Mac Power Users 465: The Mighty Mac mini


The key factor here is what you do with your MBP when you are away from home. There are limitations. Make sure none of them are deal killers for you.


I can vouch for the Mac mini as a reliable server and home backup device. I have a Mac mini server late 2009 running El Capitan with an internal 512 k ssd and 4TB internal HDD with the OS X server add-on. This is a headless server running iTunes to serve out content to 4 household AppleTVs and a myriad of iDevices. The server is also running iMazing continuously to back up a total of six iphones and 2 ipads via wifi. I also use the server’s time machine backup capabilities to back up two other mini’s, 2 macbook pro’s and an Air. This is in turn uploaded to Backblaze for off site back up. I also have a second user account running Mail with Spamsieve to run mail rules and backup email with email archiver pro. This is backed up regularly to an attached old 4 Bay USB Drobo which is mirrored to a 10 TB Seagate drive with Chronosync. This system has worked flawlessly for me for many years.


Really enjoyed this episode! For those of us looking to dig a little deeper, anyone here have recommendations they can share for good tutorials that expand on using a headless Mac mini as a server?


Loved the episode and is one of my favourite things to think about in my IT use as we move more to a portable based workflow with devices that aren’t on 24/7 like @MacSparky said. I have been using an iMac as my “Mac Mini Server” whilst I have used an iPad for schooling. I have used screens to allow me to do things that were beyond the iPad. But there were some other things that I have used it for that weren’t covered in the episode that I think could be good uses for a Mac Mini or any 24/7 computer (old windows laptops included).

  • Having Parallels or VirtualBox setup with Windows to use applications that are not on Mac then using screen sharing to use them on any device you want, 2 Operating systems for the price of one!
  • Homebridge is a popular utility that extends HomeKit support to any other smart devices. This is useful for this sole purpose but there are other plugins that are useful. Searching on NPM for other plugins find ones that are compatible with Plex, Smart TV’s released in the past decade, iTunes, TV, or even screen brightness or volume on a MacA. These are some that Federico has been using to create the mad HomeKit scenes he has been talking on Connected recently.
  • One last easy one is that it is a clean operating enevironment to try some things on that you wouldn’t want to try on your main machine (IE Betas or new apps).
    How are others using Homebridge in their homes?


Great episode. I would love to hear details about the best way to remotely access files shared from my Mac server (while away from home) on macOS and iOS. It seems like High Sierra or Mojave changed some of this functionality and a lot of the guides on the internet no longer work. It would be great to hear an up to date explanation of how to do this (sftp, port forwarding, dynamic dns…). Screens is great for controlling a remote server but what about file transfers?


I’ve been vaguely toying with the idea of buying a Mac mini (or some other Mac) when I get back to Australia and normal life. I’m feeling so conflicted though, and keep changing my mind! Perhaps MPU can offer some clarity? I’ll offer some background.

I use an iPad and find that I am doing 90% of the things I want to do on it now. There are a few things I still actively need a Mac for—currently that list is only budgeting (but this will probably resolve itself once I no longer need multi-currency support as I will likely move back to YNAB), logging into my work server to work from home, coding (at which I am very much an amateur, but am looking to practice and learn and improve in 2019), keeping a home inventory, and managing Photos (literally the only part of this is importing my partner’s photos into a shared library…and I do quite like having a copy stored somewhere that’s not just iCloud). I do also really enjoy Hazel and Keyboard Maestro and I like having them there to run things for me.

I have a laptop but it is a 2011 MacBook Air that struggles quite a lot and can’t install Mojave. At home I basically never use it but I have brought it with me overseas to do some of the above, as well as a cheap Windows laptop that I use for the work server and coding practice.

Back in Australia I have a late-2012 iMac which runs okay (and is pretty much always-on) but I feel like I push a little hard at times. I think this will keep working for me for a while after I get back and save some money but I think it’s approaching the point where it needs replacing and I assume at some point I won’t be able to update the OS. I have a second cheap monitor hooked up to this.

So, in short, I need to get some sort of replacement in the relatively near future, probably in early 2020 if I had to guess. I’m wondering whether I should consider a Mac mini as my main computer. The main advantage seems to be higher specs for a lower price. I don’t think I need a laptop at this point but I do like the idea that if I were travelling I could pack a Mac mini pretty easily in case I needed it (which is less and less).

My initial thought was that I could use my existing iMac as the screen using Target Display Mode but I’m not sure how feasible or potentially inconvenient that might be. Perhaps I could leave Hazel etc running on the old iMac itself. I’d be curious to know if anybody is doing this?

But perhaps I’d be better just replacing the iMac, or going with the Mac mini but buying an additional monitor (I think I’d be okay with something cheap for what I use it for.)

Or maybe I use my cheap Windows laptop to log in to the work server and code, sort out another solution for budgeting, and use my partner’s iMac to add photos as needed (or plug in the Mini if needed).

Ah, sorry, this seems to have turned into a long post—my apologies—but I’d be interested to know if anyone has any experience with Target Display Mode in particular, or has any other thoughts to clarify things for me!


Regarding memory for the 2018 Mac mini:
I got one to replace my 2010 MacBook PRO. I purchased 32GB of ram from OWC for $330 and installed it myself. Was pretty easy…though I did scare myself on the first attempt where I did not have the DIMMs seated properly and the mm would not boot!!

I also sold the 8GB of Apple ram back for OWC for 3 cups of fancy coffee ($30)

Regarding external storage, I got a “OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini bus-powered USB 3.1 Gen 2 RAID Storage Enclosure.“ with a 1TB SSD and a repurposed 450GB SSD. The enclosure is set to independent drive mode. ( )


Love Homebridge !!! I have that running on my 2014 Mac mini server


I enjoyed this episode. The question I asked when I moved completely into the Apple realm, gasp, five years ago was iMac or Mac mini. I chose an iMac.

I was happy to see Apple do a much needed update of the Mac mini. I could go either way when it comes time for a new desktop.

Again, this was an excellent episode.


I think you need the original RAM from Apple if you ever need to Apple to fix your mini. Does anyone know for sure ?


When one is using a mac mini (or any mac for that matter) as an “always on” machine for server purposes, what energy saver settings should be used? In other words, does the machine ever sleep? (I realize this is probably a basic question and may be showing my ignorance, but . . . )

Thank you and great episode!


Great episode,
I am in the market for a new Mac Mini for home and perhaps to replace my Windows 2008 Server at work.
I was kinda lost with all the processor options but the episode covered every question I had.
I am doing off-site backup to a Synology at home but never was comfortable using it (slow CPU and not fit for Plex). I will try to reproduce what Stephen does and connect the NAS as an external drive to the Mini.


I have mine set to never sleep. The Mac can be woken up when it detects network access but I’ve had mixed luck with that.


Where’s the rabbit hole detector??

Sorry to be in the minority opinion here, but my eyes glazed over in the first half of this episode when Stephen started streaming a multitude of detailed specs and configurations for the Mini’s. His technical expertise is impressive. All those specs are important, but is that level of technical detail part of the MPU style?

The second half of the podcast played to MPU strengths: the how’s, why’s, use cases, etc. for a Mini. It focused on how power users of all levels of ability could use one.

Specs do not tell anyone how to use something. How to use it, why to use it, that is the MPU style.


Those specs choices are what people are faced with when they have to make a buying decision about a Mac. If you have a complaint about that, tell Apple.

Does the average person understand the difference between buying an i3 or i5 or i7? Probably not, but MPU ought to be helping power users understand those differences, otherwise you end up buying more Mac than you need because you’re afraid of buying the wrong thing.


I enjoyed the episode.
It was much more detailed than the past. Whether that appeals to the current audience or a different audience remains to be seen.

I do think the ad reads are too long, as they have been. However, one in this episode was over three minutes. I would think a minute would be plenty.


I won’t say I know for sure, but since the memory is user replaceable…I would say no. I certainly hope not, since I sold my 8GB when I got my 32 from owc


@Cowpi’s point is understandable, but I agree with @tjluoma. Those choices (3 CPU choices, RAM and SSD size) must be made, and there are non-trivial impacts on cost. Stephen’s level of detail was appropriate and well presented. He made a good case for using the Mac Mini (instead of a NAS) as a server and described other use cases.

“Boring” hardware details are important to understand when buying a Mac for specific use cases and workflows.


As someone considering a purchase, I definitely appreciated all the detail!


Todd Olthoff has a bunch of easy to follow YouTube tutorials. Not sure how up to date they are with the changes to macOS and the server app.