best mini PC for home server

If you’re in the market for the best mini PC for a home server, you’re in luck. With many options available, finding a device that suits your needs and budget is easier than ever.

While Intel NUCs are popular, many alternatives offer similar specs and features. No matter what you choose, a mini server for home can be a powerful addition to your home tech setup. From streaming media to running virtual machines, these devices offer a variety of applications that can enhance your lifestyle.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the world of mini PCs and explore the best mini server for home options available today.


What is a mini PC?

A mini PC is a small computer that packs all the components of a desktop tower into a compact box the size of a paperback. It does not come with an attached display, mouse, or keyboard, so users need to purchase their own. Despite its small size, a mini PC is powerful enough for browsing the web, basic photo and video editing, and working on documents or large spreadsheets.

One of the benefits of a mini PC is that it is easy to upgrade if you need to add more memory or storage, and it has all the necessary ports to connect multiple monitors and peripherals.

Mini PCs are generally more energy-efficient than full-size desktop PCs, with some models consuming less than 5W at idle. A mini PC can also serve as a mini server for home for file storage, media streaming, and running server applications.


What should you consider when buying a Mini PC for your home server?


1. Mini PC: Processor Power (CPU) and Efficiency

When choosing a processor for a mini PC that you plan to use as a home server, you need to balance two important factors: processing power and energy efficiency. Energy-efficient processors, often identified by their lower wattage, can help you save on operating costs and create a more environmentally friendly setup.

However, the processor’s capability must also meet the demands of its intended tasks. A robust processor is essential for home servers with file storage, media streaming, or running multiple applications simultaneously to ensure smooth operation without compromising efficiency.

Budget considerations play a pivotal role in this decision-making process. Fortunately, the market offers a range of processors that strike an excellent balance between power and efficiency, catering to various price points. For a well-rounded home server, aim for a processor with good performance and power conservation.

Recommendation

  • Intel Core i5-12600K (code name Alder Lake): This processor features Intel’s hybrid architecture, combining performance and efficiency cores to optimize power usage while delivering robust performance where needed. It’s well-suited for various server tasks, from handling databases to streaming content.
  • AMD Ryzen 5 5600X: This chip is another excellent option for home servers with its high performance per watt ratio. Thanks to AMD’s advanced 7 nm technology, the Ryzen 5 5600X excels in efficient processing, ensuring tasks are handled smoothly without unnecessary power draw.

2. Mini PC: Size and Weight

Several factors must be considered when evaluating the size and weight of a mini-PC. First, you’ll want to look at the device’s physical dimensions. Many mini-PCs are designed to be small and lightweight so they can fit into tight spaces or be easily transported. You’ll also want to consider the device’s weight and any additional components that may be included in the package.

Additionally, some mini-PCs come with built-in cooling systems, which can add extra weight.

Finally, you should consider the power requirements of your chosen mini-PC, as this will affect its overall size and weight.

Recommendation

When selecting a Mini-PC, it’s essential to ensure some space for expansion. Additionally, it’s preferable to opt for a model that operates with a quiet fan or, even better, one that is fanless.

Most Models meet the demands nowadays!

3. Optimizing Storage and RAM Choices for Your Mini PC: SSDs, NVMe Drives, M.2, DDR5, and DDR4 Explained

When selecting storage for your Mini PC, it’s crucial to consider the type of storage that suits your needs. Various options are available, each with its advantages and considerations.

Storage Options:

  1. Hard Disk Drives (HDDs): HDDs, commonly available in SATA form, provide large storage capacities at a relatively lower cost. However, they tend to be slower and less durable compared to other options.
  2. Solid-State Drives (SSDs): SSDs offer faster performance and increased reliability compared to HDDs. While they are more expensive, their speed and durability make them a popular choice for Mini PC home servers.
  3. NVMe Drives: NVMe drives represent the pinnacle of storage performance, offering lightning-fast read and write speeds. While they come at a higher cost, their unparalleled speed makes them ideal for demanding server applications.

Memory (RAM):

RAM is a critical component for a Mini PC home server’s processing power, influencing its ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

  • DDR5 and DDR4: These are the current generations of RAM, with DDR5 being the latest. DDR5 offers improved speed and efficiency over DDR4, although compatibility with Mini PCs may vary.
  • RAM Capacity: The amount of RAM you need depends on the intended use of your server. For basic file sharing and media streaming, 4-8GB of RAM should suffice. However, for tasks such as virtualization or running resource-intensive applications, 16GB or more may be necessary.

Recommendation

Purchase an NVMe drive with a storage capacity of up to 1TB and a second 2.5-inch SATA drive with a storage capacity of 2-4TB or more. Before purchasing the 2.5-inch drive, please check the Mini-PC’s height specification to ensure it will fit in the caddy properly. Additionally, buy at least 16GB of RAM. For a virtualization server, I recommend 32 to 64GB.

I have seen new Mini-PCs, which now offer two M.2 slots.

The Geekom Mini-PC offers a free M.2 slot in addition to the included 512GB.


4. Mini PC: Connectivity (USB, Ports, Ethernet)

When buying the best mini PC for a home server, it’s important to consider the connectivity options. Look for mini PCs with enough USB and video outputs for your peripherals, and check for multi-monitor support if needed. Ethernet connectivity is crucial for fast network performance, so look for models with at least one gigabit Ethernet jack or dual-band WiFi 6.

These features are essential for ensuring your mini server for home operates smoothly and efficiently, providing reliable performance for all your server needs.


fanless micro computers

Recommendation

At least 3 USB 3 ports, 1 USB-C port, 2 HDMI, and an RJ45

5. Mini PC: Price and Availability

Mini PCs suitable for a home server are available at various prices, depending on the hardware and features. The price range for mini PCs can vary from under $50 to over $1,000. Brands such as Intel, HP, Kamrui and Beelink offer a variety of mini PCs that can be used for a home server.

These mini PCs can be purchased from various retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and Aliexpress.

Recommendation

See below my top choice of the best Mini-PC for home server

6. Mini PC: Customization Options

Mini PCs offer a range of customization options, from small form factor cases in various sizes to plug-in LAN, serial/CAN, USB/mSATA, and mini-PCIe interfaces. You can also customize the board and chassis of Intel NUC Kits to suit your needs. With these customizations, you can get a mini PC tailored to your space and performance requirements.

Recommendation

For optimal flexibility, purchasing a barebone Mini-PC and the necessary components is recommended separately.

7. Mini PC: Virtualization software

Virtualization software is possible for those using a mini PC as a mini server for home. It allows for creating and running virtual machines, which can be isolated from the host system and used for various purposes, such as testing new software or consolidating multiple servers onto a single system.

Two popular virtualization software options are VMware and Proxmox. VMware offers features such as live migration, high availability, and disaster recovery, while Proxmox is known for its great community and compatibility with a wide range of network chipsets. Both options provide a cost-effective virtualization solution on a home mini server. Some Mini-PCs use the Realtek network chipset, which is incompatible with VMware ESXi. There is a way to get it working, but it’s not that simple. An alternative would be a USB network key.

I wrote a separate article on installing a USB network driver in VMware ESXi. Proxmox has no issues with the Realtek network chip.

Mini-PCs are great for learning virtualization in a home lab, making them an excellent choice for a home mini server.

Recommendation

Some Intel NUCs generations are running ESXi out of the box. Mini-PCs are also inexpensive, making them ideal for getting one’s feet wet with building a cluster of nodes.

Intel discontinued the NUC (Next Unit of Computing) product line in July 2023. The company decided to stop direct investment in the NUC business, citing the need to focus on more profitable areas such as chip production.

Thus, the 13th Generation, also known as “Raptor Canyon,” represented the final iteration of Intel’s direct involvement in the NUC market.

ASUS has taken over the NUC line and has secured a non-exclusive license to continue developing and supporting NUC systems..

The best Mini PCs for home server


Minisforum MS-01 Mini

The Minisforum MS-01 is a powerful mini PC ideal for home server setups. It features an Intel Core i9-13900H processor, up to 64GB DDR5 RAM support, and dual M.2 NVMe SSD slots for ample storage. This compact device offers excellent performance for running multiple virtual machines or containers, making it suitable for home server applications.

Minisforum MS-01

The MS-01 supports popular hypervisors like ESXi and Proxmox, ensuring versatile server management. Its sleek design, advanced connectivity options, and significant expandability make it a top choice for home server enthusiasts.


Minisforum NAB9

The Minisforum NAB9 is a powerful mini PC, perfect for demanding tasks in a compact form factor. It features an Intel Core i9-12900HK processor, up to 64GB DDR4 RAM support, dual M.2 NVMe SSD slots for extensive storage, and even a SATA 2.5-inch slot. This allows for additional storage options, making it even more suitable for a home server setup where you might need large storage capacities for your virtual machines or containers.

The NAB9 mini PC has dual 2.5GbE Ethernet ports that use the Intel i225-V network chip. This makes it highly suitable for high-speed network applications, including home server setups. The Intel i225-V-chip provides reliable and fast network connectivity, ensuring efficient handling of substantial network traffic.​


Intel NUC 13th last Generations

The 13th-generation Intel NUCs are significantly improved over their predecessors. Powered by the latest 13th-generation Intel Core processors, these mini PCs offer a significant performance boost. With up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory and fast M.2 storage support, the NUCs are perfect for media streaming, file sharing, and virtualization.

The Thunderbolt 3 ports and ultra-fast Ethernet connectivity options make connecting to multiple displays and transferring data at lightning-fast speeds easy.

As a home server, the NUCs are ideal for those who need a compact and powerful system that can handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Whether you’re a content creator, tech engineer or need a high-performance home server, the 13th-generation Intel NUCs are a great choice.



featured blog

Best Server for Home Lab

The Best Server for a Home Lab


Intel NUC older generations

Below, you will find some recommendations for older models of Intels NUCs, which work fine with virtualization software like ESXi.


HP Pro Mini 400 G9

The HP Pro Mini 400 G9 Business Mini Desktop Computer is a powerful and efficient device with many impressive features. Here are the highlights:

  • 6-core Intel i5-12500T 2.0GHz processor with a maximum speed of 4.4GHz
  • 16GB DDR4 SO-DIMM memory for lightning-fast performance
  • 1TB PCIe SSD for super-fast storage and quick boot times
  • Intel UHD 770 integrated graphics for smooth visuals
  • Wi-Fi 6E AX211 and Bluetooth 5.3 for seamless connectivity
  • RJ-45 Ethernet LAN for reliable wired networking
  • 2 Display Port and 1 HDMI 2.1 for multiple display options
  • Compact and stylish design with a weight of only 3lbs

Overall, the HP Pro Mini 400 G9 Business Mini Desktop Computer is a great choice for anyone needing a fast, reliable, and compact device for business or personal use.


Geekom Mini IT11

Product Highlights:

  • Mini IT11 Mini PC with Intel i7-11390H processor
  • 8 threads, up to 5.0 GHz speed
  • 32GB DDR4 memory and 1TB storage
  • Windows 11 Pro operating system
  • USB4, WiFi 6, and BT5.2 connectivity
  • 8K UHD display support

The GEEKOM Mini IT11 Mini PC is a powerful and compact computer that packs a punch with its Intel i7-11390H processor and 8 threads. It has a speedy performance of up to 5.0 GHz and comes with 32GB DDR4 memory and 1TB storage, making it perfect for multitasking and storing large files.

The computer runs on Windows 11 Pro operating system and has USB4, WiFi 6, and BT5.2 connectivity, making it easy to connect to various devices and networks. It also supports 8K UHD display, providing a clear and crisp viewing experience.

In addition to the Mini IT11 Mini PC, the package includes an HDMI cable, VESA mount, power adapter, storage bag, user guide, and thank you card.

Overall, the GEEKOM Mini IT11 Mini PC is an excellent option for tech geeks who want a powerful and compact computer with various features and connectivity options.

The GEEKOM Mini IT13 offers additionally a free M.2 slot for a SSD HD.


The Beelink SER5 PRO is a powerful mini-computer that packs a punch with its 8-Core AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor, 32GB DDR4 RAM, and 500GB NVMe M.2 SSD.

Product Highlights:

  • Triple display 4K@60Hz output with dual HDMI and Type-c ports
  • Wi-Fi 6 and RJ45 Ethernet for fast and reliable internet connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.2 for easy device pairing
  • Pre-installed with W-11 Pro 64-bit OS and support for Ubuntu
  • New designed fan brackets and system fans for good heat dissipation
  • It comes with a mounting bracket for easy installation on the back of a monitor

Overall, this Mini PC is perfect for business and personal use, with its fast processing speed and ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. I highly recommend it to any tech geeks out there looking for a powerful and versatile mini-computer.


KAMRUI GK3 Plus

The KAMRUI GK3 Plus Mini PC is a game-changer for both home and office use. Here are some of the standout features:

  • 12th Intel Alder Lake-N95 processor with up to 3.4GHz speed
  • 16GB RAM and 512GB M.2 SSD for lightning-fast performance
  • Windows 11 Pro operating system for the latest technology
  • Dual Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet for reliable internet connectivity
  • 4K UHD display for stunning visuals
  • Compact and stylish design that fits anywhere

The KAMRUI GK3 Plus Mini PC is a powerful and versatile device with top-notch performance and functionality. It’s perfect for tech geeks who demand the best from their devices.

Click here for my Kamrui review.



Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra

Some product highlights

  • Intel Core i5 processor for fast and efficient performance
  • 8GB RAM for smooth multitasking
  • 256GB solid state drive for speedy storage
  • AX200 wireless technology for reliable connectivity
  • Windows 10 operating system for a familiar and user-friendly experience

The Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra offers a unique twist on the mini PC form factor with a design that hides the PC inside a monitor stand, making it an all-in-one desktop alternative. Despite its compact size, it packs a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, up to 64GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, making it a great option for productivity-focused use cases. Its modular design allows for easy upgrades and customization and boasts an excellent port selection. Its upgradability and versatility set it apart from other mini PCs, making it a great Intel NUC alternative.



Apple MacMini M2

Last but not least, the latest Apple Mac mini with the newest M2 chip must also be mentioned. Since it only runs MACOS, the Apple MacMini is not the best choice for a home server.

The Apple Mac mini with Apple M2 Chip is a game-changer in the world of technology. Here are some highlights of its features:

  • Impressive performance with Apple M2 chip, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • Thunderbolt 4 ports with support for DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 4, USB 4, USB 3.1 Gen 2, Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA
  • Two USB-A ports, HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet port, and 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • EPEAT is registered for sustainability
  • Highly rated by customers on Amazon

The Apple Mac mini with Apple M2 Chip offers high performance and eco-friendliness, making it a perfect choice for tech geeks.


My Recommendation: Best Mini PC for a home server

A mini PC is an excellent choice for a home server as it provides high performance without taking up too much space or requiring extensive power consumption. When choosing a mini PC for a home server, it is essential to look for a model with an Intel Core i7 processor, at least 8GB of RAM, a solid-state drive with at least 500GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, a graphics card with 4K resolution support, multiple USB ports, HDMI output, and a Gigabit Ethernet port.

After careful analysis, the best mini PC for a home server is the Intel NUC13 model. These mini PCs come with the latest 13th-generation Intel Core processors, up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, and fast M.2 storage support. With these features, it can handle media streaming and virtualization tasks.

If your budget is more limited, you can’t go wrong with the Geekom Mini ITL11 or Beelink SER5 Pro. Both offer excellent performance for various tasks and are ideal for light home server use.

For best results, ensure that your mini PC is compatible with the operating system you intend to use.

I use my mini-PCs with the virtualization platforms Proxmox and VMware. VMware has issues with the NIC chipset when it is not from Intel, while Proxmox can be installed on almost all hardware.

Please check out my virtualization articles here.

I would love to get some feedback from you. Was this article helpful? Please share your opinion with me in the comment section below. Or, if you prefer a more personal touch, feel free to email me directly at [email protected]. Your thoughts and insights are always appreciated.


FAQ

What processor should I look for in a small mini server for home?

When looking for a mini PC for home server purposes, it is important to consider the processor. A processor with higher processing power, clock speed, and more cores will be better suited for hosting websites or virtualization. For example, an Intel Core i7 processor is ideal for hosting a website, while a Celeron processor may only be suitable for simple computing tasks. Consider your specific needs and budget when selecting a processor.

What are the hardware requirements for a mini PC for a home server?

For a mini PC to function as a home server, it should have at least an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, a solid-state drive (SSD) with a minimum of 500GB storage, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth capabilities.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eA graphics card with 4K resolution support, multiple USB ports, HDMI output, and a Gigabit Ethernet port are also recommended.u003cbru003eThe bandwidth of your household and the connectivity of the mini PC are important factors to consider when choosing a mini PC for a home server.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eA mini PC with at least one Gigabit Ethernet jack or dual-band WiFi 5 is recommended for a home media server.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eA model with 2.5Gbps or 10-gigabit Ethernet connectivity is recommended for website hosting.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThe reliability of a mini PC for a home server depends on the quality of its hardware and software components, as well as regular maintenance and error checking.u003cbru003e

How much RAM and storage do I need for a mini PC for a home server?

To determine how much storage and RAM you need for your mini PC home server, you need to consider the demands of the applications and services that will be running on it. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eFor instance, if you plan to store multimedia files such as videos and photos, you may require more storage space. Similarly, you may need more RAM if you intend to host multiple virtual machines or run several applications simultaneously.

How do I configure a mini-computer best?

Buy a barebone Mini PC and purchase the components separately for the best configuration flexibility.


Before you go …

I want to draw your attention to another insightful blog post of mine. If you found the information on VMware’s USB network adapter helpful, you might also be interested in a comparison I made between Proxmox and ESXi.

This post delves into their respective features, performance, and overall efficiency. Whether you’re trying to decide between the two for your homelab or looking for a more environment-friendly option, this blog post provides a comprehensive analysis that could help you make an informed decision.


Full Disclosure

Any purchases made from clicks on links to products on this page may result in an affiliate commission for me. 

Please keep in mind that the quantity or price of items can change at any time.

As an Amazon  Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

As an Aliexpress Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Als Amazon-Partner verdiene ich an qualifizierten Verkäufen

Tech Expert & Blogger


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.