Mac Mini as a Media Server - Issues?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by NebulaClash, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. NebulaClash macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2010
    For a long time I've used my MacBook Pro to store all my movies, songs, TV shows, etc. I'm running out of room. So I'm thinking of getting a (hopefully in March new) Mac Mini to hook up to my TV and serve as my iTunes media server. I would set up iTunes to share on the network, and my laptop would just read media from the Mac Mini.

    Having never done this before, I'm trying to understand all of the issues I might face, and I'm hoping for some guidance here. These are my questions and concerns:

    1. With iTunes on a separate machine, will I have lag issues when I try to play a song? I'm assuming that by having the Mac Mini hooked up to my TV, watching movies from iTunes on my TV should have no lag, but what about my laptop over wireless?
    2. If I hook up the Mac Mini to my Time Capsule as well over ethernet, I assume I can then Time Machine backup to the Time Capsule from the Mac Mini? That could serve as my backup in case of hard disk failure. I was first considering building a NAS RAID disk before I thought about just getting a Mac Mini, so the idea of backing up my data is on my mind.
    3. I tape movies on my Tivo and then convert the video to iTunes format and copy over to my laptop. This is time intensive and really works my 5-year-old MacBook Pro hard. I'm going to be getting a new MacBook of some sort this year, so with plenty of RAM and a Skylake processor, I should be able to convert movies more efficiently. Then I would need to copy the converted movie over to the Mac Mini to add to iTunes. The hard part is the conversion, so really my Mac Mini won't ever be stressed, will it? So should I get the most RAM/best disk for the Mac Mini, or is what I envision for it not overly complicated to just serve as a media server?
    4. Does the Mac Mini's fan make a lot of noise? If so, under what conditions? If I put it in the living room, I'll be annoyed if the fan goes on a lot.
    5. I need at least 2 TB. I'd rather it be 100% SSD, but if that doesn't become an option, is the 2 TB Fusion drive fast enough?
    Anyone else done what I'm considering? What are the drawbacks to having a separate media server?
  2. treekram macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2015
    Honolulu HI
    I can only address a couple of the points. First, just to make sure there's no ambiguity - you're intending to possibly buy the current model (2014) Mini in March, not hoping that a new model is introduced in March and then buying that.

    I have a 2014 2.6Ghz Mini and I have never heard the fan, even though I do quite a bit of Handbrake on it. On my 2012 2.6Ghz quad-core, Handbrake makes the fan roar.

    I don't know what you would need a 2TB SSD for. Are your videos higher quality that Blu-Ray? The Blackmagic Disk Speed Test implies that an HDD is too slow from Blu-Ray-quality viewing, but I don't have a problem viewing ripped Blu-Ray videos from an HDD (both compressed and non-compressed). It doesn't appear you're going to be doing any video processing on the Mini. Copying the files to your Mini will take some time but the 2014 Mini has USB 3, which is much faster than USB 2, which is what your MBP uses. Copying will be limited to the slower speed of your source or destination, so unless you have an external SSD drive, there's no performance benefit when copying. Gigabit Ethernet is about the speed of an HDD.

    I think that what does help is to have media content on a different disk than the OS. Having a fusion drive may serve that purpose as it's likely that most of the OS would be on the SSD and your video content will be on the HDD part of the fusion drive. I haven't used a fusion drive but I would hope that the algorithm is smart enough that it wouldn't start transferring a video file between the SSD and HDD when you're playing a video.
  3. NebulaClash thread starter macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2010
    Thanks for the reply. The movies are not Blu Ray, in fact they are not even hi def, taped off TCM they tend to be original low def as they were filmed :). But I have hundreds of them, about 500 at an average of 2GB each = 1 TB just for them. Then add in the music, etc., and I need room to grow.

    Thanks for the fusion drive comments. That was helpful. It seems this could be a solution.

    Yes, I am hoping for a Mac Mini update. It's been long enough, I might as well wait a month or three and see if they update. But good to know 2014 model would handle my requirements.
  4. marzer macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    For a media server you don't need high end, save yourself the $$ and get a refurb.

    Ideally you'll want to use external storage to host your media files and do backups. In my case I have a 2012 mini with dual thunderbolt drives, one for storage and the other for time machine backups. The external drives are large enough that I use the mini as a time machine host for my other computers.
  5. roland.g macrumors 603


    Apr 11, 2005
    I ordered a refurb for ship to store 2 weeks ago. i7 3.0 8GB RAM 512GB SSD. I have not picked it up. I was worried the RAM wasn't enough. So I ordered a 2.6 i5 16GB RAM with a 256GB SSD, cheaper than the refurb, and it should be delivered this week. But I am concerned that I may get this machine and see a long overdue refresh in the next 60 days, but beyond my 14 day return period.
  6. treekram macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2015
    Honolulu HI
    Based on past history, and past history only, an update is more likely in the Fall. 2 out of the 9 Mini introductions have been in February or March. And in both of those cases, there was another update in the Fall. I'm think that in the two cases that there were dual introductions, Apple planned a dual introduction so one necessarily had to happen earlier in the year. The last 2 introductions have been in October. There haven't been any rumblings from the supply chain that I have heard, as is the case with the MBP. But the Mini does kind of fly under the radar in the Apple community so that's not necessarily a strong indication that it won't come in March. What does usually happen is that strong rumors start just before the introduction so if that doesn't happen a couple weeks or so before March 21, I wouldn't expect an introduction.
  7. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    My "media server" is a 2006 MacBook Pro with an external 2TB drive. Used to run Plex; but now I go the lazy route and just have iTunes running with home sharing on. Movies (including 1080P), TV shows, music all stream to an Apple TV 3 over wifi without issues.

    Access point is latest gen AirPort Extreme; but this same basic setup worked fine on an older Extreme as well.
  8. duervo, Feb 29, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016

    duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    If you're just going to use iTunes Home Sharing to an Apple TV or orher iTunes or Apple device, then don't worry about CPU.

    If you're going to run something like Plex, and rip your physical DVD's and Blu Rays, then you will need to be mindful of what devices will play the ripped media, and then choose your encoding parameters accordingly. Failure to do so will end up with Plex (or any media server) having to transcode your media real time to a format that is supported on the end device. Transcoding performance is heavily dependant on CPU cores and speed. So, the key is to avoid having to transcode. If you do that, then you should have no problems.

    To specifically answer your questions:

    1. No, you will not have any lag.

    2. Yes, you can use your time capsule as a time machine target for your Mac mini.

    3. If you have the media already in a format that iTunes can play, then you don't need the fastest CPU.

    4. Define "a lot of noise". That's really in the ear of the beholder, tbh. However, I stream media via iTunes all the time to my Apple TV, and I never hear the fan in my 2011 Mac mini. The one time I did hear the fan, it was caused by a hung process that was consuming all the available CPU. Coincidentally, it was one of the previous versions of iTunes, but whatever was causing the issue has long since been patched because iTunes hasn't done that to me in over a year now.

    5. 2TB fusion will be fast enough. Once the media is there, it doesn't need a lot of IOPS and bandwidth to stream.

    Honestly, about the only issue I foresee you having with the proposed config is running out of space again. The more space you get now, the longer it will take for you to reach that point. When you do reach that point (and you will reach it, make no mistake,) consider getting a nas. By that point you'll be filling a 2TB fusion drive, so if you target a nas with 4 or 5 drive slots, you should be set going forward, at least until something else causes an architectural change (ie: nas storage form factor changes from the standard 2.5" or 3.5".)
  9. NebulaClash thread starter macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2010

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