How To

The Expert’s Guide to Mac Mini

Written by John

What is a Mac Mini?

Today we’re going to be looking at what precisely a Mac Mini is and its uses and features. First and foremost, it is a relatively small desktop computer manufactured by Apple. What separates it from regular desktop computers is that it is sold without a screen to accompany it. One of the main reasons for it be shipped independently from a screen is due to its purpose as operating as a Server, Personal Cloud, NAS Drive, VPN, control your smart home and much more which we’ll come on to later in the article.

Mac Mini 2019

However if you already have a PC monitor along with a keyboard and mouse these can go along with the Mac Mini to save you having to spend to get new ones, however, if you do need a mouse, keyboard, and monitor, you can easily buy these at the same time you’re buying the Mac Mini.

The Mac Mini is one of the cheapest Mac desktops that you can buy falling within the range of $500-$800 with its hardware ranging from standard to quite powerful so you can get a Mac Mini to suit your needs.

CPU: 3.6Ghz Intel Core i3-8100 (Quad-core, four threads, 6MB cache).
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630.
RAM: 8GB (2,666 MHz DDR4).
Storage: 126Gb Pcle SSD.
Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.

Around the back of the Mac Mini is where you’ll find dual USB 3.0 ports, four thunderbolts 3, three ports, an HDMI port, a headphone jack and also an Ethernet port. All these ports provide plenty of ports for all modern accessories to be plugged in to, and the Ethernet port can also be upgraded to a 10Gb port. With these ports, you can power up to THREE 4K retina displays which are more than sufficient for the vast majority of users.

Now we’re going to look at some of the uses of the Mac Mini

1. Play Game

Most of you wouldn’t consider the specs of the Mac mini being sufficient enough to run most of the modern games, and you are correct. However, we’re going to be looking now at the hardware that can be added to your Mac Mini. We'll be connecting the Mac mini to a 5K display with a gigabit Ethernet wired connection to connect to the network. You'll get better performance out of this lowest end Mac mini if you limit your resolutions to 1080p, but you can decide if higher resolutions are worth the performance hit later down the line.

Mac Mini 2019 with Four Thunderbolt 3

Due to the Thunderbolt 3 Facility that the Mac Mini has, it allows for a 40gbps transfer rate. This is sufficient enough to allow you to connect an external graphics card (for example, GTX 1050 TI 4GB) with your Mac Mini.

eGPU for Mac Mini with Thunderbolt 3

However, if you want to do this, you’ll need what is called an eGPU which is essentially a graphics processor in an enclosure. Inside this enclosure is a PCI expansion slot that connects to your GPU and this also connects to a power supply. This enclosure finally has a Thunderbolt 3 port for connecting up to your Mac Mini.

2. Create yourself a Personal Cloud or NAS Drive

A lot of current cloud storage solutions have limitations when it comes to storage which some costing you around $199 annually for 2TB of storage. If you’re working in a team you’re going to need even more storage however with your Mac Mini you can either increase your existing storage or connect it to an external hard disk. You can also set up a personal cloud, by installing the OwnCloud app, you can create yourself a personal cloud. Next, you’ll want to install a Mac OS server on your Mac mini. Just like all the other cloud storage solutions it allows you instant access to your files, calendar, contacts and much more, also the app is free.

The next point to mention is regarding NAS Drive. In Mac OS, you can use what is referred to as a ‘Sharing Feature’ to share files or screen shares with another device. If you want to do this, head over to system preferences and then over to sharing. Next, you’re going to want to give your computer a name and then click the tick box which says file sharing.

3. Mac Mini for Developers

If you’re an application developer and are currently using a Windows based PC or Laptop, Mac Mini can also be useful for you. Because of the cheap price of the Mac Mini as we’ve mentioned you can use it alongside your existing mouse and keyboard. You can also run Xcode on the Mac Mini which allows you to start developing your own applications.

4. Connect your Mac Mini to your laptop monitor.

You can use your Mac Mini alongside your existing laptop monitor and using a remote application you can control your Mac Mini. To do this:

TeamViewer

Step 1: Install a remote app such as Teamviewer on your Mac Mini.
Step 2: Install ‘Teamviewer Host’ on the other system, such as your windows laptop.
Step 3: Connect the two, and now you can control your Mac mini from wherever you are at any time.

5. Create your own VPN (a virtual private network)

VPN subscriptions can end up costing quite a bit of money, not only this, but they often require a considerable amount of research just to figure out if they’re legitimate or not. However, if you have a Mac Mini sitting around, you can make use of it by turning it into one of the most simple DIY VPN around, making it perfect for browsing safely on public WiFi or for grabbing files from your home computer on-the-go wherever you might be. If you've decided you need a virtual private network (VPN) but find that you don't want to pay for a third-party VPN service, the MacOS Server can be a brilliant alternative. It's built on the Mac operating system you already know and love, and lets you quickly and easily get your very own VPN up and running.

6. You can use your Mac Mini as a Smart TV.

If you have a TV, you can transform it into a Smart TV by using your Mac mini to access features such as iMusic, Netflix and you can also play games on your TV.

Step 1: First, you’re going to want to plug the power adaptor into your Mac Mini with the other end going into a power outlet. Now switch on the Mac Mini before connecting it to your TV. The Mac Mini itself comes with an HDMI-to-DVI adapter for connecting to a monitor through a DVI port.

Step 2: Now turn on your Mac Mini again, you should expect to have to wait around 10 minutes for Mac OS Mojave to install on your Mac Mini. Once done, connect your Mac Mini to WiFi, and then you’re all set to use your Mac Mini alongside your TV.

7. Install Torrent Clients

Torrent clients enable you to download torrent files or use torrent magnet links. Each client is used to download and share files over the internet, but download speeds probably seem pretty slow and it’s will hurt your Laptop or PC. You can install many different torrent clients on your Mac Mini system so that you can download and share files with your friends.

Bottom Line
As you’ve now discovered, there are plenty of uses for your Mac Mini, and you get these wide ranges of uses for a very cheap price in comparison to the current prices of the top of the range Mac desktop systems. So if you’re on a strict budget, it is worth reading this article and considering getting yourself a Mac Mini as there are many uses you might not have known it had such as the Smart TV utility that we’ve run through today. The specifications of the Mac Mini are also more than enough for you to run multiple applications side by side however as we have mentioned if you’re wanting the Mac Mini for gaming it could end up struggling to run some of the modern games if at all, so that is certainly something to bear in mind.

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