Can you use a Macbook as a file server?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by XX55XX, May 17, 2009.

  1. XX55XX macrumors regular

    May 17, 2009
    Hello. I am thinking about buying a refurbished Macbook, possibly for use as a low-profile home file server. Is Mac OS X good for file sharing over a network, or should I install a copy of Windows instead?


    And yes, I know, buying a $1,100 laptop so that I can use it as a file server is probably not the most cost-effective solution, but I plan to use it both as a part-time file server and a notebook.
  2. ddeadserious macrumors 6502a


    Jul 28, 2008
    Plymouth, MI
    I suppose it'd work... Why not pick up a refurbish Mac Mini for ~$400 though?
  3. XX55XX thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2009
    I'm going off to college next year, but I'll still be very close to home (I live only two miles away from campus and I'm commuting on top of that), so I want to have a notebook/part-time home file server.

    Sorry for not clarifying.
  4. SHIFTLife macrumors 6502

    Jul 24, 2008
    It would work, but I'd think you'd want to do this the other way around. I'm assuming you already have a desktop computer, since you said you want to use the MacBook as a file server. Using a laptop as a file server would be fine, assuming you weren't going to be taking it around with you (i.e., using an old laptop after buying a new one).

    It sounds to me that you also plan on using this as your primary machine at school. Using a machine you're going to drag around with you at times as a file server seems a little dangerous. A file server, to me, would be a repository for files that I want to keep safe... dragging the only copies I have on my laptop wouldn't seem safe to me :)
  5. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    Also, using a notebook as a file server could cause some heat issues (ie be prepared to have the fans running constantly). I use my MacBook as a Desktop (clamshell mode), and as soon as any heavy HD activity, or processor intensive activity happens, up spin the fans. So this makes the MacBook un-ideal for file sharing.

    As people above have said, use something else for a server (Desktop, or new Mac Mini).
  6. Detektiv-Pinky macrumors 6502a


    Feb 25, 2006
    Berlin, Germany
    Buying a new laptop as a file server makes no sense to me.
    The harddrives used in laptops are usually not specified for 24/7 operation and are also a lot slower than standard 3.5' drives.

    If you happen to have an old spare laptop, it might be interesting for low volume traffic, such as audio-streaming, etc. since usage is usually light and you can backup to an external HDD.
  7. nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2008
    Can I clarify some stuff here to both the OP and the above posters:

    1. Both the Mac Mini and iMac use laptop parts, the only computer in Apple's entire lineup that does not is the Mac Pro (and XServe).

    2. Overkill. Anything, and I mean absolutely anything can do file sharing. My friend ran a Pentium 1 running Linux up until last year, served files all over his network, not a single issue. File sharing is not processor intensive. Running TextEdit will probably use more resources.

    3. Many people run there Mini's 24/7 as file servers or media centres. Check out There is no reason to believe that a Macbook would overheat or fail if a Mini doesn't.
  8. vault macrumors regular

    May 3, 2009
    Actually, the new 2.5" 7200RPM drives are about as fast as normal desktop drives.
  9. XX55XX thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2009
    While I can probably get a Macbook and build my own little file server with a motherboard that has an Intel Atom processor, I would prefer to save money by getting the laptop and using it as a part time server instead. (I don't need to have the file server plugged into my computer 24/7, just whenever I need to get the files out of it.)

    I only have a desktop computer right now. I plan to use a crossover cable and connect my file server with it.

    I've been reading some Mac OS X guides, it does seem that the OS is pretty decent for file-sharing over an intranet. Guess I won't have to replace the OS, then.
  10. scienide09 macrumors 65816


    May 5, 2007
    Why not a NAS with expandable storage, one that includes a backup option? They can be purchased/built for cheaper than the Mini, and much cheaper than any of the MacBooks.
  11. rwilliams macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2009
    Raleigh, NC
    I would suggest using your desktop as the file server, since it's always going to be in the same place, and then syncing files/folders on your notebook with that. I have never felt that it was a good idea to have the master copy of your files on a portable machine that can be lost/stolen/damaged while on the go. Store your important files on a machine that remains stationary, and then keep a copy on your MacBook.
  12. XX55XX thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2009
    I would use my desktop as a backup, but the problem is that I have been doing reformats every couple of months now (mostly due to installing the Windows 7 Beta and RC), so it's not as stable a place to hold files.

    But your suggestion does sound great, however. I should invest in an additional hard drive (I only have a large monolithic drive for storage/OS on my desktop.)
  13. UnderLoK macrumors newbie

    May 8, 2009
    Detroit (not IN it)
    If I were you I would just plan on spending an extra $120+/- on a laptop and just get an external drive. If you want to go one step further look for routers that support file sharing. You can connect an external drive right to the router and you're done.

    What is throwing people here is you calling it a file server... People take questions like that far too literal.
  14. sporadicMotion macrumors 65816


    Oct 18, 2008
    Your girlfriends place
    Installing windows multiple times doesn't make a difference. Use that desktop as a server. Download a server linux distro as opposed to windows and you'll discover the meaning of "uptime" :D

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