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Can I use Mac Mini as a portal for Time Machine?

I am getting a Mac Mini soon to use for internet/local media viewing on my TV. Since it is a computer with lots of USB ports, I want to maximize its usage. Can I connect an external hard drive to the Mac Mini and then utilize it as a Time Machine backup for my MacBook wirelessly? It would be great to go wireless with Time Machine and I will never bring myself to fork over the cash for Time Capsule.

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Great question! I'm not sure of the answer (I have my external drive plugged into an Airport wireless base station), but I just wanted to say congrats on putting a Mini in the living room! I watch streaming Netflix on mine and project the image onto the wall, and it's amazing. I use the Air Mouse app on my iPhone as a remote control, and it's good enough that I don't need a mouse.

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I've not tried this myself as I use a directly connected external drive for Time Machine, but apparently you can use a remotely mounted drive for TM backup

see this article

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For the initial backup connect the two computers with a crossover Ethernet cable. Look in the Minis network preferences after the self-assigned IP-address and connect to it using afp. (Finder->Go->Connect to server and enter afp://[IP-address]. Then if the drive is shared you can mount it. It will drastically shorten the time for the first backup.

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Some say modern macs don't require crossover. I've never tested that myself, I've always used crossover for like devices, including macs, but I've heard some people say a straight through will work just the same.

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Basically you'd need someway to advertise the storage device wirelessly. I think if you enable file sharing on the mini, so that other computers can wirelessly access it, you can choose the drive in the time machine selection pane, however if you have a wireless router you probably don't need to bother with this, an update over a year ago enabled support for NAS, so you can just plug it right into an airport (other routers should work too) and start backing up.

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Yes you can. This is how I have my home network set up.

Just enable file sharing on the Mini and your MacBook will have no problems using a shared drive for Time Machine (but it will be a little slow doing the first backup over wireless... it took me about 36 hours for the initial backup).

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I know from experience that you can just use a standard ethernet or firewire cable to conect the two and with file sharing turned on the mini should show up in the sidebar of a new window in finder uder the sharing category. just click on the mini in the side bar and click connect at the top right and the select the drive and then open time machine and select the drive there. tis how i used to have it set up at my house before i bought an airport

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