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I have recently purchased a 2014 Mac Mini to use as a personal file server among other small server tasks. The main purpose of the device is for me to be able to back up files over the network. Previously I was using rsync to backup the entire drive of my Linux laptop to a dedicated external drive. Both drives in this case are formatted with EXT4. I'm want to be able to backup my Linux laptop up by using rsync to transfer the files to my Mac Mini. After resolving some simple issues relating to updating rsync's version on MacOS, I discovered that there are some file incompatibilities between EXT4 and HFS+. In my tests, Rsync is unable to copy certain files to a HFS+ to a local drive much less over ssh.

After several hours of research, it appears that my possible solutions are as follows:

  1. Dual boot Linux and avoid the conflicts with HFS+ entirely.

This appears to be the easiest solution, but I like Apple's support as a media server and it seems wasteful as I could have just as easily purchased a cheap Optiplex instead. I'm also unsure if I'd be able to take full advantage of Mac hardware using Linux. Apple makes streaming music use iTunes very simple from a Mac, so I'd need to find another solution if I go with this option.

  1. Mount external disks formatted with EXT4 and use fuse's experimental read, write support.

As this will be my primary backup device I'd be concerned with using experimental drivers, but its certainly an option I can't ignore. I'm unsure how "experimental" the drivers are. If the risk is relativity low I don't mind as I'll being using RAID in case one of the drives fail.

  1. Only backup files which have no conflict with HFS+ and continue to do full disk backups to an external hard drive.

This is only a half solution because I'll have to still plug in a physical drive from time to time. HFS+ still supports most unix permission so general files should backup just fine.

  1. Create disk images of the devices being backed up and transfer those to the server.

I really don't want to do this as It's much slower than my other options and I don't have the option to conveniently restore individually files.

Are there any other options I haven't considered?

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You might get some success by following 8-Bit-Guy's Guide on using a mac mini as a file system. You can enable NFS sharing using his guide, and then accessing your Linux system that way, and just skip the backup system if you don't want to. I believe you won't have to use rsync for it because you don't want to have a backup of the servers, because in your question, you said that the server itself is the backup.

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