Mac Based Home Server

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by chell, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. chell macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2007

    I've presently got the following setup at home:

    - Macbook (80 GB HDD)
    - PC for gaming and Windows only apps (500 GB HDD)
    - first-gen Mac Mini (no gigabit ethernet, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB HDD)

    What I'm trying to do is to come up with a setup where I have one central server with loads of storage where I can put all my important documents and files etc. on. I need that server to be really quiet and it should have gigabit ethernet.

    In addition to being a file server, it might also function as BitTorrent box (I'm into Linux and need BT for downloading distro isos) and Usenet box (for downloading some of the interesting, legal stuff available on there).

    I'm not really sure if a Mac is what I'm looking for. If it is, then a newer MacMini might fit the bill. My main problem with that however is that I need loads of storage and I need the machine to be extensible in terms of storage, easily extensible.

    I'm not going to have much time for sysadmin work (hey, I have a life), so a solution that just works or requires very little setup and maintenance (OS X + installing apps + configuration is acceptable) would be best.

    What can you recommend?
  2. steveza macrumors 68000


    Feb 20, 2008
    I would get a new(er) mini and you can add a firewire external drive for all the extra storage. I use this setup currently and it works well.
  3. martychang macrumors regular

    Sep 3, 2007
    As you noted, there will probably be storage issues with a Mac Mini and it'll cost a bit more than is logical if you go higher. iMac is less than ideal I'd imagine having an integrated monitor that you pay for and all, so that leaves you with a Mac Pro for a mac server, which is probably more than you were hoping to spend.

    If you're truly into Linux I'd try building a cheap linux machine with a few big hard drives. Go with AMD for minimum price, don't skimp on the Power Supply, and get however much storage you intend to use. Debian, Ubuntu Server, or CentOS should be pretty low maintenance, and be well documented. If you're really impatient just make sure you throw on a GUI in the case of Debian/Ubuntu Server, CentOS should have a GNOME setup default, and you'd just add the server packages, like Samba server for the Windows machine.
  4. chell thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2007
    I figured that a Mac probably isn't right for this job (seeing as I don't want to spend much money).

    I've been thinking about building a Linux based box, but I have no idea as to what hardware to choose... The box should be quiet (*really* important) and cheap (also important).

    Any suggestions?
  5. spacecadet610 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2006
    Maybe look into unRAID as a solution.

    It doesn't have torrent or usenet capabilities. It is, however, easily expandible, relatively cheap, has gigabit and offers redundancy. redundancy is key as you don't want to lose your data if hard drive fails.

    I've been using it with a mac and PC setup for a while. Wish it offered AFP protocol but i get by with SMB
  6. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    I second the Linux box. Since processing power is not a huge deal you can get the cheapest AMD processor, which is also only 45Watts with so little heat, noise should not be an issue. For slightly more you could do a Conroe based Intel Celeron that uses only 35Watts. Generally the AMD CPU and motherboard are cheaper, in all maybe a $30 difference for your needs.

    As for compatibility I would suggest making sure there are drivers for the motherboard you choose with the Linux Distrobution you want, most any previous generation Chipsets should have drivers for major Linux Distrobutions. Other considerations for the board; DDR2 Memory since it is dirt cheap, RAID 5 for speed and redundancy, socket 775 for Intel or AM2 for AMD, Gigabit Ethernet, integrated graphics it does not add noise and this is a server not graphics powerhouse. It will be easier to find an Intel with all of these options and integrated graphics. Otherwise forget the integrated graphics choose all other options and get a $25 video card.

    As for the case the Thermaltake Swing is very quite. If you want extreme quite find a Thermaltake sViking (not a typo) to manually control fans. For a cheap PSU buy Rosewill otherwise get the Enermax Liberty. I found this to be very quiet and modular cabling keeps everything looking clean. To keep things even quieter get a third party CPU cooler with really great reviews on Newegg, preferably with 120mm fan like the Zalman as it means more air flow and lower RPM.

    As for hard drives get the Hitachi T7K500 series. I have one and it is nearly silent and much cooler running than any of my other Hard Drives. Currently I think the best price per Gigabyte are 750GB drives.

    I would do the shopping at for the low prices and great narrowing options when going through categories to find products.
  7. yvovandoorn macrumors regular

    May 2, 2005
    Renton (suburb of Seattle), WA
    I build myself a Linux box last year from spare parts I had around the house. Got the drives from a friend (4x new WD 500gb for $30 a piece... as long as I didn't ask where he got them from).

    Using Debian myself (tracking testing repositories). Installed netatalk for AFP support and avahi to have them advertised correctly to all Leopard macs. I am using hellanzb for usenet (and the web gui hellahella). For bittorrent I am using torrentflux, another web based app. So my Debian server is headless server that sits in a corner. I ssh into occasionally to pull down some software updates but thats about it.

    If you aren't into the whole building your self a box you can always get a diskless Netgear (formally Infrant) Readynas for about $700 then provide the disks yourself. The latest version comes with a built in torrent client as well. It runs a highly modified version of Debian as well.
  8. bankshot macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    If you're willing to put in the extra work (research hardware, put it together, pick a distribution, etc), Linux is a fine choice. I've done the Linux server thing (actually FreeBSD since 2000) for the last 14+ years and it worked out really well for me as a unix geek. Up until 2002 when I got my first OS X machine (G4 Power Mac), the Linux/FreeBSD server was also my primary desktop.

    So you'd think that I would recommend a similar setup to other people - Mac desktop and/or laptop, Linux/FreeBSD server. But in recent years I find that I've grown tired of the work involved in this sort of setup - where it used to be fun, it now seems more tedious than enjoyable. Whether it's researching and buying hardware upgrades or general system maintenance when something breaks. I'd rather spend my time doing something else these days.

    I also want to cut down on the noise. The room with both of these machines is loud. The G4's not as bad as the homebuilt server, where I probably put in more fans than necessary to keep it cool. I could research all the quietest PC parts to use for a new machine, but again I don't feel like spending a lot of time on that.

    So I've decided I will replace both machines with a Mac mini when they are updated. With one easy purchase, I satisfy a number of goals:
    • Inexpensive (relatively)
    • Quiet
    • Very low power consumption
    • Expandable via external drives
    • Runs OS X
    • Unix
    • Serves other Macs, Windows, Unix machines out of the box
    • Backup server (Time Machine)
    • No mess of parts to put together
    I've already been prepping by going through the list of custom software I run on my FreeBSD server and making sure I can run it on a Mac. The list is pretty extensive, from procmail for mail filters to gimp-perl for scripted image manipulation. I originally thought I might just clone my FreeBSD machine to a Parallels VM and run it wholly intact like that, but I'm finding that most things can run natively on the OS X side. Either it already comes in Leopard (fetchmail, procmail) or it's easily installable via Darwin Ports (mutt, dovecot).

    So while I don't want to discourage anyone from going the Linux route, I must say I'm finding that the Mac looks to be a fine home server choice. My tinkering days were fun, but I'm looking forward to doing other things with that time soon. ;)
  9. bplein macrumors 6502


    Jul 21, 2007
    Austin, TX USA
    I wouldn't dismiss the Mac mini as the server. I have a recent model Mac mini that I upgraded to a 2.33GHz Core Duo, and when idle it consumes about 20 watts (measured with a Killawatt). In comparison, I have a Pentium 4 2.8ghz server in the garage, and at idle it consumes 116 watts (although it's got 4 disk drives in it, so figure you can subtract about 20-30 watts for that) and it's a lot louder. If you are going to have the server inside your living area, then you have to think about noise as well.

    Too bad your current mini has 10/100 Ethernet, otherwise this would be a no brainer to just throw an external drive on it.

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