Mac Mini to replace a NAS

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by nick676, Jun 17, 2015.

  1. nick676 macrumors newbie

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    Jun 23, 2013
    #1
    I'm thinking of getting a Mac Mini (probably 2012 model) to run headless and use as a NAS/Plex media server/downloading machine. I'd probably repace the HDD with a smallish SSD to speed it up. Can this be done easily, and what alternatives should I consider?

    At the moment I have a Lacie Network Space 2 as a DLNA server and Time Machine backup (for my MBP), but could this be done by the Mac Mini? Could any USB hard drives on the Mac be accessible by other computers on the network?

    Most of the content I'd be watching is at least 720p, so at the moment I convert everything to MP4 before moving to the NAS. The Mac will be powerful enough to transcode HD media, so I wouldn't need to do this any more.

    I'm also after a fairly power efficient solution if possible, so would it be possible to schedule the Mini to switch on/off at certain times of day, but also have some sort of remote 'wake on LAN' command if I needed to wake it at other times?

    Is a Mac Mini overkill for what I need? Is there anything else I should be aware of? All help/advice appreciated!
     
  2. marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    #2
    Yes. To all your questions...Except the overkill one. If it's affordable it's not overkill! :D

    The nice thing about using a computer instead of a NAS is the flexibility of adding whatever features you want to your network. And whatever storage you hook to the mini can be made available to other computers over the network via file sharing.

    If you add the OS X server app you can make the mini your time machine host for any Mac computers on your network.
     
  3. nick676 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jun 23, 2013
    #3
    Thanks for the reply and confirming it can be done. Like you say, it would be good to have a spare 'proper' computer too.

    Would the base late 2014 model (with SSD upgrade) be a better choice than buying a 2.5ghz 2012 version? I think they'd both cost a similar amount to buy. The processor on the new model doesn't sound very powerful on paper, but I guess that makes it more efficient. The older version would also mean I could upgrade the memory if needed, but would 4gb in the latest model be sufficient for my needs?
     
  4. BCWorld macrumors 6502

    BCWorld

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    #4

    Me personally, I wouldn't even consider the 2014 mac mini period. The 2012 2.5 i5 or 2.3 i7 is the way to go.
    I personally own a 2012 i7 with an SSD and I love it! I couldn't see myself using another mac period. I have owned a Mac Pro 2009 and several different iMac in the past (which I can't stand). The best thing about the 2012 mac mini is that you get a Powerful small compact mac that can be upgraded and its also PORTABLE! You can use it with any mouse or keyboard just in case you need to work with it away from the home or office. The 2012 is a great machine, I know i won't keep mine forever (2 years now) but until apple tops it, I'm staying with it. I hope this helps. Good luck. :)
     
  5. nick676 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    Is that because of the processor or lack of upgradeability? I was originally put off by the weak sounding CPU, but the 2014 model has HD 5000 graphics, which are a step up and useful for Plex transcoding. I have a quad core rMBP for portability and day-to-day usage.
     
  6. BCWorld macrumors 6502

    BCWorld

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    #6

    Both, you cannot upgrade the 2014 Mac mini and the build to order options will cost you a lot. The only plus for the 2014 Mac mini over the 2012 model is the Gpu which like you said is very weak.
     
  7. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

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    #7
    If your running headless the gpu isn't a concern. If it is then the 2012 with dgpu solves that issue.
     
  8. SpinalTap macrumors regular

    SpinalTap

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    #8
    I own a 2012 Mac Mini Server. I replaced one of the HDD's with a 1TB SSD. It feeds movies to my AppleTV. If I so choose, I can stream PLEX via AirPlay. I currently use a ReadyNAS for TM backup.

    However, a QNAP TS-251 is cheaper than a Mac Mini, with a 2.41Ghz Intel processor, has iTunes Server, has HDMI output, and can easily transcode PLEX. The TS-451 is the 4 bay version.

    I plan on buying one of these to replace my ReadyNAS.

    https://www.qnap.com/i/uk/product/model.php?II=142
     
  9. nick676 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jun 23, 2013
    #9
    Wow, that actually looks a great solution. I didn't realise how much a modern NAS could do, I think the QNAP does actually tick all the boxes for me. I'll be able to use my existing hard drives as well and just put them in the QNAP and have everything in one box, rather than the Mac Mini connected to USB drives. Thanks for the great suggestion :)
     
  10. yukyuklee macrumors 6502

    yukyuklee

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    #10
    You will change your mind or go a different route when that GPU becomes weak for everyday usage. I use my mid 2011 as a server and I can already see that the 256GB GPU is becoming laggy. my specs are 2.5 i5 2x 256gb ssd and 8GB ram.
     
  11. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #11
    There isn't any 2012 Mac Mini with dGPU. The last one to use the dGPU was the 2011 one with the Radeon 6630M (256MB)
     
  12. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

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    #12
    Lol typo on my part. I have one sat right I front of me lol
     
  13. Lankyman macrumors 68000

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    #13
    I've always been under the impression it is not a good idea to use a HDD for anything else if you are also using it for Time Machine backups. From what I understand of your post you are advocating the use of TM as well as other functions.
     
  14. Lankyman macrumors 68000

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    #14
    My Synology NAS has iTunes server too. However, this whole iTunes server business is a joke and for the most part the tech is now defunct as Apple has moved on with Home Sharing and iTunes Match. At the end of the day you still have to have iTunes active on your Mac for the NAS iTunes server to work, which for me defeats the object.
     
  15. marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    #15
    It's not a good idea to use a Time Machine disk, actually just the partition, for anything else but Time Machine backups. The computer itself, hosting the backups, can do lots of other functions. An example, I have two RAID drives connected via Thundebolt to my mini server. One is for media and file sharing, the other is for time machine backups. The drive designated for backups is only used for Time Machine, the other drive is used for all sorts of stuff: media library, network home directories, software library, etc.
     
  16. Lankyman macrumors 68000

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    #16
    Which is fine. I have a TC which is used solely for Time Machine backups as well as full router functions. I do also back up to a share on my NAS which is set to RAID 1. Technically, again whilst not a good idea (as the NAS drives have lots of other data on them) I only use this as a backup in addition to my backup if you get my meaning.
     
  17. BCWorld macrumors 6502

    BCWorld

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    #17

    The My 2012 i7 model has 1GB of GPU (after upgrading the ram from 4gb to 8gb then 16gb after the 2014 Mac Mini announcement). I understand that the 2011 model only has 256MB of GPU so I see your point but I think Im good at least for a little while longer...
     
  18. yukyuklee macrumors 6502

    yukyuklee

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    #18
    yes! your are a lucky one lol... mine is starting to lag with watching certain movies. But I will deal with it for now
     
  19. Lankyman macrumors 68000

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    #19
    Perhaps it depends where you live as to what works best. However, I don't think a Mini as a Home Theatre solution is as attractive a proposition as it once was. There are now so many other dedicated options that do arguably a better job.

    Many PVR's now have apps and the ability to stream on demand content as well as record all your favourite shows. They have large HDDs and are pretty cheap to buy. Add a NAS into the mix which has DLNA capability and most if not all your needs are catered for.

    To make a Mini do the same things one has to start buying over devices to plug into it e.g Elgato EyeTv Go and even that is only a partial solution.

    The Mini can be made to do many of the things listed above but for my money I think a PVR and NAS is now a better solution. Having checked pricing it is also a cheaper solution.
     
  20. SpinalTap macrumors regular

    SpinalTap

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    #20
    iTunes Server on my ReadyNAS means that I can feed my Logitech Squeezebox without my Mac Mini being switched-on: so I completely dismiss your aguement.
     
  21. Lankyman macrumors 68000

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    #21
    So can I, with music ripped from C.D.s etc. I can't however play material linked to iTunes through iTunes purchases. I can put all my iTunes Media on my NAS and play iTunes media purchased from iTunes by leaving the iTunes library on my computer. However, as you will note there is still the link to the computer.

    Now if you have found a way to circumvent that process then you must share it with us as I'm sure most iTunes users on the planet will celebrate your success. :)
     
  22. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    #22
    2c.

    As a NAS / Plex machine (i.e., you're going to run it headless) consider an HP micro server with FreeNAS.

    On par with price for the mini or cheaper, but you will gain fault tolerant drives (ZFS), the ability to run other plugins (like transmission daemon), much larger storage capacity, etc. It also works as a time machine destination with a little configuration.

    Whilst you COULD run a Mac mini in that use case, you're giving up a lot in terms of hardware flexibility (there's no way you're running 4 drives in RAID in that), and the Mac benefits OS X, nice GUI, etc.) are not really relevant.

    That's what I've done anyway.
     
  23. marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    #23
    What do you mean? Running 4 drives in RAID? Or running four drives inside the mini?

    No. You can't run four drives inside the mini, but for a server what's it matter whether they are internal or external, data servers commonly rely on external storage. However, a mini can handle a 4 drive RAID very well.
     
  24. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    #24
    Sure, except you need to buy the external 4 bay enclosure ($$, almost as much as the mini itself), which comes standard with the HP micro server (internal 4 drive bays, optionally hot-swappable if you flash the bios).

    Not saying you can't do it, but it is a lot more expensive and doesn't really win you anything.

    I love apple gear as much as the next guy for laptops and desktops, but OS X server is a joke, and the mini hardware just really isn't ideal for a NAS. You can do it far better and cheaper with commodity hardware and FreeNAS.

    Running your storage external to your NAS kinda defeats the purpose of using a Mac Mini as a NAS...
     
  25. marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    #25
    There's a big difference between arguing price and arguing features. You simply stated there was no way to run 4 drive RAID on a mini, no mention of cost. My rebuttal is to simply counter that not only is there a way but it's very capable. As far as price goes, that's in the eye of the beholder. My mini with a 4 drive Thunderbolt RAID system was very affordable, and in fact is a power house of a small office/home server system. I've operated several NAS in the past and none could hold a candle to the flexibility and speed I have in my mini server/Thunderbolt setup.
     

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