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I've run a Mac server at home ever since the old AppleShare IP days. So naturally when Mac OS X Server came out in 1999 I transitioned over to it as well and I've been a happy Mac server user for years. 


Why a dedicated file server?

I like the ability of being able to access my documents and important files from any computer in the house and while traveling. With a dedicated server my family's documents, photos, movies, music, etc. are easily sharable because they all reside in one place (backed up of course). This Mac stays on 24/7 and therefore is accessible from any Mac on my network. Mac OS X Server is a version of Mac OS X that offers additional services beyond what you get in a standard Mac OS X installation. You can run things like an FTP server, Mail Server, QuickTime Streaming server, iChat Server, Mac OS X Update Server, iCal server, etc. etc. All of these services are built-in to Mac OS X Server including the native ability to share files cross platform between Mac and Windows users. With Mac OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard, you can also add additional hard drives to become network Time Machine backup drives too. So for me Mac OS X Server is GREAT! It solves a lot of problems for me.

The NEW Mac mini Server

Typically my Server hardware is a Mac tower that I've upgraded from and the older one becomes the server. For example, when I went to a Mac Pro, my Power Mac G5 became the Server. My server doesn't have to be that fast of a machine, it just has to have FAST networking and lots of storage. Although my strategy had been just moving my old tower down after each upgrade, I really started looking at the Mac mini as an alternative to this. I like the mini because it's VERY SMALL and uses a lot less power (take that DTE!). Since it's running 24/7, using less electricity is always a good thing for my pocket.

So I was all set to buy an older Mac mini because rumor had it that NEW Mac minis were coming out. I figured I would just buy the previous version that was discontinued and save a few bucks. What I wasn't expecting was for Apple to introduce a Server version of the Mac mini!

The New Mac mini Server is  brand new version of the Mac mini. It has two internal 500GB drives (no optical drive), Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, intel core 2 duo 2.53GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, Airport, Bluetooth and the unlimited user version of Snow Leopard Server! You get the entire package for $999. Now I wasn't planning on spending $999, but the fact that this thing would have everything I could possibly want right out of the box and to get the other Mac mini configured the way I wanted probably would have run $600-$700, I figured why not? I hadn't planned on upgrading to Snow Leopard Server, but since it was included and already installed, I went for it.

My Server Mounted on the Desktop


My upgrade went extremely well! I was shocked at how easy it was to upgrade not only from Mac to Mac, but also from 10.5.x server to 10.6.x server. Like the Migration Assistant in Mac OS X, the Upgrade Assistant in Server transferred over all my settings. There wasn't really any data to transfer because all of my data is on an external drive (Drobo) anyway. The whole transfer took about 10 minutes. 


What about the 2nd internal drive?

Like I said, my data is on the Drobo, so I don't really need 500GB of storage, let alone 2 500GB drives. So I shared the second drive as a Time Machine Backup Volume. It backs up the internal drive to maintain all my settings and I use it to backup any of my other Macs on the network too.

The Drobo is backed up nightly using SuperDuper! to another external 1.5TB Firewire 800 drive. Once a week I rotate between my backup drives and put one in the safe deposit box at the bank and pickup the other one. This way there is always a backup that is offsite.


The Bottom Line

The Mac mini server is a GREAT solution. As you can see from the photo above, it's smaller than the Drobo that it sits on. It's quiet, and pretty much ready to go out of the box. I'll also be interested to see if there is any difference on my electric bill, but even if it's a small difference (pennies), I will still feel better knowing that I'm using less juice to accomplish the same task. The Mac mini Server goes for $999 here.



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25 Responses to My New Mac mini Server

  1. Mark says:

    Terry- I am curious if you compared this option versus just using a time capsule or airport connected to a drive, or for that matter just allowing access to the drobo. All of those would accommodate the file sharing aspect, but perhaps not if you needed the other servers. What advantage does the mini offer over these other type of setups?

    • Terry White says:

      using the Time Capsule or AirPort Extreme with a drive connected can work, but in my testing isn’t as fast. For one, the TC/APX can only connect to the drive via USB. Also the TC really slows down when being accessed for Time Machine backups where as the Mac OS X Server does NOT. So in a pinch the TC/APX solution is better than nothing, but for speed and flexibility Mac OS X Server is better all the way around.

  2. Steven Klein says:

    Terry: Given that your use seems to be purely for file serving, what benefit is there in running OS X Server over the standard (client) version of OS X, and just using what used to be called “personal file sharing”?

    Are you running into the 10-user limit for personal file sharing?

    I know that OS X Server is fine-tuned for greater performance, so is that the reason?

  3. Terry White says:

    I’m at times using more than 10 users. Also I use some of the other Server only services from time to time. One that I’m looking forward to start using tonight as a matter of fact is the Software Update Server as opposed to having to download 10.6.2 (499MB) on multiple computers or manually copy it around. Lastly the performance is better with Server. I’m usually tossing big files (thousands of RAW photos and Video files) back and forth.

  4. Reggie says:

    Hey Terry,

    Just wondering: Are you pretty much your own ISP now? Do you host your own websites? What server features are you using? Mail? Address? Calendar? all? Can a mac mini server also replace MobileMe? As someone who is considering a mac mini server; just looking for a lil more insight. Thanks.

    • Terry White says:

      My own ISP, no.
      However, with a Mac mini server or Mac OS X Server period you can:
      Host your own email, websites, iCals, QuickTime Streaming, iChat, Software Updates, Podcasts, FTP, WebDAV files, and Contacts
      I primarily use it for: Files, Software Updates, FTP, WebDAV and a little web hosting for testing purposes only.

  5. Paul Corsa says:

    Hi Terry-just a FYI observation. I’ve been reading up on the Mini on several forums and have found this suggestion: glue 4 of the rubber bumpers used on cabinet doors to the bottom of the Mini to allow air circulation under the unit, especially if it runs 24/7.

  6. psychomatix says:

    Dude. I was planning yesterday to have 1 mac mini server. Purposely to run iCal, Address Book and of course iMail on the server to share events update. But how the features – i mean … the things that i can do with iCal as admin and sub-user … can the sub-user edit the event posted by another sub-user (or user as it should be called) or can we set some permission … basically, i dunno how to ask as well but hopefully is anybody here can come out with some answer if u do understand what i mean. Thankz y’all …

  7. I recommend switching your 500GB HDD’s to RAID 1 mirroring. This would help maintain higher uptime if you don’t REALLY need the extra disk.

    check the following URL for instructions

  8. Ad says:

    I am setting up a 5-6 person graphic design studio and want to buy a mac mini server which we will all work from plus a 2gig time capsule to act as the back up and as the studio wifi.

    Seems too simple but any comments would be welcome. Thanks

    • Terry White says:

      The only thing I would change is get an AirPort Extreme instead of the Time Capsule and just put a regular external hard drive on the mini for Time Machine backups over the network. Time Capsule can really slow down the entire wireless network while doing backups.

  9. Ad says:

    Thanks will do!

  10. Darin says:

    I have a Mac Mini Server question. I have an HP LaserJet Multi Function USB Printer (Not a PostScript printer) that I would like to attach to the Mac Mini Server so I can share it and print documents from anywhere, and if I need to do some scanning etc I can jump on the Mini Server to do those functions. The reason why I want to use the Mini Server is because it is the only machine that I always leave on. Any suggestions?

  11. Bridget says:

    I’m curious. I have not set up a network yet, but I’m seriously considering it. Sorry if this is a beginner question. I’m using an OWC exteneral harddrive by firewire to my Macbook Pro for time machine backups. If I go your route, can I free up some of my USB ports and hook my printer and external drives to the macmini?

    • Terry White says:

      Yes your printer can be shared via the server as well as your Time Machine backups can be done with the drive connected to mini and backing up your MBP over the network.

  12. Bridget says:

    Thanks Terry! I think you may have helped me decide my next purchase!

  13. Mark says:

    I’ve networked two MacBook Pro’s via an AirPort Extreme with two external WD TB’s connected via a powered USB hub, so both MBP’s can share my two WD TB’s. What is the best Drobo for me to buy if I want both of my MBP’s to have fast network access to the Drobo?

    Also, how can i tell if my MBP’s have iSCSI or just plain old Ethernet?
    I found something on my MBP that said:
    Marvell Yukon Gigabit Adapter 88E8053 Singleport Copper SA:

    Also, can i just connect Drobo Pro to one of AirPort Extreme’s LAN connections? I found this on Data Robotics site:
    for OS X Drobo Dashboard is required as OS X does not have an integrated iSCSI initiator. Drobo Dashboard includes iSCSI initiators for OS x

    should i buy Mac Mini Server?

    i’m lost. please help.

  14. Terry,

    Thanks for all the great info!

    I was wondering what kind of sustained throughput you get when reading and writing to the shared drive from wired (most interested) and wireless clients…

    I can’t seem to find any resources that talk about this very important aspect of using a Mac Mini as a server…


  15. pudarkus says:

    Can u run WordPress 3.0 on the new Mini Server?

  16. […] network file server – this is a dedicated Mac mini (running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server) with a Drobo connected to it for mass storage. I'm using just under 1.5TB's of space on my […]

  17. jeriko says:

    Hi Terry,

    I hope are you fine

    Have you ever done one migration from all of data and applications that are in one standard mac mini to one that runs snow leopard server?

    I’ve wanted many times use the wizard migration tool in my standard mac mini but in OSX server I’ve never found this option and I couldn’t continue. could you tell me what I will should do?

    Help me please.


    Greetings from Mexico City

  18. […] moving on to the next shoot, I need to move those photos off to another location. This is where my Server comes in. I have a Mac mini running Mac OS X Server with a Drobo Firewire 800 attached. This server […]