Updating my Mac mini server setup

I finally decided I need to upgrade my Mac mini server setup. My current one (which is my second) has been running for nine years and has:

  • 2012 Mac mini with 10GB RAM and a 1TB SSD (originally was a HDD)
  • Runs Sierra and I’ve been not willing to move on because I’ve also been using Server.app. Unfortunately Plex will no longer support Sierra and my UniFi management interface is incompatible with Safari on Sierra as well.
  • Four external HDDs connected via FW800. 8TB server storage and 4TB for TimeMachine and staging for Backblaze.

So this system has me painted into a corner with basically obsolete everything! I’ve just ordered an Apple refurbished M1 mini with 1TB SSD and 8GB RAM to replace the mini and an OWC Gemini 16TB Thunderbolt that will replace the current pile of externals and also acts as a hub for future expansion, although I don’t think I’ll need that.

I’ll post back when it arrives and I get it set up.


My recommendation: use the “old one” as server with Linux. A 2012 mac mini like this can run the latest ubuntu server (or workstation) version and would again be blazing fast. Best of all it will probably prolong its lifespan with another 3-5 years

You could use it as a plex, nextcloud and Photoprism server and it would not even peg the CPU to 100%


I look forward to hearing more!

The “old one” will be kept to run Circus Ponies Notebook for access to old CPN notebooks. This program stopped working after Sierra. Also I will put virtual machines on it (and use VirtualBox) so I’ll have an Intel box to run some virtual machines I need going back to Windows 2K (and Linux as well). So it’s not being retired at all.

Another 2012 Mac mini is connected to our TV set and is used for Webinars and streaming websites not handled by our Roku box.

Now I also have two 2009 Mac minis sitting in my closet. I don’t know what I will do with them. One of them until recently was used as an audio media player, but that has been replaced with an iPad that drives a speaker system.

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It’s now progressing. I’m setting it up from scratch because there was just too much old cruft to try to do some sort of migration. The internal 1TB drive is a mere 20% faster than that of my Intel iMac, which is a surprising disappointment. However the OWC Gemini is 10x faster than my old FW800 connected drives. CPU performance is about 3x, not that it matters much here.

The major battles have been over file permissions, the need for a different directory structure trying to utilize the boot drive (Mac permissions have become far more restrictive). I expect to have various sharing problems once I get everything moved over and turn on Plex, Unifi, Backblaze, and TimeMachine. I’m also deeply concerned that the Hazel rules that move files from my iMac to the server will continue to work if I keep all shares with the same names.

Here is the new setup sitting on my desk temporarily:

It’s copying that bare (backup) drive to the server while also copying other files over the LAN. Everything is amazingly quiet and cool running.


Well it took four days, but everything is now working.
New system doesn’t need the HDMI monitor simulator plug and the power consumption is about half the old. Software issues:

  1. Until I upgraded the os from 13.1 (as shipped) to 13.3, Hazel on my iMac wouldn’t correctly move files to the server.
  2. UniFi software is still Intel code.
  3. I used to use iStat Mini widget which, of course, no longer works, so installed iStat Menus. And this displays history like the (no longer operatable) Server.app used to do. Also pleasantly surprised that it displays the temperature in the OWC Gemini. Very happy here.
  4. Backblaze ballooned up to over 40GB while transferring to the new server. It also started backing up a drive partition that I had configured for it not to do. A reboot fixed this.
  5. Amazingly, Plex transferred without a problem.
  6. There were issues with permissions on many folders that I had to fix before being able to move the files to the new server. Hopefully things will be cleaner now.
  7. The new System Settings wasn’t as much of a problem to navigate getting things set up as I thought it would be. However giving full access and external disk access was problematic as these dialog boxes aren’t forced to the foreground and can be missed. This happened with ChronoAgent and kept backups to the server from working.

Original system:

New System: