Help with creating setup for heavy (windows) excel user

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by theriviera, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. theriviera macrumors newbie

    Aug 24, 2015
    Hi -
    I need a new setup for my office. I currently have:

    Macbook Air (2012) that I bring to and from the office. This is the 11" bare bones version. I had a lot of trouble running my big data intensive spreadhseets in Excel for Mac so I switched to Parallels and the windows version. This is working OK but could use more speed plus I need a dual display in my office.

    I have a mac mini (2011) at home but I would like to keep that there. I was thinking a mac mini but not sure of the specs. The most important thing for me is fast processing time in these spreadsheets. When the ball starts spinning I move on to other things and then I get distracted, lol. I need to stay in the moment for productivity's sake.

    Is it worth doing a build your own with the SSD? Should I try an external SSD? My plan is to get 2 non Apple monitors, as I don't need the retina display and I would rather spend my money on the machine.

    Thanks in advance!!
  2. MacUser2525 macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2007
    You have perfect test bed already fire up Excel on your mini go through the work you do with it to see how it handles the load. Depending on the performance ie lots of swap to disk then more memory needed, files taking long time to load ssd needed or if something like iStat menu shows high processor load then you need faster processor. Your testing will more than tell you what is needed rather than some random person on the web telling you something never having tested your workload.
  3. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    A few tips from a long-time hardcore person who lives at home sometimes and in Excel sometimes. I have Excel on my Mac, and hardly ever use it - it's a dog when compared to the Windows versions, which I use in 3 different set ups. What I know is that Excel is both a RAM hog and utilizes disk swap space like a hog - and you'd almost need to double your file size for RAM to accommodate the lock file that is associated with the source file.

    Situation 1: Office installed in a 64-bit Win 8.1 VM running in Parallels Desktop 10 on a late-2013 rMBP with 16GB of RAM with a fast 1TB SSD; this is the "least" desirable set up we use and is mainly for my convenience. I have updated to 64-bit Win 10, but have not installed Excel 2013 in that partition - my hunch is that Office 2016 will be better optimized for Win 10, and I'll give MS a bit of time before I invest my time to port a workflow to Win 10. Please note, we went from Win XP to 8.1 only when support for XP was ended - we skipped 7, and none of us care about OS interfaces as it's the kernel that matters most to me (BTW, it's my company!) but I have no reservations against but have no experience with Win 7. This set up is actually pretty slick because of the 4-channel SSD, which also is available in newer Macs.

    If you're investing in an SSD and using Excel, a 4-channel SSD's throughput will make your life easier.

    Situation 2: We have a 64-bit Win 8.1 workstation with 32GB of RAM and two fast SSDs dedicated to crunching numbers. On it resides Access and Excel 2013. Over 10 years ago, I learned how to make a PC scream for CAD and GIS (SHAPE file) work and rendering - and that was years before SSDs were even on the market. In brief, add a fast second hard drive to the workstation, reduce all OS and application caches to "0" and designate the second drive as the cache/swap source and don't put anything on that second drive (this drive can be as small as 5GB), and set up as many applications with swapping to use that second drive as a cache/swap source - and your PC will fly. I cut imports and renders - and Excel work - time by 95%; we started billing by the job and not by the hour.

    Excel 2013 works much better with a dedicated, modified Win PC or a Boot Camp partition IMHO.

    Situation 3: I listened to a friend of mine, a consultant who crunches numbers in Excel while using Access as a data source/repository. We both know that new hardware will be coming out in the next few months but he needed to get work done now. I told him - and he listened to me - invest in an MS Azure VM with Optimized Computing (like the D4 or D13 options - lots of cores, RAM, and SSD space), and that VM is, by design, portable. He bought me a bottle of 16-year Bushmills last time we met as it saved him time and he didn't need to make an investment NOW. Some of those Azure plans might suit you, and those costs can be passed on to a client - a $1500 Mac or a 1000 hours of screaming fast optimized server time? Hmmmm?

    If you want your own Mac - get one with the most RAM you can afford - all 5 of mine have i7 quad-core processors with 16GB of RAM. The 4 that have Excel in VMs on them have aftermarket 480 GB Intel 730 SSDs (REALLY nice SSDs) - the SSDs in Apple's current Minis are faster by far and solid choices, and I wouldn't buy one for work that had less than 512GB of space.

    Also, we use Standard User Accounts on our Macs for work. I dedicate one User Account for Parallels. I have two Macs on my desk at all 3 of our locations - here there's the rMBP and a Mini Server. When I'm done with a work process, I log out of that user account. When I'm running an application to render/process data, I use the other Mac on my desk - I don't have "beach balls". Cheers!

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