Advice wanted: Upgrade or Replace?

Ray Brady

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 21, 2011
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Howdy all. I'm currently using a 2012 Mac Mini primarily as a music player and photo library. It's hosting about 100GB of music in iTunes and 140GB of photos. While the Mini still does its job, it has slowed down severely over the last couple of years. This is most noticeable while waiting for iTunes or Photos to launch, or when updating iTunes track data. So I'm trying to figure out what the next step is.

The way I see it, I've got two primary options:
  1. Get a new base model Mac Mini, and move the iTunes and Photos libraries to an external drive.
  2. Keep the 2012 Mini, but replace the hard drive with an SSD.
What I'm trying to figure out is what the performance difference would be. Assuming my only needs are running iTunes and Photos, which machine would perform better: a 2012 with media files on an internal SSD, or a 2018 with external storage? Would the difference be noticeable enough to justify the cost?

Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

Miat

macrumors 6502a
Jul 13, 2012
685
644
If you can string the 2012 out for a year or so with an SSD, you can save more money, and will have more choices, including better pricing from Apple (particularly their storage pricing) and refurb options, when it comes time to upgrade.
 
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Ray Brady

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 21, 2011
290
244
Yes, I was thinking along those lines as well. It would be annoying to drop $800 on a machine with 128GB today, only to have find a 500GB machine available for the same price next year.
 

now i see it

macrumors 601
Jan 2, 2002
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The new Mac mini specs & prices aren't going to change for several years. Last time it was four. The thing that's killing your speed on the 2012 is that full mechanical hard drive.
If you swap in a new SSD, the machine will fly.
 
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Miat

macrumors 6502a
Jul 13, 2012
685
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The new Mac mini specs & prices aren't going to change for several years.
We don't know that.

If Apple have decided to keep the Mini longer term and get serious with it, which it seems to me they have, then there is a good chance they will update more frequently. Though I agree that it is unlikely to be every year.

Plus, if you are not in the USA then prices also depend on exchange rates.
 

Micky Do

macrumors 68000
Aug 31, 2012
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An island in the Andaman Sea.
Howdy all. I'm currently using a 2012 Mac Mini primarily as a music player and photo library. It's hosting about 100GB of music in iTunes and 140GB of photos. While the Mini still does its job, it has slowed down severely over the last couple of years. This is most noticeable while waiting for iTunes or Photos to launch, or when updating iTunes track data. So I'm trying to figure out what the next step is.

The way I see it, I've got two primary options:
  1. Get a new base model Mac Mini, and move the iTunes and Photos libraries to an external drive.
  2. Keep the 2012 Mini, but replace the hard drive with an SSD.
What I'm trying to figure out is what the performance difference would be. Assuming my only needs are running iTunes and Photos, which machine would perform better: a 2012 with media files on an internal SSD, or a 2018 with external storage? Would the difference be noticeable enough to justify the cost?

Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
My 2009 Mac Mini has slowed down severely a couple of times over the more than 9 years I have had it. The first time, about 6 years ago, a additional 4GB of RAM, an upgrade to Mountain Lion..... and a general clean out of dust put it right, and improved day to day usability. The next time was about three years ago, when it was getting hot and the fan cranking at 5,000 RPM. A tech checked it out, cleaned out the dust, and it has been running fine ever since. Now on El Capitan, but still running the original 120 GB HDD. I use an external disc for archives.

It is probably due another clean out before too long.... given its age, and that the rather small capacity HDD will eventually fail, more likely sooner than later, I was looking to replacement rather then repair when the time comes.....

But the 2018 Mac Mini offerings have way more performance than I need, cost way more than I am happy to pay, and cost a heck of a lot more to add a decent amount of storage. From my point of view for my modest needs (as an average Joe employed as a teacher), a lot more money for the 2018 relaunched Mac Mini, with little significant improvement in real world utility.

Pros such as video editors, designers and those crunching large amounts of data, along with pundits, wannabes, dilettantes and geeks after bragging rights have a different point of view of course.

For my use scenario, picking up a mid-range 2014 Mac Mini (still selling at full price where I'm at) could be a better option to see me right for another 7 officially supported years, and a couple or three beyond. Or just repair the 2009 when needs be, and see what happens with the present iteration. Is there a more "consumer" oriented silver model in the offing?

In terms of day to day usability, comparing my early 2009 Mac Mini with the 2017 MacBook Air I got a few months ago, boot time is irrelevant, as the Mac Mini is usually on 24/7 (has been since new). The Mini is a little slower to open apps and files than the Air, but not so much so that it bugs me. Once apps and files are opened, there is little or no significant difference in use for what I do.

So:
- the significant slowing down of your 2012 Mac Mini might be cured with a clean out, which could see you right for a few more years.
- the "slow down" could be perception in comparison the snappy performance of hardware using SSD. To upgrade or not comes down to what you can live with.
- the 2012 has about 3 years to go before it joins the ranks of the officially obsolete. Thus it has some time to go before it is dropped from MacOS updates, and hardware support is discontinued.
 
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Mellofello808

macrumors regular
Mar 18, 2010
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Adding a SSD will be a absolutely night and day performance difference. My 2012 Mac mini is still fast enough for almost any task with the SSD.

For a while I even ran it with a external SSD as a boot drive. Even that was so much faster then the platter drive that it felt like a new computer.

I am going to upgrade to the 2018 mini strictly so that I have better monitor options. The 2012 is still plenty fast.
 
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