Advice on Upgrading Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by md63, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. md63 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    #1
    I would appreciate some advice on an upgrade path for my Mac Mini. I have a 1.83GHz Mini with 80gb hard drive and 1GB memory. I'm using it for a HTPC and it has worked out well for this purpose. I recently tried to install Vista/Fusion on the Mini and found it to be so slow as to be unusable. Having used Vista and Fusion on my 2.2Ghz MBP with 4GB memory, I guess the memory is what is causing the problem since on MBP it works well.

    I have 2GB (2 x 1GB) of memory that I pulled from the MBP which I figured I would put into the Mini when I finally got the nerve to attempt an upgrade. Is 2GB enough to run Vista with Fusion? Its free so I would prefer to use it instead of spending about $45 for 4GB of new memory. Since I will be opening the Mini I was going to change the hard drive. With my HTPC setup I have about 2TB of external storage and just wanted to put in a larger and possibly faster drive in the Mini while I do the upgrade. Would you recommend going to 7200rpm or just stick with 5400rpm? Is heat an issue with these drive that would cause the Mini's fan to run more often? I was looking at a WD 250GB 7200rpm drive. Another other recommendations are appreciated.

    Thanks for you help.

    Mike
     
  2. plinden macrumors 68040

    plinden

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2004
    #2
    The Mini takes a maximum of 2GB. I think it does use the same spec'ed RAM as the MacBook Pro 2.2GHz, but I'm not an expert on that (I don't have a MBP). I have occasionally run Fusion with Vista on my iMac with 2GB and it's usable (as far as Vista is usable anywhere).

    If you're using it as a HTPC, I'd say go for the largest drive you can find. It uses 2.5" drives, so the maximum you're going to get is 500GB 5400rpm (is the promised 7200rpm 500GB laptop drive out yet?). Higher capacity drives have faster write speeds at lower speeds than lower capacity drives.

    As for upgrading, it's not too hard. The cracking sounds as you pry the cover off aren't anything breaking. The hardest thing is reattaching the little connector at the side (I forget what it is, but it made the fans run constantly on my Mini after I failed to reattach it properly) if you have thick fingers.
     
  3. JG271 macrumors 6502a

    JG271

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #3
    Personally I don't think a 7,200 rpm drive would be worth it on a mini. It would make boot times a little bit faster, if I were you i'd go for pure quantity on the HD.

    A word of advice re upgrading: Don't press down too hard on the case (i actually managed to get a hairline crack on mine below the optical drive) and be careful not to dent the lower side of the case... probably because i used the wrong tools - if you follow the guides you can't go wrong. 2GB definitely makes a difference, one of the first things I did once I got my macbook and my mini (now sold the mini though)
     
  4. md63 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jun 11, 2007
    #4
    It was my understanding that a Mini could address 3.3GB of memory. Am I wrong?
     
  5. plinden macrumors 68040

    plinden

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2004
    #5
    Oops - I have a Core Duo mini that is limited to 2GB so I was going on my own experience and jumped to conclusions. Do you have the CD or C2D version of the 1.83GHz Mini?
     
  6. nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Location:
    Britain
    #6
    Yes that is correct.

    A 7200rpm hard drive will make a noticeable improvement, heat wont be an issue.

    Be very careful opening that thing, they are the least unfriendly of the Mac lineup to upgrade. There are plenty of good tutorials on youtube.
     
  7. Courtaj macrumors 6502a

    Courtaj

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Edinburgh, U.K.
    #7
    Corrected.
     
  8. TrapOx macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Location:
    Denver
    #8
    Incorrected.

    It takes a 4" putty knife to open. It couldn't be more simple unless they were to put an access door.
     
  9. twstokes macrumors newbie

    twstokes

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    #9
    Some info

    Two days ago I upgraded my C2D 1.8 GHz Mini to 4GB of RAM and added a 320GB 7200RPM WD Scorpio Black HD so I'll chime in.

    The Mini will say it has 4GB of RAM (System Profiler, Activity Monitor), but in reality it has less (chipset limitations).

    For me, adding a 7200RPM drive did improve performance, but it also added a good bit of heat. With my original 80GB hard drive, the drive temperature always lingered in the 40's (celsius), sometimes lower. With this new drive, it's normal operation is around 51 degrees. The room I have it in is very cool, so ambient temperature is not an issue.

    I've also noticed under normal operating conditions that the fan kicks in now a lot more than it used to - it now likes to linger around 2000RPM while before the Mini liked to keep it around 1500RPM. The maximum temperature (as stated by WD's specifications) for this drive is 60 degrees. I think it'll be OK, but it's definitely a little warmer than I'd like for it to be. As I write this, my Macbook Pro's HD is at 25 degrees in the same room (both machines at idle).

    Another thing to be aware of with changing the hard drive is the drive's APM setting. Advanced Power Management is usually pretty aggressive with these drives as they're usually put into laptops, and it will want to park the heads when it can to prevent damage to the drive if dropped and also reduce heat and power consumption. After installing this drive, I noticed that the APM was a little too aggressive. Currently I have this program running at boot to completely turn this off, which is why my drive runs hotter (as it's always spinning). This also reduces the number of load / unload cycles on the drive, as it can only handle around 600,000 before it's expected to fail. This seems like a high number, but based on my calculations when I first got the drive, it was parking the heads so many times per hour that it wasn't going to last a year. You can check how many cycles your drive currently has with this.

    It may be best to not set disable head parking completely like I've done, but to choose a setting that will keep the drive cool while at the same time making sure it doesn't wear itself out too quickly. Heat is also a big killer of hard drives, so somewhere you have to find a compromise between the two.

    What I might do in the future is completely remove the internal drive from the Mini, run a SATA cable out from it into another enclosure, and run a full size SATA 3.5" HD. This will be a challenge to do without making it look like a rig, but it would be a better setup in my opinion if you want more storage and no heat problems.
     
  10. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Location:
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    #10
    The Mini can address 3.3GB of RAM in dual-channel configuration, which does not hurt.

    A 7200RPM HDD will help too. Both are easy upgrades in the Mini.

    Any reason you want to use Fusion for your HTPC?
     
  11. hhlee macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 19, 2005
    #11
    a few people have run an sata or ide line out of the mini to a ministack but to my knowledge you can only add one more drive.
     
  12. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #12
    If it's the Core Duo 1.83 gHz, then it'll take up to 2 gb. If it's the Core 2 Duo 1.83 gHz Mini, then you can install two 2gb sticks for 3.1gb (or so) available memory and retain dual-channel performance. Put a Samsung 5400 rpm drive in it. Nice and cool and plenty fast for multimedia use. I have their 500gb in mine.

    Why are you wanting to use VM Windows for your HTPC with this?
     
  13. Rizvi1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Location:
    Laurel, MD (Baltimore, MD / Washington, DC area)
    #13
    Since we're discussing upgraded an upgraded Mac Mini on this thread, I was wondering what thoughts would be on me wanting to buy one that's built as follows:

    1.83ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
    2.5gb RAM
    200gb 7200 rpm HDD

    The person selling it on craigslist has said that he's a computer tech and when I asked about the Mac Mini being limited to 2gb of RAM, he replied informing me that the mac mini registers and uses the extra .5 of RAM (as peractivity monitor) and most of the forums (including 123macmini.com) suggest that in OSX Leopard the actual upper limit of the ram is 3gb.
    He simply added a 2gb stick to the already in place 512 mb stick.

    He said that he did the upgrades myself, and has since taken it in to apple once to have the OS re-installed (his install disc was scratched and I needed
    to reset my password, so they had to do it for him, also providing me
    with a new OSX disc), and they said it was fine.

    This seems to go with what Cave Man said here:


    I'm really not familiar with the upgraded mac mini and to be honest, this is a secondary computer I'm trying to buy for our den. His listing price on craigslist was $850 since he bought it in october and it has another 9 months of warranty. But I told him I was looking to spend $400 since new Mac Minis were around the corner and because you can get a refurb 1.83ghz for $499 by Apple themselves.

    What do you guys think about the price and the build? Should I go for it? I don't want to spend $600+ on a new Mac Mini, my primary computer will always be my MBP. I think this is a good secondary computer for passive use.

    Shahryar
     
  14. twstokes macrumors newbie

    twstokes

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    #14
    Rizvi1,

    I would first wait to see if a new Mini is announced in the next few days. $850 is entirely too high. That's a $600 machine with around $150 upgrades at the most, and that still doesn't make it worth $750.
     
  15. Rizvi1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Location:
    Laurel, MD (Baltimore, MD / Washington, DC area)
    #15
    He had emailed me yesterday and asked if I wanted to do it for $400. I thought that was fair. I could wait for the mac minis to roll out but no matter what I'm not buying a new one since this is a passive computer. I figure whatever comes out will prob be $599 or higher right?
     
  16. brentsg macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    #16
    You might see pretty attractive refurb or clearance prices on the old ones online once the new models are on sale.
     
  17. Rizvi1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Location:
    Laurel, MD (Baltimore, MD / Washington, DC area)
    #17
    Yeah, I probably could, but I wonder if they would be as good as this. If worth it would be waiting.

    Again, this is a 3 month old Mac Mini w/ the extra RAM (Which I would do anyways) and the bigger, (better?) HD which I probably woudn't have done but could benefit from. $400.. seems a decent deal, no?
     
  18. twstokes macrumors newbie

    twstokes

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    #18
    That's not bad, but be sure to read what I posted above if you haven't already. For me, adding a bigger and faster HD also added a good bit of heat. After writing that post I adjusted my drive's APM setting and the temperature only came down a couple of degrees. I can also now hear the drive when it loads and unloads, which is a bit annoying.

    I say if you really don't need more storage space like I did, then RAM might be the only thing you want to have maxed out. I plan on selling my Mini when the new ones come out (even though I just upgraded it a couple of days ago), but I'll give the buyer the option of using the new drive I purchased (with warning of heat) or the stock Apple one.
     
  19. Rizvi1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Location:
    Laurel, MD (Baltimore, MD / Washington, DC area)
    #19
    Yeah, and I don't need the bigger HD since this is a passive computer so that's a good idea - Let me ask if he can give me the stock drive.

    (What I really want a bigger HD in is my 15" 2.2ghz MacBook Pro (I just have a 120gb in here), but that's another topic.)

    With the upgraded HD out the equation (hopefully he'd sell it on his own), it's just the 1.83ghz C2D and the upgraded RAM. What kind of value should I put on the RAM? I feel that at $400 it's a good price w/ Mac Mini's not around the corner - esp since a refurb 1.83ghz C2D Mac Mini is $499 from Apple themselves - but with the new Mac Minis coming out, perhaps a bit of a further price drop request is more warranted? $375 - does that sound fair?
     
  20. twstokes macrumors newbie

    twstokes

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    #20
    At this point in time (pre new Mini announcement), it's still a good deal to get it for $400. This is assuming it's in perfect condition, the original HD hasn't been used since it was taken out, he knew what he was doing when he opened up the Mini, etc.

    I noticed you said it had 2.5GB of RAM. This means he must have a 2GB module and a 512MB module. The Mini doesn't require the RAM modules to be identical in both slots, but there is a performance benefit from having them match.
     
  21. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #21
    $400 for that computer is pretty good. The only thing I'd do would be to pull the 512 mb stick and put in another 2 gb stick to get dual-channel performance back. But otherwise, if that Mini will do what you need it to do, then that's a pretty good deal considering the upgrade to it.
     
  22. Rizvi1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Location:
    Laurel, MD (Baltimore, MD / Washington, DC area)
    #22
    How much would another 2gb RAM module cost? Do you also agree with twstokes on the upgraded hard drive being something that's more headache then benefit? Again, I don't really need the space so I'd prefer this to run quiet and low energy as much as possible since it will prob be always on to serve as our on the go computer (need to print out movie tickets before we run, etc). It will also always be on to serve the printer that its attached to.
     
  23. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #23
    A 2 gb stick should be $35 or so. I have no opinion on the 7200 rpm drive. However, there are plenty of people who have them in their Minis. Mine has a 5400 rpm 500 gb Samsung in it. The 7200 is probably a non-issue.
     
  24. twstokes macrumors newbie

    twstokes

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    #24
    Don't let me scare you into not getting that machine. I just wanted to warn you about what I've seen with upgrading the hard drive in mine. Basically if I hadn't used APM tuning software for the drive, it wasn't going to be a year before I needed to replace it with another one.
     
  25. Rizvi1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Location:
    Laurel, MD (Baltimore, MD / Washington, DC area)
    #25
    cool, any suggestions on where to get the RAM from? I'd like to get the RAM at least up to max performance.
     

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