2012 Mac mini Drive Replacement Guide

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by dukee101, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. dukee101, Jan 20, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2013

    dukee101 macrumors member


    Jan 17, 2009
    Greetings fellow MR-ites! I just wanted to give back to the community here and post a detailed instruction guide for anyone looking to do an in-place upgrade of their 2012 Mac mini HDD or SSD.

    First, I wanted to preface this by saying I spent a lot of time debating whether to get Fusion Drive, and in the end I decided against it. Nothing really beats the satisfaction of having all your data on an SSD. Prices are coming down and a beefy 512 GB SSD can be had for $325 if you spot a good deal these days. I predict you'll be able to pick this capacity up at the end of the year for $225-250.

    Performing a direct replacement of the stock hard drive with an SSD keeps things simple: no mechanical storage at all in the mini, less heat, less things to worry about. You also don't need to purchase custom dual-drive kits from OWC or iFixIt, and don't have to mess with the far more complicated dual-drive upgrade process that involves tearing down the entire machine. You can also easily expand storage through fast external options like USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. Nevertheless, these instructions will work for replacing your drive with any other kind of storage.

    Lastly, if you're debating whether to equip your new mini with Apple's built-to-order 256 GB SSD, consider these instructions and how simple a drive replacement can be. You can save yourself lots of $$$.

    These instructions are the same for 2011 Mac minis, except you won't be forced to boot into Recovery HD and install a special version of OS X Mountain Lion onto an externally-connected drive. That's a quirk for 2012 models only. You can just pop your new drive in and install from a USB Installer.

    1. First setup your Mac mini in its original factory configuration. Boot up and go through the OS X setup assistant. This way you can associate your Apple ID with this new machine and get your free iLife licenses loaded into your account. You can also confirm the mini is working as it should in its factory state.
    2. Once logged in, connect your new drive externally (you can use USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt)
    3. Reboot into Recovery HD mode by holding [CMD + R] at startup
    4. Perform an Internet install of Mountain Lion (ML) onto the new drive. You must do this instead of just popping your drive in because these 2012 mini's came with a specific ML release that can only be installed over the Internet through Recovery HD mode. When 10.8.3 is released, you should be able to directly install drives with 10.8.3 installations and just boot up normally (or use a custom USB Installer with 10.8.3 and quickly install off that).
    5. When the mini restarts and you're taken to the setup assistant, shut down and disconnect all plugs. Let the machine cool if it's been on for a while.
    6. Tear down your Mac mini and replace the stock drive with your new one. [REFER TO TEARDOWN INSTRUCTIONS IN SEPARATE SECTION BELOW]
    7. Re-assemble your Mac mini and turn it on.
    8. You should boot back into the setup assistant where you last left off. At this point, you can setup a new user or migrate from another source (disk/Windows/Mac).
    9. Spend some time confirming the normal functioning of all system components and enjoy your upgraded system!

    There’s a number of resources you can follow to get this procedure done. It should take anywhere from 20 minutes at the fastest to 60 minutes at the slowest. But take your time and be patient. Don't over-force anything, be delicate. Double-check all steps and procede carefully.

    iFixIt’s HDD Replacement Guide:http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installing+Mac+Mini+Late+2012+Hard+Drive+Replacement/11716/1

    iFixIt Installation Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NORZR0BbZs&feature=player_embedded

    Joseph Taylor’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab3F4yI6G0o&feature=related

    • In any of these guides, ignore the parts that talk about removing the logic board — that is NOT necessary for an in-place upgrade (drive replacement). The stock drive can be removed easily by only removing the fan, plastic cowling, and Wi-Fi antenna grate.
    • Be very careful pulling the fan wire.
    • It may take some effort to properly slot in the new drive, making sure the two screws line up properly with the grommets on the machine casing. Don't be afraid to reposition your mini on its side, in whatever way is easiest to get this done.
    • When reassembling the mini, make sure you properly seat the antenna grate. It’s difficult to get the two screw tabs to fit into their recessions. Make sure to fit the groove on the curved side of the grate with the curved edge of the mini’s chassis. It may be best to have the curved side towards you, then while pushing the flat side of the grate towards you, gently lift the grate around the curved edge from right to left by putting a small screwdriver into the holes around the edge. Eventually, the groove on the grate will pop into place and the two tabs for the screws will drop into their recessed places.
    • Pay attention to properly re-pin the fan’s power cable when reassembling the mini and make sure the fan is running.

    If you have problems booting after the drive replacement, try resetting the PRAM: Hold keys [CMD + OPT + P + R] and turn on the computer; hold keys until it restarts again and second startup chime is heard

    If you're upgrading RAM as well, please perform this as a completely separate operation before or after the drive replacement. If anything goes wrong with the RAM upgrade, you want to make sure you can isolate that component as the problem.
  2. iThinksimple macrumors member


    Sep 24, 2012
    although, I do not have a Mac mini, but I plan to buy it, and maybe it will be useful one day,


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