Buy New Mac Mini or put work into old one?

Sammy's

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Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
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Been lurking awhile and this is my first post and I have a few questions:

I currently have a Mac Mini (Late 2009) running El Capitan. Specs are:
2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2GB Ram
160GB HDD (26GB free space)
Superdrive (died a few years ago)

Main use has been as a home/work computer - iTunes, video watching, web browsing/research, writing applications. This computer has served well for 9 years but started slowing down a year ago - will freeze up while web browsing and just give the never ending spinning beach ball (would have to restart to get things going again) or will just drop safari (safari webkit quit unexpectedly) and iTunes.

I wrote these problems off to the mini's age and thought it would be good to get a new one and wait for the current 2018 release. Now that the new mini is out and I've looked at the offerings what seems to be a good option is either the i3 or i5 with 16GB Ram and 512GB SSD. This was based off of current usage and some things I would like to get into like Lightroom/Photoshop and maybe some video editing (albeit due to current commitments if I'm being completely honest it could be 1-2yrs before I could really get into these activities)

After seeing that other users here have kept their older machines running longer I was wondering if I should:

1. Get a new mini?

or

2. Put some work into my old one and hope to get a couple more years out of it? Upping the Ram to 8GB and adding a 500GB SSD (Crucial and OWC seem to be the favored brands here)

I appreciate any and all opinions and recommendations (pros/cons) and would like to know what I could reasonably expect out of the above scenarios?

Thanks in advance.
 

archer75

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I really don't think there's enough you could do to the old one. A core2duo is very old. I would recommend upgrading.
 

Sammy's

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
82
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Thanks for the replies - looks like the band aid/buy time approach isn't worth it.

Any suggestions for which configuration of the Mini?
 

archer75

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Thanks for the replies - looks like the band aid/buy time approach isn't worth it.

Any suggestions for which configuration of the Mini?
Based upon your usage even the cheap base config would be a huge upgrade. I'd probably boost storage to 256gb based on what you're using. You could bump the ram to 16gb as it's a cheap upgrade. An i3 would be fine for you. Maybe an i5 to last you longer.

With lightroom and photoshop work along with some light video editing in your future then perhaps the i7 and 32gb of ram. If you want that much ram i'd order the base 8gb config and upgrade it yourself and you'll save over $300.
 
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Sammy's

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Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
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Based upon your usage even the cheap base config would be a huge upgrade. I'd probably boost storage to 256gb based on what you're using. You could bump the ram to 16gb as it's a cheap upgrade. An i3 would be fine for you. Maybe an i5 to last you longer.

With lightroom and photoshop work along with some light video editing in your future then perhaps the i7 and 32gb of ram. If you want that much ram i'd order the base 8gb config and upgrade it yourself and you'll save over $300.
So maybe an i7/8gb/512gb model and then upgrade to 32gb or ram if/when I can get into the lightroom/photoshop/light video editing?

How would an i5/16gb/512gb model fare?

The 2009 Mini was my first Mac and I feel very fortunate that it served my needs for so long. Going forward what should be my reasonable expectations for the usable life of a desktop?
 

Fishrrman

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Feb 20, 2009
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OP asked:
"How would an i5/16gb/512gb model fare?"

That's what I'd get, as "the sweetest spot" between price/performance.
 
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bigfatipod

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Sep 22, 2011
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I think you got your money worth out of that 2009 mini. at this point, its well worth it to splurge and get a new one. I think either the i3 or i5 would be great choices.

And have an honorable memorial service for that 2009 model.
 
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now i see it

macrumors 601
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I've got a 2010 Mac mini (core2duo CPU) that ran like a SLUG on El Capitan with the stock hard drive & only 2 GB ram.

I put a 500GB SSD in it and 8 GB of RAM and now it's plenty fast and snappy. It boots in 25 seconds. Apps launch very fast. It's a completely different machine.
 

bigfatipod

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Sep 22, 2011
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I've got a 2010 Mac mini (core2duo CPU) that ran like a SLUG on El Capitan with the stock hard drive & only 2 GB ram.

I put a 500GB SSD in it and 8 GB of RAM and now it's plenty fast and snappy. It boots in 25 seconds. Apps launch very fast. It's a completely different machine.
There's no doubt an SSD speeds up those 2009-2010 mini an incredible amount. If it was a 2012, I would be more inclined to recommend just adding an SSD. But, for a 2009, I think the effort spending upgrading the ram and hd are just better spent towards a new box.

If OP wants a double bonus, he/she could grab a new mini but also upgrade the ram and hard drive to use it as a device somewhere else in the house.
 
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mr_hyde

macrumors newbie
Nov 3, 2018
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I'm typing from a keyboard attached to a working Mac Mini Late 2009 (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.53 GHz).
I bought it with 4 G of ram and che classic "spinning" 320 G HD.
In these years the memory became 8G and the HD is now a SSD (256G).
The only thing that is not working as "the first day" is the fan, but I already have a replacement (just need to find the time to mount it).

The most impressive upgrade/boost was the SSD: the Mini seems a different computer.
Currently I just use it for browsing the web, sometimes with some VMWare Fusion virtual machines (mostly Linux and Windows) and sometimes to use the old Aperture... yeah, I'm not so young... at least no more :)

Anyway I'm considering to by a new i7/512 SSD/8G RAM (maybe also the 10GB ethernet?): I love my 2009 Mini but I cannot upgrade the OS anymore, most of my USB-3 devices that I use to transfer files from/to my Windows system require more power than the power provided by my 2009 mini and anyway I feel a little bit "limited" by the USB-2 ports (and probably I'm one of the last human beings using a Firewire-800 HD), and I would like to buy something else able to last for the next 9/10 years.

The only things that are holding me back from buying the new model are:
- the price (here in Italy is not low as I would, but I guess this is like the rest of the world)
- the fact that the HD is soldered: my 2009 mini is still with me because I had the possibility to change it in these years...

Probably at the end I will by the new mini and, with the new mini working, I'll find the time to replace the fan but for sure I will keep my old 2009 model... Not really sure how to express it, maybe something like "I'm fond of it" ? The 2009 Mini is (and always will be) my first Mac!

Bye,
Mr Hyde
 
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Sammy's

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
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OP asked:
"How would an i5/16gb/512gb model fare?"

That's what I'd get, as "the sweetest spot" between price/performance.
Thanks - this sounds like the option worth pursuing if I get a new one...

I've got a 2010 Mac mini (core2duo CPU) that ran like a SLUG on El Capitan with the stock hard drive & only 2 GB ram.

I put a 500GB SSD in it and 8 GB of RAM and now it's plenty fast and snappy. It boots in 25 seconds. Apps launch very fast. It's a completely different machine.
Which brand SSD and RAM did you go with? What was the overall outlay if you don't mind me asking?

How long do you expect to keep using it?

There's no doubt an SSD speeds up those 2009-2010 mini an incredible amount. If it was a 2012, I would be more inclined to recommend just adding an SSD. But, for a 2009, I think the effort spending upgrading the ram and hd are just better spent towards a new box.

If OP wants a double bonus, he/she could grab a new mini but also upgrade the ram and hard drive to use it as a device somewhere else in the house.
If it was upgraded how would you use it as another device in the house?

Probably at the end I will by the new mini and, with the new mini working, I'll find the time to replace the fan but for sure I will keep my old 2009 model... Not really sure how to express it, maybe something like "I'm fond of it" ? The 2009 Mini is (and always will be) my first Mac!

Bye,
Mr Hyde
I'm also feeling pretty sentimental towards my Mini. I'll probably hold onto even if it just sits somewhere or as bigfatipod mentioned I'll have an honorable memorial service.
 

bigfatipod

macrumors regular
Sep 22, 2011
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If it was upgraded how would you use it as another device in the house?

I suppose it depends what you do around the house. do you have any subscription services like Netflix or amazon prime? you could also use it to play iTunes movies or music.

I think in order to run those services, you might want to upgrade the ram and hard drive to an ssd. but, you could try it out first and see what happens.
 

Sammy's

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
82
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I suppose it depends what you do around the house. do you have any subscription services like Netflix or amazon prime? you could also use it to play iTunes movies or music.

I think in order to run those services, you might want to upgrade the ram and hard drive to an ssd. but, you could try it out first and see what happens.
I was given an Apple TV so I've been using that for a few years for Netflix and use the FireStick for amazon prime. Looks like more people here have a dedicated device for iTunes - I've always just run iTunes through the Mini with some desktop speakers. What do a setup look like/consist of when it's just dedicated for iTunes?
 

Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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That new Mini would be a HUGE performance upgrade for you, like going from a horse to a car (or somehting like that). :D But since you are also considering just continuing to use the old Mini, you could ask yourself how much performance you actually need today. No question that I would upgrade in a heartbeat, but then I wouldn't even consider a 2009 Mini usuable today. For example, I have a 2008 MacBook Pro with better specs than your old Mini, and I retired it to a shelf in the closet about 5 years ago. If you can afford the new machine, and if you actually need that kind of power, then definitely go for it.

If you do the upgrade and want to use the old Mini for an iTunes server, it's very simple. Just put your Library on the Mini and enable home sharing. You can then access it from your AppleTV, Macs and iOS devices. I have my media on a fast external drive on my 2014 mini, but your options will be more limited with an old 2008 Mini... I guess you would need a firewire drive. Then you need to consider how you'll backup your library, which will likely involve one or more additional external drives. Carbon Copy clones my media disk to a second external drive every night, and I also use Backblaze to continuously backup the server.
 

now i see it

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Which brand SSD and RAM did you go with? What was the overall outlay if you don't mind me asking?
It was a Samsung 500GB SSD and the RAM I got from OWC. This was in 2016. I was even so lazy to have a Mac repair shop install the SSD drive and CMOS battery for me since I didn't want to take the mini completely apart. $60 labor.
So yeah- I could have bought a newer mini, but I needed to still run Snow Leopard so I needed to keep the 2010 model. Last one that ran it.
 
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Sammy's

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
82
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If you do the upgrade and want to use the old Mini for an iTunes server, it's very simple. Just put your Library on the Mini and enable home sharing. You can then access it from your AppleTV, Macs and iOS devices. I have my media on a fast external drive on my 2014 mini, but your options will be more limited with an old 2008 Mini... I guess you would need a firewire drive. Then you need to consider how you'll backup your library, which will likely involve one or more additional external drives. Carbon Copy clones my media disk to a second external drive every night, and I also use Backblaze to continuously backup the server.
Hey thanks - Do you think repurposeing the late 2009 min would be worth it with upgraded ram(8gb) and a new ssd(500gb) or is it just better to retire it? What would the purpose of a firewire drive be? Couldn't the iTunes just live on the new SSD if it could fit? Would a time machine backup serve that purpose? How often would it need to be backed up? Would every time new media was added suffice? What do you use for speakers?
[doublepost=1542260783][/doublepost]
It was a Samsung 500GB SSD and the RAM I got from OWC. This was in 2016. I was even so lazy to have a Mac repair shop install the SSD drive and CMOS battery for me since I didn't want to take the mini completely apart. $60 labor.
So yeah- I could have bought a newer mini, but I needed to still run Snow Leopard so I needed to keep the 2010 model. Last one that ran it.
Cool - thanks. So about $210? Are you still using the mini?
 

Boyd01

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Hey thanks - Do you think repurposeing the late 2009 min would be worth it with upgraded ram(8gb) and a new ssd(500gb) or is it just better to retire it?
Well that's up to you of course, but I considered using my old 2008 MBP as a server and decided against it. I would have needed to spend some money to upgrade it and that seemed like a waste with an old machine with a limited lifespan, plus it would always be much slower than a new machine.

What would the purpose of a firewire drive be? Couldn't the iTunes just live on the new SSD if it could fit?
Depends on how much media you have. You were talking about a 500gb SSD above... that would be way too small for me, my library is about 1.5TB and constantly growing. I'm using 4TB external drives. A SSD is always nice, but it's overkill for serving media. I also prefer to keep my media on a separate drive, so it could easily be moved to another machine if needed.

How would you connect the Mini to your network? Gigabit ethernet can give you over 100MB/sec but wifi will probably give you less than 10MB/sec which is very slow. If you were going to use wifi, then external USB 2.0 drives (around 30MB/sec) would be fast enough to saturate it. I wouldn't be happy with that myself though.

Would a time machine backup serve that purpose? How often would it need to be backed up? Would every time new media was added suffice?
Just ask yourself how important your media is, and how much of a disaster it would be if it was gone forever. My nightly clones are good for me, and Backblaze (a cloud backup service) supplements that nicely (in case a disaster destroys my home). I have two backup drives and rotate them periodically. My main media drive failed a year ago. I just swapped it for the backup disk and continued like nothing had happened - only took a minute or two. Time machine would also be fine, but I like the idea of having a clone since it's identical to the original disk. A time machine backup must be restored to another drive in order to use it. That could take a very long time with a big media library, and would require an additional disk.

What do you use for speakers?
Gee, I still have some 30 year old POS speakers connected to my home stereo in the dining room (where the server is). The server is connected to the amp with the headphone jack and there are also speakers in another room and outside on the porch. They are all just old, cheap speakers. I have good studio monitors connected the the machine I use for video editing and also to my big screen TV, which has an AppleTV. Another AppleTV is connected to a little 19" screen on a swing-out wall mount next to my bed.
 

now i see it

macrumors 601
Jan 2, 2002
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Are you still using the mini?
Yes!
My hard core 3D modeling days are thankfully over (Mac Pro required for that) and full time graphics job, so I no longer need a professional grade computer any longer. The 2010 mini is fine for the occasional use I give it. I'm definitely cutting computer slave out of my life (just browse internet mostly on iPhone) so the old mini is more than fine for occasional use.

If I was to go back down the dark tunnel and get back into doing the work I used to, I'd take out a loan and buy the top tier next 2019 modular Mac Pro (that'll cost as much as a car). I've spent the last 20 years of my life staring at progress bars. It kinda breaks your soul.
 

glazball

macrumors member
Jul 5, 2017
36
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Interesting responses :) I'm in the same boat. I have a 2010 Mini which I recently put into retirement after many years of service. I waited impatiently for news of the new Mini - sure enough, it came and I was (and am) ready to pull the trigger... But I held off because a new Mini is definitely a WANT rather than a NEED right now, for me.

It would be a giant upgrade of course, but I don't have a 4K TV yet and I have an 2017 iMac as my main computer, so I decided to wait a bit longer. Instead, I purchased an SSD and new Superdrive (mine was broken) off Amazon, and I'll see if I can't squeeze another year or so out of the 2010 Mini. It will only get light use as a YouTube, Netflix, iTunes box; it doesn't need to be a powerhouse. When I'm ready for 4K, it will require a whole entertainment center overhaul and the 2018 Mini will be my first purchase.
 

Sammy's

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Original poster
Nov 13, 2018
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Looking at the Mini configurations again and having a hard time judging the utility and cost benefit of the many upgrades. Has somebody here done a chart or something similar?

For example the base model i3/8gb/128gb ($799) - What would this be good for and what would it's limitations be?
 
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MRrainer

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The thing with repairs/upgrades for older hardware is that you never know if and when there might be a defect on the mainboard, e.g. a capacitor disintegrates or some other part that basically renders the whole thing a paperweight.

That's why I'm very likely to not upgrade the SSD on my 2012 anymore, even though I sometimes want to.
Also, the last thing I need is to ruin it while opening it up and fiddling out the old SSD.

After nine years of service, I think it's OK to upgrade. It's not like this is an aircraft that can fly for 20+ years (with lots of money spent on repairs and refurbishments in between).
 
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Boyd01

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For example the base model i3/8gb/128gb ($799) - What would this be good for and what would it's limitations be?
"What it's good for" is not so easily answered, but consider this.... it is just as fast as my 2012 quad core 2.6ghz Mini Server. And my 2012 quad is 50% faster than the top of the line 2014 i7 Mini. :) In addition to that, the 2018 Mini has better graphics and a better selection of I/O ports.

It should be a very nice little machine for general use IMO. Main limitation would be the 128gb SSD, so you might upgrade that or get an external disk (hard drive or SSD) which would be cheaper and probably fast enough for most users.
 
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bigfatipod

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Sep 22, 2011
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just as an fyi, I had picked up a 2tb ssd from amazon a few weeks ago when they were on sale for $289. not cheap, but still a good deal. I suspect there may be more ssd's on sale for Black Friday. this on was a 2tb sands ultra.

something like that would be good in an old mini (or even a cheaper 1tb) or great for an external drive if you do decide to get a 2018 mini.
 
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