Late 2012 Mac mini still worth upgrading!

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Ubele, May 7, 2017.

  1. Ubele macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    #1
    This depends on your needs, of course but with that caveat...

    In 2013, my early 2008 15" MBP had gotten annoyingly slow. I wanted a new MBP, but I couldn't afford one at the time, so I bought a refurbished late 2012 Mac mini i7, 2.3 GHz, with 1 TB HDD. I was quite happy with it. The next year, my wife's 2009 white MB also was showing signs of aging. She only does basic stuff, so I bought her a refurbished 2012 Mac mini i5, 2.5 GHz, with 500 GB HDD. It was fine for her needs.

    In 2015, I bought a new MBP and intended to sell my Mac mini, but I never did, figuring it was good to have a second computer as a backup, and maybe a home media center. By 2017, though, our minis, thanks to their 5,400 rpm spinning hard drives, had become annoyingly slow. They're still selling for top dollar on eBay, so I once again considered selling mine. I wanted a 5K iMac but couldn't justify spending that kind of money right now. I'd considered adding SSDs to our minis, but I wondered about the wisdom of upgrading five-year-old computers. I also was concerned by the number of stories by people who had ruined their minis while performing the upgrade.

    I watched the OWC videos on performing the upgrade and decided I was up to the task, having been an electronics technician while I was in engineering school in the 1980s. I had a 1 TB HDD lying around, and I ordered OWC's 120 GB SSD upgrade kit, planning to upgrade my wife's mini with a Fusion drive. I figured that, if I screwed things up, she could have my mini. I took my time performing the upgrade, and all went well. I couldn't believe the speed increase! She has over 20,000 photos in Photos, many thousands of emails in Mail, and a large iTunes collection. Instead of bogging down with the spinning beach ball while scrolling through these apps, things glide quickly. Satisfied with the results, I upgraded my mini with a 3 TB Fusion drive. For what I do (photo editing, amateur videos, WordPress development), it feels as fast as my 2015 MBP. My mini is now my desktop workstation, with two 1080P monitors attached, and I use my MBP when I don't want to work at my desk. Having a base station with all my peripherals always attached is easier than continually docking and undocking my MBP.

    So to those of you wondering whether it's worth adding an SSD to a 2012 Mac mini, I think it is. Processor speeds no longer increase by leaps and bounds every year, so a 2012 Mac mini isn't as outdated in 2017 as a 2007 Mac was in 2012. As for projected lifespan, my 2000 G4 tower ran for 10 years before it died. My 2008 MBP and my wife's 2009 MB still work fine, although they're unusably slow. Whether it's worth buying a used 2012 Mac mini with an HDD at the prices they go for now is another question, but if you already have one, and it's too slow for you, but you can't afford a brand-new Mac, adding an SSD will give your mini new life.
     
  2. Spock macrumors 68000

    Spock

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    Vulcan
    #2
    I just put a 1tb 7200 HDD in my 2012 and it really gave it a boost, I didn't want to spend the money on an SSD. I can't see myself upgrading to a new Mac anytime soon.
     
  3. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #3
    Depending on your MBP, your 2012 2.3ghz quad mini may actually be faster in terms of benchmarks :) http://www.everymac.com/systems/app...-mini-core-i7-2.3-late-2012-server-specs.html .

    I got a 2012 2.6ghz quad last summer to use for video editing and am really happy, it renders video twice as fast as my MacBook Air. I upgraded a base 2012 mini (like your wife's) with 16gb RAM and a 500gb external Samsung T3 SSD and gave it to my daughter's family. They are very happy and it feels fast now, it was much easier than opening it up. I have the 500gb internal hard drive set for automatic Time Machine backups (which has already prevented one disaster for them).
     
  4. dandeco macrumors regular

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    Dec 5, 2008
    #4
    I'll be installing a 1 TB hybrid drive into my Mac Mini, once it arrives in the post. It was already quite powerful, thanks to the 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and 16 GB of RAM.
     
  5. risk235, May 7, 2017
    Last edited: May 12, 2017

    risk235 macrumors member

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    Oct 17, 2011
    #5
    I just put a 275GB SSD and 8GB memory in my late 2012 and it's a whole new machine. I wish I would've done it sooner!
     
  6. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000

    MultiFinder17

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    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    Tampa, Florida
    #6
    I have a quad i7 as my home server, and it's a brilliant machine. 16GB RAM, 2x 1TB internal HDDs, and a 512GB external USB3 SSD make this little machine scream.
     
  7. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    #7
    Your system has an interesting configuration. Is that external USB3 512GB SSD your boot drive MultiFinder17? That 2012 i7 Server is one of the most sought after minis! :apple:
     
  8. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000

    MultiFinder17

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    #8
    Yup, it boots off the external SSD, one internal HDD is used for the server's own Time Machine backups, and the second internal drive is used for Time Machine for other computers. I've found the external SSD to be plenty fast. It's an mSATA drive in a tiny USB3 enclosure, and it works out wonderfully :)

    And yes, I'm quite pleased with the quad i7 mini! I got it here on the forums recently, and sold my previous server, a dual i5 2012 mini to fund it.
     
  9. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #9
    It's interesting the different ways people have configured their minis! I considered doing a 1 TB SSD/1 TB bootable HDD clone configuration, but ultimately I decided to make a 3 TB Fusion drive, which should hold all the content I'm likely to have over the life of the computer. I have an external bootable clone and an external Time Machine Backup, times two (one pair for offsite storage). With the Fusion drive, I can now fit all my data and media (except for my movies) into my DropBox folder. When I use my MBP with 256 GB SSD, I can selectively sync DropBox folders. It previously was a minor nuisance having to keep my photo collection on an external drive, which I had to disconnect and reconnect depending on whether my MBP was connected to the docking station in my office or on my lap in the living room.
     
  10. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000

    MultiFinder17

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    Jan 8, 2008
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    #10
    Isn't it though? It's an incredibly versatile little computer. Here's a picture of mine, nestled away in what I affectionately call my network stack, with a gigabit switch on top of it and a Time Capsule on top that I use as a NAS. The external SSD is the small black box to the left of the mini.

    IMG_3282.JPG
     
  11. noisedude macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    #11
    Really glad I found this thread. Mine's a 2.3GHz i7 and I upgraded to 16GB of ram a few years ago but it's slow as hell and my 13" MBP with a fraction of the power flies.

    I reckon it must be a combination of the slow HDD and the provenance of this particular install (restored from backups going as far back as 2007) bogging it down, if you guys reckon the 'newer' minis are slower than this one?
     
  12. Celerondon, May 12, 2017
    Last edited: May 12, 2017

    Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    Oct 17, 2013
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    Southern Cal
    #12
    Uhh, Don't worry about the "'newer'" minis noisedude, yours is slow in an absolute sense. You are correct about the cause of your performance bottleneck. A quick and painless solution would be to connect an SSD by using an external USB 3.0 housing. With two Macs it should be simple work to download a copy of OS X and install it on the SSD. Then your 2012 i7 will fly.

    I do not understand why the speed of newer minis matters in your case. Some 2014s have faster storage than yours ever will and some may be as slow or even slower. It does not matter. Your Slow 2012 i7 is a silicon based oxymoron. You already have 16GB of RAM. Get fast noisedude. Get fast quick! :cool:
     
  13. noisedude macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    #13
    You're the second person to suggest that to me today! I know you must be right because my laptop is so nippy. Also, my favourite thing in Finder is 'All My Files' and it takes forever on the mini. :)

    Could you give me a couple more pointers though?

    So I buy literally any 2.5" SSD from a decent manufacturer and any USB3 enclosure that supports UASP? How do I then install macOS and switch to using it as my boot drive?

    I have my backups unencrypted on both USB HDD and Time Capsule (though Time Machine isn't talking to the Time Capsule at the moment - why is all my five year-old technology playing up? ;) ). I assume that makes them easy to pull files from - maybe even software?
     
  14. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
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    Southern Cal
    #14
    Well noisedude you have the SSD and USB3 enclosure part right. Get those two items and a medium sized USB3 flash drive (~8GB) and you will be in business. There are several ways to perform this task but I like the USB3 OS X installer method.

    To make an external SSD boot drive you can:
    1. Create a bootable Sierra installer on a USB3 flash drive. (Macworld article) http://www.macworld.com/article/309...-a-bootable-macos-sierra-installer-drive.html
    2. Install the SSD into a USB3 enclosure (UASP) and prepare it to be a boot drive. (Start at Step 1.
      Preparing the hard drive for the installation)
      https://datarecovery.wondershare.co...tall-macos-sierra-on-external-hard-drive.html
    3. Follow Step 2. on the Data Recovery website to install OS X Sierra but use the
      How to Boot from the installer Drive section of the Macworld article to begin the actual OS X installation.

      I suggest that you should try to be patient during the OS X installation process so that you can resist the urge to abort the install because of curiosity or stress. Sometimes it pauses or bogs down but OS X installation seems to usually work very smoothly.
    Others should be able to streamline this these procedures or suggest even better ones. You can also scan these forums for some tips by other users.

    Enjoy the performance increase! :cool:
     
  15. noisedude macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    #15
    Ok well thanks to the magic (err...carbon footprint) of Amazon Prime I have a 240 gig Sandisk and compatible enclosure on my desk and I'll give it a go!

    I'll be back when all my files from the last decade are lost. ;)
     
  16. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000

    MultiFinder17

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    Tampa, Florida
    #16
    Alternatively, instead of doing a fresh install, you could always use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your boot drive to the new SSD. That's what I did in my setup.
     
  17. Dweez macrumors 65816

    Dweez

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    Down by the river
    #17
    My 2011 i5 mini was given new life with an SSD, great bang for the buck.
     
  18. noisedude macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    #18
    I think Migration Assistants from old machines each time I got a new Mac over the last ten years got me into this mess. Even after installing a fresh macOS over it yesterday, it takes fifteen minutes from chime to having finally settled down so I can start working uninterrupted! Clean start needed. :/
     
  19. dandeco macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2008
    #19
    Well, a couple days ago I managed to get the new hybrid drive installed in my Mac Mini. The old drive was rather corrupted, but thanks to DiskWarrior I made it easily-accessible again, and I plugged it into a USB-SATA adapter and had it transfer my stuff to the new drive. It took quite a while, but it was worth it. With the hybrid drive, the booting time has been cut in half, and some other programs seem noticeably faster too.
     
  20. Ace2617 macrumors regular

    Ace2617

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2016
    #20
    My 2012 Mac Mini works great with a 500 GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM. Even though it's five year-old hardware, it works perfectly for what I need it to do. It's the first mini I've ever had, and I love it. I may up the RAM to 16 GB eventually, but the SSD makes it seem like a new machine.
     
  21. frankle macrumors newbie

    frankle

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    Oct 20, 2009
    Location:
    Melbourne, AU
    #21
    I purchased a 2.3GHz Quad for music production when it was new and have tricked it out with 16GB of RAM, 500GB EVO SSD for boot drive and a 1TB EVO SSD for sample library. Extremely capable little machine!

    Also have another as our iTunes media converter and Server. Purchased second hand about 3 years ago for the princely sum of AU$650 it's a 2.6GHz Quad with original 1.12TB Apple Fusion drive and (previous owner) upgraded 16GB of RAM! I've considered the same or bigger SSD upgrade (probably 1TB/2TB) but for what it does I can't justify the expense. I also have VMware Fusion on there running a couple of Minecraft servers for the kids. Uses way less power than my old X58 gaming rig that I was doing it all with however the fans do ramp up during long iFlicks2 conversions.
     
  22. Celerondon, May 21, 2017
    Last edited: May 21, 2017

    Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    Oct 17, 2013
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    Southern Cal
    #22
    Well frankle, you have a nice pair there. :D

    How does performance of the SSD storage on your upgraded 2.3 GHz compare to the standard Fusion Drive on the 2.6GHz mini? I expect that 500GB EVO SSD to be faster. How much faster is the pure SSD than the Apple drive array? Either should perform much better than the 1TB or 500MB OEM spinners that Apple uses on the mini. :apple:

    Is the performance of that Fusion Drive another factor behind your reluctance to upgrade or did cost and risk play a greater role in your decision?
     
  23. mr.steevo macrumors 65816

    mr.steevo

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2004
    #23
    I have the base 2012 i5 2.5 mini. I installed 16GB of RAM and didn't see much improvement with the speed. Once I dropped in an SSD the machine became considerably more usable.
    The SSD is the best direction to take if you are considering RAM vs SSD.
     
  24. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    #24
    Right but...
    That was not quite the question. You went from a spinner to an SSD. That is a big leap. There is a gap between the FD and the SSD as well. It seems that frankle has experienced with all three storage options in the 2012 i7 platform.

    That said, the SSD upgrade will yield a more noticeable improvement. However, a mini with 4GB of RAM will be extremely underpowered for some tasks. Opting for a the feel good snap of an SSD upgrade over a RAM expansion might create a weird scenario with a lot of hidden churning to storage to compensate for a RAM shortage. Such a Mac would boot quickly and launch programs with alacrity but it could stumble with multiple virtual machines or other RAM intensive tasks.
     
  25. mr.steevo macrumors 65816

    mr.steevo

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    Jul 21, 2004
    #25
    I wasn't answering or quoting anyone's questions.
    Simply commenting on my experience.
     

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