Best Server Config for Apple Home

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by jcarey79, Nov 20, 2016.

  1. jcarey79 macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2014
    I am looking for suggestions for a server configuration for my home, which consists of 2 MacBooks, two Apple TVs and two iPhones on a Airport Extreme network.

    I would like to have a common file server for music, pictures, videos, and files for my wife and me.

    What would this group suggest? A Mac Mini? a retired MacBook Air (may not have enough storage capacity)? Other?

    Thanks, in advance.
  2. Boyd01, Nov 20, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2016

    Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Almost any Mac can do this. Just turn on file sharing, setup iTunes with home sharing and forget about it, that is what I do. I am using the base model 2014 mini with 4gb RAM and 512gb SSD. This machine feels very slow for everyday computing tasks, but is more than adequate for a server - one could easily argue it's overkill. My iTunes library is on a fast 3TB external USB 3.0 drive and I have two identical drives that I rotate for backups (which automatically occur nightly with Carbon Copy Cloner). I only use the internal mini drive for the basic system software and a couple small apps - I think there's only about 20GB on it.

    It is connected to my home network with gigabit ethernet and I get better than 100MB/sec read/write accessing it as a shared drive on the network. If you have more complicated needs, you can install MacOS server. This used to be an expensive product but is now just a $20 app that will run on any Mac

    I don't see any reason why you couldn't also use a MacBook Air for this too. You will want an external drive anyway (unless you have very modest needs). Older MacBook Airs may only have USB 2.0 which will limit external disk access to about 30MB/sec. If you are using older wifi to access the server, this probably isn't an issue since that will be the bottleneck anyway. You could aslo use a thunderbolt disk if you want better performance with a USB 2.0 computer.
  3. electronguru01 macrumors newbie

    Jun 1, 2015
    Server App adds complexity but worth it for the build in backup. Turns that $90 USB drive into a full all Time Capsule.
  4. cmaier macrumors G4

    Jul 25, 2007
    I'd take a look at synology. I have two of their boxes in my house. Safeguards data (raid), acts as a time capsule, can act as a server so I can access my data even when I am not in the house (stream video via plex, e.g.). I then use an old Mac running iTunes to do iTunes sharing in the house, but all the files live on the synology boxes.
  5. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    Mac Mini, compact and energy efficient. 2012 or newer for USB3.0 drives.

    I tried a laptop as a server and it was terrible. There are "lid" issues like having the power button inaccessible, cooling problems because it is reliant on the laptop being open, and on/off/sleep/wake issues related to the screen's open/closed position.
  6. cmaier macrumors G4

    Jul 25, 2007
    So keep the lid open. It's what I do.
  7. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    I agree with this even more so if you have AppleTV 4's because you can set up a Plex server very easily. You'll have access to all your files for you Macs in a package that is designed to run 24/7/365 with low power usage. Storage is easily expandable and virtually infinite and like cmaier mentioned you can set it up as RAID 0 for data protection if a drive fails.

    Conversely a Mac Mini connected directly to your TV in place of one of the AppleTVs would work nicely too if you want an iTunes server. You won't get the data protection and storage capacity will be limited though.

    Oh and trust me when I say this, if you go the NAS route get one better then you think you'll ever need.
  8. cmaier macrumors G4

    Jul 25, 2007
    Just added an 8tb disk to one of my two ds3612s and am expanding the array as we speak. (I use synology's hybrid raid 2 with two disk redundancy and one hot spare).

    Definitely go bigger than you think you'll need :)

    Re plex on Apple TV 4, the one issue I have is it seems to like to play stereo instead of 5.1. Haven't figured out how to get it to default to the best soundtrack.
  9. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000


    Jan 8, 2008
    Tampa, Florida
    I have a 2012 mini (2.5 i5, 16GB, 750GB fusion + 2TB external) set up as my home server. It is used for a number of purposes:
    1. Media server for our apartment. Music, movies, TV shows.
    2. File sharing between our computers. I have all Macs, my fiancé is all PC. It works great.
    3. Time Machine for all of my Macs.
    4. Host my website. It's a basic little site that I mostly just use to communicate with friends and such.
    5. Run 2 VMs with various Discord bots. Some are for fun, some stream music, etc. Windows 10 and Ubuntu VMs.

    The mini is more than powerful enough for these uses, sips power so I don't mind leaving it on 24/7, and is nearly silent sitting on my desk. I run the machine headless, accessing it via screen sharing from any other device in the house or out and about. You can never go wrong with a mini!

    I'll confirm what others have been saying, that the drives are a bit of a pain to work on. I tore mine down to pair a 256GB SSD with the original 500GB HDD to make a fusion drive, and it's not the simplest procedure. I've worked on computers professionally, and it was one of the more challenging machines that I've worked on.

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