Mac Mini Server

I finally bit the bullet and replaced my 2011 Mac Mini. It was dead-ended at High Sierra and I want to get some apps that need at least Mojave. It’s running Catalina and I’ll probably end up trying Big Sur when a public beta is released (although it may be on an external drive for now).

The question is what to do with the old Mac Mini. I don’t see selling it as an option (not much value and probably not worth the bother) and I don’t know anyone who could use it that I would want to give it to. So, I see 4 options:

  1. Put it on a shelf.
  2. Remove the 2 500GB internal drives and put them into external USB enclosures (it’s the server model, so has 2 internal drives).
  3. Turn it into a Linux machine and play with that, although I don’t really have the time to work on it (I know nothing about Linux and really have enough other things in MacOS I need to work on).
  4. Make a server out of it.

It’s #4 that interests me.

Despite using Macs since 2006, I’ve never messed with servers of any kind, at least in my home configuration. I’m not even sure what I would gain out of having one for home use. I don’t do gaming or any heavy-duty graphics, other than some photo processing, and that’s not real heavy-duty. I have had occasion to run apps, such as drive recovery, that can be resource-intensive. I suspect I could set that running on a server and not use processing time on my primary machine.

So, I’m asking the experts. Would it be worth making it into a server? If so, can you suggest any online resources that might shed some light on doing this, such as why and how?

Thanks for your help.


When it was new, I used that same Mac as a file server for a half dozen graphic artists. Serving files takes very little horsepower. A High Sierra machine should also be able to function as a Time Machine server for your new Mac. And if you need more than 500GB just hang an external spinning drive on it.

But my first thought was use it as a Plex Server.

Make it into a fileserver for yourself. Install Plex for media.
Time Machine for your new Mac backups.

You can check with OWC to see what they’d give you for it:
Trade In your Used Mac to OWC for Cash

The thing about High Sierra is that it was the last version of macOS which can run the version of which actually has something to it. They basically lobotomized it in the next release.

Put an SSD into at least one of the bays, and boot from there.

A server computer can be useful for backups, storing more data than fits on your computer, or file sharing if you have more than one computer. In our case we’ve had an old Windows computer acting as a server until 2009 when I replaced it with a 2009 Mac mini Server with Snow Leopard Server. That was replaced with a 2012 Mac mini in 2014 which we still use running Sierra and Easy to add extra drives for more storage. I’ve got four externals plus a drive “toaster” so I can back up the other drives.

There are some videos on Youtube on setting up the services by Todd Olthoff that are excellent.

I use it for the following services:

  • DNS and DHCP. DNS to reduce traffic, DHCP because the ISPs router is crap.
  • DynDNS update (service used so I can always reach my home network).
  • TimeMachine Backups for other computers
  • Staging backups to BackBlaze because cheaper to backup a single system there.
  • VPN server so I can access my home network when away from home.
  • Plex Server
  • Shared file storage.
  • A node that is always on for Resilio Sync, my own private cloud.

Thanks to all for the replies. @tomalmy - I’ll check the YouTube videos. I like Todd’s videos, in general. Also, in line with one of your suggestions, I have a number of external drives hanging off my current Mini via a USB hub. I assume I could move those to the server and be able to access them from both the new Mini and my MacBook. That, alone, would make it worth it.

FYI. Found this video on a complete Mac Mini Server setup. It’s initially shot with a hand-held video (iPhone, I believe), but don’t let that put you off. The reason becomes obvious. It’s about an hour long and just a few minutes are not screen recorded.

I’ve got the same mac mini, and it’s still going strong. It does all my Hazel work in the background, does the OCR for Devonthink, serves me my Plex content and hosts an owncloud server.

There’s so much even an old machine can do!

I’d want to make sure such a server was firmly only reachable from your home LAN.

(I have the same consideration with my 2011 MacBook Pro.)

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Oh yes, no outside access at all,
I can VPN in via my synology, but that’s all

If I had this machine I’d turn it into a Time Machine server. It’s the only network-based TM solution that seems to work reliably.

I get a corrupted Time Machine backup a couple times a year using the server to back up three systems. I get a cryptic message and it starts backing up again from scratch. Certainly not reliable enough to use it a a sole backup.

Oh no, never as a sole backup, but as part of a comprehensive backup strategy.