Mac Mini as DVR server

Hey all,
Currently, I'm using a WD My Cloud Home Duo as my DVR server. I'm having some streaming and recording issues with it as I believe it is way underpowered. Commercial Skip Detection takes all day it seems. So I'm going to switch to using a Mac Mini as I have a 2018 Mac Minii I'm not using. My Mac Mini only has a 500GB SSD internally. Can I add an external HD to increase storage and have all my DVR recordings save to that? I thought that was possible but I can't find instructions on how to do that?
Also, is there a relatively affordable external drive I can pick up at Best Buy or Target that can work for this and won't cause things to run really slow? Do I need a powered external drive or can I use like a WD Passport or something?

Yes you can use an external HD for your Channels DVR storage. I have a 2014 Mac Mini and have been using an external HD for years without issue. You format the drive and point the Channels DVR to that for storage. I like to use a dedicated drive to the DVR so if it fills up, you don't cause other system issues.

Here are three drive options with some thoughts of use case:

  1. External SSD. If you aren't going to keep lots of recordings this can be a cost effective and reliable solution. I use a 2.5" 2TB Samsung SSD I purchased on sale and put in an external case with a USB-C connector. It is small, reliable and does not require external power. Price around $100 for 1TB and $200 for 2TB.

  2. External 3 1/2 drive. If you need more space you can go with an external 3.5" drive in a case. I have been happy with the G-Technology USB drives. Western Digital currently has the 4TB USB-C model for $139 for 4TB and 6TB for $199. Preconfigured drives go up to 18TB. These are larger and require separate power but moderate cost and should last for years.

  3. External Portable USB drive. The least expensive option from a price and space perspective. Don't take up a lot of space and don't require external power but on average the least reliable of the three options. Could work for you but I'd recommend one of the other options for a 24/7 DVR situation.

Hope that helps.

Thank you for the reply! Would the 3.5 drive be something like a WD Easystore? I say you can get like 2TB for $60 or 4TB for $80.

Yes the Mac Mini works great as a DVR using a USB3 External drive.

From what I've read you want to use a good ole fashioned HDD for an external drive. Do not use SSD.

Yes those will work fine.


Follow up question, how long does it take a mac mini to process commercial detection? I watched some recordings that I've done off my WD My Cloud Home Duo and it took all night to process commercial detections and then when I went and watched the recordings it didn't even work.

Depends on how long the episode is but I think its only around 5-10 minutes tops.


Just to add more to the confirmation of the Mac Mini. I am using a 2012 Mac Mini, cheapest model of that era. I have 3 x 10TB external drives and 2 x HD HomeRun Quatros. It runs pretty well. I just have to manually move recordings to the main drive to the other two when the main one if it fills up.

@scooter_scott -- why not use an external SSD in a USB 3.x case? I think the newer quality SSD could work fine. You'll just want to have realistic expectations of throughput based on the interface and if using USB 3.0 then don't expect more than about 500MBs read / write i/o with an external SSD which is about 4-6 times better than spinning disk i/o on the same USB 3.0 interface. I think some solid advice is don't bother with an external NVMe SSD because while very very fast - it would be bottle-necked by the USB 3.x interface, but any quality SATA based SSD should work fine on the Mac Mini USB ports - it will just be more expensive than HD but it also less likely to have performance issues.

@mjbomar - using the DVR server web interface you should be able to specify where you want the DVR to store or find recordings. Using Windows at one time I was recording to my "C:" drive and then sometimes moving recordings to my "D:" drive - under a mirrored folder structure.

Look for this area of the DVR interface and just add whatever Storage Paths you may need.


Do you all set your Mac Mini to never let the HD fall sleep and to auto login?

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@mjbomar -- I had asked for tips awhile back -- here is the thread.

Mac Mini Tips wanted

What thread count would everyone recommend for commercial detection when using the Mac Mini?

I like 800 thread count Egyptian cotton.

(Sorry, I saw "thread count", and couldn't help myself :wink:

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Iā€™d say start with two and see how it goes.

Hey all,
So I decided to go all in. I happened to stop by a local computer store (mom-and-pop place). They had a Synology ds218+ there I was eyeing. But, I look over and they have a Mac Mini M1 for an extremely good price so I bought it. I installed the Channels DVR and set my Commercial Detection threads to 2 (wasn't sure if I could go higher?) I then added an external 4TB USB 3 HHD.

Maybe I'm crazy but when I'm watching TV it seems way snappier. The picture looks better and things load way quicker. Am I imagining that?

I wanted to ask is it bad for the mac mini to not let the HD go to sleep? Won't it wear the Mac Mini faster? And, How many TVs can I stream on at the same time with the M1? Hopefully 2 or 3.

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I've had my 2012 Mac Mini (cheapest model at the time) handle 12 simultaneous recordings, commercial detection processing and streaming to 2-3 devices at the same time. The M1 should be able to handle way more than that.