2014 Mini – HDD replacement worth it?

dawindmg08

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Sep 25, 2008
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I've been putting up with my 2014 Mini (7,1) as it's gotten really slow, lots of beachballs on even basic tasks. I just looked at the teardown to get to the hard drive and it looks intense – basically I need to gut the whole machine just to get to it. I have a 2TB SSD and I'm sure it will run better with that than the 5400rpm HDD in there, but it seems daunting to attempt the replacement. Has anyone here done this replacement ? If so was it worth it?

DD
 

Fishrrman

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Feb 20, 2009
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If you don't want to risk breaking anything by opening the Mini, you could spend $9 and get something like this:
https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-2-5-Inch-Adapter-Optimized-EC-SSHD/dp/B011M8YACM/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Sabrent+USB+3.0+to+SSD+/+2.5-Inch+SATA+I/II/IIIHard+Drive+Adapter&qid=1552227623&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Then, plug the SSD into a USB3 port, set it up, and run it that way.

The Mini will boot and run from an external SSD as well as it does from an internal one.

You will get about 85% of the speed the SSD would give if you installed it internally, but none of the potential troubles...
 

treekram

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As suggested by the previous poster, you can use an external USB3 SSD. Other options include:

- Using an external Thunderbolt SSD - presuming you have a free Thunderbolt/DisplayPort port. These can be expensive but a "cheap" (relatively) option would be the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt HDD (refurbished by LaCie/Seagate makes it even cheaper) and replace that with a SSD. I've done that although I don't use it as a boot disk. Look on YouTube on how to replace the disk - there's work involved but it's not difficult. The advantage of the Thunderbolt SSD is you get TRIM and SMART and you're not sharing the USB I/O with other devices. Whether these are worth it is a personal decision.

- Use a M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD. I started the following thread on going this route. This involves much less work. If you go this route, please post back - there's some tips on SSD choice on SSD's that have appeared since I started the thread. (This would involve buying a new SSD.)
https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/using-a-standard-m-2-pcie-nvme-ssd-in-the-2014-mini.2118732/page-2#post-27166599

- Have an Apple-authorized service provider do the work. The cost would probably be at least $50.

I've done the SATA disk replacement on a 2012 and 2014 Mini. The second time was much easier than the first. People have botched the job so your concerns are not misplaced. But many have done it successfully.

If your HDD is original to your Mini, it's about time you had it replaced. The Apple OS's have become more and more geared towards SSD's. If you have the base 1.4Ghz model with 4GB RAM, then what could be slowing the computer down is the 4GB RAM, which may not be enough for what you want to do. In that case, you can't upgrade the RAM so could still have slow performance even after a SSD replacement. But if you have sufficient RAM, a SSD will very likely result in noticeable improvement in response time.
 
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dawindmg08

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Original poster
Sep 25, 2008
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If you don't want to risk breaking anything by opening the Mini, you could spend $9 and get something like this:
Then, plug the SSD into a USB3 port, set it up, and run it that way.
The Mini will boot and run from an external SSD as well as it does from an internal one.
I read a post from another user that did this with a USB3 drive and the said their Mini wouldn't recognize the external boot drive after waking from sleep. Have you tried booting it this way on a Mini and if so have you seen this issue?
 

treekram

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I read a post from another user that did this with a USB3 drive and the said their Mini wouldn't recognize the external boot drive after waking from sleep. Have you tried booting it this way on a Mini and if so have you seen this issue?
I saw that post and the poster is using a fusion drive with and external and internal drive - not recommended. They may have other issues as well. Also, in that post, the problems were reduced after sleep was disabled. With the low power consumption of the Mini when it's idle, there's not much energy saved when sleeping so if you have any issues on the Mini, one should disable sleep. If one is really concerned about energy use and it's effect on the planet, one should turn off the computer when not in use for an extended period - this will be the most beneficial to one's electric bill and the planet. We're talking about the sleep where the computer writes contents of the RAM to disk, not where the computer shuts down the signal to the display.
 
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Fishrrman

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OP wrote:
"I read a post from another user that did this with a USB3 drive and the said their Mini wouldn't recognize the external boot drive after waking from sleep. Have you tried booting it this way on a Mini and if so have you seen this issue?"

I've been booting and running my 2012 Mac Mini using an external USB3 SSD from the moment I took it out of the box in January 2013 -- more than SIX YEARS.

It ran great then. Still runs great.

I don't use "computer sleep" AT ALL.
I do put the display to sleep or turn it off when I'm not using it.
I power down EVERYTHING in my computer room each night, and reboot in the morning.

So... I can't really answer about "sleep", because I don't use it or need it.
 

phoenix-mac-user

macrumors newbie
Sep 21, 2016
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I actually had better HD speed with an external USB 3.0 drive than I did moving it inside. I did all the work and Blackmagic says it is slower. I was going to reinstall MacOS to see if that improves the speed (i am using the partition I was booting from externally) but I am a little frustrated that I did all that work and blackmagic says it is slower. I just got the 2018 mini so now it is my daughter's problem (lol) and the SSD inside the box is still waaaay faster than the 5400 that came with it, but if I could do it all over again I would not move the SSD inside the mini and just kept the USB 3 boot drive.

There are trim issues according to some but I am not really sure what that means and never noticed a problem using an external drive.
 
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dawindmg08

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I actually had better HD speed with an external USB 3.0 drive than I did moving it inside. I did all the work and Blackmagic says it is slower. I was going to reinstall MacOS to see if that improves the speed (i am using the partition I was booting from externally) but I am a little frustrated that I did all that work and blackmagic says it is slower. I just got the 2018 mini so now it is my daughter's problem (lol) and the SSD inside the box is still waaaay faster than the 5400 that came with it, but if I could do it all over again I would not move the SSD inside the mini and just kept the USB 3 boot drive.

There are trim issues according to some but I am not really sure what that means and never noticed a problem using an external drive.
Cool, that's just the info I needed! I'll definitely give it a shot with just the external SSD on USB3 and see what happens. I have a fairly cheap quote for a shop to swap out the internal drive but why spend the money if there's no net speed gain.

Question: the external SSD is 2TB, more than enough to hold all my music and photos plus the OS. I don't think I want to store any media on the internal drive then since it's so slow and I want to reduce any bottlenecks with a media server (running Plex as well as Home Sharing to the AppleTV). Thinking about just using it as the backup drive for Time Machine -- any issues there?
 

chabig

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Sep 6, 2002
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I read a post from another user that did this with a USB3 drive and the said their Mini wouldn't recognize the external boot drive after waking from sleep. Have you tried booting it this way on a Mini and if so have you seen this issue?
I ran my 2014 Mini from an external USB drive for over a year without problems. I had it connected to one of the Type-A ports. I recently had some time on my hands so I moved it inside the case. I, like Fishrrman, never let the Mini sleep (it was set up as a server).
[doublepost=1552523270][/doublepost]
I don't think I want to store any media on the internal drive then since it's so slow and I want to reduce any bottlenecks with a media server (running Plex as well as Home Sharing to the AppleTV). Thinking about just using it as the backup drive for Time Machine -- any issues there?
I did that too, for a while. I found that the internal HD just was dog slow. The main reason I moved my SSD into the case was to remove the HD that was already there.
 
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Fishrrman

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If you make the change to using an external USB SSD as the boot drive, I suggest that you leave the internal drive "bootable" (i.e., with a copy of the OS on it). That way, you ALWAYS have a SECOND COPY of the OS "ready to be booted" in a moment of need.

You could "clean off" other stuff on the drive if you wish.
I WOULD NOT recommend using it as a TM drive. Use another EXTERNAL drive for that, because a TM drive IS NOT "bootable to the finder".
And again, you ALWAYS want a SECOND DRIVE nearby that is "bootable to the finder".
 

dawindmg08

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Sep 25, 2008
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UPDATE –– the Mini won't boot from the SSD.

I cloned the internal disk to the USB SSD drive, then set the SSD to be startup disk. However the Mini still starts up in the internal. Moreover, it ignored me when I held down the Option key at startup.

Am I missing something? Is there an issue with Mojave not being able to boot off of a USB drive?
 

treekram

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UPDATE –– the Mini won't boot from the SSD.

I cloned the internal disk to the USB SSD drive, then set the SSD to be startup disk. However the Mini still starts up in the internal. Moreover, it ignored me when I held down the Option key at startup.

Am I missing something? Is there an issue with Mojave not being able to boot off of a USB drive?
In the System Preferences -> Startup Disk, after you select the disk, make sure that the text "You have selected macOS ..." appears below the white box. If the disk does appear in the white box, then it should be bootable and making sure the text appears below it should make it boot from the selected disk.

Just a few days ago, on my 2014 Mini running Mojave, I was able to boot using the Startup Manager (Option key at start) from an El Capitan HDD so it's not a problem with Mojave.

If your keyboard is not a directly-connected USB keyboard, you might want to try that. If your HDD is connected to a hub, you might want to try connecting it directly to the computer, although I have been able to boot from hub-connected external disks in the past.
 

dawindmg08

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In the System Preferences -> Startup Disk, after you select the disk, make sure that the text "You have selected macOS ..." appears below the white box. If the disk does appear in the white box, then it should be bootable and making sure the text appears below it should make it boot from the selected disk.

Just a few days ago, on my 2014 Mini running Mojave, I was able to boot using the Startup Manager (Option key at start) from an El Capitan HDD so it's not a problem with Mojave.

If your keyboard is not a directly-connected USB keyboard, you might want to try that. If your HDD is connected to a hub, you might want to try connecting it directly to the computer, although I have been able to boot from hub-connected external disks in the past.
I definitely selected it in the System Prefs and confirmed it was going to be the boot disk. I do have a Bluetooth keyboard, so maybe I need to plug in a USB one to make sure it launches the disk manager with the Option key.

I also formatted the SSD as APFS, was that a mistake?
 

treekram

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I definitely selected it in the System Prefs and confirmed it was going to be the boot disk. I do have a Bluetooth keyboard, so maybe I need to plug in a USB one to make sure it launches the disk manager with the Option key.

I also formatted the SSD as APFS, was that a mistake?
I do see that people had problems with Mojave + APFS + External SSD earlier. I haven't seen people bring that up as an issue so I had assumed that it had been resolved. Maybe not. I'll try this to see if this is still an issue - may take awhile - hopefully somebody will post an answer before that.

As to whether to use HFS+ vs APFS on an external boot SSD? The reason why not APFS in it's early days was that some people were getting corrupted file systems on a regular basis - it may have not been a lot of people, percentage-wise, but there were people reporting that on a regular basis on these forums but now I hardly see that issue being brought up.
 

phoenix-mac-user

macrumors newbie
Sep 21, 2016
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I followed instructions similar to this and did a fresh install of Mojave. I wonder if it doesn't like something with the clone? Also I assume you did a GUID partition.

https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/mac-software/bootable-mac-install-drive-3575875/

I would try to follow these instructions and do the fresh install. I realize that may not work for you long term and you need the clone with everything from your old drive, but that drive will still be there and you can test with a new install to see if that works for you. You can just unplug the external SSD and it will boot to your old drive again and then you at least know it will work with a fresh install and go from there. Maybe do a time machine backup and use that to install everything on the new drive?

EDIT: I actually looked closer at the instructions I provided and that is not exactly what I did. I followed the formatting instructions for the drive but I downloaded Mojave and then clicked on the install like I was reinstalling the boot drive and selected the external SSD as the location for the new install. Not sure if this helps. I will admit I was running it for over a year so it was a while ago that I went through all of this but I didn't have any problems.
 

treekram

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I definitely selected it in the System Prefs and confirmed it was going to be the boot disk. I do have a Bluetooth keyboard, so maybe I need to plug in a USB one to make sure it launches the disk manager with the Option key.

I also formatted the SSD as APFS, was that a mistake?
I did a clean install of 10.14.3 to my external USB3 SSD, which was HFS+ but got converted to APFS as part of the install and it boots without a problem.

So, something in your cloning procedure or your hardware is likely to be the problem. I would try doing a clean install and see if that boots. If it does, then use Migration Assistant transfer your data. If that all works, then something in your cloning procedure went wrong. If it still doesn't work, then tell us what SSD and enclosure (brand and model) you're using.
 

Fishrrman

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1. Power down, all the way off
2. Plug in a WIRED keyboard.
3. Press power on button and IMMEDIATELY hold down the option key and KEEP HOLDING IT DOWN until the startup manager appears
4. Select the external SSD with the pointer and hit return.

Does this change anything?
 

dawindmg08

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Sep 25, 2008
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*UPDATE* -- Did some checking and even though the SSD was listed as a potential Startup Disk in System Prefs, it was NOT listed as being bootable in the Finder. I don't think Carbon Copy Cloner set that correctly when I cloned the Mini's HD, or maybe because I reformatted the drive as APFS or something.

I tried running the Mojave installer on the SSD but it will would fail after the reboot without placing a bootable OS on the drive. Finally, I booted into Recovery mode and installed Mojave that way, and FINALLY got a bootable system on the SSD. Then I did the full Migration and brought over all my apps and media.

I need a few days to test it out and make sure it's working correctly (and that the startup disk setting sticks after a reboot) but bottom line: it's working! And its already faster than the stock HD, like night and day with that SSD. Thanks all for your help and advice!
 

treekram

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Nov 9, 2015
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*UPDATE* -- Did some checking and even though the SSD was listed as a potential Startup Disk in System Prefs, it was NOT listed as being bootable in the Finder. I don't think Carbon Copy Cloner set that correctly when I cloned the Mini's HD, or maybe because I reformatted the drive as APFS or something.

I tried running the Mojave installer on the SSD but it will would fail after the reboot without placing a bootable OS on the drive. Finally, I booted into Recovery mode and installed Mojave that way, and FINALLY got a bootable system on the SSD. Then I did the full Migration and brought over all my apps and media.

I need a few days to test it out and make sure it's working correctly (and that the startup disk setting sticks after a reboot) but bottom line: it's working! And its already faster than the stock HD, like night and day with that SSD. Thanks all for your help and advice!
What you're describing is a failure to have the disk "blessed", which is a notable difference from what you described earlier. Getting the disk blessed is a routine task that CCC and the OS installer will usually do without a problem. Hopefully, now that the disk is blessed (it won't boot if it hasn't been blessed) everything will work fine going forward, but if it doesn't, we'll need to get more information to figure what's going on with your disk.
 

dawindmg08

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Sep 25, 2008
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What you're describing is a failure to have the disk "blessed", which is a notable difference from what you described earlier. Getting the disk blessed is a routine task that CCC and the OS installer will usually do without a problem. Hopefully, now that the disk is blessed (it won't boot if it hasn't been blessed) everything will work fine going forward, but if it doesn't, we'll need to get more information to figure what's going on with your disk.
What's weird is that I previously used the same SSD to clone my wife's iMac HD before I took it to get repaired. That clone was blessed and I was able to use it to boot my MacBook Pro. The drive was formatted as regular Mac Extended (Journaled), and then I erased it and made it APFS before trying to clone the Mac Mini. So either I didn't do the cloning procedure the same way in CCC each time or else there's something about APFS that restricts it from being blessed in this way?
 

treekram

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What's weird is that I previously used the same SSD to clone my wife's iMac HD before I took it to get repaired. That clone was blessed and I was able to use it to boot my MacBook Pro. The drive was formatted as regular Mac Extended (Journaled), and then I erased it and made it APFS before trying to clone the Mac Mini. So either I didn't do the cloning procedure the same way in CCC each time or else there's something about APFS that restricts it from being blessed in this way?
I think there's something unusual about either your SSD or your SSD partitioning. On my SSD, it was HFS+ originally, I installed High Sierra APFS, then back to HFS+, then back to APFS (Mojave) to do the testing I described in my post #17. No problems in any of the configurations. If there is a problem with APFS blessing with SSD's which go from HFS+ to APFS, I would have expected more posts about that. If you have your SSD working now, I would leave it alone.

The CCC site describes some of the unusual conditions where they have encountered blessing problems.
https://bombich.com/kb/ccc5/help-my-clone-wont-boot