luck in your search!
     
  6. purpletalon55 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    #6
    Go get a Mac mini refurb from apple directly on their website. I almost did but managed to save up some more money and get a iMac at the Apple Store here. I really like it and its got a better screen than the monitor I own anyways so worked out for me. I would save for a iMac.
     
  7. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #7
    OP:
    If you buy a 2014 Mac Mini, DO NOT buy one with 4gb of RAM. The RAM -is not- expandable. You are stuck with what's in it, forever.
    So… buy ONLY a Mini that has 8gb (or 16gb).

    Also… be aware that the lower-end Minis come with a 5400rpm platter-based hard drive.
    Chances are you're going to be UNhappy with the performance.
    You'll want to plug in a USB3 SSD and boot and run from that (easy).

    You -can- install a "blade/flash" SSD into a lower-end 2014 Mini, but some work is involved.
     
  8. purpletalon55, Apr 2, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017

    purpletalon55 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    #8
    The 5400rpm drive is actually quite fast, I benchmarked one and it hit just barely under a 7200rpm seagate drive I have. Things load quickly on it.

    But yes get 8GB ram 16gb is overkill unless you edit videos, soldered ram isn't a bad thing it just makes the unit more durable.
     
  9. Reality4711 macrumors 6502

    Reality4711

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    scotland
    #9
    With due respect are you sure that this statement is right?

    I would have thought NTFS would be for an Apple machine and FAT varieties for Windows iterations.:confused:

    Regards Sharkey
     
  10. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Location:
    Slovenia, EU
    #10
    He is absolutely right. If you want to write to NTFS, you need 3rd party programs, commercial (Tuxedo NFTS, Paragon NTFS) or opensource varaints.
     
  11. drewsof07 macrumors 68000

    drewsof07

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Ohio
    #11
    Maybe a fairly new drive, but over time it will be a bottleneck
     
  12. Dustman macrumors 65816

    Dustman

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2007
    #12
    It's worth noting too that these 3rd party programs are poorly written even given their popularity, as I've seen them corrupt many NTFS drives. Ex-FAT all the way.
     
  13. Reality4711 macrumors 6502

    Reality4711

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    scotland
    #13
    Dooooooh! HFS+. My Bad and other self deprecating modern jargon.

    Well it did end with 'FS'.

    Regards. Sharkey
     
  14. techwarrior macrumors 6502

    techwarrior

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #14
    Ditto the Mini route, check out eBay too. 8GB RAM should do the trick unless doing heavy music or video editing. And, the internal 5400RPM drive is a bit of a bottleneck, options are to use a Thunderbolt2, USB3 external drive as your boot drive with an SSD in it, or to put a SATA3 2.5 inch SSD drive in the mini in place of the 5400RPM drive. The latter is a bit of a chore, but follow iFixit's guides and you should be OK if you are at all handy with computers.

    Apple provides a migration utility to pull settings and files from old PC or Mac, in my experience this works pretty well. On first boot on a fresh install, it will ask if you want to import files and settings from a PC or Mac. Or, navigate to Applications > Utilities > Migration Assistant.app to launch the tool. The tool will import My Documents including Music, Videos, Pictures, and Documents, as well as bookmarks from browsers. Also, Apple has a online guide for PC switchers https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204216 and https://support.apple.com/explore/new-to-mac are good places to start. Also, Apple Stores offer free 1 hour workshops and will tailor the lessons to participants, especially if you are in a small class. These workshops range from novice, to more advanced as you move along the learning curve.

    As for the external drive with iTunes content, if it is FAT formatted (vs NTFS), should be able to plug that into the mini and it should be transparent following migration of everything from the PC. If it is NTFS, back it up to another drive, reformat it as FAT, then copy everything back to the USB drive. Make sure the name of the drive remains the same so when the Mac mounts it, the relative path to iTunes content will be the same as the entries in the iTunes library.

    Good luck, and welcome to the Mac family. You won't regret it, but be patient, it does take a little time to get familiar with differences. Most PC apps have some sort of equivalent in the Mac world, Google is a good friend when it comes to finding these. And, use the forums, including Apple's support forums as well as Mac Rumors and others. You will find that in general, Mac users are quite welcoming of newbies and willing to help. But, be sure to mention your newbie status so folks understand where you are coming from and will be more patient with your seemingly dumb questions.

    And, don't forget to attach a USB drive (or partition the existing USB drive if you have 500GB - 1TB free) to use as a Time Machine backup. Time Machine is a very good backup utility and once setup, will incrementally backup everything on your Mac every hour. If you get in trouble, your backups can be restored on a fresh install and all of your files, settings, apps, everything will be restored in short order, far simpler than PC restores in my experience.
     
  15. purpletalon55 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    #15

    I use my nas as a time machine backup point I have a 10TB drive in it thats for nothing else. Much better in the long run.
     
  16. techwarrior macrumors 6502

    techwarrior

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #16
    10TB is a lot of disk space for backups, unless you have a lot of Macs using it...

    I wouldn't bet the farm on NAS being viable for Time Machine when APFS goes mainstream. I suspect Apple won't make third party Time Machine support a priority, and may include some new features for APFS backups that would only be available on Apple proprietary devices.

    They claim to have Open Source on the roadmap, but will third parties have access to all of the features of APFS, or just over USB\Thunderbolt connections? Will Time Machine support for devices using APFS require a Made For x component and thus license costs, perhaps for security reasons?

    I hope they fully support third party APFS NAS volumes for Time Machine, but that might not be available out of the gate, or on existing hardware. I may be wrong, but remember that Apple Thinks Different than you and I.
     
  17. Bengalhawks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 20, 2014
    #17
    Wow, sorry for the late reply, but thank you everyone for your replies. Sorry if my questions are dumb, but it's a huge switch for me. I thank your patience from everyone in advance.

    So what Ive gathered If I go the Mac Mini route I'll avoid the 4gb ram one and I want a newer model 2014 and up. I don't need a lot for what I plan on doing but I would like the option to upgrade the ram so that's good. The iMac looks amazing and if budget permitted ir I could scrape up the cash I'd pick that one up for sure. I'll have to look into those a little more. Is there anything I should look for or not get with the IMac? Is there a benefit in getting the Mac Mini over it? Outside the fact it seems the Mac Mini would be easier to upgrade and work on.

    The whole transferring of my media seems complex and I'll have to definitely sit down and research that aspect when the time comes. I had to rebuild my iTunes library from scratch before due to a hardware failure and that honestly is my biggest concern as it's basically my media hub and I've spent countless hours ripping and uploading music from CDs/DVDs. But from what I've read it is possible, but I might have to do a little work beforehand.

    Again thank you all so much!
     
  18. purpletalon55 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    #18
    My nas will be relevant and I can guarantee that if they **** with it then apple will owe me a computer refund, and I will get the money back.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 4, 2017 ---
    Get the base iMac its perfectly strong enough and, no the mini is not easier to upgrade matter of fact you cannot upgrade anything in the iMac or the Mac mini at all without voiding warranty and its just the HDD that can be upgraded.
    Ram is soldered in both models.
     
  19. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #19
    NAS and Time machine seem to have issues anyways. I've seen enough comments on the intarwebs that people run into TM needing to redo a full backup because the older one is corrupted. I think 3rd party support of the new file system will be slow in coming at best.

    Not if you're beyond your return period. Apple won't do a return if an update to the OS breaks 3rd party peripherals
     
  20. purpletalon55 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    #20
    Nas devices are highly reliable if you do it right and buy good hardware 99% of nas failures are operators fault for setting up something wrong or using the wrong type of hard drive its not hard to do things right.
     
  21. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #21
    Reliability is not the same as compatibility and I've seen enough issues with NAS and TM to know that it can cause problems.
     
  22. Kcetech1 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2016
    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    #22
    Personally I say get the 2012 model ( I prefer the quad core over the dual core in the 2014 and the fact you can upgrade RAM and your Drive(s) ), there is no model newer than the 2014 as of now. Downside, you cant get any warranty except possibly third party for those units and the IGP is slower.
     
  23. purpletalon55 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    #23
    Meh, I've had couple nas devices running for years with no issues and the newest has exactly 12 days on it.
     
  24. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #24
    Other people have, but back to your earlier statement, if Apple does roll out an update to cause issues with your NAS, you'll not get your money back from them as you posted.
     
  25. Bengalhawks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 20, 2014
    #25
    What are your guys thoughts on a 2012 iMac i5 processor, 1 tb hd, and 8 gb ram? Would this be a good one to get?
     

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