Mac Mini in ATX case (or similar)?

7enderbender

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
May 11, 2012
511
11
North East US
Hello everyone,

Has anyone ever taken apart the current Mac Mini and put the components into a standard PC case? I was wondering if that would make it easier to add and swap hard drives, memory, additional ports (eSATA?), optical drive, etc?
 

paulrbeers

macrumors 68040
Dec 17, 2009
3,960
120
At that point, you might as well build a hackintosh since you already ruined the aesthetics. Let's go thru your list:

1. Hard drives - how often do you replace your hard drives? I put in an SSD in mine 6+ months ago and haven't touched them since.
2. Memory - 2010+ There is a bottom plate that you just slightly rotate to access. For anything prior to 2010, yes it is more difficult, but putting it in an ATX case won't help a whole lot (you still have to take off the upper "part" to get to the memory).
3. Additional ports - You really can't "add" additional ports. This is true for any Apple with the exception of the Mac Pro. In the 2006-2009 models, some would remove the optical drive and run the SATA cable out the back, but that still wasn't "adding an ESATA" port
4. Optical Drive - Again, see Hard drives, how often do you replace your optical drive? The new 2011's don't even have them and the ones prior to 2011 that did, would work for years before needing to be replaced (heck both my 2006's still work!).

Basically, it sounds like you are typical PC builder. I was there once, constantly swapping parts. Then I went Mac and while it was difficult at first not constantly swapping parts in my gear, I came to really appreciate things just working and only upgrading when I had to. I have a faster and larger SSD at home that is just sitting in a box that I would like to put into my Mac Mini, in my PC Building days I would get a part and swap it in as quickly as possible, but now I've learned to just enjoy what I have. Who knows, I might end up just getting a 2012 Mac Mini and then I will put that faster SSD into it rather than put it in my 2011.

----------

Oh the horror.
Agreed!
 

theSeb

macrumors 604
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
91
Poole, England
Hello everyone,

Has anyone ever taken apart the current Mac Mini and put the components into a standard PC case? I was wondering if that would make it easier to add and swap hard drives, memory, additional ports (eSATA?), optical drive, etc?
I only have one question: Why?
 

KScottMyers

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2009
236
2
Orlando, FL
Hello everyone,

Has anyone ever taken apart the current Mac Mini and put the components into a standard PC case? I was wondering if that would make it easier to add and swap hard drives, memory, additional ports (eSATA?), optical drive, etc?
Here's my two cents...

• Swapping drives is actually pretty easy in the current model - search the site for plenty of info on this. I replaced both internal drives on my mini with an SSD and a 1TB drive. Additional storage can be added via USB, FW800 and Thunderbolt.

• Adding memory is very easy as well and can be upgraded to 16GB on the current model.

• An optical drive is an easy USB add-on. I rarely use mine anymore.

• The weakest part on the mini is probably its graphics capability - since the GPU is soldered to the motherboard, you'd never be able to upgrade it even if you moved it to another case - so why do it?

• Lastly - Apple takes considerable time and money developing their cases - the mini is a perfect example of an elegant design in an amazingly small form factor - you'd never find anything like this with a third party case.

I'd say you achieve really nothing by moving it to a PC case.
 
Last edited:

7enderbender

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
May 11, 2012
511
11
North East US
Thanks everyone for the input. Sounds like there isn't much gain. I'm actually a rather untypical PC user and certainly no "builder". I only swapped drives when I was running out of space and stuff got cheaper or after a drive fried up, which has happened maybe 2 or 3 times in the last 20 years.

So I was basically hoping to upgrade some of the stuff without too much hassle right out of the box and then leave it. Since eSATA is not an option there really isn't much gain here obviously.

Looks and such really won't matter either way since the machine will be under the desk no matter what. So I might was well just add a few more external drives down there and call it a day. I saw the explanations on how to add an SSD. That plus memory should do the job.
 

philipma1957

macrumors 603
Apr 13, 2010
6,273
192
Howell, New Jersey
Thanks everyone for the input. Sounds like there isn't much gain. I'm actually a rather untypical PC user and certainly no "builder". I only swapped drives when I was running out of space and stuff got cheaper or after a drive fried up, which has happened maybe 2 or 3 times in the last 20 years.

So I was basically hoping to upgrade some of the stuff without too much hassle right out of the box and then leave it. Since eSATA is not an option there really isn't much gain here obviously.

Looks and such really won't matter either way since the machine will be under the desk no matter what. So I might was well just add a few more external drives down there and call it a day. I saw the explanations on how to add an SSD. That plus memory should do the job.
thunderbolt solves all hdd issues. add a pair or crucial 256gb ssds in a lacies little big disk will cost under 850 for a monster ssd.
 

7enderbender

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
May 11, 2012
511
11
North East US
thunderbolt solves all hdd issues. add a pair or crucial 256gb ssds in a lacies little big disk will cost under 850 for a monster ssd.
Hm. Well, that sounds good in a way. But it also explains my original question. I'm ok with adding a 256GB disk as the system disk to speed things up further. Beyond that I need a lot more storage than that. That's why I was hoping for a cheap(ish) way to add "regular" 3.5 hard drives just to dump stuff (mostly photos and audio which grows quickly). So I'm probably looking more at a RAID storage solution via one of the ports. Can I still use the Thunderbolt port if I want to attach two monitors to the Mini? The FW800 port I want to leave alone for audio.

Looks like that may be an issue. It's frustrating. If I end up spending more on cables, adapters and external ad ons just to cover the basics I'm already entering refurbished Mac Pro territory. Which it looks like is really the only choice in the end anyway if I want to use OS X instead of Windows going forward. Why can't Apple recognize that there are users interested in their machines who want to do a little more than browsing the web and playing with Garageband? Would it really hurt to add a few more industry standard ports?
 
Last edited:

Mike Valmike

macrumors 6502a
Feb 27, 2012
551
0
Chandler, Arizona
Hm. Well, that sounds good in a way. But it also explains my original question. I'm ok with adding a 256GB disk as the system disk to speed things up further. Beyond that I need a lot more storage than that. That's why I was hoping for a cheap(ish) way to add "regular" 3.5 hard drives just to dump stuff (mostly photos and audio which grows quickly). So I'm probably looking more at a RAID storage solution via one of the ports. Can I still use the Thunderbolt port if I want to attach two monitors to the Mini? The FW800 port I want to leave alone for audio.
Actually I think you can make this work. You have a few options depending on how casual you want your build/mod to be:

1. Replace the main HDD with a SSD and run the secondary SATA cable out the back to an HDD in an external enclosure. It's a bit "ghetto" in appearance but you would probably be able to rock your 256GB SSD system drive plus 2TB-4TB of media at the lowest total cost.

2. Get a thunderbolt HDD enclosure and pop in a 2TB-4TB HDD for media; replace the main internal drive with a 256GB SSD; be done. Cost would be slightly more (though not as much as buying a thunderbolt external drive RAID prebuilt) and the benefit would be your system is 100% working as designed; no rigging or ad-hoc mods.

Unfortunately the 2010 Mini with its optical drive doesn't have thunderbolt, so you couldn't do #2 and also put in a blu-ray slotloader and have an optimal media server. More's the pity.

Whatever you try, best of luck!
 

7enderbender

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
May 11, 2012
511
11
North East US
Thanks Mike,

After doing some more reading I'm not so sure if I can get things to work with the Mini. Let me try again:

I'll need two new computers over the next few months, a laptop and a desktop. I started looking at Macs again, because of the 15" hi res laptop which would work for Lightroom and Photoshop and everything else and make a good replacement for my ThinkPad as far as resolution is concerned. PC laptop choices are pretty disappointing these days.

So with that and all the new Adobe software that I'd need at that point it doesn't make sense to buy a desktop Win PC. Not to speak of the horrible looking future with Win 8 (I like XP and Win7, but these will be considered "old" soon).

In the desktop I need:

- Two good 24" (or so) displays, matte and suited for photography (NEC, etc)
- A decent SSD system drive
- Lots and lots of additional storage (internal or external), at least 2x 2GB, more would be better; ideally fast enough to work with audio hardware
- Firewire 800 port designated for audio hardware

Sounds pretty basic to me. Problem is that I can't find an Apple solution that is not a several thousand dollar Mac Pro...

I had hoped to start out with a Mac Mini and see how things go. iMac doesn't look appealing to me (all in one in general, specifically the limited monitor choices - can't have glossy and would prefer designated dual 24" displays for photo editing with good color gamut and easy calibration). But from what I see with the Mini I have the choice of either dual display or connecting fast external storage - but not both, unless I give up the FW800 port which is not an option given that I need that for pro audio.

Any other thoughts?
 

paulrbeers

macrumors 68040
Dec 17, 2009
3,960
120
If you go with an external thunderbolt drive that has a pass thru port then you can still run two monitors. Alternatively you could go hackintosh....
 

ezekielrage_99

macrumors 68040
Oct 12, 2005
3,336
16
Has anyone ever taken apart the current Mac Mini and put the components into a standard PC case? I was wondering if that would make it easier to add and swap hard drives, memory, additional ports (eSATA?), optical drive, etc?
It's an interesting idea but I think most think the same, there's going to be little benefit in making a FrankenMinistien out of a Mac Mini.
 

philipma1957

macrumors 603
Apr 13, 2010
6,273
192
Howell, New Jersey
you did not mention a second display. sell the mac mini if the 2012 mac mini has 2 t-bolts ports you are fine. If not you have run into the same problem i have you need a pc and a mac . the mac has to have windows installed and act as a translater to the pc. cost about 1.7 k an equal mac pro cost about 3k.
 

7enderbender

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
May 11, 2012
511
11
North East US
you did not mention a second display. sell the mac mini if the 2012 mac mini has 2 t-bolts ports you are fine. If not you have run into the same problem i have you need a pc and a mac . the mac has to have windows installed and act as a translater to the pc. cost about 1.7 k an equal mac pro cost about 3k.
Thanks, but I'm not really following. So far I haven't bought anything. What would that $1700 solution look like?? Translator? So you are saying I can get this to work with, for example, a mini but connect everything to a PC to run the drives and monitors?
 

KScottMyers

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2009
236
2
Orlando, FL
In the desktop I need:

- Two good 24" (or so) displays, matte and suited for photography (NEC, etc)
- A decent SSD system drive
- Lots and lots of additional storage (internal or external), at least 2x 2GB, more would be better; ideally fast enough to work with audio hardware
- Firewire 800 port designated for audio hardware
What you're trying to do is really pretty achievable with the current mini.

• Two displays - you have a Thunderbolt (mini DisplayPort) and a HDMI connector for this. What displays you use are up to you.
• SSD - lots of options here - I just installed a Mushkin Enhanced Chronos 480GB SATA III SSD for $450. Very fast and less than a dollar per GB.
• Hard Drive - Put in a 7200 1TB drive in the second slot and you have plenty of space for current working audio projects. Move old projects to a larger/slower storage device such as a USB, FW800 or NAS device.
• FireWire 800 - you can daisy chain these ports from your audio device or your storage unit. Most have two FW800 ports. Two individual FW800 ports aren't necessary unless speed becomes a real issue.
- If you don't want to put your storage on the same bus as the FW800 port you can always go to a NAS unit, like a Synology or look at one of the new Thunderbolt Docks - like the new Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock - http://tinyurl.com/6pvlmmf.
- Also, if you were to use the Apple Thunderbold Display, this gives you a second FW800 port.

All in all I think the mini would work well for you if configured correctly.
 

7enderbender

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
May 11, 2012
511
11
North East US
What you're trying to do is really pretty achievable with the current mini.

• Two displays - you have a Thunderbolt (mini DisplayPort) and a HDMI connector for this. What displays you use are up to you.
• SSD - lots of options here - I just installed a Mushkin Enhanced Chronos 480GB SATA III SSD for $450. Very fast and less than a dollar per GB.
• Hard Drive - Put in a 7200 1TB drive in the second slot and you have plenty of space for current working audio projects. Move old projects to a larger/slower storage device such as a USB, FW800 or NAS device.
• FireWire 800 - you can daisy chain these ports from your audio device or your storage unit. Most have two FW800 ports. Two individual FW800 ports aren't necessary unless speed becomes a real issue.
- If you don't want to put your storage on the same bus as the FW800 port you can always go to a NAS unit, like a Synology or look at one of the new Thunderbolt Docks - like the new Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock - http://tinyurl.com/6pvlmmf.
- Also, if you were to use the Apple Thunderbold Display, this gives you a second FW800 port.

All in all I think the mini would work well for you if configured correctly.

Thanks a lot. That makes sense. Didn't know that I could put a 1TB 7200 in the second slot. Something else to explore.

External storage via network/NAS (which I already have and I find it to be pretty slow) or even USB might be ok for just backing things up then. I don't want to put anything else on the FW port because for audio speed is everything and so far the choices are still FW or USB2 with that.

The Belkin is sure nice but not for that kind of money. The Thunderbolt display is out of the question because if I wanted that kind of display I might as well buy a 27" iMac - which I have ruled out exactly because of the display.

I have to add this all up. It may still make more sense to look for a refurbished or used Mac Pro. Let's see what happens on Monday.
 

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