Would you please help me sort out my Macbook Pro replacement conundrum?

Hi everyone, I am seeking some help finding a future-proof solution in the midst of a transition to a Mac upgrade combined with my current life situation.

I currently have an aging MacBook Pro 13-inch from 2016. While it still is usable, it’s struggling more often than not, and I would like to give it away before it may die with all my data on it (no worries, I do have backups). That actually is a scenario I dread due to privacy and because I suppose this would be quite a hassle. I also don’t want to burden myself with a machine that may have to be repaired just to give it away. This way I’ll also get a bit of money for the new purchase. Now the question is only with what to replace it with…

Next to this machine, I also have an iPad Pro, which will stay in the mix.

Since the scenario (machine suddenly giving up) can happen anytime, I thought about investing in a Synology and keeping my data on there. I am aware that there will always be some data on the device, but at this point it’s about the mix: future proofing, mitigating risk and getting back a smooth and workable machine for private work.

So, what’s the issue?

I clearly differentiate between the work laptop I get from my employer and my private work laptop, since I like and have to keep things separate. While the majority of my time is on the day job machine, I also need the private machine to manage my life and work on the occasional side gig. This includes Figma, Affinity Photo/Designer, remote workshops including parallel usage of Miro, Keynote and of course the fun stuff such as Keyboard Maestro, Hazel, Obsidian, Devonthink and so on.

I thought about buying the new 14-inch MB Pro but the version I configured would cost about 3000 Euro. Since I currently would use this device only by about 20% I can’t really justify the cost right now. This might change in 8 to 12 months, but currently I can’t say for certain.

This is where the idea of the new M1 Mac Mini comes in. I really like the idea of it running alongside the Synology to handle all my files and being able to use it as an occasional work machine. I would only need to buy the Mini and some speakers since all the peripherals exist. In my mind, this would also allow me to mostly use the iPad Pro. So instead of spending 3K Euro for a new Laptop, I’d spend less than half for the Mini and could then add the MacBook Pro if I ever really needed to (and who knows what Apple has waiting for us then). Also, not worrying about battery life seems quite nice.

What I don’t like about the M1 Mini is the limitation of ports (might be irrational, though). Then, as these things go: I looked at the “smallest” Mac Studio, but that is already pretty expensive with about 2,5K Euro. Also, my mind then just goes: well, it’s “only” 500 Euro more for the 14-inch MacBook Pro, and I’m back to where I started :joy:

The only thought that could potentially justify the Mac Studio is that it would be absolutely future-proof and more than enough for my needs, and because if I am completely honest: I rarely made use of the portability features of the laptop over the years. After all, there is still an iPad Pro. Then again, I could go with the M1 Mini for now and upgrade later based on how everything unfolds.

The question I currently struggle with is: am I missing something? Is there a better solution? Am I still sane? :smirk: As it is now, I am considering the M1 Mini option.

I’d really appreciate insights and your perspectives on this issue. How would you go about this?

If this would be a consideration, I would for sure also consider buying a used MacBook or iMac for the time being, and place the money I could save on that, on a future buy if I would know “how everything unfolds”.

I am using a M1 Mac Mini as well. Agreed with the limitation of ports. Hence I bought this external hub that extends 4 more USB A ports and 2 Thunderbolt (USB-C). Though one of the port is required to connect to the Mac Mini. The beauty of this hub (at least for me) is that I can / have installed a 1T SSD to it.

I guess there is a cheaper option but may not suit you need. Use your work computer and set up a different user account for your personal use. Most likely (unless your corporate software would do so), the files and apps can be separate between the two accounts.

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Thanks for your thoughts!

@fuzzygel You spelled something out I had only thought about very briefly and just discarded the thought all along due to my “keep work and private separate” principle. You are probably right, there is no harm in that extra account. Since I have admin rights on the machine, I can of course safely erase everything when the time comes and reset the whole machine (In addition to keeping the overall usage light because the data essentially lives on the Synology.). This way I can keep my principle but make use of the hardware.

After sleeping a night on the situation and after taking the above into account, I think I’ve come to a conclusion:

  • My first buy will be the Synology, and then I’ll move my data, so I can erase and sell the old MB Pro.
  • Since I have the iPad Pro I can try a mostly iPad lifestyle but can also be assured I can do Desktop stuff if necessary due to the separated user account.

The above also gives me some wiggle room to either get a current M1 Mini or try to wait for the update of the Mac Mini (the rumors seem to be worth the wait). Either way, the Mini will then be my always on and private work machine, which can stay in place over the next years because it will degrade very gracefully due to the M1. If it turns out that I need a full portable work machine, I can then still add a current laptop of that future reality.

Apart from the wiggle room to wait (which resolves some of my internal pressure), it will also spread the expenses over time – which is a nice benefit.


A couple of thoughts:

  1. Unless your work explicitly supports the use of a work computer for personal use, my preference is always to keep work and personal separate. This is especially important if any of your side projects might be something you would sell or license independently of your day job. At least here in the US, if you produce something on a computer owned by your employer, unless explicitly specified otherwise by contract, your employer owns it. I also tend to think it is good practice to keep this separate so ensure your employer has no access to your personal data.

  2. You might want to check the refurbished store. Sometimes you can save enough there to make a higher-end purchase feasible.

  3. Would an MBAir M1 suffice for your personal needs? You will still have the limited port issue, which you may have to solve with a dock, but it will give you the mix of portability and power, and even though I am presently using a 14” MBPro, the fact is that the Air (which I also have and am passing on to my daughter) was plenty of power, but limited in RAM and internal storage, which is why I upgraded.

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If you have FileVault disk encryption turned on on the 13” MBP I wouldn’t worry too much about having personal data on it if it dies.

Even on a “managed” device? Never had a managed Mac at work, but all my Windows devices clearly had backdoors in them accessible to the IT group.

I believe that the struggling 13" MBP is @woody’s personal laptop.

That makes sense then. I couldn’t tell which specific post you were replying to and some warned against using a work-owned device for personal use.

Wow, thanks a lot for all your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

You are absolutely right regarding the separation of work and private data. In my mind, I now kind of see it as a last resort within a transition phase. In case I really need to access something via desktop, I can resort to this private account within the work machine. I’m not planning on making myself comfortable, though. Regarding the contract: we have something similar to the clause mentioned by you: Anything created during work time is the employer’s property. I never read something explicitly stating the machine itself.

The refurbished store is something I have an eye on. Unfortunately, there never really was a match.

As for the air: This might actually also be an idea. My girlfriend will need a new one eventually, as her Air is almost six or seven years old. I’ll look into that.

You are probably right, but somehow it feels just not right to omit the final cleaning and wiping routine before giving away a machine. :see_no_evil: …and yes: the struggling machine is the private one. But it’s good to know that if it suddenly happens, I don’t need to run around pulling my hair out as File Vault is always enabled.

The good news is I ordered the Synology DS720+ and am really looking into the option of a Mac mini as an always-on mac and temporary private machine.

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I’d also vote for the Mac mini, now that it has the M1, looks like a good investment that will last at least a couple years, so that sounds like a good solution.
About the ports, there’s plenty of peripherals, so no worry about that.