Computer Do Over

So, the Dell CPU died today. We have most of our cd's on itunes in Apple Lossless and have most of them saved on an external hard drive. We thought it was broken but turns out it is okay and the computer is fried, so we will start over. We run a Squeezebox with a DAC for this. MY question is considering a complete do over - do we stay with PC or go to a MAC? We are reading up on Mac Mini - and wondering if this is the way to go. What is Snow Leopard and is this needed? Appreciate any thoughts and suggestions.
Sorry about the crash!

I've always been a MAC guy, though of course both sides have partisans.

If you go for a MAC, note that you will probably want some sort of monitor, and a keyboard. When I did the math, I came out ahead buying a Macbook laptop instead of mini+keyboard+monitor, and the aluminunum Macbook is attractive on my rack. has good prices.

If you by a new MAC, the Snow Leopard operating system will be on it, I think.

You will also need an external hard drive, 1TB minumum, if your music collection is any size. is a great resource.

Good luck! John
Mac, Mac, Mac...
iMac --
I have heard that people have had great results with Windows 7. However after using Microsoft products since dos 2.x I made the switch the Mac and have not looked back once. Go to a apple store and mess around with one, then go find a new pc running Windows 7 and see what you think. I have a mac mini, and a macbook with a 2tb nas, and it is a great setup.

I have also read that Netgear ReadyNAS products have a squeeze box server preinstalled. So you could get something like that and not have a computer running at all.
I'm also partial to Macs, but in all fairness you can get it to work either way.

I'd recommend the iMac over the mini, if you do choose a Mac, because I feel the iMac is the best bang for the buck in the lineup. You don't have to purchase an extra keyboard, etc, as the unit is fully self-contained and it is very low profile but much more powerful than the corresponding priced Macbook pro.

Look at the refurbished Mac's at Apple's website. I've received all of mine refurbished, and they have been indistinguishable from new. The iMac I'm typing on now is 4.5 years old and continues to work great.

Thanks for all the suggestions....something to think about. We do have a good widescreen monitor and keyboard and mouse from the old setup. Just need to replace the innards.
I have been partial to Macs for years although I run PC for CNC/CAM. Seeing as you already have a monitor and keyboard/mouse, I'd get the mini and load it full of RAM. I run my mini "headless" on an AV system, connecting it to the monitor when needed (rarely). Otherwise I control it either through and iPod touch or via screen sharing (built in) with the iMac I am on now. It is easy and seamless. FWIW, just yesterday a luddite friend of my mine (whom happens to be a respected vacuum tube dealer) commented to me about how much he liked the iMac I talked him into over a PC, and that it had never frozen or crashed in over a year!
Snow Leopard is the current operating system (10.6) that will come with most all new macs being sold. My girlfriend bought a refurbed one, and it has been fine for the 10 mths she has had it.
is there any other choice? mac all the way. for a server, get a mac mini. once you have the system up and running, you don't need a keyboard or monitor. you can use another mac to control the mini. plus, if you have a iphone/ipod touch/or will be getting the ipad, you can control the mini thru the remote app to play itunes (i use my iphone all over the house). plus, you can use the vpn app on the iphone to actually control the mini. it allows you to have the mac screen to start any app or to control the mac to reboot if needed.

get a mini for your server, imac for you desktop.
Please consider the Dell Zino (Insprion 400), it is a better value then the mac mini. I recently got a scratch and dent one for $220 (windows 7, wireless card) and it works great. If you want to go Mac, I second the idea of others that the iMac is the way to go, thinking refurb to get the price down. I am amazed what the little zino can do. Since you have an external hard drive with all your music, you would be set to go.
there are a couple of things you need to think about if you are going to use this in your audio listening room (which i wouldn't do btw). dells, laptops, towers, etc... most of them have fans that can get noisy. the mac mini is quiet. how about form factor? is the dell or any other pc the size of the mini? not even close.

if you want to save $$$$, go to craigslist and search for a used mac mini. you don't need an intel mac mini. as a server, you can run leopard or tiger even on a 1.42ghz mini with no problem. i have seen these for $200.

if you want to upgrade your mac to use amarra, then you might want to buy a intel processor based mini.
i would then buy an ipod touch/iphone/ipad to control the mini for your audio/video needs. i have used a touch and currently use an iphone, but in a couple of weeks, i'll be using the ipad to vpn or remote control the server.

for a few more $$$$, then get another mac mini or an imac for a personal desktop machine.

i would not use and i don't use a computer in my audio room for a lot of reasons: can be noisy, will have multiple drives or a nas setup, might need a keyboard/mouse/screen, etc...

if you put this server in a den or even in a utility room, you won't care if there is noise or not. as long as you can get to the machine from your iphone/touch/ipad, and you route the signal over a wired connection or wireless, the data will be transferred without any degradation from these locations.
Actually there are quite a few PCs that are as small or smaller than a Mac Mini. All of them are cheaper as well.
This one of them Acer Aspire.

Here's another called the Fit PC

Since you're using a wireless head unit, I'm not sure there will be a real difference in using any of them. I suspect not.
There's quite a few others out there as well. You could go with a full tower and just store it away using it as a server. Noise wouldn't be a factor in that setup. That takes the equation out of it having a fan or not.

For a server, I would opt for a more powerful full tower machine. And yes they can be whisper quiet as well if need be. Reason being you may in the future find more uses for it, other than just a music server.

I know many here are hell bent on a Mac, but there's always more than one way to skin a cat.
This is actually for our main computer, it just happens to store our itunes library and is in a bedroom. It goes to a Squeezebox which is in the living room with the music stuff.
We are getting fed up with our pc crashing, we seem to replace them every few years and so are considering the switch to MAC. We have limited desk space and so the mac mini is tempting, along with wireless accessories. We have a Samsung monitor to hook up to it. We also have small netbook as well.
Appreciate all the suggestions and comments - thanks!
For a main computer...I would just build one or have someone
to build one for me. Linux is another great option as an OS.

It's free and performs solidly. Virus protection isn't
really necessary with it either. My favorites are Linux
Ubuntu and Linux Mint. You can have a very fast, high
quality, stable computer with future expansion capabilities
not found in most manufactured computers.. that includes

Plus no need to worry about all the proprietary stuff that
Mac users have to deal with either.
Good luck with your search.
See my earlier thread. In short. Im a mac guy (much prefer them), however when setup right windows sounds better (compared with two mac mini - so same hardware one running 10.6 one running bootcamp / xp). Using foobar, and ASIO there is simply no comparison once you tweak the buffers and settings in asio in windows. Its smoother, less grainy, with more depth. Mac is far from bad though.

If your unwilling to tweak or use asio, others here are right. mac is better. if your willing to tinker some, you can get much farther.

Id look at one of the fanless pc setups at cheap, and no fan.
ps. Forgot to add. I have had much better luck with USB2 (m2tech) and firewire devices that are directly connected compared to wireless devices like the squeezebox.

If you plan on using the squeezebox... i doubt windows / mac matters at all since squeezebox is using the network not a direct connection.
The new Mac Mini to be released in the next 3 months well have HDMI. I would imagine Audio/Video straming of your Itunes Libary to your Home Theater well be very very nice.
Just a thought
Keep in mind that if you do decide to expand in to video streaming (I assume from the post that this is audio only) the MACs dont support Bluray and there is no forecast for when they will. If you go audio or non BR then pick your fav.
gmood1 - if you are going to compare machines, you need to compare all of the machine, not just the cases. the pc's you listed are baby machines: small ram, slow processors, and i didn't see any cd/dvd drives included. compare that to the mini that has firewire, superdrive, 4gb ram, toslink, usb, etc...
sure a mac costs more, but you also get much more. as for a tower over a mini: why? what can a tower do that a mini can't in the world of music server? i don't want my hard drives in the machine, i want them separate from the box. if you want a tower, get a mac pro with 2 g5 processors, huge power supply, and you can get them used for $500-$600 on craigslist.

audioguru1 - how can you say that a pc is better than a mac for audio? if all you do is use the mac to read data off the hard drive and you let an external jitter device and dac handle all of the conversion, it is a bold statement saying a pc is better. i had a guy at rmaf tell me that a certain hard drive sounded better than other hard drives. This guy was full of S*&^. you also hear people say that ssd sound better than hdd. Again, this is also BS! i have seen many "custom" pc machines at ces and RMAF that were many thousands of $$$, but the best music server (pc/mac based) that i have heard was using a mac with the amarra software.

When I mentioned tower, I was referring to a media server
not just a music server. And in that world a Mac Mini isn't
the best machine for the job.

Why does a tower have to be a Mac? Is it the only PC on the
planet that can do what a person needs or wants?

I run only one internal drive in my main media server. All
of the other HDs are external.

For the cost of a full blown Mac mini, you can build a much
better PC.Higher quality memory, CPU and more hard drive space are just a few things. The tower is nearly infinitely
upgradeable. A Mac Mini is not. Let's face it, there's only
so much you can do with it before you'll need to buy a new

I can drop in a new MOBO,video card, CPU or power supply
when the time comes and continue to rock without worrying
about proprietary parts. You can't do that with a
I am using a MAC Book Pro laptop computer as my music server. The MAC has 4 GB RAM and the 120GB solid state drive. I am using the Seaport Free Agent Go Pro 500GB external hard drive to store my music files (a 2nd one for backup).

The MAC is connected to the Furman AC-215 power conditioner. The Furman is required so the MAC does not interfere with the audio components. See

I suggest you look at a MAC Book Pro laptop computer. Click on my system for more details. I am a PC person and this is my first MAC computer. It is very easy to use and iTunes does a great job of managing the music.
gmood1 - i think a mac mini would be a good media server, not just a music server. like i said earlier, i don't want my computer in the same room as my audio or video. so in this case, i am not going to go out of the mac/pc straight into a preamp/processor or tv/projector. why you only need a mac mini, for example: i can use itunes for video and audio. in my house, i can stream music and video to multiple locations and each can have a different source. i do this by using airport express devices and apple tv's. i use the mac mini as a true server: it holds my music/video repository and streams the bits over the network to any location i want.
also, you say the mac mini isn't any good in the media server area. if all i want to do is stream data from a server, stuff i have ripped or downloaded, there is no difference.
for any server, you want to use external drives or preferable a NAS unit. again, the mac/pc can be anything. memory could be an issue if you are streaming to 12 locations probably, but i have streamed to 4 with different sources over wireless and GigE with no issues at all.
macs might be a little more expensive but you get what you pay for.
Rbstehno...I never said you couldn't use the mac mini as a server. I do understand what your getting at about the streaming... I do something similar .. except its with all Windows units.

Comparing manufactured units ...the Macs may rate well, compared to something built specifically by an individual that's using premium parts of would have a hard time coming to the same conclusion about getting what you pay for. ;-)

I have a good friend who uses a Mini for his HTPC. He likes the Itunes for audio, but I recently turned him on to XBMC as his audio/video front end. It is a different level of media server open source software. XBMC is by far the front end of choice for guys doing the media server thing on Linux or Mac over on It gives you eye candy that the plain vanilla Itunes front end just doesn't match. It's also highly configurable.

If you haven't tried it, you're missing out on one neat program. I use Windows Media center with the Media Browser plug-in along with XBMC on a secondary HTPC.

The one area Mac OSX seems to lack in.. is having all around Media front-end playback support. There's no 1080P support for Mac nor is there automatic Meta-Data retrieval for movies/TV shows ripped into a Mac server. All of this has to be done manually . Even the ripping process is more complicated to play DVDs back on OSX from hard drive compared to Windows.

For a hardcore Home-theater/audio PC guy it's not the best option unless you plan to run Win 7 dual booted. This is one area where Windows performs admirably and there's no question about that if you look around.

In a nutshell, if all I were doing is playing music..the Mac Mini is fine. For all around playback, a dedicated Windows HTPC/server can't be beat IMO. No single OS does everything well, that's just the nature of the beast.
Well, we ended up with an IMAC which seems like an incredible machine. Wireless everything. We have our old stuff on an external hard drive, now we just have to figure out how to move everything from that to the MAC. The kid said you just plug it in and drag stuff....mmmn doesn't seem to be going that easily. Time for Apple Support calls tonight!

Thanks for all your suggestions!

Congratulations on your iMac purchase. I love mine, and I'm sure you will, too.

Hook up the external drive to the iMac using either a USB or a Firewire cable. It should show up as an icon on the desktop. Open it, and it will allow you to see the files. To copy some of the files to your iMac, open "Macintosh HD" (or whatever you might have renamed it), create an appropriate folder for it (File->New Folder), then select the files you want to copy and drag them over to that folder.


if your files are on another mac, just link to the mac, present the hd on the imac, and start copying. to start this, go to GO, then Connect to Server from the menu bar. type in your ip addr of the mac you want to attach. if you don't know it, then go to the remote mac under the apple and click "about this mac". then click "more info", then click network. use the ipv4 address associated with your ethernet connection. then you will either get prompted for which hard drive you want to link to or if there is only 1, it will show up on your imac. open it up, and start copying things to your new imac.
Rbstenho, her files were on an external HD that was connected to the now-dead Dell, rather than on another Mac. That's why I suggested that she connect the external HD to the new Mac.

So, the hard drive didn't work right either for some reason, so we are back to importing all the cd's again in lossless....this is becoming a regular hobby for us..
loving the Imac .... now here's the question - is the squeezebox sounding better with the mac than it did with the pc? Or was I having one of those late night listening experiences where everything just sounds crisper, clearer with more depth because I haven't listened for a week or so...? I swear it sounds better!