NAS vs extra MacBook Pro

I know this has been asked before but I’d love some advice.
Our computing situation is as follows:
I have a MBP 14 with an external drive attached for TM back ups (4Tb)
My wife has a windows machine with an external drive that she rarely plugs in for back up.
Each have an iPhone and iPad backing up to iCloud (2TB- I also sync files between my devices)

I have a spare 2015 MBP with 16 gb that’s being used a Plex Server and not much else (Fire Sticks plugged into TV).

I want a better back up solution (also for my kids when they visit (all Macs)), file server and photo backup. One day I envision digital picture frames.

I also have 3 Eufy security cameras.

Should I spring for a synology or hang a bigger drive off of the extra MBP?
I’m upgrading our network to the Eero 6+ if that’s relevant.

Any thoughts? Thank you!

I looked in to this recently and landed on the “extra Mac” solution. I have a 2015 5k iMac that had been largely unused when I had two unrelated but connected desires: I wanted a remote Time Machine destination, and I wanted to experiment with running my own Plex server.

For the past 3 months, the Mac + external HDD solution has been bulletproof. It’s tucked away in the basement by the router, connected to the network via Ethernet. It was 3x external HDDs connected to it with total storage of 32 TB. I manage it remotely with Screens.

It’s been really great, and I’m glad I didn’t go for the NAS. The NAS felt like I would need to do significant research before hand and make too many decisions. How much processing power do I need in my NAS? Which brand? How many bays? Do I need one that is extensible?

Instead: Mac. Add hard drives as necessary. And, it runs MacOS rather than adding what is ultimately a random Linux box to my network that I’d need to admin.

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I went down the spare iMac route for a while and it worked fine, in the end I wanted something with a smaller footprint so built an OpenMediaVault box on a headless NUC with some large external drives. Runs very stready and takes up no space, all managed via a web interface. I use docker to run Plex, Roon & AudioBookShelf and also use it for backups.


A synology is a computer that basically does one thing. A Mac is a general purpose computer that can function as a NAS or just about anything else. I vote for a larger drive on the Mac.

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Just wondering what the cost of build your own is. What spec NUC are you using?

One advantage of using a Mac as your file server is that you can still backup everything to Backblaze for one price. You can backup a NAS to Backblaze, but then you have to pay for the amount of storage you use.

I’m in the process of setting up an OpenMediaVault server as well, but it will be more for backing up other Linux boxes, recording security camera video, etc that I’m less worried about having offsite backup for.


I’m running it on a used Nuc I picked up on eBay for ~250 GBP. It’s a 6th generation i5 but an i3 or lower would work fine, it came with 32 gig of Ram but I ony use a tiny fraction of that, 8gb or even less would probably be fine.

This was it under ‘load’ streaming via directplay on Plex.

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Thank you One and all for your feedback. I will stay with my extra MBP. Now… any drives you would recommend?
I have 2 * 5 TB WD’s connected to two laptops today. I’m thinking a 10TB and use one of the 5’s to double back up the stuff I worked cry if I lost.
Any opinions?

Are you familiar with Linux? You could build a PC and put OMV that others have mentions, or install TrueNAS on it which, similar to Synology, can run applications and server files. It has the Time Machine share type built in.

However, TrueNAS pretty techie and might have a learning curve. An advantage with PC is thst it’s easy to repair. TrueNAS zfs drives can be moved between computers pretty easily as the drive array’s configuration is stored on the drive. You don’t have to remember to order of the drives, either.

Way over my head but thank your for suggesting it.

No worries. It definitely isn’t plug and play. I have to keep notes so that I can remember how to do certain tasks, lol. You get a lot from it, but you have to give a lot as well.

DAS( direct attached storage) is the simplest way to go and you said that you already have the hardware.