Mac Mini Internal or External HDs for Server

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Toucansma, Jan 5, 2015.

  1. Toucansma macrumors member

    Jul 14, 2001
    Picked up a used 2011 i7 Mini that I am fixing up (missing a few pieces). My plan is to replace my time capsule and use the mini as a server for time machine for my other two Macs and as an itunes server (wouldn't be used for anything else). I would like to have two mirrored raid drives. My question is it better (speed, reliability, etc) to replace the internal HD with 2 larger capacity drives or add two external drives via thunderbolt (only usb 2 so I am guessing not worth it?). This server will be headless and near my network equipment. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    I have been experimenting with this myself ... so I only have my own experiences to go on.

    I have a 2011 i5 Mini which I use as a media server. I recently (yesterday) replaced the internal 1TB and SSD drives with a pair of 2TB Samsung hard disks in RAID-0 for speed. This is the boot drive, and also holds about 500 movies, 10,000 songs, and many TV shows as a iTunes server. It also contains a photo library of photos I want to share, and "archive" files I want access to from any computer I am using. It also acts as a printer-server for guests on my network without the need for printer drivers.

    I then have a 4TB hard disk in a OWC "MiniSTACK" for nightly CCC clone backup connected by FireWire 800. This is a pretty "static" system so I don't feel the need for Time Machine on the Server.

    Since the Server is idle most of the time, I also use it as a Time Machine backup NAS for all the other household computers. For this, I am using a OWC ThunderBay IV with 4 ea. 3TB hard disks in RAID-5.

    The Server is also connected to my TV in that room for video streamed from the internet such as missed TV shows. I manage it either from that TV, or via screen-sharing to whatever computer I am on.

    This server configuration seems to be evolving, but I think I am close to my permanent solution for it.

    Question for others here:

    I think I have all the access permissions straightened out, but am still considering whether to simply have the Server under my login, or if it is better to have a separate Admin login for the Server (considering access to the iTunes store, App store, etc.).

    Also, should the active Server login account be running normally with "administration" rights, or restricted rights for best security?
  3. Toucansma thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 14, 2001

    HFG thanks for providing your setup. It gives me some good ideas!!
  4. dyt1983, Jan 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015

    dyt1983 macrumors 65816

    May 6, 2014
    edit: To remove personally identifying info not relevant to the conversation.
  5. Ray2, Jan 9, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2015

    Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    I installed my first mini "server" in 2010. I've changed my approach to it over the years. For me, external works better at the cost of more stuff/cables. Either way is low risk as change is simple.

    Something to consider is how often you think you'll be moving or upgrading drives. In the last 4 years I've upgraded my internal twice and replaced (failure) it once. It has 3 FireWire externals attached to it and they get temporarily moved to other uses probably once a year and each have been upgraded at least 3 times. Currently I have an ssd in the mini and am about to go with 2 5 tb drives on the externals. I prefer having externals, makes my life easier.

    Heat is also a consideration. Ease/cost of replacing power bricks another.

    Over the years I've also migrated using the server from just about anything to streaming media only. I found I preferred the access speed of attached storage instead of waking sleeping drives/mini.

    Mine is a 2010 mini, for streaming HD video or nightly backups, any interface is fine. I prefer FireWire to usb2 so that's what I went with. I run without permissions. I don't see much risk to that and there's nothing on the server that's sensitive material. When there is, its in an encrypted bundle.
  6. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    External. Get a nice 4bay enclosure that uses 3.5" drives with a good cooling system and you won't have any issues. I have 3 4-bay enclosures hooked to my main media server and 1 4bay enclosure to my OSX Server (for centralized time machine backups). No issues. Plus I can swap hard drives as needed without having to tear apart my Mini and each one of the 4bay enclosures have a total capacity (if I wasn't using some kind of RAID) of 12TB (4x3TB). If I needed more space I could just move up in hard drive size although Right now I'm not even using half of the 20ishTB of storage I have.

    Even swapping out for the Largest 2.5" drives you could only get to 4TB internal with no RAID fault protection.
  7. hfg, Jan 9, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2015

    hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    Thanks for all the experience and opinions expressed above ... very useful!

    I am currently using the server for iTunes movie/music server, photo server, and TimeMachine NAS backup to external RAID5 drive.

    The server is currently a 2011 Mini with i5 processor and 8GB RAM. I don't think it is overburdened with the tasks?

    I recently purchased a refurbished 1012 Mini quad-core 2.3GHz i7 Server and upgraded to max RAM. Is there any real advantage to using the new i7 Mini as the server for the tasks identified (the USB 3 might be useful, but I have a dock that can get around that)? Otherwise I will use it as a general purpose application computer.

    Thanks for all the input ...

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