The Mac mini as a BYOD computer

The Mac mini as a BYOD computer

Summary: Could the Mac mini become a popular choice for Apple-loving BYODers? I think it could.


I'm sure you've kept up with my short, four-part Mac mini series (tell me you have) and I just had a brainstorm: It doesn't have to stay at home on my desk; I can take it to work. Well, OK, I can't take mine to work, but you might be able to take yours to where you work, if your company allows BYOD, that is. I think the Mac mini is a good BYOD candidate. It's small, it's lightweight, and it has everything required to connect into a corporate network. All you have to supply is a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and network. Sure, it's not as portable as a laptop computer but for a mobile desktop, it's the next best thing.

I'm a big fan of laptop computers. I love them. In fact, if you've been keeping up, I wanted a Macbook Air, when I got the Mac mini. I love laptops so much that I also wanted an HP Envy (which I've recommended to many happy buyers) or a new Z14 Ultrabook. When I first saw the HP Z14 Ultrabook, I think I saw a bright light and the sound of an angel chorus. I know, I know, stop digressing already. Sorry about that.

I think that instead of articles, I should create Vlogs and when I begin to digress, I'll use that dreamy special effect to transition into and out of my digression sequences. I'm doing it again, aren't I?

OK, so, the Mac mini is small. It's roughly 7.75"x7.75" (19.5cm x 19.5cm) square and 1.5" (3.5cm) high. I don't usually do metric*, but hey, it's an international audience, so I'll play along. It weighs approximately 2.7 pounds (1.22kg).

The Mac mini rear view


Peripherally speaking, it has a lot of ports:

  • Thunderbolt
  • FireWire 800
  • Four USB 3.0
  • HDMI
  • SDXC card slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Audio In/Out
  • IR receiver

It also has wireless Ethernet (802.11n (a/b/g compatible)), Bluetooth 4.0, and either a dual-core or quad-core Intel CPU. The dual-core is Intel i5 at 2.5GHz 3MB L3 cache and the quad-core is the smoking hot (speed not temperature) Intel i7 at 2.7GHz 6MB L3 cache.

It comes standard with either a 500GB HDD or a 1TB HDD, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 4GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory.

The point to all that technical stuff is that you don't have to worry about speed, power, space, or compatibility. You have everything you need to plug into your corporate network and to get to work right away.

And if your company has Windows-only applications or requirements, you can run a virtual machine using VirtualBox or Parallels at near native speeds with full network connectivity. So, really, these days, the barriers to bringing your own Apple device have been broken down.

If you don't have Microsoft Office on your Mac mini, which is the corporate standard in most companies, you can install LibreOffice, which is MS Office compatible. It comes with just about everything you need: word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation, and more. The only thing missing from the mix is Outlook or an Outlook-compatible application. However, you can use Outlook Web Access (OWA), which is probably available to you.

Other MS Office alternatives include Zoho Docs, Google Docs, ThinkFree Office, and probably more that you can find.

As an alternative to the official MS Outlook application, you can use Mailtab (App Store) or Mailtab Pro ($1.99) to use with your Outlook mailbox.

Remember that the mini isn't a laptop. It is small and lightweight but has no attached monitor, keyboard, or mouse. You'll have to supply those or have a "desk set" at your office to plug into. But once you do, you're ready for anything. You'll probably have to purchase the Thunderbolt to 25-pin video (VGA) converter cable, like I did, to match your standard PC monitor or carry your HDMI cable to connect to a newer monitor with that capability.

The Mac mini is a good BYOD option. No, it isn't a laptop but if you need the power of a desktop computer and the convenience of your own portable Mac-based desktop system at work, you might find that the Mac mini is the ultimate BYOD system.

*I used to be a Chemist (No, not a Pharmacist, a Chemist in a laboratory) so I used metric, I understand metric, but traded all that for bits and bytes long ago. Now I only deal with the American version of Imperial units. It satisfies my need for the random and the pointless.

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Topics: Apple, Operating Systems


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Bring a computer to work... :-)

    Somebody apparently missed the memo about Windows-to-go :-)

    Why can't you simply install OSX on a USB stick and boot from that at work? Wouldn't that be the ultimate BYOD for a MAC enthusiast?
    • Licensing Violation - It would Fail Corporate Audit

      its a Licensing Violation to run OSX on anything other than a real genuine 100% all Apple MAC.

      BYOD will not exempt the company from legal liability but it does draw you into being liable as well for software on your system.
      • One more reason to NOT buy a MAC

        With such licenses, forcing you to pay for expensive hardware when a USB stick would have been enough, I would seriously think twice before bying a MAC. Seems like all other Operating Systems can handle USB mountes clients withouit any licensing fuzz...
  • Not happening at my university.

    No chance in he11 that I would EVER allow someone to bring in their own computer & connect to my domain...EVER.
    • And further more...

      Are you really serious Hess? Allow users to bring in their own machines and connect to the organizations domains?

      If I was your CIO...and knew you were allowing this...I'd fire your a$$ in an nano-second.
      • It will come, soon enough

        We're already seeing hype about mandatory BYOD. Right now, that is common in phones. Workstations someday? Can't rule it out, although this kind of BYOD will give users leverage against "Mordac the Refuser" types in IT, since it will be their own equipment.
        • Any company that would require this

          is not a company I would work for, nor do I think they would be around too long.

          Trusting the work to get done on a hodgepodge of so-so computers?

          William Farrel
      • What do you think BYOD is?

        Lots of companies are promoting BYOD but not everyone check with you company regarding their policies. That said there does need to be some rules and or minimum requirements on devices.
      • Hess is lost in cosumer space

        Users bringing their own PC's to work is a security, licensing and logistical nightmare.

        All a dopey Mac user needs is a simple cheap thin client like ncomupting or wyse, locked down with simple group policy. Zero chance they can break anything and minimal overhead with group policy.
      • @IT_Fella

        Is this different than folks bringing their smart phones, tablets and laptops? BYOD is in full swing at our government department and measures have been put in place to protect the network. I don't think that genie is going back in the bottle.
      • @IT_Fella

        That's what a BYOD Program is. You bring your own devices.
      • I guess you're ripe to be "right-sized"

        Because, a jumped up tech-goblin (in this case, IT_Fella) doesn't get to set policy and those who do tend to fire the goblins that can't do what they want, when they want it.
    • Yes you will allow it...

      As soon as your Dean, VP or college President decides they want to do this, you most certainly will be allowing it. The domain belongs to university faculty and staff, and we want to use the best hardware and software to create and manage the work. It is just a matter of time before you adapt or are replaced.
      • Who says thats best with so many compromizes and work a rounds?

        I am sure the enterprise is able to get suitable hardware at a better price that meets all corporate requirements and license agreements. Corporation has agreement with Microsoft to install Office on all the machines yet you are going to use a poor alternative. So much for best software.
  • This is a really bad idea

    Just because you can think it doesn't mean you should do it or write about it.
    • No, it's a great idea

      Bring your Mac Mini to work in your lunch bucket. And bring your lunch to work in your laptop case.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Enough the BYOD already

    There are rules, whether for computers, or anything else. How stupid are people becoming? Should the UPS guy decide he wants to bring his own similar looking uniform because be prefers the fabric? Or how about deciding you don't like your workspace and deciding to bring in your own office furniture.
    • BYOD at UPS would be - bring your own truck

      I can see that happening soon.
      • Actually, that's FedEX Ground

        the drivers own the trucks and the routes. Only the FedEx overnight planes, trucks, ect are owned and operated by FedEx.
        William Farrel