Suggestions for setting up Mac mini

Lite1

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 1, 2019
3
1
Oregon, U.S.A.
New 2018 mini; I've typically been in the PC world for 3 decades but this weekend got fed up with updating drivers and other problems with Dell desktop. Have iPhone and old iPad so not totally new to Apple.
1) Should I make recovery plan for new mini before installing other apps? In PC world, I would make a bootable thumb drive with other essential Windows OS files on it; then make a backup/image of the virgin hard drive, before installing any apps. Is that something that one does for a new Apple such as the mini. Purpose is to be able to deal with a hardware failure and other disastrous scenarios. Most people in PC world wold not go through that kind of planning, but is always better safe than sorry - so seek suggestion from someone in Apple realm who doesn't just naively think that Apple doesn't need that kind of thing (perhaps that is true). I do not live near an Apple store but there is one authorized reseller in town so I do have a local resource in the unlikely event that something horrible happens down the line.

2) Thoughts on sequence? I tentatively plan on installing antivirus software first, then Backup software; then core office type apps; then VPN app so I can work remotely on office computer; and finally any suggested Mac utilities.

3) Any other suggestions on optimizing a mini? I will be using a PC key board and will remap the Windows key and some others so that it more closely mimics an Apple key board layout.

FYI, plan to primarily use internal HD (256GB) for programs, and external HD for data. I no longer do any particularly intensive computing such as photo and movie editing, or 3D design rendering, so I expect that the Mac mini will be more than adequate, and hopefully the way Mac updates OS will simplify my life. Will gradually transition from using PC mouse to using a Mac trackpad.

Thanks for helping me cut my learning curve.
 

Stephen.R

macrumors 68000
Nov 2, 2018
1,532
1,095
Thailand
I would make a bootable thumb drive with other essential Windows OS files on it
So long as your Internet connection is reasonable this is not required. Macs have the ability to reinstall the OS by downloading the installer from Apple servers, even with a completely bare HDD/SSD (i.e. its a firmware feature not part of the installed OS). If you don't have reliable/fast Internet, you can make a bootable USB key following the instructions here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201372

then make a backup/image of the virgin hard drive, before installing any apps.
Im not even sure of the purpose of this on a PC, but if your Mac somehow needs to be restored to "factory" (i.e. if you find/believe there is a software issue that necessitates formatting the drive) you would just reinstall using either Internet Recovery, or the USB installer I mentioned above.

seek suggestion from someone in Apple realm who doesn't just naively think that Apple doesn't need that kind of thing
For most people I don't think even a USB installer is "needed" - I have ridiculously unreliable VDSL in Thailand and have used Internet Recovery a few times, it's just not super fast if your connection isn't great. Having said that, I do have a bootable USB installer, and I kept a bootable installer volume on the ExpressCard SSD I used with my 2011 MBP (it only has USB2.0 which makes for a slow install compared to the SSD via ExpressCard).

I tentatively plan on installing antivirus software first, then Backup software; then core office type apps; then VPN app so I can work remotely on office computer; and finally any suggested Mac utilities.
I would suggest that unless you deal with a lot of files to/from PC users, antivirus software is not required. I've used Macs since the early 90s and the only vulnerabilities I can ever remember (from online reports, I've never experienced any personally) were malware infected pirated software distributed via BitTorrent etc.

For backups, if you have an external drive you can format as HFS+, I'd recommend you try Time Machine (it's included as part of the OS). You pick a drive, choose whether you want it encrypted, and optionally exclude anything you don't want to backup, and let it go. Restore support is available at both the file/directory level, and from recovery mode. Some people have had problems with TM, but I've yet to see an issue with it and I've used it almost since it was introduced.

Besides that it doesn't really make much difference about which order you install things - very few if any user land applications will want you to restart/logout.

FYI, plan to primarily use internal HD (256GB) for programs, and external HD for data
Unless you know already that you'll fill the internal drive with applications, or have existing data that exceeds the capacity of the Mini, I would personally just default to storing your content in your home folder (or iCloud Drive/iCloud Documents, if you use iCloud and have enough free space)

expect that the Mac mini will be more than adequate,
Some of this will depend on the specs you ordered, but I expect you'll be fine. I use an i7/500GB/64GB 2018 Mini as my main workhorse with 2x 4K displays (currently on the iGPU). I've pretty much always got one VM, and sometimes up to half a dozen or more running (or building) without really seeing any issues.

and hopefully the way Mac updates OS will simplify my life.
Some of my close friends, and my wife have all started using Macs over the last decade or so, and generally they've all found them to be easier/less trouble than with a PC.

Will gradually transition from using PC mouse to using a Mac trackpad.
That's certainly an option, but macOS also works fine with a 'regular' mouse (and yes, multiple buttons too!), or e.g. personally I like the Magic Mouse, as the entire top surface functions similar to a trackpad.
 

Lite1

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 1, 2019
3
1
Oregon, U.S.A.
Stephen R. Thank you for thorough and very clear information and advice; very helpful and expect I will follow most of it. I was just reading an old 2008 MacWorld article on the strengths and limitations of Time Machine (https://www.macworld.com/article/1132118/timemachine1.html) and see that it will be a useful semi-automatic app for making incremental file backups; I will probably supplement with Dropbox or other cloud backup for my offsite. Thanks for tip on making bootable USB key which I hope not to ever use, but seems like a good precaution.

I traveled in Thailand (mostly in the north) for 3 weeks several years ago and loved the country and people. Definitely brought a smile to my face seeing your location. Again thanks for cutting my learning curve.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,456
5,671
"Should I make recovery plan for new mini before installing other apps? In PC world, I would make a bootable thumb drive with other essential Windows OS files on it; then make a backup/image of the virgin hard drive, before installing any apps."

I don't see why this would be necessary on a Mac.

However ... since you mentioned "backups" ... the BEST way to back up a Mac is with a bootable cloned backup that can be used to boot the Mac to the finder if needed. There are two apps that do this:
- CarbonCopyCloner
- SuperDuper
Both are free to download and try for 30 days.

"Thoughts on sequence? I tentatively plan on installing antivirus software first, then Backup software; then core office type apps; then VPN app so I can work remotely on office computer; and finally any suggested Mac utilities."

"Sequence"?
What's that?
Of no meaning on the Mac side.

HOWEVER... you DO NOT NEED anti-virus software on a Mac. In the almost 20 years that OS X has been in service, there has not been a single Mac "virus" found "in the wild".
NOT A SINGLE ONE, EVER.
You DO need "anti-malware" protection though.
MalwareBytes can do this, and it's FREE.

Additional thought ... although Macs are not affected by WIndows viruses and malware, if you import files created in Windows there is the possibility that they could contain malware that could cause problems for other Windows computers (if these files are eventually sent back to be used on Windows machines).
If that's the case for you, perhaps some kind of anti-virus software might be useful on the Mac side.

But just about all Mac "anti-virus" software (from what I've read from others) seems to impact performance on a Mac.

"I will be using a PC key board and will remap the Windows key and some others so that it more closely mimics an Apple key board layout."

Nothing wrong with that, I'd suggest using a non-Apple pointing device as well.
Logitech mice are what I use.
 

Lite1

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 1, 2019
3
1
Oregon, U.S.A.
Thanks Fishrrman, very helpful, especially about virus protection and since I will be using Windows files on Mac and then sending these to others in my office who will use in Windows environment your comment is clear and good. Since I will most likely use virus program will look at turning it off so it doesn't impact performance and use selectively. I've read about Time Machine which will be useful, and already bought CarbonCopy Cloner last night which was on sale for World BackUp Day (never knew there was such a "holiday" and is a great marketing gambit).

Glad that I joined this forum and delighted with responsiveness and user experience that is cutting my learning curve as a noobie to Mac and OS.
 
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