Ask LH: What Can I Do With My Old Mac Mini?

Ask LH: What Can I Do With My Old Mac Mini?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a Mac Mini I no longer have a use for. I already have a media server so using it for that seems pointless. Any other suggestions on what I can do with it? Thanks, Old Mac Mini

Dear OMM,

The Mac Mini is a great piece of kit that is very versatile. If you’re already running a media server then perhaps converting it to a gaming console could be a fun project.

There are lots of MAME applications you could try that will convert your Mac Mini into a retro gaming system. Throw in a couple of cheap controllers and you’ve got a system that will keep you and others entertained for ages. It’s also a great way to revisit some classic games.

If you’re running any other Macs on your network, you could use the Mini as a networked Time Machine backup location. You’ll need to spring for the server version of Mavericks (assuming you’re already running the client version already) but it can be a handy way to keep you’re other Macs backed up without needing to install a bunch of external drives for each other Mac.

As for using it as a media server – although you already have a media server, it might be worth giving the Mac Mini a second thought. As it’s very small and quiet it makes a good system to have in the lounge-room. We’ve got a micro-PC at the moment that is controlled through a combined keyboard/trackpad that acts as the media library and handy access to a web browser when needed.

It’s worth remembering that even though the Mini is a Mac, it can run any other OS you care to throw at it (assuming it’s not an older pre-Intel model). That makes it a very versatile computer that can be used for almost anything.


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  • Backups are better than no backups, but I would flat out recommend against Time Machine – it is a disastrous “backup” solution with too many failure modes.

    If we’re talking about an x86 mini, install Linux and use CrashPlan and have a real backup solution.

    G4, I don’t know – the amount of PPC MacOSX software is dwindling 🙁

    • Although Time Machine can be problematic to set up, once it is set up (and you’ve checked that it is doing a full system backup by booting into the recovery mode and choosing the ‘restore’ options, and so on) my experience is that it actually works really quite well. Mind you, I have multiple Time Machine drives including a drive kept onsite and a drive kept offsite except when it is being updated.

      (Crashplan looks great, but I can use a Raspberry Pi as a ‘time capsule’ and the performance is pretty good vs having to run an extra more powerful machine for Crashplan).

    • Also ” If you’re already running a media server than perhaps converting it to a gaming console could be a fun project.”

    • Yep, that’s about spot on – it’s not like it was anything else before anyway 😀

    • But on a serious note: I’d convert it into a 2nd media server, for the bedroom or the kids, and I also like the MAME idea.

  • Why not sell it on eBay?

    The value of 2nd hand Mac hardware is outrageously high compared to most other PCs and if you don’t really need it, sell it and use the money for something else.

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