Apple sells two Mac minis; one is a server edition, the other is a standard Mac mini. What are the differences between the Mac mini and the Mac mini server?
I know that the server doesn't have an optical drive and runs a server edition of OS X. Besides this, what are the other differences? What is the advantage of buying a Mac mini over buying a Mac mini server? (besides, of course, that the server runs OS X Server, and one is faster than the other) Will the server last longer, be able to handle running 24/7, whereas the standard one won't?

  • None of the new Mac minis have an optical drive. You can see the breakdown here: store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_mac/family/mac_mini/select
    – user10355
    Feb 16, 2012 at 7:15
  • NP. They are impressive machines. I picked up a base model and it's a workhorse. Upgraded to 8 GB of RAM (Mushkin) on the cheap, threw in my OCZ Vertex 2, and picked up a spare HD cable from PowerBookMedics to install the default drive into the secondary bay. Blazing fast, compact, and all for a total of around $650. I haven't used CD/DVDs in years, so I'm happy for the reduced profile of the machine. Highly recommend, and not just for a media center!
    – user10355
    Feb 16, 2012 at 17:23
  • To the best of my knowledge, Apple has not indicated that the mini server (or Mac Pro server) has any "server grade" hardware. That said, there's also no indication that any modern Mac can't run 24/7.
    – joelseph
    Feb 16, 2012 at 19:09
  • I would also like to know what is the difference between running OS X Server and just running OS X with your own MAMP setup?
    – cm2
    Feb 16, 2012 at 19:47

3 Answers 3


Comparison of Mac Mini and Mac Mini Server (as of mid 2011)


  • Server: Quad core i7
  • Mac Mini: Dual core i5

    • The base model of the Mac Mini does not support AES-NI which is recommended when using FileVault 2.


  • Server edition and Mac Mini base model: integrated HD Graphics 3000
  • High end Mac Mini: dedicated graphics, AMD Radeon HD 6630M with GDDR5

    • Note: This is very recommended for Lion on large external displays. The integrated HD Graphics 3000 do not perform well in Lion as of 10.7.3 - even on my 15'' MBP.

Hard drive:

  • Server: 2 x 500GB at 7400rpm
  • Mac Mini: 1 x 500GB at 5400rpm - and thus quieter

Optical Drive:

  • Server: none
  • Mac Mini: none


  • The server edition weights 0.3 pounds more.

Video, Audio, Network, Dimensions:

  • same
  • 1
    Neither the Mac mini or Mac mini server have optical drives these days.
    – cm2
    Feb 16, 2012 at 17:05
  • See updated question.
    – daviesgeek
    Feb 16, 2012 at 17:11

The difference is a few hundred bucks.
Kidding aside, though, there are several differences between the two models. Some differences are that the server version runs off of a Quad-Core i7, has dual 500 GB HDDs and a more powerful graphics processor.
Check out the side-by-side comparison here.

  • See updated question.
    – daviesgeek
    Feb 16, 2012 at 17:12

The only real difference is that the so-called “server“ has a quad-core i7 processor, while the standard Mini has a dual-core i5. Otherwise, they are the same machine.

Note that the i7 uses more power and needs more cooling, but the cooling system (fan) in the “server” version is the same as in the standard Mini.

So Apple used a processor worth a few bucks more, called it a “server”, and charged a hefty premium. Anyone who knows much about Apple also knows this is typical of them. They also charge big premiums for added storage in all their products. It was once possible to upgrade your own Mac. Adding RAM and upgrading the HDD, even adding a SATA SSD if you wanted. But those days are long gone. Nowadays, you pay the “Apple tax” to get what you get, and that’s that. No upgrading later. And if your RAM or storage ever fails, you have a very expensive doorstop on your hands.

P.S. The reason I posted this now, in 2023, is because I was looking at buying another used Mac Mini to add to my little home server setup. A 2012 Mac Mini can be had now for about $99. The used price is double for the ”server” version, which is ridiculous. Also, considering the overheating issues of the “server“ versions, it’s a poor idea to buy a used one. With a computer that old, you definitely want to replace the thermal paste, and you don’t want to buy an undercooled/overpowered one that could have seriously overheated with the factory paste still in it. No, no, no!


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