hardware for a big iTunes library

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by nadyne, Sep 29, 2008.

  1. nadyne macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2004
    Mountain View, CA USA
    At home, I use a last-generation PPC Mac Mini as a media server. It's hooked up to my television and stereo system. It's also hooked up to several external firewire hard drives that house my ever-growing media collection. I've mostly had to give up using it to play video files because playback will stutter and fall out of sync on big files. That's been okay for me, I've been able to play most of those files through my Xbox instead, although that doesn't always work.

    The problem now is iTunes. I've got a big iTunes library -- it's currently at more than 15k tracks, and the number grows every week. The tracks are a combination of MP3s, AACs, and Apple Lossless files. The vast majority of them are tracks that are ripped from my CD collection, only a few (less than 200) are tracks purchased from the iTunes Store. I only have a couple of videos in there (freebies from the iTunes store), and a few episodes of podcasts (maybe 30 episodes).

    iTunes takes 3-5 minutes to launch. That's a limitation that I've come to accept and deal with. Lately, though, it's been sucking up 75% or more of the CPU when it's open, and it'll go up to 100% if I'm doing a lot of stuff in iTunes.

    I think that this means that it's time to update my Mini. I really love the form factor of the Mini for a media centre in my living room, but the current Minis are pretty anemic. I'm not sure if there's a point in updating to another Mini if it's not going to be able to keep up with my iTunes library going forward -- it's safe to assume that I'll add at least 1000 new tracks to iTunes every year (possibly more -- I haven't gone on a CD-buying bender in awhile, so I'm overdue). An iMac isn't really practical for my living room -- what's the point in having a 20-inch screen sitting next to my television? The Mac Pro doesn't seem like a great solution either, since it's really big and really loud.

    So I ask: for those of you who have really big iTunes libraries, what hardware are you using?
  2. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    Your mini is what? 1.42GHz PPC? How much RAM?

    The newer Minis are considerably more capable than the previous version ... I have a 1.66GHz Core Duo with 2GB RAM and it plays video fine, even the HD TV episodes from iTunes (we had one brief stutter on the free HD episode of The Office).

    My library isn't nearly as large as yours - only 6000 tracks, and iTunes doesn't take more than a few seconds to start up. It's possible the start up time isn't linear with library time (e.g. perhaps 12000 would take 4x longer instead of 2x longer) but even if that were true, I don't see it taking minutes to start up with a 2x-3x larger library.

    As for storage, if you're starting to add several external hard drives, you should look to consolidate the file storage ... I would also be worried about losing data without a backup. You should think about something like the Drobo. If you get the DroboShare, you can even put it in a different room and connect via ethernet. The speed should be sufficient for delivering audio and video to a TV/stereo system.

    If you do decide to get an updated Mini, I would wait for a few weeks, or look for a refurbished one on the Apple website.

    You could also think about using your current Mini solely as a file server (it would find it a lot easier just to serve files than to display video on screen), and using your xbox as the media extender for all your audio and video - of course then, you have the issue of managing your files, which you're having difficulty with using iTunes.
  3. mpshay macrumors 6502

    May 19, 2008
    I agree, the mini is certainly not the most powerful computer around, but I'm sure you will see a big difference between a PPC and a new core 2 duo. Put a couple extra GB of RAM in there and it will run your iTunes just fine
  4. nadyne thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2004
    Mountain View, CA USA
    The RAM is 2 GB, the most that will fit into it.
  5. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Mac Pro is NOT LOUD. xBox is loud.

    Let me guess, your external harddrives are USB. USB requires processor time to access. Firewire is better, but you probably need to upgrade your computer anyway.

    Refurb mini isn't that expensive (although you might want to wait for the "potential" announcement which has already had a few false alarms) and intel Minis are multiple times faster.
  6. nadyne thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2004
    Mountain View, CA USA
    My Xbox isn't running all the time, my living room Mac is running all the time. (Aside from serving as the media server, it's also my web server.) So I don't tend to notice the Xbox running, whereas I hear the fan on the Mini screaming when it hits 100% CPU.

    No, they're all firewire.

    It's not really the expense -- if it were, I never would've mentioned the Mac Pro in my original post. :) It's more that I'm not entirely convinced that a new Mini is going to keep up with my media acquisition, so I'd love to hear from someone who's got a massive library (bigger than mine) to know what hardware they're using for it.
  7. c.greene914 macrumors regular


    Jun 3, 2007
    Well I'm using a Mini as my media center and it works well. I have almost 24,000 songs, about 500 movies and 300 TV shows. They are all stored on a 2TB external and streamed to ATV.

    As the Mini's sole purpose is a media center, mine doesn't have any frills in software. OSX stays updated, and iTunes stays open all the time. My mini is Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz with 2G RAM and it has no problems.

    My only concern is once my 2TB is full, I will have to buy a second 2TB and run them in RAID0. I don't want to have to reload all that music and movies after adding another hard drive. *sigh* I wish there was a way to merge libraries or any other solution.

    Hope this helps.

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