Entry level 2014 Mac mini... actually useful for some things.

Cycling Asia

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Original poster
Mar 19, 2016
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With the years of crap heaped onto the 2014 Mac mini, I thought I would share with others what I've been using my 2014 mini for. This is the entry level Mac mini with the horrendous internal 5400 RPM HDD. I could make a coffee - and drink it - while watching a beachball mouse cursor whenever I loaded anything. It ended up back in its box, sitting on a shelf. After collecting dust for many years, I decided to get it out and start using it again. I had a DD-WRT router that was not performing as well as I needed it (VPN connection to the US). I figured that the mini should be up to the task.

The first thing I did was use "super duper" to clone the contents of the HDD to an external western digital SSD. The SSD is a USB-C but is backwards compatible with USB-3. This setup has read and write speeds much faster than the internal HDD and multitasking is much better. No more beachballs. (If anyone has a mini with an HDD, I recommend this easy to do conversion).

Onto the software... Apart from the molasses in winter speed of the HDD, the mini (and all Macs) have another annoyance. That is, the VPN connection doesn't automatically reconnect if disconnected. So I wrote myself a small nodejs utility that monitors the VPN connection and reconnects if the connection drops. (I'll give instructions below on how to install it later). So with my vpn monitoring software running, I now have a guaranteed VPN connection to the states. All that was left was to share the VPN connection with my devices using the built in internet sharing (this is something that Apple almost got right). The only annoyance with this setup is that my two networks (normal wifi and vpn shared wifi) cannot communicate with each other as they could when I was using dd-wrt. I've not yet been able to get that working. Apart from the few things I've not been able to do, my VPN connection to the US is now up and running and I can stream live TV from the states (Pluto.tv - it is free) without buffering.

A VPN connection is not the only thing I use this for. I also use it as an ad blocking DNS server (using dnsmasq), a Time machine server (later versions of macOS can utilise network shares as backup locations) and two RAGEMP server instances (these are the windows version of Ragemp server running under wine 64bit).

My VPN monitoring software...

I've published my vpn monitoring software for use by anyone on npmjs.com. If anyone is interested in using it, there are a few requirements:

1. get brew from https://brew.sh
2. install npm with `brew install npm`
3. install my monitoring utility with `npm install -g vpnmon`

This will install the utility in /usr/local/bin/vpnmon (actually a symlink to the installation).
The source code is available in /usr/local/node_modules/vpnmon.
The source directory also contains a README and a sample LaunchDaemons plist.

Anyway, the 2014 Mac mini, although a candidate for the worst Mac every created, is actually useful for some things.
 
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Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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New Jersey Pine Barrens
I used one of these as an iTunes server for about 3 years and it was fine for that. It just sat there running iTunes 24/7 with home sharing enabled and my large library on a 4tb USB 3 disk. I retired it a couple months ago when B&H Photo started blowing out the 2014 2.8ghz/8gb/fusion Mini for $500. Got one of these and split the 128gb SSD from the fusion drive to use as boot disk. Definitely a faster machine!

Now the old base mini is sitting in the closet and I feel like I should put it to use... but really can't think of anything right now. :)
 

Heat_Fan89

macrumors 6502
Feb 23, 2016
476
428
I used one of these as an iTunes server for about 3 years and it was fine for that. It just sat there running iTunes 24/7 with home sharing enabled and my large library on a 4tb USB 3 disk. I retired it a couple months ago when B&H Photo started blowing out the 2014 2.8ghz/8gb/fusion Mini for $500. Got one of these and split the 128gb SSD from the fusion drive to use as boot disk. Definitely a faster machine!

Now the old base mini is sitting in the closet and I feel like I should put it to use... but really can't think of anything right now. :)
Funny how times change and one's perception of thing. When they were released I went to Best Buy and was thinking of buying one or at least compare it to my 2012 i5 base Mini especially after reading all the complaints on the forums about how slow they were.

I walked up to the low end base Mini and I thought it was pretty quick especially when using Safari.and opining different apps. I had no idea at the time that system RAM was soldered to the motherboard. All I remember thinking when comparing my 2012 to the 2014 was my base Mini was running the i5 2.5 GHz dual core and the 2014 had a 1.4 GHz dual core.

But I walked away having a favorable impression of the 2014 low end Mini.
 

Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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I also had a base 2012 Mini, and used it as an iTunes server for a couple years. Worked really well, and later I upgraded it to 16gb and used it with Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for awhile, booting from an external 500gb Samsung T3 USB3 SSD. That was a very nice little computer. Apple should have just lowered the price on that Mini instead of introducing the crippled base 2014 Mini.

When I first got the 2014 I was just shocked by how slow it was at the most basic tasks - like opening System Preferences which I timed at about 40 seconds. But that wasn't an issue for my little server that just sat in a cabinet running iTunes.

I think B&H still has those 2014 2.8ghz/8gb Mini's for around $500, and it's not a bad little machine if you have modest needs. I'm happy with mine. From time to time, B&H has also been selling 2014 base 1.4ghz/4gb Mini's for about $350, and that might also be a good deal for some applications. Or just for the novelty of getting any new Mac, with full warranty for $350. :)
 

Heat_Fan89

macrumors 6502
Feb 23, 2016
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I think B&H still has those 2014 2.8ghz/8gb Mini's for around $500, and it's not a bad little machine if you have modest needs. I'm happy with mine. From time to time, B&H has also been selling 2014 base 1.4ghz/4gb Mini's for about $350, and that might also be a good deal for some applications. Or just for the novelty of getting any new Mac, with full warranty for $350. :)
I broke down and bought the i5 base model for $929 from Amazon when they price matched BH Photo. Then I recently upgraded the RAM to 32GB
 
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redheeler

macrumors 604
Oct 17, 2014
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With the years of crap heaped onto the 2014 Mac mini, I thought I would share with others what I've been using my 2014 mini for. This is the entry level Mac mini with the horrendous internal 5400 RPM HDD. I could make a coffee - and drink it - while watching a beachball mouse cursor whenever I loaded anything. It ended up back in its box, sitting on a shelf. After collecting dust for many years, I decided to get it out and start using it again. I had a DD-WRT router that was not performing as well as I needed it (VPN connection to the US). I figured that the mini should be up to the task.

The first thing I did was use "super duper" to clone the contents of the HDD to an external western digital SSD. The SSD is a USB-C but is backwards compatible with USB-3. This setup has read and write speeds much faster than the internal HDD and multitasking is much better. No more beachballs. (If anyone has a mini with an HDD, I recommend this easy to do conversion).

Onto the software... Apart from the molasses in winter speed of the HDD, the mini (and all Macs) have another annoyance. That is, the VPN connection doesn't automatically reconnect if disconnected. So I wrote myself a small nodejs utility that monitors the VPN connection and reconnects if the connection drops. (I'll give instructions below on how to install it later). So with my vpn monitoring software running, I now have a guaranteed VPN connection to the states. All that was left was to share the VPN connection with my devices using the built in internet sharing (this is something that Apple almost got right). The only annoyance with this setup is that my two networks (normal wifi and vpn shared wifi) cannot communicate with each other as they could when I was using dd-wrt. I've not yet been able to get that working. Apart from the few things I've not been able to do, my VPN connection to the US is now up and running and I can stream live TV from the states (Pluto.tv - it is free) without buffering.

A VPN connection is not the only thing I use this for. I also use it as an ad blocking DNS server (using dnsmasq), a Time machine server (later versions of macOS can utilise network shares as backup locations) and two RAGEMP server instances (these are the windows version of Ragemp server running under wine 64bit).

My VPN monitoring software...

I've published my vpn monitoring software for use by anyone on npmjs.com. If anyone is interested in using it, there are a few requirements:

1. get brew from https://brew.sh
2. install npm with `brew install npm`
3. install my monitoring utility with `npm install -g vpnmon`

This will install the utility in /usr/local/bin/vpnmon (actually a symlink to the installation).
The source code is available in /usr/local/node_modules/vpnmon.
The source directory also contains a README and a sample LaunchDaemons plist.

Anyway, the 2014 Mac mini, although a candidate for the worst Mac every created, is actually useful for some things.
These are all tasks you can do with an old 2009 Mac mini, only downside is slower USB 2.0 instead of 3.0. Nothing too demanding here.
 
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Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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I broke down and bought the i5 base model
I have been tempted by the new Mini's... just a few days ago I spent awhile looking at specs and prices at B&H and Apple. The more I thought about it though, I would want the absolute top spec machine if I went that way. With a non-upgradeable SSD, I'd feel compelled to get the 2TB model. And, same thing for the RAM and CPU. I can't ever remember a time in all my years on the Mac (going back to 1985) where I said "Gee, I really wish I'd bought the less powerful computer". ;) With a new computer, I'd just as soon pay the "Apple tax" and get their own memory too. It would just be one less thing to worry about for me with a machine I plan to keep for years.

So that would be an expensive machine, and although I could afford it, I'm retired watching more money go out than come in every year, so I need a compelling need for that kind of investment. I still use my top-spec 2012 quad every day, and it meets my needs for now with Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Am developing a website for visualizing LIDAR data in three dimensions with webGL right now though, and the old HD4000 definitely shows it age there. But that's not an entirely bad thing, since I want the site to work for people with older computers anyway. :)
 

fastlanephil

macrumors 65816
Nov 17, 2007
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I think I’m going to buy a 1.4GHz, 8GB, HDD 2014 Mac Mini to replace my 2009 13” MacBook Pro. I’ve been using it for light home office work but it’s now struggling a little to get online using El Capitan. I figure the Mac Mini should be good for maybe five years with few more macOS updates. I already have an the Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse.
 

Heat_Fan89

macrumors 6502
Feb 23, 2016
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428
I have been tempted by the new Mini's... just a few days ago I spent awhile looking at specs and prices at B&H and Apple. The more I thought about it though, I would want the absolute top spec machine if I went that way. With a non-upgradeable SSD, I'd feel compelled to get the 2TB model. And, same thing for the RAM and CPU. I can't ever remember a time in all my years on the Mac (going back to 1985) where I said "Gee, I really wish I'd bought the less powerful computer". ;) With a new computer, I'd just as soon pay the "Apple tax" and get their own memory too. It would just be one less thing to worry about for me with a machine I plan to keep for years.

So that would be an expensive machine, and although I could afford it, I'm retired watching more money go out than come in every year, so I need a compelling need for that kind of investment. I still use my top-spec 2012 quad every day, and it meets my needs for now with Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Am developing a website for visualizing LIDAR data in three dimensions with webGL right now though, and the old HD4000 definitely shows it age there. But that's not an entirely bad thing, since I want the site to work for people with older computers anyway. :)
I could never do top spec for a couple of reasons. I am drawn to sales like Imelda Marcos is drawn to shoes. Macs have a finite support shelf life so after so many years they get cutoff. If it were a Windows PC, then sure only because the OS would support the hardware for at least 12-15 yrs maybe more. I have a 2006 IBM ThinkPad comfortably running 64bit Windows 10 Pro with 3GB of RAM. But if my use case were such which it isn't that I needed that raw power then I might justify it.

I actually should have gone with the i3 but adding a TB3 Samsung X5 would have cost $200 more (Amazon $199.99 500GB), so then I would be really saving just $29. So for $229 more I get double the SSD space and 2 more cores. So that's my silly justification. :)
 
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iluvmacs99

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Apr 9, 2019
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I have an old Mac Mini 2011 running El-Capitan and resisted upgrading it to the max, which was High Sierra because it slows the machine down and I have a lot of apps that don't run under High Sierra, so I bought a used Mac Pro 5,1 to run most of the modern software with a Radeon GPU. Initially, I wanted the latest Mini 2018 and I can afford it, but being semi-retired and working seasonal employment also, I see my expenses going up year after year due to inflation and cost of living expenses and seeing my old receipts going back 2-3 decades and I realized, I wasted so much money on computers and have nothing today to show for. In fact, most of the computer stuff I had and had donated to thrift stores were at best 50% or less used. Seeing that, I now value what I have and try to push usage of my existing computers further or buying used where it makes sense. With my Mac Pro 5,1 able to do a lot of the heavy lifting for my image and video editing, I recently updated my Mac Mini 2011 to run Linux Mint 19.2 LTS because it was getting more difficult to go online and do banking sites with El-Capitan. With Mint 19.2 LTS, I will get security updates till 2025 and it actually runs much better and faster than with El-Capitan or High Sierra, plus I can access exFAT and NTFS RAID partitions. I have to pay extra for that with MacOS -- not with Linux. Using reFInd boot manager, I can dualboot into El-Cap or Mint 19.2 no sweat! The Mini, in El-Capitan mode, is my digital audio and digital asset management station as those software don't need to access the net. My Mini also serves as a network server for Davinci Resolve, allowing me to render video using Quicksync via my Macbook Air.

Just because the Mini is old does not mean you can't re-purpose it to do something useful. And when combined with other macs, it brings more productivity to the mix!

I also have an old Macbook Core 2 Duo 2008 which is running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS which has security updates up until I think 2024. I gave this to my dad who is using it with FireFox to access his banking and investments as well as Youtube to watch his favourite TV shows. Speed is good and browsing is way better than using Articfox which failed on him on those banking sites, where Ubuntu did not.
 
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Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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I think I’m going to buy a 1.4GHz, 8GB, HDD 2014 Mac Mini to replace my 2009 13” MacBook Pro.
I have a 2008 15" MacBook Pro with a 2.3ghz Core2Duo (I think). It works but I don't use it anymore, the battery is completely dead. I think just about any Core-i Mac will beat that, my 2011 i5 MacBook Air was about twice as fast for most things. But when it came to ripping DVD's with Handbrake, it was something like 4x faster.

That being said, I wouldn't buy a 1.4ghz Mini today unless it's dirt cheap. I suppose the 8gb will help, and adding a SSD might make it a usable machine. But the 2.8ghz 2014 Mini's that B&H is blowing out are much better machines, with better graphics chips, 8gb and a 128gb SSD that clocks at over 700MB/sec, plus you get the 1tb hard drive as a bonus. And it's new, so you get a full warranty :)
 

knightwrangler

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Jan 18, 2010
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I bought a used 2014 Mac mini this past weekend having looked at the used market for awhile.
This is a higher spec'd 2014 model and I think it will be completely fine for the next few years.
Specs wise it has a 2.8 ghz i5, 16gb ram and a 256 ssd and seems pretty snappy.
I'm quite lucky to come across one of these as they tend to be rare compared to the 1.4 model which I would not touch...cost was $450 Canadian!
I looked at the 2018's mini hard but couldn't justify the total cost around $1500! (up here in Canada we tend to pay more than our fellow American citizens)