Mac mini late 2012: First time mac user journey

ian87w

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This is more of a continuation from my other thread. Since I want to make my general impression on the device, I decided to make a new one.

I managed to get my hands on a used late 2012 mac mini. It has 2.5GHz Core i5 with 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive. It had macOS el Capitan in it.

My first impression would be more of trying to set it up before my RAM and SSD upgrades arrive.

I have a choice of OS from el Capitan all the way to Catalina. I decided I want to put High Sierra on it for APFS and HEVS/HEIF support, and it's the last macOS with full 32bit support (Mojave also has 32bit support, but saw some youtubes that it's not the speediest).

Trying to get High Sierra is a challenge by itself. My experience is Windows 10, where Microsoft simply provides a tool to automatically make a bootable USB for clean install. Apparently it's not as straight forward on macOS, although I can't blame Apple since I'm sure majority of mac users will simply do an upgrade from the app store.

Thanks to Catalina, High Sierra is not obviously available for download from the App store. Apple does have a support document with instructions on how to download it and create a bootable USB from terminal. Definitely not for the the lay consumers. Amazing how Microsoft now does a better job here. That's where my adventure begins.

I downloaded High Sierra, but apparently it only downloads a tiny (~19MB or so) installer. This doesn't work with all the instructions Apple provided. After combing Google a bit, apparently I have to run the installer, then it will download the full OS, and then quit the installer when it wanted to restart the Mac. I did that. But the content of the OS is still not part of the tiny installer, making the instruction from Apple still not applicable.

So I decided to just upgrade the machine straight to High Sierra first. I have not used spinning platter hard drive for so long that I dreaded this process. 😅Left it overnight to do its thing.

Now it's on High Sierra, and now the app store link is downloading the full OS. While still waiting for the RAM and SSD to arrive, going to see what's the big deal with macOS.

Going to update this thread as time goes, with the hope it can be useful for others
 
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honestone33

macrumors 65816
You have an excellent machine there. I previously owned a late 2012 Mac Mini, with a Core i7 processor, 4 gig of Ram, and a (slow) 1 Tb 5400 rpm internal HD. I suspect your 500 gig HD is also 5400 rpm. Within 4 months of getting the machine, I installed a 256 gig Samsung 840 Pro SSD, and what a difference it made (eventually sold the 1 TB drive). Cannot remember exactly when I upgraded to 8 gig of Ram, but it was beneficial.

The machine was always rock solid, and I kept up with all the current versions of the Mac OS. Unfortunately, I suspect Catalina will be the last version of the Mac OS that machine will support, and thus I purchased a late 2018 Mac Mini back in February, and sold the 2012 model for a good price. But again the 2012 model was very, very reliable. Of course, I kept the machine "lean, mean, and clean", and that is always a good practice to follow (also, of course, make backups to external SSDs every week).

Catalina has definitely matured, and in fact the next (and most likely, last) update, V10.15.6, is currently in beta testing. You will not go wrong by using Catalina.
 
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ian87w

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You have an excellent machine there. I previously owned a late 2012 Mac Mini, with a Core i7 processor, 4 gig of Ram, and a (slow) 1 Tb 5400 rpm internal HD. I suspect your 500 gig HD is also 5400 rpm. Within 4 months of getting the machine, I installed a 256 gig Samsung 840 Pro SSD, and what a difference it made (eventually sold the 1 TB drive). Cannot remember exactly when I upgraded to 8 gig of Ram, but it was beneficial.

The machine was always rock solid, and I kept up with all the current versions of the Mac OS. Unfortunately, I suspect Catalina will be the last version of the Mac OS that machine will support, and thus I purchased a late 2018 Mac Mini back in February, and sold the 2012 model for a good price. But again the 2012 model was very, very reliable. Of course, I kept the machine "lean, mean, and clean", and that is always a good practice to follow (also, of course, make backups to external SSDs every week).

Catalina has definitely matured, and in fact the next (and most likely, last) update, V10.15.6, is currently in beta testing. You will not go wrong by using Catalina.
I saw some youtube videos, and Catalina definitely is quite fast, matching almost to the speedy Sierra. However, I'm thinking that since Catalina dropped 32bit support, it might reduce my app choices while I'm playing around with this mac (I'm still primarily a Windows user). :) So I thought the best os that provides me the largest breadth of apps would be High Sierra.

And yes, it's 5400rpm drive, the typical slow drive on literally any laptops out there. My coming upgrade components are 2 x 4GB RAM to up the RAM to a total of 8GB, and a 500GB WD blue SSD. Can't wait. Although right now the system is doing okay since I have not done nor installed anything on it, I'm sure that old hard-drive is just waiting to die.
 

ian87w

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Wow, the 5400rpm drive is definitely a huge bottleneck. Probably because I've been spoiled with SSD for a while. I was running a youtube video on 1 tab of Safari, and then trying to open Brave, and it takes a while for the system to load it. Can't imagine those iMac users with fancy hardware but 5400rpm drive as the base default storage.

As for macOS, one major thing I find is side-by-side. Windows 10 imo definitely does it better, being able to not only quickly set 2 Windows side-by-side by simply dragging each apps to the sides, but I can make it into 3 apps tile or 4 by simply dragging the app to the corners. With macOS, I can only do 2 apps side-by-side, and the method is not obvious (double clicking the green button, or having one app goes full screen first and then drag the second app in mission control. Windows 10 wins this one imo. :) Now the animations on the mac are definitely more fluid and eye-pleasing. I'll give that to Apple.
 

Nymunariya

macrumors newbie
Jun 25, 2020
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I can only do 2 apps side-by-side, and the method is not obvious (double clicking the green button, or having one app goes full screen first and then drag the second app in mission control.
It is not obvious, but you can click and hold on the green resize button. That will let you place a window on the left or right side of the screen. I just tested it in High Sierra and works, just as Windows does, though not as obvious or as simple as dragging a window to the side of the screen.
 

MevetS

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Dec 27, 2018
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.... snip ...

As for macOS, one major thing I find is side-by-side. Windows 10 imo definitely does it better, being able to not only quickly set 2 Windows side-by-side by simply dragging each apps to the sides, but I can make it into 3 apps tile or 4 by simply dragging the app to the corners. With macOS, I can only do 2 apps side-by-side, and the method is not obvious (double clicking the green button, or having one app goes full screen first and then drag the second app in mission control. Windows 10 wins this one imo. :) Now the animations on the mac are definitely more fluid and eye-pleasing. I'll give that to Apple.
I use a utility app called Magnet, $3 in the Mac App Store, for Windows management. Take a look and see if it might work for you.
 

honestone33

macrumors 65816
I saw some youtube videos, and Catalina definitely is quite fast, matching almost to the speedy Sierra. However, I'm thinking that since Catalina dropped 32bit support, it might reduce my app choices while I'm playing around with this mac (I'm still primarily a Windows user). :) So I thought the best os that provides me the largest breadth of apps would be High Sierra.

And yes, it's 5400rpm drive, the typical slow drive on literally any laptops out there. My coming upgrade components are 2 x 4GB RAM to up the RAM to a total of 8GB, and a 500GB WD blue SSD. Can't wait. Although right now the system is doing okay since I have not done nor installed anything on it, I'm sure that old hard-drive is just waiting to die.
Oops! Forgot that you still need some 32 bit apps. Are there 64 bit replacements for any of them? One reason to use Catalina is that Apple will support it longer than High Sierra, especially for security updates.
 

Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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I am running 32-bit apps in a Sierra virtual machine and it works very well. However, that would probably be rough on a base 2012 Mini with 8gb RAM. But there is no need to pick just one version of MacOS. Get an external SSD and you can install anything you want, going back to Mountain Lion. Hold down the option key when you boot and you can select any connected drive. Depends on what apps you want, my VectorWorks 2008 ($1500 CAD software) won't run on anything newer than Mountain Lion, for example.
 

Che Castro

macrumors 603
May 21, 2009
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First thing you should do is Put 16gb ram and 500gb ssd On it

second is decide which macOS you want to put on it , I went with high Sierra
Mojave was running a little slow for me


edit: I did a fresh install to high Sierra last week , down from Mojave
i was able to download high Sierra from Apple website , the first time it gave me an error , second time it worked
you have to make an installer on a external drive or flash drive with high Sierra on it
do a google search on how to do this , is very easy


edit 2:
don’t upgrade safari 12 to 13 , extensions don’t work in 13 at least the good ones don’t
the best ad blocker “ublock origin“ for one
I made the mistake of upgrading to safari 13
 
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Nymunariya

macrumors newbie
Jun 25, 2020
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Germany
I am running 32-bit apps in a Sierra virtual machine and it works very well. However, that would probably be rough on a base 2012 Mini with 8gb RAM. But there is no need to pick just one version of MacOS. Get an external SSD and you can install anything you want, going back to Mountain Lion. Hold down the option key when you boot and you can select any connected drive. Depends on what apps you want, my VectorWorks 2008 ($1500 CAD software) won't run on anything newer than Mountain Lion, for example.
If you use APFS, you can create multiple partitions ("containers") without losing space or having to reformat the computer, and all the partitions share the same amount of space, so you don't need to worry about allocating too much or not enough space to a partition.

I currently have a Catalina container (original install from Apple) and two Mojave containers (because I need to test something with a fresh Mojave install). I haven't have to reformat anything.
 

ian87w

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Feb 22, 2020
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Alright, hardware upgrades completed.

RAM upgrade: amazingly simple, no tools required. 10/10.

Hard-drive upgrade: Holy _____ You have to almost disassemble the whole thing... 😅 Even the instructions from ifixit don't tell the whole story (luckily there are comments form other users that added in some critical details).

Anyway, fresh install of High Sierra is in order now. :)
- - Post merged: - -

Oops! Forgot that you still need some 32 bit apps. Are there 64 bit replacements for any of them? One reason to use Catalina is that Apple will support it longer than High Sierra, especially for security updates.
Well, it's just that this will be a playground for me to try a Mac, I don't want to be restricted in terms of app availability.
- - Post merged: - -

First thing you should do is Put 16gb ram and 500gb ssd On it

second is decide which macOS you want to put on it , I went with high Sierra
Mojave was running a little slow for me


edit: I did a fresh install to high Sierra last week , down from Mojave
i was able to download high Sierra from Apple website , the first time it gave me an error , second time it worked
you have to make an installer on a external drive or flash drive with high Sierra on it
do a google search on how to do this , is very easy


edit 2:
don’t upgrade safari 12 to 13 , extensions don’t work in 13 at least the good ones don’t
the best ad blocker “ublock origin“ for one
I made the mistake of upgrading to safari 13
Decided on 8GB with a 500GB SSD. My primary Windows machine has 8GB and it is sufficient for my needs, so I would think 8GB is plenty here.

The annoyance in preparing High Sierra is that on el Capitan, the App store only downloaded a ~19MB installer.

As for Safari, I probably won't use it as my default. I'll be installing Brave.
 

ian87w

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Feb 22, 2020
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So 2 days in. My thought on macOS (High Sierra) vs Windows.

macOS definitely have much smoother animations. Windows 10 on a fast machine is fast, but the aesthetically, macOS wins for the seemingly smoothness (due to the animations). I can see why people would prefer macOS as it's more pleasing to use.

The top menu bar. It's annoying. Good thing there's full screen modes. I'm used to Windows where the menu bar is attached to each application.

Built-in apps and free ones. Photos, iMovie, Garage Band, the slew iWorks apps, give macOS additional value as people don't feel that they have to buy extra software just to manage their photos or edit videos. Windows do have similar software, but they are much less refined than mac's.

Firewall not enabled by default? This is highly suspect. How many lay Mac users are running around without their firewall turned on? Not sure why Apple would do this.

Installing printer is so much easier. No need to deal with the manufacturer's software like in Windows. macOS simply downloaded needed drivers straight from Apple. Convenient.

Powerful Preview. I made a thread a while back about my praises for Preview. Dealing with PDF is just so much easier than having to pay Adobe or use other apps.

Quick impression: macOS definitely provides a much better out of the box experience for lay users (other than the Firewall no being turned on by default). Out of the box, you can have access to apps like iMovie and iWorks for free. Preview is an excellent PDF editor. You can get up and running real quickly. Meanwhile, on a typical Windows machine, first you have to deal with the OEM pre-installed crap (like McAfee, etc), then Office is an extra purchase. And then you have to find other software or sketchy websites for basic things like PDF editing.

As for the Mac mini itself, it's a nice machine. The annoying part is the accessibility to upgrade the drive, and the fact that the whole aluminum enclosure gets quite war/hot as if the entire thing acts as a heatsink.
 

honestone33

macrumors 65816
Interesting report. Here are some suggestions:

1. The macOS can be fast. What one needs to do is to keep their machines "lean, mean, and clean". Obviously having an SSD is definitely a step up, but it is important to clean out unneeded files/folders, and keep the machine maintained. There are both some excellent free and commercial programs available to do that, along with some "blood, sweat, and tears" on your part to do as much cleanup as necessary. One of the most neglected areas for cleanup is deleted EMails. When one deletes an EMail, it is not removed from the drive/SSD. An extra step or two is necessary to do that. I used to use Outlook as part of Office 2011 and Office 2016, but I had a serious issues with it. So, I switched to Thunderbird, and although not as "sexy looking" as a lot of other EMail clients (including Apple's Mail program, which seems to have issues), it works flawlessly (and is free!). Also, it is easy in Thunderbird to permanently remove deleted EMails.

2. As for the free apps that come with the macOS, while iWorks may be good, there is an excellent, free suite called LIbreOffice that works very, very well. It does not have an EMail client (hence, why I have Thunderbird), but it has so many formats available that it can process just about any document created with another suite. Hence, it would "translate" documents made with all versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and also can save such files in compatible formats.

As I mentioned previously, I used to own a late 2012 Mac Mini, and for me, it was not that difficult to replace the drive with an SSD (upgrading the RAM, like you mentioned, was a breeze). Also, the SSD one chooses to use can also affect the speed somewhat. It has been proven that Samsung SSDs are the best in that regard, and the SSD I used in that late 2012 Mini was a Samsung 840 Pro 256 gig SSD. My 3 external SSDs are also Samsung models.

My Mac Mini tended to tun hot only when I did my weekly cleanup/maintenance/repairs, and backups. My current late 2018 model does run cooler, although it again does tend to get hot with those same weekly tasks.

IN any event, good luck with the machine. And as I mentioned previously, Catalina runs fine on it, and it might be beneficial for you to move to that OS in the future. Just remember that if you use any third party software (I use all third party programs), you need to insure that you have compatible versions of each such program.
 
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metanoiaway

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Feb 23, 2013
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Hi! maybe someone can help me, i am currently on el capitan (specs below), but many programs stopped supporting it (logic for example) so i am thinking seriously about upgrading. Which macos would you recommend, high sierra or catalina? which one runs faster?

Screen Shot 2020-07-05 at 00.47.03 AM.png
 

Kaida

macrumors regular
May 28, 2016
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Hi! maybe someone can help me, i am currently on el capitan (specs below), but many programs stopped supporting it (logic for example) so i am thinking seriously about upgrading. Which macos would you recommend, high sierra or catalina? which one runs faster?

View attachment 930794
Just go Catalina, many people have reported instability and bugs but i didn't encounter those problems myself.
 
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ian87w

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Feb 22, 2020
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Indonesia
Hi! maybe someone can help me, i am currently on el capitan (specs below), but many programs stopped supporting it (logic for example) so i am thinking seriously about upgrading. Which macos would you recommend, high sierra or catalina? which one runs faster?

View attachment 930794
Looking at various youtube videos, for speed, Catalina seems to be as fast as Sierra. (slowest one seems to be Mojave).

BUT, Catalina drops support for 32bit apps. I would check first to see if all your apps (and their installer) are 64bit. Some apps are 64bit, but their installers are 32bit. Meaning if you upgrade to Catalina, these apps can still run, but you cannot re-install them back if needed.

Since you are running El Capitan for this long, I would just upgrade to Sierra or High Sierra first. You can always upgrade to Catalina if needed later.
 
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honestone33

macrumors 65816
Just go Catalina, many people have reported instability and bugs but i didn't encounter those problems myself.
Yes, Catalina has definitely matured by now. Soon, the last version, OS 10.15.6, will be released, so you might want to wait until it comes out. Also, it is best that you do a clean, fresh installation of OS 10.15.6. Finally, did you check to insure that all your third party applications are compatible with Catalina? This site can help you with that:


I assume you are making backups to an external device. What software do you use for that task?
 
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Boyd01

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As I mentioned above, another solution for 32-bit apps is to run them in a virtual machine. I'm using a Sierra virtual machine with only 4gb RAM and 64gb disk in Parallels with my old version of FileMaker Pro (it doesn't need much memory, and I don't need to store files on the VM). This saved me spending over $500 for a new version of FileMaker that has a lot of features I don't need. :)

If you don't want to buy Parallels, I believe there are free alternatives. @metanoiaway has a nice quad 2012 Mini that should be able to handle VM's.
 
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metanoiaway

macrumors newbie
Feb 23, 2013
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0
thanks everyone for the kind suggestions! i will take note of the 32 bit apps to see what could i be losing.

@honestone33 nice hint about OS 10.15.6, honestly i always used time machine

edit: i was thinking of maybe doing a second boot drive, to see how it goes
 
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