Using an iMac as a hub/server for the whole house - is this possible?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by cujimmy, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. cujimmy macrumors member

    Jul 21, 2010
    We're about to move into a new house which is spread over four floors. I intend to use the top floor as an office and want to have an iMac up there.

    So my question is - is it possible to have the iMac (and a Drobo or similar) store all my music and videos and have that 'broadcast' all the way down to my Apple TV in the lounge three floors down (my Apple TV sometimes has issues receiving from my Airport Extreme that is currently sitting just a few feet away)?

    Will it work if myself and my partner get rid of our MacBook Pros and just have iPads? Can the iPad somehow 'slave' off an iMac on a wifi network?
  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    In general, yes, that'll work fine, although I would recommend a central wireless router somewhere around the middle of the building, since it doesn't sound like the iMac on its own, or even a router on the top or bottom floor, will give you the coverage you'll need. Not like routers cost much these days.

    The setup would then be modem and router around the middle of the building somewhere, which would hopefully provide coverage to the iMac at the top and ATV wherever it is; the ATV and other Macs could then grab files off the iMac, and of course all would have an Internet connection. If you just can't get the wireless coverage you need you could also run a physical ethernet cable--which is guaranteed to work--from one or more device to the router. That would also speed things up for internal file transfer, though it wouldn't make the Internet go any faster. Only downside is having to run cable and/or drill holes in walls.

    You could also use powerline networking hardware to get a "wired" signal from one part of the building to another without having to run any wires, but the downside to that is the hardware is quite expensive--around $100 for a single pair of devices. Could be a solution for getting a network connection from the iMac to the ATV if for whatever reason (interference?) the ATV is having trouble picking up the wireless signal.

    As for iPads, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "slave"--if you mean grab a shared internet connection, yes, although again using a dedicated router would almost certainly have better coverage. If you mean use the iMac for a file repository, still yes.
  3. cujimmy thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 21, 2010
    How would it work in this scenario - iMac hasn't been used for a while and has gone to sleep, I turn on the Apple TV. Would I have to walk all the way upstairs to wake up the iMac?

    With the iPad - by 'slave' I meant access all the files etc. that are on the iMac.
  4. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Boy, that was good timing--I happen to check MR on my way to bed, and you had responded two minutes earlier.

    The sleep scenario is the one unfortunate of home servers. A computer can be woken up over the network if you enable that option in the Energy Saver pref pane, but it requires a program or device that knows how to send the correct, special kind of network request to wake the computer. There are programs (WakeOnLan, for example) to do this for you, but that requires manually sending a wake signal.

    Apple has actually come up with a partial workaround for this, but it only works with an Apple router--if you enable the feature, a Mac with sharing enabled will still appear in the list of servers for a while after it's gone to sleep (the router essentially remembers it). If you attempt to access it, the router sends a wake signal to the computer, it wakes up, and after a delay you're good to go.

    Two issues (apart from needing an Apple router with new enough firmware, which I think you already have):

    1) If the computer has been asleep for too long, the AirPort appears to drop it from the list. I don't have the exact timeout, but it's short enough (less than a day, I think) that I occasionally have to manually wake my Mini-based server.

    2) I'm not sure if this works with an ATV or not. Might, just never tried.

    The alternative, of course, is to set the iMac to just turn the screen off, but never go to sleep fully. Wastes power, but it does work.

    As for the iPad, the answer will depend on what content exactly you want to access from the iMac, but the answer in general is yes--so long as the iMac is configured to share the content, and the iPad knows how to access it (for example, with an appropriate app), it's just like any other device and server on the Internet.

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