Using a Mac Mini as a Home Server

The iMac is the center of our Apple system at home - it stores all of our music and photo libraries.

When we're using Sonos, the music is controlled by the iPhone, and comes out of the Sonos speakers.

So why does the iMac need to be involved? It's just a desktop computer in the office.

Well, maybe it doesn't. We've been looking at home server options, and I think that the simplest answer may be the best - A Mac Mini.

Why a Home Server?

First question - why is this even necessary?

It's true that most of the functions you'd think of as being "server-related" have to do with operating a business - and most of the rest (calendars, photos, etc) can be outsourced to iCloud.

For instance, all of our photos are backed up at iCloud, and accessible elsewhere.

BUT.... I'm a control freak, and so I keep the full-res copies of our (gigantic) photo album on my iMac hard drive. That archiving job could be outsourced to the Mac Mini Server.

So File Sharing is the primary goal here.

Getting the iTunes library to a non-iMac location would free up space, and would always be accessible.

I'd like the Mac Mini Server to function as the always-on "central hub" of the network, sitting in the basement, taking up very little power when idle, and making photo/music media available to all of our iPhones, iPads, and our iMac on demand.

And ideally, sending movies to our AppleTVs. That may take a little more doing.

We could expand the storage as needed, but a 4 TB drive should be enough to get us started.

Another major plus would be that the server would act as a remote Time Machine drive.

Our current Time Machine drive is directly connected to the iMac, and while it protects us against disk failure, it would presumably be damaged or stolen alongside the iMac, if it were damaged or stolen.

Isn't this overkill?

Yeah, probably.

I'm not going to use a home server for our family calendar - the iCloud Calendar function is working far too well to rock that particular boat.

I suppose that having a central Contacts repository would be handy, but we already kind of have that in iCloud and on our iMac, and we rarely use it. I guess we just like our random mess of different contacts lists.

I'm also not sure about whether this Mac Mini should be running Yosemite/El Capitan, or if OSX Server is preferable.

But still, what's the worst-case scenario? We own an extra Mac Mini. Seems like a pretty decent scenario to me!

I'll be working on this project throughout the fall. First step - acquire a 2014-era Mac Mini for the best possible price, and configure it with as much storage as it can handle!

(In other news, our basement and landscaping build-outs are going to be happening at the same time this fall, so there's going to be a lot of news in this space pretty soon!)


  1. If you really want to step up your home automation, Indigo ( on a mini is the way to go.

    1. Looks cool, and very powerful. I'll check it out. I may wind up running everything through HomeKit, just because it's likely to be very simple.