Help this Switcher make the Switch!

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Busters, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. Busters macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    I was a Mac user back in the day (Apple IIe and the first generation Mac… with two floppy drives!), but have been using Windows boxes ever since for a number of reasons.

    A couple of years ago my girlfriend got herself a Macbook and last year gave me an iphone for Christmas. After enjoying the experience with the Macbook and the iphone, and having them not play so well with my Dell desktop, I’m ready to come back to Mac.

    I'm looking at the new Mini, the most cost effective way back into the world of Mac. Even after search and lurking for the answers, I’m still a bit confused about some of my options so I was hoping to get some help picking the parts I need. As always, cost is a concern.

    Basic uses:
    I’m not a power user by any means. I’ll mainly be using it for basic business apps, internet surfing, light Photoshop type editing, maybe some video editing in the future, a base station for streaming audio via an airport express to my stereo, and playing video files.

    Base Hardware:

    New Entry Mac Mini (1 GB Ram, 120GB HDD)
    Upgrade (myself) to 4GB: Cost vs. performance here seems like a no-brainer

    I need a new router (my iphone won’t play with my D-link router) and am looking at the Airport Extreme or Time Capsule (see below) with the Airport Express to stream music to my stereo.

    This is where things get a bit hanky for me.

    I like the idea of being able to access my files not only from my girlfriend’s laptop when she’s on my network, but also via the internet when I am outside my home network. According to Apple, I can do this from a HDD attached via USB to the Airport Extreme.
    I also would like a hard drive to use for Time Machine.

    I don’t know if it would be best to upgrade the internal hard drive (but then I couldn’t easily access these files from my home network or the internet, could I?), go with a Time Capsule, go with an external HDD attached to the Airport Extreme (where I would put most of my files) or some combination of the above.

    I know there is a speed penalty if I attach a HDD to the Airport Extreme due to the USB connection but not being a “power user”, would I really notice the difference?

    Sorry if this is too wordy, too noobie, or too incoherent and thanks in advance for any advice I can get! :)
  2. jmpage2 macrumors 68040


    Sep 14, 2007
    Keep in mind that if you put an external HD on the capsule/airport and use that as the principle place to store all of your files, you will still need a backup for that.

    Backup backup backup!
  3. OldMike macrumors 6502


    Mar 3, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    I think you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do. The Mac Mini seems like it would be perfect for you, and upgrading the RAM (and possibly the hard drive while you are in there) seems like the right way to go.

    Airport Extreme would definitely give you the capability to do what you suggest (though as I understand it, you would need the MobileMe service from Apple to actually access your files when you are on the road).

    Another thread on this forum also suggested that a USB drive attached to an Airport Extreme did not work with Time Machine in the past. There was a firmware upgrade (or perhaps an OS upgrade, I forget which), that now allows this to work properly. I don't think the thread was that old - so maybe you can find it.

    As for the recommendation to keep backups - that is definitely something you want to do. If I was in your situation, I would probably put the Dell to use as a backup machine. Put a big disk in it (or even use an external) and have it sit on one of the LAN ports of the Airport Extreme, with a mapped drive to the Airport Express external drive. Have it run scheduled backups on the data stored on the Airport Express drive.

    I would go one step further and also recommend looking into one of the enclosures that support RAID 1, for the external drive attached to Airport Extreme. They are cheap and give redundancy to your data in case of a drive failure. Proper backups are still a necessity, but having the data stored on a RAID 1 drive would give you further protection. I think the empty enclosures that you install your own drives (2 of them) in, start at around $139 or something. I saw one on OWC ( called the Guardian Maximus that looks pretty good. I might be out of touch with prices - but $139 for an external RAID 1 solution seems like a great value to me. I plan on picking up at least one of these after I complete my 'switch'.


    Good luck and I'm sure others here will have some more suggestions for you.
  4. Busters thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    So would it make sense to either buy a time capsule and attach a HDD (one for time machine and one for storage) or attach a big HDD to the airport extreme and partition it (one partition for storage one for time machine and one for storage) and mainly use the internal HDD for apps?

    Or am I making this too complicated?

  5. jmpage2 macrumors 68040


    Sep 14, 2007
    You should take Old Mike's advice and at a minimum use a two drive RAID enclosure to protect against losing all of your data in the event a single hard drive goes out.

    The Time Capsule does not have RAID so you'd actually be better off getting the new Airport and connecting a RAID1 enclosure to that and putting two disks in.

    And even then to protect yourself from losing your data in the event your house burns, you have a theft, etc, you should back up that data off site or into the cloud via something like Amazon S3.
  6. Busters thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    That's what I understand as well but for $69 with my mini purchase I get a year of MobileMe. Seems a pretty good price to check it out for a year.

    I hope someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've read I think that problem is resolved.

    Good thought but the Dell only has an 80GB HDD in it and it sounds like a jet engine these days and I think is not long for this world[/quote]

    TO show my complete ignorance, would a Raid 1 drive be redundant to Time Machine?

    Thanks for all your suggestions! :)
  7. OldMike macrumors 6502


    Mar 3, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    I agree, that does seem like a good price to try it out - and for your needs it seems like it would be perfect.

    That was what I was trying to get at. I might have not stated it clearly - but I was trying to say that it was a problem in the past and has been corrected. In the thread I was speaking about (I can't find it right now for some reason) someone mentioned hooking the drive up directly to their machine, performing a time machine backup up, and then hooking to the Airport Extreme. I wasn't sure if it was necessary to do it this way - so I wanted to point you to the thread in case you run into problems, as I haven't done this personally.

    Oh, that's a shame. It's always nice to have a spare kicking around to do tasks like backups while your other machines are away or on the road. Perhaps the mini can be used in this manner, if it is left powered on.

    I think it would be redundant to a Time Capsule - and the RAID 1 drive would be superior in the protection of your data. Time machine (or another backup method) would still be really important for versioning and being able to retrieve files from the past in case of corruption, accidental deletion or viruses.

    No problem! I'm rather new here - but I love this place and hope I can help when I can!
  8. azdunerat macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2009
    So I was in your same shoes exactly a month ago. I ended up with the 2.0 mini and upgraded my own ram to 4 gigs through crucial. Best price and product IMO.

    I bought an AEBS and was able to get dual band support by hooking up my old G Linksys. I thought about the 1TB TC but thought it was too much money. I just ordered one of these for 242.00

    2 terabytes raided down to 1, but will complete data safety. I should be getting it this friday and I am hoping it will work for streaming media over my network.
  9. Busters thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    Let me see if I have this right.
    So you have a 2 TB HDD (1 TB x 2) that you hook up to your router (?) and with Raid you have all you data on 1 TB of it backuped up on the other TB via RAID. This is the main drive where you store all your data.
    If this is the case (and I could easily have misunderstood) you have no need to use Time Machine?
  10. Whackintosh macrumors 6502


    Mar 8, 2009
    Montreal, Quebec
    That 2tb raid setup looks terrific. Please report back to us with your thoughts when you've had time to try it out. My only concern would be the fact that it's only USB2 and the potential for noise, but if it's not very loud... wow!
  11. jmpage2 macrumors 68040


    Sep 14, 2007
    You would still need to use Time Machine for full system backups plus snapshot backups of your local settings and files that are on the local hard drive.

    If you connected one of these RAID-1 setups to an Apple Airport though it should be compatible for BOTH Time Machine and just as a media store for your other files.
  12. Busters thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    OK. I'll show my ignorance again as I try to wrap my head around this.

    The Raid-1 setup (2 x 1TB) is for all intents and purposes is a 1TB HDD for the 2nd TB is creating a 1x1 copy of the 1st TB. So are you saying that within that 1 TB I store my media files and have a section of it partitioned for Time Machine as well?

    In this scenario (if I have it right) I would be using the "remote" HDD attached to the airport to hold all my media and files and my local HDD for my applications?

    1. Do I have this right?
    2. Is this a good, basic setup?
    3. If this is a reasonable setup, is a 120GB HDD large enough to hold all my basic apps considering that I may have Boot Camp or some Windows OS on there as well.

    Thanks again for walking a Mac noobie through this! :)
  13. jmpage2 macrumors 68040


    Sep 14, 2007
    Yes, I think that you are on the right track. With Gigabit ethernet (hard wired) between the Mini and the Airport/raid setup the file transfers should be reasonably quick and Gigabit Ethernet is fast enough to stream 1080P high def directly from the hard drive.

    Do exactly as you say, and use a connected drive on the Airport for both time machine as well as your primary storage.

    As to RAID-1, it's just extra insurance. To go to the extreme you would still be looking at some way of taking that drive (RAID or not) and keeping a backup of your most critical files "offsite" so that you don't lose them in the event of a fire/theft/etc.

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