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Looking for the right hardware to run Helix?
Introduction

Helix users often contact us for advice about which Mac is best for running Helix. Just as there is no one use for Helix databases, there is no one correct answer to this question.

This page contains few guidelines to help you decide, based on our experience. But these should be receive in the same spirit in which they are given: they are basic guidelines that may not be optimal for your particular situation. If you want more specific advice, contact us so we can discuss the details of your Helix use and make a more specific recommendation.

If you are going to buy a new Mac from amazon.com, start by choosing one on the right. When you do, Amazon pays us a commission, helping us move Helix forward!

Which Mac? Which Helix!

Which Mac is best for you depends on many factors: which Helix product you use, how large is your database and, in the case of Helix Server, how many users are connecting.

  • Helix RADE and Helix Engine
    • Any new Mac will work fine.
    • If you are working with a large collection (1GB or larger), having at least 8GB of RAM installed will ensure that the OS does not dip into virtual memory and impact performance. (Of course, much of this depends on how many other applications you run at the same time.)
  • Helix Client
    • Any new Mac will work fine.
    • Because the data is stored on the Server, not the Client, even the minimum 4GB of today’s Macs is sufficient.
  • Helix Server
    • Unless you are working with a very small collection (200MB or smaller) be sure you have at least 8GB of RAM installed. Between Helix Server and Helix Utility, Helix will use 2-3 GB of RAM, more for very large collections.
    • If performance is of paramount importance, consider nothing but a Mac Pro tower.
    • If your collection is well-optimized, a Mac mini will function as an adequate Helix Server for small workgroups. (10 users or less.) A rough guide for judging your collection’s optimization is to watch the Helix Server’s activity animations. If you see the Search In Progress indicator frequently, your collection may need further optimization.
    • Although an iMac might seem like the ideal balance between cost-control and power, the iMac does not make an ideal server, because you are paying for the complete package which includes a display you will rarely use, unless you are also using that computer for other tasks, such as running Helix Client. With a Mac Pro or Mac mini, you can use any inexpensive display, or even go headless.
    • If you do use an iMac to run Helix Server, be sure to use Time Machine to make hourly backups so you can restore to that point, should the iMac fail.)
Where Are the Discounts?

For 18 years Autograph Systems was an Authorized Apple Reseller that extended discounts to Helix users. (Autograph Systems is Matt Strange’s ‘other’ company.) As of November 1, 2012, Autograph Systems is no longer an Authorized Apple Reseller, so those discounts are no longer available. We thank everybody who purchased through this program, as it helped us push Helix forward faster than would otherwise have been possible.