Using MacMini Server 2011 as Desktop Computer

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by kimmosley, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. kimmosley macrumors newbie

    Dec 31, 2011
    I just got the MacMini Server thinking that it would be the fastest MacMini to use as a desktop computer. I work mainly with Photoshop and Indesign.

    I spoke with someone at Apple (Enterprise division) and he said that I should not be using the Server as a desktop computer... that I would have trouble in the future. He said that I should not have been sold a server and should exchange it with a cheaper computer (that with i7 and a 750G drive will cost about $100 more). I asked him why, and he said it has lots of moving parts for the server. I asked him if the server was just in the software... and he said "yes."

    So what's the deal? And what about the graphics card. Would I be better off with the duo i7?

  2. JS3 macrumors regular

    Apr 15, 2010
  3. jeremyshaw macrumors 6502

    Oct 29, 2011
    He's full of it. Just use it as a desktop. It has a quad core, which may help with Photoshop a bit (I don't think much in photoshop allows for OpenGL/OpenCL accelleration).
  4. rocknblogger macrumors 68020


    Apr 2, 2011
    New Jersey
    I could be wrong and hopefully someone who knows for sure will jump in.

    I don't see why you shouldn't use the mini server for daily use. It's meant to be used as the primary computer in a network environment. Whether that environment is an office or a home doesn't matter the only thing you need to be careful with is making sure the server is not accessible by the outside world.

    You just have to make sure your firewall is set up properly.

    As far as moving parts, I have no idea what he was talking about. Maybe started celebrating new years eve a bit early perhaps?

    And I can't comment on which would be better hardware-wise unless I knew exactly which Mac-mini you have (specs).

    I think you're fine with what you have but maybe someone else around here can be more definitive.
  5. kimmosley thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 31, 2011
    Specs for my MacMini Server

    It is a 2GHz Intel Core i7
    with 4GB 1333 MHz DDR

    I just ordered 8GB of memory.


  6. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    I have to stop popping in the MacMini sub-forum because threads like this drive me nuts. If you want to use Adobe CS products you are far better off with an iMac and 16 GB of RAM than trying to make a MacMini Server do what it was not intended to do. Sure you can make it work, but is that your best option for you application(s)?
  7. imswimmin macrumors regular

    Apr 6, 2011
    That individual was speaking a bunch of hot air. It's perfectly ok to use the server as a desktop computer. In fact, I'm sure the quad core processor will benefit you more than the dual core model.
  8. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    If anything, I'm upset with my Mac mini Server because it is too much like a desktop system and isn't optimized at all for server use! Especially the way Lion Server is implemented, you can just run it as a client and be fine (this wasn't really true for the Snow Leopard Server I've got).
  9. esmith macrumors member

    Oct 10, 2011
    I'm sure what the person meant is that if you buy a server to use as a server you should also not use it as a daily computer which is true.

    However if your not really using it as a "server" with other computers connected then it doesn't matter.

    But yes a technician would not recommend a server for day to day stuff because that is not what a server is for... But it sounds like your not using it as a true server.
  10. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    The server mini makes a great desktop.

    While the person you talked to at Apple may have been technically correct about extra "moving parts" in that there is a second hard drive and some hooks in Lion for components that can be activated and controlled by the server app, there isn't any real penalty using it as a desktop - particularly if you don't activate the server application.

    As someone mentioned the iMac is available with a great graphics card, quad core CPU, and dual drives, where you have to make the choice between graphics and CPU on the mini. For high end applications the iMac can offer more but either the high end desktop mini or the server version are quite capable for most of us.

    In my case the quad core CPU and dual drives were much more important to me than graphics. As an architect (software) I do a lot of modeling, analysis, proofs of concept, etc and often use large data sets, databases, spreadsheets, and virtual machines to prove things out on various platforms. The mini server is an inexpensive and ideal solution for me. I've added some memory and between that and the quad core CPU I can keep everything running easily. Even graphics wise I find the integrated graphics powerful enough to run two 27" monitors (one display port and one HDMI). At some point I may swap out the boot drive for a hybrid or SSD but for now this is plenty fast.
  11. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    iMacs are apples proof of f you to the consumer glossy screen and trapped hdd don't cut it for many of us.

    Too bad apple does so well with iPads iPhones iPods it allows them to have their nasty attitude towards iMac users along with no big mini or small mac pro.
  12. Yamcha macrumors 68000

    Mar 6, 2008
    Nothing wrong with using a Mac Mini Server Model, you can also take advantage of those two hard drives and enable software raid, should give you better reads and writes..

    That guy doesn't seem very computer savvy, or maybe he thinks it may be a problem because It's meant for a server.. But won't be an issue whatsoever..

    Anyway I'd say go for it, lucky your getting that :p.. I also got a Mac Mini on the 23rd and I love it!!
  13. thekev, Dec 31, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2011

    thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    16 GB of ram is great. It can help quite a lot with the way photoshop handles data. The imac however is not a very good computer. They're not reliable. It costs a stupid amount now just to change a hard drive, and the display is too glossy, too bright, and can't achieve a reasonably neutral greyscale. Just the use of LED backlighting in itself is not ideal for color. Top quality displays have retained CCFL for the most part.

    Also the mini server is only a server in terms of OS version and name. It's just a rebranded version. They called it a server because they couldn't figure out how to include discrete graphics :).

    I agree with buying equipment that is appropriate to the job, but the reality is that Apple doesn't care about people who use their products for work. The mini and imac were designed as cool consumer devices, so either way you're just picking something from what Apple chooses to give you.

    The moving parts argument basically indicates that the guy doesn't understand the basics of computers and reliability. This is not a laptop. You will not be moving it around while that hard drive is spinning. The thing about hard drives in general, is that many failures, especially early ones, are not a result of worn out moving parts. SSDs and HDDs can both die within their first year of service or last a very long time. If the mini server has reliability issues, it really shouldn't be marketed as a server anyway. Servers are typically made of parts intended for a very high duty cycle.

    Okay regarding the gpu, it shares memory with the main ram which means the vram is a little slow. Either way, photoshop's Opengl implementation and OpenGL on OSX in general are both terrible anyway. They truly suck. I've seen a lot of debates over which is better. The reality is that even the imac's gpu is fairly mediocre. Both the imac and mini use mobile gpus, so if you're debating them, you're debating which one sucks less, not whether one is good and the other is bad.
  14. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    While I don't like some of Apples design decisions either, I don't attribute it to a nasty attitude but rather a limited set of products they exercise a lot of control over to offer a great user experience to a targeted set of users. They can't be all things to all people. Those of us on the edge or outside that set of users will sadly have some frustration. I look at it as some frustration with superior products vs more frustration with inferior products.

    Whenever I run into a desire to swap out a component deep in the bowels of a machine I fork over $50 to Best Buy. Apple trained techs so no potential warranty issues, turnaround is usually pretty quick and it saves me time and worry. Wish some things were easily replaceable but it is what it is.
  15. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    I use the 2011 Mac Mini Server as an everyday desktop computer. I haven't activated the server software because I don't need it.

    It works perfectly and I have zero complaints. I've been using it since a few days after it was released.

    I don't use Adobe products, but I do plenty of photo editing/graphics work in other apps. Runs MS Office and iWork like a champ. It's also nice to have the two hard drives--I use one for Mac OS X and the other as my Bootcamp drive for Windows 7 (for the rare occasions that I need it).
  16. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    I didn't realize that the Mac Mini Server came with non-server Lion OS. That certainly changes my thinking about that machine.
  17. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Lion Server is now nothing more than an add on software pack. You can buy the Lion "server" pack from the App store for 49.99 and run it on any Mac runnion Lion. My Base model 2011 Mac Mini is running Lion "server".

    So basically, the Mac Mini Server is just running Lion with the inclusion of the 49.99 server pack.
  18. cooldaddybeck macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2008
    San Jose, CA
    I picked up a Mac Mini Server as well, but not just as a desktop (yes, it will be used as such by other users). It's hosting one of my domains and is dedicated to my side business.

    The "server" aspect is merely SW/OS that adds tons of features that will take me months to implement, but down the road I'll be glad that I have them.

    Now, back to trying to figure out how to make the most of it....

  19. schmoofee macrumors newbie

    Jan 3, 2012
    How to bypass the server set up and other questions...

    greetings all and hny!

    like others here, i have in mind to purchase a mac mini server 2011 for added speed and its quad core without any present intention to use the server tools.

    to those of you using it as a regular desktop how are day to day apps and workflows working? i will be using regular apps like busy cal, safari, omnifocus, evernote. then sometimes skype, netflix, facetime and web building tools like wordpress and squarespace.

    what are the steps to bypass the server setup?
    are the temperatures staying within the published specs?

    i am upgrading from a now dead powermac g5 and since early december been sharing a 2011 mac mini i5 2.5ghz.

    and real world experience welcomed as well as links to data which addresses my concerns.

  20. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    I use a 2011 Server mini as a desktop computer. I've never run the SERVER app to activate most of the server components so there are only a few hints (like getting emails if the machines IP address changes) that there are some extra elements in play over standard LION even when not running the SERVER app.

    I regularly run about 100 or so different apps in the run of a week (usually 20-30 or so at a time). This includes all iLife, iWork, MSOffice apps. All the common browsers. Parallels with Windows and Lion VMs. Several OMNI apps, Evernote,, Movi, Skype, Adium, mail, calendar. A number of DB and data analysis tools. Some web design and maintenance tools. A pretty wide spectrum of apps (but nothing particularly video intensive).

    The server has been running everything flawlessly. I've got it driving an ACD at 2560x1440 off the thunderbolt port (display port interface) and a Viewsonic VA2702 at 1920x1080 off the HDMI port (via included HDMI to DVI adapter). No graphics or speed issues of any kind.

    With considerable care I can run in 4GB of ram on my MBA. But that means not doing some things at all and limiting whats running to do some other things. I figured 8gb would be plenty and for the most part with minimal care its enough. But this thing runs everything so well I ended up with 16gb so I really don't have to bother about whats all running before I run something else at all. Makes a fine desktop for business apps.
  21. nREMfan macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2010
    That really doesn't make sense. And scary to be coming from an Apple Rep. Just turn the Server services off, and you're in desktop mode. Maybe he was referring to future OS updates?

    Anyhoo - I've been using the Mini Server (quad i7) for the past month as my main computer to run the CS5.5 Creative Suite and it's been great. The only catch is you may have to activate Java Runtime to run the Adobe installer. There's a bug with Lion and Adobe for installing the Creative Suite. Read here.

    The only issue I've had is the mouse preferences revert to default on start-up sometimes. Other than that, I've been extremely pleased. I already have a 30" LCD and did not want an iMac. And didn't want to drop the $$ on a Mac Pro. If you drop in at least 8GBs of RAM, I think you'll be pleased. It's a sweet machine.
  22. warvanov macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2011
    I'd still like to know how "just in the software" equals "moving parts"...

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