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Creating A Basic Mac Storage/Backup/Media Server

Article ID = 49
Article Title = Creating A Basic Mac Storage/Backup/Media Server
Article Author(s) = Graham Needham (BH)
Article Created On = 19th October 2011
Article Last Updated = 20th July 2016
Article URL = http://www.macstrategy.com/article.php?49

Article Brief Description:
How to create a basic Apple Macintosh storage/backup/media server

Creating A Basic Mac Storage/Backup/Media Server

We recommend one of the following computers for use as a basic Mac server (the PowerMacintosh G4 or Mac Pro silver models are highly recommended due to their expandability and the ability to install most things internally reducing cable/box clutter):
Recommended Basic Mac Servers:
If you do not have one of the above computers you can still use most Mac computers as a server as long as it has the following:
  • Mac OS X 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12 (10.5 or later recommended)
  • iTunes 9.2.1 or later
  • Large enough hard disk for data storage - preferably a hard disk running at 7200rpm or faster. We recommend a dual SATA hard disk in RAID 1 (mirrored) configuration for capacity, speed and basic data safety but any storage volume will do including the boot disk if it is big enough.
  • At least one of the following ports for external storage:
    • Thunderbolt v1, v2 or v3
    • FireWire 400 or 800 (preferably 800 - 400 is possible but is quite slow)
    • USB v2 or v3 (preferably v3 - USB2 is possible but doesn't really cut it due to software/speed overheads)
    • eSATA port
  • 10/100/1000Base-T "Gigabit" ethernet
  • Plenty of RAM (for the version of OS X you are running and how much data you will serve and the number of clients on your network)
We do not recommend any of the following computers:
  • Power Macintosh G3 - not enough internal expansion
  • Power Macintosh G5 - only two hard disk bays internally and notorious for high failure rate
  • eMac - no internal expansion and very difficult to take apart plus high failure rate
  • iMac - no internal expansion and very difficult to take apart plus high failure rate on some models
  • PowerBook G3 - not high enough spec/slow networking
  • iBook - not high enough spec/slow networking
  • MacBook - no high speed connectivity (FireWire 800 or eSATA)
  • MacBook Air - no high speed connectivity (FireWire 800, eSATA, Gigabit ethernet) plus too expensive
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 to Early 2008) - NVIDIA graphics card issue with high failure rate
  • MacBook Pro 15"/17" (manufactured in 2011) - NVIDIA graphics card issue with high failure rate
  • MacBook Pro 15" (Early 2011 to Early 2013) - NVIDIA graphics card issue with high failure rate
Some things you should consider before building/buying your server:
  • Physical size of the server / footprint / space taken
  • Location of the server
  • Availability of network connection especially if connected via recommended method of ethernet
  • Heat generated / server cooling
  • Noise generated by the server and any attached accessories
  • Energy used by the server and any attached accessories
  • Ease of obtaining, speed and cost of availability of components if something needs replacing/adding
  • Up front cost
  • Total cost of ownership (don't forget energy used)

PowerBook G4 (Aluminium)

How to identify your PowerBook G4
Models recommended for use:
Pros
  • Cheap to buy
  • 10/100/1000Base-T "Gigabit" ethernet
  • FireWire 800 port
  • USB2 ports
  • Includes built-in screen for configuration/use
  • If it still has a working battery you have a built-in UPS
  • Small footprint
  • Low power draw
  • Not very noisy
Cons
  • PowerPC only processor (so modern software cannot be run on it)
  • Oldest models have low maximum RAM (2GB or even less)
  • RAM upgrades may be hard to find/expensive to buy
  • Internal boot disk is usually a slow and small PATA 2.5" laptop drive (hard to find / upgrade)
  • Data storage has to be external
What you will need:
  1. Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5 (10.5 recommended)
  2. 2 bay RAID enclosure with FireWire 800/eSATA
  3. FireWire 800 cable
  4. 2 x 3.5" SATA hard disks
See the basic Mac server recommended products article for the full list of purchasing links.
You will then be ready to start configuring your server.

MacBook Pro

How to identify your MacBook Pro
Models recommended for use:
  • MacBook Pro Early 2011 (13"
  • MacBook Pro Mid 2010 (13" / 15" / 17") [MacBookPro7,1 or MacBookPro6,1/2]
  • MacBook Pro Mid 2009 (13" / 15" / 17") [MacBookPro5,2/3/4/5]
  • MacBook Pro Early 2009 (17") [MacBookPro4,1 or MacBookPro5,1]
  • MacBook Pro Late 2008 (15" / 17") [MacBookPro4,1 or MacBookPro5,1]
Pros
  • Intel processor (so modern software can be run on it)
  • Usually good maximum RAM capacities (4GB or 8GB)
  • Usually cheap RAM upgrade costs
  • 10/100/1000Base-T "Gigabit" ethernet
  • FireWire 800 port
  • Some models have an Express 34 card slot for additional expandability e.g. eSATA
  • USB2 ports
  • Internal boot disk is a SATA 2.5" laptop drive (can be upgraded)
  • Includes built-in screen for configuration/use
  • If it still has a working battery you have a built-in UPS
  • Small footprint
  • Low power draw
  • Not very noisy
Cons
  • Probably expensive to buy
  • Oldest models have low maximum RAM (less than 4GB)
  • Data storage has to be external
What you will need:
  1. Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12 (10.5 or later recommended)
  2. 2 bay RAID enclosure with FireWire 800/eSATA
  3. FireWire 800 cable
  4. 2 x 3.5" SATA hard disks
See the basic Mac server recommended products article for the full list of purchasing links.
You will then be ready to start configuring your server.

Power Macintosh G4

How to identify your Power Macintosh G4
Models recommended for use:
Pros
  • Cheap to buy
  • 10/100/1000Base-T "Gigabit" ethernet
  • Data storage is internal with FOUR 3.5" hard disk bays ready to use
  • TWO 5.25" optical drive bays ready to use (but only PATA connectors - optical drives can be upgraded/added)
  • Multiple PCI slots for expandability (SATA, eSATA, USB2, etc)
Cons
  • Requires a monitor, keyboard and mouse for initial setup but then can be used headless
  • Not all models have a FireWire 800 port
  • USB1 ports
  • PowerPC only processor (so modern software cannot be run on it)
  • Low maximum RAM (2GB)
  • RAM upgrades may be hard to come by/expensive to buy
  • Standard internal hard disk connectors are PATA (difficult to find PATA drives) but they are 48 bit LBA compliant (you can use PATA hard disks larger than 128GB in size). Internal hard disk can be upgraded
  • Large footprint
  • Large power draw
  • Very noisy
What you will need:
  1. Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5 (10.5 recommended)
  2. SATA PCI card and cables for Power Macintosh G4
  3. 2 x 3.5" SATA hard disks
OPTIONAL: See the basic Mac server recommended products article for the full list of purchasing links.
You will then be ready to start configuring your server.

Mac mini

How to identify your Mac mini
Models recommended for use:
Pros
  • Intel processor (so modern software can be run on it)
  • Usually good maximum RAM capacities (4GB or 8GB)
  • 10/100/1000Base-T "Gigabit" ethernet
  • FireWire 800 port
  • USB2 ports
  • Small footprint
  • Very low power draw
  • Very quiet
Cons
  • Probably expensive to buy
  • Requires a monitor, keyboard and mouse for initial setup but then can be used headless
  • RAM can be very hard to upgrade
  • Internal boot disk is very hard to upgrade
  • Data storage has to be external
What you will need:
  1. Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12 (10.5 or later recommended)
  2. 2 bay RAID enclosure with FireWire 800/eSATA
  3. FireWire 800 cable
  4. 2 x 3.5" SATA hard disks
See the basic Mac server recommended products article for the full list of purchasing links.
You will then be ready to start configuring your server.

Mac Pro (Silver)

How to identify your Mac Pro (Silver):
    • If you are running Mac OS X 10.4.x/10.5.x/10.6.x go to Apple menu > About This Mac > click the "More Info…" button (the System Profiler application will open).
    • If you are running Mac OS X 10.7.x go to Apple menu > About This Mac > click the "More Info…" button > (the System Information application will open) click "Overview" in the top left then click the "System Report" button.
  1. Select "Hardware" (on the left)
  2. On the right under the "Hardware Overview" heading check what it says for 'Model Identifier'
Models recommended for use:
  • Any Mac Pro (Silver)
Pros
  • Intel processor (so modern software can be run on it)
  • Usually good maximum RAM capacities (16GB upwards)
  • 10/100/1000Base-T "Gigabit" ethernet
  • All models have a FireWire 800 port
  • USB2 ports
  • Data storage is internal with FOUR 3.5" hard disk bays ready to use - internal boot disk is is very easy to upgrade
  • TWO 5.25" optical drive bays ready to use (optical drives can be upgraded/added)
  • Multiple PCI type slots for expandability (additional SATA, eSATA, USB2, etc)
Cons
  • Expensive to buy
  • Requires a monitor, keyboard and mouse for initial setup but then can be used headless
  • RAM upgrades may be hard to come by/expensive to buy
  • Very large footprint and size
  • Very large power draw
  • Can be a little noisy with multiple hard disks installed
What you will need:
  1. Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12 (10.5 or later recommended)
  2. 2 x 3.5" SATA hard disks
OPTIONAL: See the basic Mac server recommended products article for the full list of purchasing links.
You will then be ready to start configuring your server.

Basic Storage/Backup/Media Server Configuration:

  1. If you are using a laptop for the server make sure it is plugged into a power source and is not running off the battery.
  2. Erase Install Mac OS X to the boot drive.
  3. NOTE: Manually format and erase the hard disk during the install process plus when you are updating Mac OS X do not install (untick) iTunes.
  4. Install and connect the data storage hard disk(s). Notes for Power Macintosh G4 / Mac Pro (Silver) servers.
  5. Format the hard disk(s) that you are going to use for data storage. If you have two similar/identical hard disks that are not in a dedicated two bay hardware RAID enclosure you can mirror them together (RAID1) in software for better security of the data in case one drive fails:
    1. NOTE: Creating software RAID sets is not supported in OS X 10.11 or later - you will need a third party solution such as SoftRAID 5.1 Lite or later (US$50). NOTE: Creating a RAID set will fully erase both hard disks that you are using in the RAID set. Make sure you do not have any data on either of the two disks that you are going to use.
    2. Go to Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
    3. On the left of the Disk Utility window select one of the two hard disks you are going to use for the mirrored RAID.
    4. Click the RAID tab at the top.
    5. Give the RAID set a name e.g. "Data HD".
    6. Set the 'Volume Format' to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)".
    7. Set the 'RAID Type' to "Mirrored Raid Set".
    8. Click the "options…" button at the bottom and tick "Automatically Rebuild RAID mirror sets" (this allows you to rebuild the RAID set automatically although you can still rebuild a RAID set manually if necessary).
    9. Click "OK".
    10. Back in the main Disk Utility window drag the two icons for the two disks you are going to use to the RAID set area.
    11. Click "Create".
  6. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences (if necessary click the lock icon in the bottom left and enter your admin password).
    • Desktop & Screen Saver > Screen Saver tab > set 'Start screen saver' to "Never".
    • Security > set your required security e.g. tick "Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver".
    • Spotlight > set your required Spotlight settings e.g. all 'Search Results' items ticked and nothing listed under 'Privacy'.
    • Energy Saver > set 'Put the computer to sleep when it is inactive for' to "Never" and 'Put the display(s) to sleep when the computer is inactive for "15 min".
    • Under Energy Saver 'Options' (if they are available):
      • tick "Wake for ethernet network administration access" or "Wake for network access".
      • tick "Restart automatically after a power failure".
      • untick "Allow power button to sleep the computer".
      • untick "Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible".
    • If you are using Mac OS X 10.4:
      • Network > at the top of the window click on the 'Location' pop-up menu and select "Edit locations…". Click the "Rename" button and enter a location name of "Server". Click "Done".
      • At the top of the Network window click on the 'Show' pop-up menu and select "Network Status". Now click on "Built-in Ethernet" or "Ethernet" in the main window and click the "Configure" button at the bottom. Click the TCP/IP tab at the top. Set 'Configure IPv4' to "Manually" and give your server a static IP address. Click "Apply Now".
      • Now, if listed, click on "Airport" in the main window and make sure Airport is switched off.
      • At the top of the Network window click on the 'Show' pop-up menu and select "Network Port Configurations". Drag "Built-in Ethernet" or "Ethernet" to the top of the list.
      • Now untick each network interface you are not using (usually all of them except "Built-in Ethernet"/"Ethernet" and "Airport").
      • Click "Apply Now" if necessary.
      • Sharing > Tick "Personal File Sharing" and untick all other items.
    • If you are using Mac OS X 10.5 or later:
      • Network > at the top of the window click on the 'Location' pop-up menu and choose "Edit locations…". Click the wheel icon and select "Rename location". Enter a location name of "Server". Click "Done".
      • On the left of the Network window click on "Ethernet" and then on the right set 'Configure' to "Manually" and give your server a static IP address. Click "Apply".
      • Now, if listed, click on "Airport" on the left and make sure Airport is switched off.
      • Click the wheel icon in the bottom left and select "Set Service Order…". Drag "Ethernet" to the top of the list. Click "OK".
      • On the left of the window select each network interface you are not using and click the "-" icon in the bottom left to delete it from the list (usually all of them except "Ethernet" and "Airport").
      • Click "Apply" if necessary.
      • Sharing > Tick "File Sharing" and untick all other items.
    • Date & Time > Tick "Set date & time automatically" and choose your preferred (nearest) network time server.
    • Software Update > Untick "Check for updates" (it's a server so you should install updates when you are ready to install them/the server is not in use).
    • Startup Disk > Make sure your boot disk is selected/highlighted
    • Time Machine > Configure Time Machine as required. If you do decided to use Time Machine it will attempt to backup your data storage too (which could be very large) so if your data storage is a RAID1 mirrored set and you don't want it to be backed up remember to add the data volume e.g. "Data HD", to the "Do not back up" list under Time Machine > Options…
  7. If required click the lock icon in the bottom left corner to lock the System Preferences again.
  8. Quit System Preferences.
  9. Go to Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. Right (option) click on Activity Monitor's icon in the Dock and select "Open at Login". Right (option) click on Activity Monitor's icon in the Dock again and select "Dock Icon > Show CPU Usage".
  10. Install and update third party disk utilities:
  11. Install/update internet plug-ins and if your server is a PowerPC computer (e.g. PowerBook G4 / PowerMacintosh G4) remove outdated internet plug-ins.

Additional Storage/Backup/Media Server Configuration:

Power Macintosh G4 Storage Notes
  • The Power Macintosh G4 (Mirrored Door) has four internal hard disk bays (A+B).
  • Power Macintosh G4 (Mirrored Door) internals with SATA PCI card, cables and 4 x hard disks
  • (A) When you open the side door and look in, the two drive bay on the right mounted vertically has an ATA-100 bus so use this for your ATA (boot) disk(s).
  • (B) The two drive bay in the middle mounted horizontally has an ATA-66 bus so use this for your SATA data storage disk(s).
  • (C) You can remove the ATA-66 data cable as it is no longer needed.
  • (D) Route the SATA cables to the SATA PCI card round the opposite side of the door to the processor/heat sinks/RAM slots/PCI slots.
  • (E) Make sure the SATA and power cables do not get squeezed/crushed at the bottom when the door is closed.
  • While you are inside the G4 why not upgrade the RAM (F) and/or upgrade/add an additional the optical drive (G).
  • (G) Dual PATA optical drive bays.
  • (H) Optional USB2 PCI card.
  • (I) SATA PCI card.
  • You can download official Apple PDF instruction booklets for installing items in the Power Macintosh G4 here.
Return to Basic Configuration instructions.
Mac Pro (Silver) Storage Notes:
Return to Basic Configuration instructions.

Article Keywords: OSXserver OSX server backup storage media iTunes DNLA PLEX remote access apple desktop VNC screen sharing file print CD DVD iPhoto Photos archive archives archiving pdf library paperless office Macintosh

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