Macbook and Mac mini

Just checking to see who uses a laptop (I have an M1 Air) and a Mac mini setup. The Mac mini being the “on the desk, not moving” desktop and the Air being full portable when away from home/office. Is this an extravagant use of money/resources? I just want to be able to go into my office and work, not necessarily have to plug/unplug etc.

The first of first world problems, I know!

Anybody do this and find it beneficial or regret it?

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I gave a Mini that I run as a server, and an M1 Air that I use for my msin computer. It plugs in with one cable, and connects to my fancy keyboard and monitor.

I like the setup. But if I didn’t have a use for a server (backup, Plex, etc.) I’d just have the Air.


Personally the opposite: I don’t want to have to think about synchronizing two computers, nor do I want to feel tied to any location, so I have a 13" M1 MBP. USBC hub connects everything in one motion so it’s not that much of a hassle. I have a solid need/desire for portability though.


I’ve done this for years with multiple desktop and laptop Macs. My first laptop being a titanium MacBook, the desktop at that time being a PowerMac G3 IIRC.

The desktop being the main machine at home and the laptop for travel. One of my hobbies is photography and while traveling I use the laptop to offload the images from my cameras. I’ll then review them and delete the obvious bad ones. But serious processing takes place back home on the desktop.

Right now my machines are an Intel MacBook Air and a Intel mini. With the mini to be replaced by a Studio in the not too distant future. The MacBook will continue on until it stops working. I could get by without the laptop but not without the desktop.

If the machines were for work I’d prefer one machine, for the reason ThatNerd notes, that of keeping multiple machines in sync. In the before times when I was in an office three days a week and WFH for two, I used a laptop, a windows machine provided by my employer, that traveled for place to place.

As to the use of resources that depends on your needs and your resources. Only you can really answer that question.


That is exactly what I do: a MacBook Air for my mobile needs (and the couch) and a Mac Mini under the desk. :slight_smile: When I am on the road for my day job (with a PC laptop), I very often connect to my Mac Mini remotely and enjoy the Mac experience on the PC laptop.

My data is sitting on a Synology NAS (nothing to sync) in the long run and on iCloud. It is just there without the need to think about syncing. It really just works.

I tried the MacBook Pro only approach, but it is not for me. I really like to have a dedicated desktop with everything connected and ready for work when I need it. :slight_smile:


I have a M1 iMac and a 2015 MacBook Air for when I travel. Prior to getting the iMac I was using the Air with a TB display. It was a little underpowered with only 8gb of memory but I managed. Bought it when my 2011 MBP bit the dust with a GPU failure.

I keep everything in iCloud so keeping them in sync isn’t a problem. Prior to doing the iCloud sync I preferred a laptop to a desktop to keep all my files in one place and not worry about syncing.

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I’ve gone back and forth to some extent. Right now I have an older Mini that is used for backups, a Plex server I never use (it’s got exercise videos on it…), and currently recording background sounds continuously for unimportant reasons.

I use my beloved M1 Air as my main computer, really I consider it my only computer. I am currently enjoying not needing to sync settings etc (files are ok, they’re in the cloud). But, I miss having things plugged in all the time.
My parents always thought computers were my hobby, but really I have eclectic hobbies centred around computers.
For Xcode I need access to lots of images typically, so that needs space (external drive) and a big screen.
For music I like having a full install of Logic Pro and Studio One. These take up lots of space, and then I also want my audio interface permanently plugged in, and my speakers.
For video I have Final Cut Pro, large libraries (external drive), and a camera or two plugged in.

So, now I have time for these things again, I’m going to get a Mac Studio (or a Mac Mini with Pro chip if it comes out) and return to the 2 computer life. Is it a good use of money/resources? Well, I’ll get more out of it than going on holiday or buying an expensive car etc, but I certainly don’t need it, so yes and no.

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I have a personal Mac mini (2011; cheapest spec that was available back then) and a MacBook Pro (2019; top notch configuration) from work.

It won’t be a surprise that I almost completely rely on the MacBook Pro (and cloud services)?

This means I’m in serious need of something new when/if I leave this company…

My personal setup is Mac mini M1 as Office machine and iPad Pro 2018 for every situation I‘m not sitting at my desk. I have a MacBook Air (intel) as well but rarely use it anymore.


I’ve been in both boats for years at a time for each, so maybe my experience will help, although it could be specific to my physical home setup, and my sync situation.

I have an M1 Mini and the M1 13 inch MacBook Pro. Before that, I had an old 27-inch iMac and one MacBook or another over the years. When the iMac died several years ago, I went a few years without a desktop, and it became a frequent inconvenience, perhaps because I was accustomed to the easy access (no pluggin/unplugging) of my iMac. And I’m not talking about plugging/unplugging to start or finish my workday. I could deal with that. Rather, my home office is in the basement, and if I was down there and wanted to get something done on the big monitor, I hated having to go upstairs to retrieve my MacBook (I generally keep it on the middle floor of the house) and plug it in. My office is also just off the room with the workout equipment, and frequently I’d finish exercising, think of something (maybe from having watched a Screencastsonline or YouTube tutorial while on the treadmill), but have to wait until I was back upstairs near my MacBook and hope I still remembered.

Right now I’m sitting at the kitchen island with my morning coffee, typing on my MacBook. In a bit, I’ll close the lid and go about my business, and hop on the treadmill, and then step into the office and get right into things.

As others have pointed out, consider your sync situation and whether one device would work better. For me, my firm uses a centralized document and case management system, so all my documents are available on any device, regardless of my setup. And I have my desktop and documents folder sync, so non-sensitive stuff is available everywhere, too, without any thought. Knock on wood, but it’s been a while since I’ve had sync issues.

So, all that is a longwinded way of saying consider your physical home setup and your sync situation, because what is important to one person might not be the same for you.

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I have a Windows Laptop for my job which I don’t use for personal things.

I use a Mac Mini at my desk and an iPad on the go, for the Mac Mini, I have almost 6TB of storage in use (out of 8TB available) and there’s no way I’m going to pony up for 8TB of SSD so a Mac Laptop is not an option for me. The iPad is the perfect device for on the go. I just do relevant tasks on the relevant computer when I’m at it.

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I used a permanently docked 2019 16" MBP along with a 14" MBP (around the house and travel and supplemented by an 11" iPad Pro), so not quite the Mini + MBP combination you’re asking about, but the same in spirit :slight_smile: If I’d know a pandemic was just around the corner when I bought the 16", I would have gotten an iMac instead.

I absolutely love the ability to have an in-place workstation with lots of display space (2x28" 4K) plus the ability to move around the house or go in to the office, without having to undock the “main” computer (which usually has many apps open across 20+ virtual desktops).

tldr; very beneficial, zero regrets (other than not being able to see into the future and getting a notebook instead of a desktop)

I have an iMac Pro and an M1 MacBook Air. Not the same as your question, but similar in spirit. In short, I’m trading in the iMac Pro for a 16” MacBook Pro and studio display. My wife is getting the Air. I’m going back to one computer.

Two machines can work great, and it’s nice to have an always-on home base for backups and automation.

However, I find it works best if your storage needs are simple. Mine aren’t really. I am always syncing photo edits in Lightroom, which is painful. I’m also always syncing databases from servers, and managing SSH automation on multiple machines is a pain for my work.

So it really depends on how cumbersome your workflow is. Because remember you’ll do it twice.

For me, the balance of time in managing two machines isn’t worth it; the management overhead is too high. You may feel differently, though, and only you could answer that.

Full disclosure: I would consider a Mac mini as a NAS replacement and Plex server if that’s something you were interested in. But that’s very different from managing two full workspaces.

I have an M1 Mini as a desktop, driving 3 screens over HDMI and DisplayLink) and a 16" M1 Max MBP for mobile use.

I have had a 2 machine setup forever and also have a machine at MacStadium (always on, server tasks and remote mac access on other computers). I use Teamviewer to seamlessly switch between the machines.

All file management is in Dropbox and OneDrive (work), so everything is always on all machines. All machines are backed up to Backblaze and Synology NAS (Time Machine). Only the Lightroom database and photo library are synced via a script to the latest version on both machines.

The M1 Mini has been great. It basically made me sunset my 2013 Mac Pro. Now the M1 Max MBP beats the M1 Mini hands down, so it is temporarily my main machine until the M1 Mini will be replaced by a Studio M1 Max later this month. The M1 Mini will be looking for a new home soon…

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Wow! Thanks to all for the detailed replies. Super helpful. As I was looking for something else yesterday, I noticed an old Mac “something” in the closet. I’ll haul that out and see if that can help with what I’m looking for. Plus save some money! It won’t be M1 material but I don’t do too much Power User stuff (bit of an imposter in here! :joy:)

Just FYI, the “something else” I was looking for was a HomePod Mini box. I’ve decided to move them on. They’re great for sound, just didn’t get the value. (Didn’t find the box either!)


My Headless Intel Mac Mini is on all the time. It runs Plex and Parallels for Windows apps. I used to use it for video editing, but my new MBP is so much faster. I access it through Screens.

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My Mac “something” is a 2013 13" MacBook Air.

With ports! :raised_hands:

Just need to figure out the admin password (it was my wife’s) and we’re to go to see how far it can serve as a desktop.

I’m also keen to know if I can upgrade the RAM in this model. It has 2 x 2GB modules at the moment ← looks like that is a “No!”

Aaaand the wife can’t remember her passwords! :laughing:

When the Studio arrives I’ll be in this position: Studio as server, laptop as main machine. Quite what the split of work will be I can’t say - though my laptop is the one with my employer’s security profile.

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