Getting the most out of a 2010 mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by yongren, Jul 5, 2013.

  1. yongren, Jul 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013

    yongren macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    Hi guys,

    I'm helping my parents set up an entertainment system based around a 2010 mini— MC270XX/A, the last one with an optical drive. We found a nice deal refurbished; it should arrive sometime next week.

    They will use it as an iTunes hub, for Netflix and other video streaming, etc., and also as a DVD player.

    First of all, will it have any issues running Mountain Lion (and Mavericks later)? What's the best way to install the new OS?

    Second, will upgrading the RAM from 2GB to 4GB make a noticeable difference in system speed?

    Finally, and this is the main thing: I'm wondering if the internal 5400 RPM hard drive will be noticeably slow. I already looked at replacing it, but that looks like a nightmare. So now I'm considering getting an external SSD to use as a boot drive, via FireWire 800.

    I found this enclosure on eBay. Combined with an SSD like this one, would the whole thing be worth it? I would use the internal drive as storage for media files, and use the external FW SSD as startup disk with user folder.

    As you can probably tell, I'm trying to cut corners wherever I can to save cost, so if these upgrades would only bring minimal improvement, I probably won't bother. Considering how the computer will be used, do you have any input?
  2. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    When you're playing back media, even 1080p media, the bit rate of the video is a lot slower than the hard drive.

    Changing the drive will increase the boot speed a bit, but you can only watch a 2-hour movie in 2 hours, regardless of how speedy your computer is.
  3. yongren thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    Yeah, I guess was thinking more about boot speed and general "snappiness."

    So between upgrading RAM and HDD, I guess RAM would be more worth it, in order to help with video streaming?
  4. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    I've never owned a Mac with less than 4 GB, so I can't advise. But you may as well give it a try on 2 GB first. It either streams smoothly on 2GB or it doesn't - no point in spending money if you don't need to.
  5. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    The 2010 minis support up to 16GB of ram with the latest software updates and running at least OSX 10.7. Probably overkill for a media server, but you could probably find 8GB for a reasonable price and it would give a little more room for the future. 4GB is pretty much bare minimum for OSX 10.8. Best way to install 10.8 is to download it from the Mac App Store and follow the instructions. Its pretty straightforward. Remember to do a backup in case something goes wrong.

    As for the hard drive, you would have to install a SSD internally to take advantage of the speed advantage. FireWire 800 has a max speed of 80MB/s, around the speed of the 5400 RPM hard drive. internally the mini uses a SATAII interface, which has a max speed of 300MB/s. The model you spec'd can exceed 400MB/s read. If you are just doing streaming, an SSD will definitely make the system snappier. But a hard disk is better if you have a large saved music/video library, because a 64GB will fill up quickly. As others said, hard drives are fast enough to playback high def video. I upgraded my 2012 model with an internal SSD which looks identical to the 2010 and with the right tools ($5 at Home Depot) it is dooable - it was the first time I ever took apart a computer
  6. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    if you have lion or newer, you should max out ram. thats just a rule.
  7. dangerly macrumors regular


    Oct 27, 2009
    European Disunion
    I use a 2010 MacMini as a HTPC, upgraded ram to 8 Gb. Runs ML.
    It works very well.
  8. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    That's just silly. If your equipment is doing everything it needs to do, there's no point in upgrading it. If it doesn't make videos run more smoothly, or the interface run better, what purpose does it serve? A mini can hold 16 GB of RAM. That serves no purpose at all in a home theatre.
  9. yongren thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    I decided to go for the 8GB RAM upgrade.

    Do you use the internal HDD it came with? How has that been?
  10. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    a 2010 mini has a max supported 8gb (not the 16gb actual max). If you use lion or mountain lion, you will beach ball almost perpetually with 2gb. Your htpc will beachball often with 4gb. You will beach ball on occasion after extended periods of use without restarting at 8gb. at 16gb, your mini htpc really shouldn't be beach balling ever.

    Lion and mountain lion are ram hogs compared with snow leopard. It's almost insane to run a mini using lion or mountain lion with anything short of 4. This is pretty well documented.
  11. chevman macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2010
    I'm running the early 2009 mini (2 GHz Core2Duo, 4GB RAM, stock 5400rpm hard drive) with ML (10.8.4) installed.

    No issues streaming/playing 1080p video as well as other routine tasks.
  12. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    You're not running any of these tasks at the same time? Are you leaving your computer or tasks running for extended periods? What is the source for the videos?
  13. chevman macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2010
    This is my main box at home.

    Video sources vary from downloaded content, to stuff I've ripped/encoded myself.
  14. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    With firefox open and a few tabs open, VLC, avast anti-virus, the machine not having been restarted in a week but no movies playing and none of the normal processes I might have it run ordinarily, the 2011 mini with HD3000 graphics has 4.5gb of ram free.

    I got it second hand on craigslist with a paltry 3gb of ram installed (seriously, who does that?). It had significant page outs with just a few browser tabs open and anti virus running in the background.

    Of course, the shared memory doesn't help the 5,1 mini's ram use but you get the picture. Anything short of 8 would have continued to beachball almost consistently. 16 might be a bit much due to the lighter duty use of that machine.

    Is your htpc purely limited to playback or are you doing these encodes on the same machine while engaging in other tasks?
  15. Micky Do, Jul 6, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013

    Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

    Aug 31, 2012
    An island in the Andaman Sea.
    Your computer need sat least 4GB of RAM to run Mountain Lion. I gather that it will be the same for Mavericks.

    As far as I know the only way to install the new OS is by downloading it from the App Store.

    With a slow internet connection and no credit card, I had the local Apple dealer upgrade the RAM and the OS, and give my base model early 2009 Mini a general once over (with instructions to replace the HDD if it looked dicky).

    It came back with 4GB of RAM installed along side the original 1GB (so 5GB in all), and Mountain Lion loaded, all for a cost of 4000 baht (about $US 130). It works just fine.

    In a year or two I envisage replacing the HDD, loading Mavericks, and maybe going up to 8GB of RAM. If I want more storage I figure an external drive would be the way to go.
  16. yongren thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    Avast? Why?
  17. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    It's wise to have anti virus?
  18. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    For HTPC use, just run Snow Leopard on it. All important HTPC software runs on SL and it is much more straightforward and looks cleaner. It will even function with 2Gb as long as you use it as HTPC.
    I would really try to upgrade to a 7200rpm 750/1Tb HD. Skip SSD, irrelevant for HTPC, but a good normal HD is really recommended, as it can keep up with incoming gigabit movie transfers. I move a lot of files from and to the Mini, and gigibit is the fastest and most flexible way to do so. Many Ethernet hard drives today are cheaper and easier to get than FW800 stuff, and faster.
    If you open the thing, also consider pop in a Blu Ray drive. Than you have the killer HTPC that allows high quality playback you can forget on any later Mini.
    Cheap alternative is a 20$ external BR drive USB powered.
  19. yongren thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    Where are you finding these $20 blu ray drives?

    I doubt I will replace the stock HDD—just too much trouble to be worth it. An external drive for backup and storage should be more than enough
  20. scbond, Jul 10, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013

    scbond macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2010
    Nottingham, UK
    Some of the comments in here are ridiculous and are going to totally mislead the original poster. Things like, "you pretty much need 4GB of RAM for 10.8" and "you should max out the RAM as a general rule." OP, ignore those two people. The minimum system requirements for Mountain Lion (10.8) is 2GB RAM.

    I have the 2010 Mac mini which I upgraded to 4GB almost right-away (so can't really remember what it was like with 2GB). I've never experienced slow speeds with 2 or 4GB. Sure, there will be an improvement, but only a marginal one that most everyday users would barely notice. Do as NewbieCanada suggested and try it with 2GB. If you feel the need for more then upgrade to won't need more for the purposes you've described (I got mine as a media server primarily but I'm currently without a MacBook Pro and using the mini everyday flawlessly).

    An upgrade I have tried on a MacBook Pro before which I cannot recommend highly enough is an SSD. It's pretty easy and very straightforward to fit a new hard drive and the results are fantastic! The speeds you get from an SSD upgrade have the same effects that most people that blindly buy more RAM and hope for high speeds usually expect. Just make sure you shop around and check the speeds of them as some are slower than others.
  21. Bunyak macrumors member

    Aug 15, 2011

    I just finished setting up a 2009 Acer Aspire Revo as a HTPC for my mother. Windows was still very sluggish with the 5400 rpm HDD after I maxed out the RAM so I replaced the HDD with a cheap SSD. The SSD was the single best upgrade - Windows was quite snappy afterward.
  22. Omnius, Jul 10, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013

    Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    Running a mini in mountain lion will utilize a massive portion of your ram if you have less than 4GB. I suggest you first read this forum for the number of threads where mini users complain of horrible slowness and constant beach balling using a small number of every day tasks. 2GB minimum for mountain lion is a recipe for discontent with your machine. Of course, as you admit, you have no idea what you're talking about because you upgraded right away. Please don't embarrass yourself further by advocating people use a mini with mountain lion with 2GB of ram. of course, you really don't seem to know what you're talking about considering you were using snow leopard which was far less of a ram hog.

    Read this forum and you'll find people complaining about excessive beach balling using basic tasks on an htpc. It's quite normal for someone using an htpc to be running a browser with a few tabs open, their choice of movie player and/or iTunes, and anti virus among other things. This will quickly max out 4GB of ram if even one tab of the browser has flash running. If a person is running a model without dedicated graphics, thats more ram being utilized by the machine.

    So yes, it's wise to upgrade to the max supported ram on a mini. 16 may be excessive for most but very often the price difference between 8gb of ram and 16gb of ram may be negligible such that 16 is just worth it.
  23. comatory, Jul 10, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013

    comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    No. I was running Lion with 2GB and it was horrible. My use is HTPC only, Plex would constantly lag and everything was slow. I went back to Snow Leopard and it was much better. I reckon 4GB is good for Lion and newer systems, 8GB is great and should work really well even for Mavericks. I dont think SSD would be of great benefit. You said you want to cut costs and getting FW800 enclosure and SSD is pretty pricey. Just get a simple USB2 drive. I have several od them hooked up to my 2009 Mini and it works well. HD movies take about 5-10 seconds to buffer but the playback is otherwise smooth (even with 2GB of RAM on SL).
  24. California macrumors 68040


    Aug 21, 2004
    Is this true that 2010 minis can install 16gbs of ram (as I have) but it is not actually supported?

    My machine runs very fast.
  25. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012

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