Mid-2011 Mac Mini Performance Concerns - Is it Just the Lack of Ram?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Biggles-90, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. Biggles-90 macrumors newbie

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    #1
    Hi all,

    I got my first Mac recently, the base model mid-2011 Mini. I was quite excited after reading the reviews, and simply because I had always run PCs so this was something new. I have very grudgingly, though, had to come to the conclusion that the machine is a bit slow. Not unusable, but it just doesn't feel right and to be honest it distracts me since I am paying a premium over PCs for the purchase.

    All the reviews on the machine say that it is snappy and responsive, and mine just isn't when I get down to business. Startup times are fine and so is everything else. Then I open a couple of programs and things start to go downhill. I do some fairly intensive iPhoto work, so I will let it off on that, but I would expect this sort of computer to be able to keep up with a browser, several tabs + Excel and dibbing in and out of finder and widgets. It just cannot keep up with that sort of use though. Virtual machine is a bit of a no-no I noticed as well. I get to the stage where I have to press the same button several times to get a response, and beachballs galore. I don't understand, for example, when turning the computer off I usually have to press the Apple button more than once to persuade the drop down menu to appear or why the widgets take a while to load initially. All these little annoyances add up.

    Now like I said, I'm comparing my experiences with what online reviews say, but I don't know other Mac Mini owners experiences. Is it a case of what I suspect it maybe and the base model Mac Mini has far too little ram to run Lion? Activity monitor shows me that the ram is nearly maxed out even with a couple of programs running. A look at disk utility showed a healthy hard drive. On the other hand the hard drive does seem to have to work a lot by the sound of it, but that might just be all the paging it has to do again because of the lack of ram.

    What do you all think? Am I expecting too much of the Mini in terms of performance? I was hoping for something which was responsive except under heavy load. I will be getting 8GB Crossair ram as soon as I have the money and hopefully my problem will be gone. It is a bit frustrating having that sense that there is a load of unlocked potential after already shelled out the money to buy the computer. Or could it be something else? Does and OSX install corrupt easily? Might I have done something silly and corrupted it as I'm new to OSX (although I've familiar with Linux, so I'm not a computer novice or anything like that).

    All input would be greatly appreciated.

    PS. Only minimal things have been installed on the computer like browsers, MS Office, Dropbox, VMWare, VLC etc..
     
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #2
    TL,DR

    To determine if you can benefit from more RAM, launch Activity Monitor and click the System Memory tab at the bottom to check your page outs. Page outs are cumulative since your last restart, so the best way to check is to restart your computer and track page outs under your normal workload (the apps, browser pages and documents you normally would have open). If your page outs are significant (say 1GB or more) under normal use, you may benefit from more RAM. If your page outs are zero or very low during normal use, you probably won't see any performance improvement from adding RAM.

    Mac OS X: Reading system memory usage in Activity Monitor

    If you're having performance issues, this may help:
     
  3. SR45 macrumors 65832

    SR45

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
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    Florida
    #3
    First thing I did when I got my MacMini 2011 was to upgrade the ram. First went with 4 GB and saw some improvements with more open applications, than I went with 8 GB of ram and was very happy with the results. Now I have 16 GB, not because I need it, but since they were so darn cheap, why not. Having just 2 GB for the MacMini as you do, you will see slow downs when you have a few windows open. Apple sells the entry level MacMini with 2 GB of memory to keep the price down, and later many see that its not enough.
     
  4. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    #4
    I find it reasonably snappy, although not as fast as my other Macs. RAM helps, an SSD helps and I also found quite a noticeable improvement after upgrading to Mountain Lion - much more noticeable than on my MacBooks.
     
  5. surroundfan macrumors 6502

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    Nov 22, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #5
    I've upgraded my base mini from 2GB to 8GB RAM, and (just yesterday) added a 240GB SSD. Both these measures will improve snappiness no end.

    The RAM upgrade is the most needed and easiest to do; 2GB is simply not enough to run Mountain Lion (or Lion) smoothly. Apple shouldn't be selling the mini with that little RAM, because it will be bound to disappoint first-time Mac users who are switching.
     
  6. Lynn Belvedere, Aug 8, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2012

    Lynn Belvedere macrumors regular

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    Mar 13, 2012
    #6
    I will concur that 2GB is simply not enough ram for Lion. You need more.
     
  7. Biggles-90 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 7, 2012
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    United Kingdom
    #7
    Thanks for the input guys and for putting my mind at ease. I'll upgrade to 8GB ram, then upgrade to Mountain Lion soon after. I'll report back on the matter. Do you mind if I slip another quick question in as well? I noticed that the start up chime goes missing quite easily, even after resetting NVRAM. Is this common, or am I doing something wrong potentially?
     
  8. WhatAmI macrumors 6502a

    WhatAmI

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    Sep 2, 2009
    #8
    I am in exactly the same boat. Longtime Windows-user whom switched to a Mid-2011 base Mini, upgraded to 8GB day one and happily enjoyed snappiness for a while but it wasn't long before I noticed that the 5400RPM-disk is so slow it really kills the experience. Beach balls all over the place...:(

    All I need including the iFixit dual disk kit is on my table for the move to SSD and I just building some confidence before I get to work on that upgrade.
     
  9. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

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    May 16, 2008
    #9
    Do you by chance have your speakers muted or turned all the way down before you shut down or restart?
     
  10. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

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    Dec 17, 2009
    #10
    I noticed you stated VMWare.... There's a bit problem right there if you are still running only the stock 4GB. Are you always running a virtual machine? Possibly utilizing Unity in VMware (which means you are running Windows all the time)? A virtual Machine is basically running two OS's on the same machine at the same time. If you are running 4GB of RAM and running Windows 7 (for example), even splitting the memory 2GB to OSX and 2GB to Windows is just not enough for either OS. I run into the same problem on my Macbook Air since it only has 4GB of RAM. I can do it, but it doesn't like it. At least with my MBA I have a SSD so when it does use the "hard drive" as additional memory, it utilizes a fast drive (at least compared to a slow 5400 RPM notebook drive) so the caching wouldn't be nearly as bad. If using Vmware, you really "need" 8GB of RAM and I would even recommend at least a 7200RPM dive but better to do SSD's.

    So while you haven't loaded many things onto your Mac, Vmware (or parallels or Virtual Box for that matter), is a pretty resource intensive application.
     
  11. Biggles-90 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    @GGJstudios: Nope, even when the volume is on full blast, there is no start-up chime. I can get it back be resetting NVRAM, but it's soon gone again.

    @paulrbeers: I have tried to use VMWare, still have it installed, but it isn't running except for the tray start bar helper thingy which takes about 10 MB ram and VMWare helper which right now is using 28MB. I don't have 4GB ram to spare, only 2GB in this computer. When I tried to run Windows XP on VMWare, I gave it less than a gig of ram to use, and things slowed to a halt unsurprisingly on both sides.

    It is a real shame that it looks like I'm going to have to buy a replacement HD as well at some point. A new computer shouldn't need so much work on it really. Maybe I'll get away with just upping the ram, let's see.
     
  12. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

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    May 16, 2008
    #12
    And you don't have speakers or headphones plugged in, right? I'm sure you're aware there are separate volume settings for the internal speakers and for external speakers/headphones.
     
  13. dvdchance macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2012
    #13
    I wouldn't even give any thought at all to getting 8mb RAM. The 2MB they ship with the base Mini like we have is just bare minimum to run Lion.

    When I got mine it would beach ball just with several Safari windows and perhaps a Word doc or two open.

    Even worse when I installed Plex on it.

    I bought the 8MB 1333 Corsair from Amazon for like $40 and it has really made a big difference. A no brainer really. http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-1333mhz-PC3-10666-204-pin-CMSO8GX3M2A1333C9/dp/B002YUF8ZG

    There are plenty of other options even faster 1600 memory for near the same price now.
     
  14. adnbek macrumors 65816

    adnbek

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    Oct 22, 2011
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    Montreal, Quebec
    #14
    Do you have your volume turned down or muted? The chime uses whatever volume you last set when you had your computer running.

    EDIT: Crap, I really should refresh a page I had left open since this morning before hitting "reply". :p
     
  15. SR45 macrumors 65832

    SR45

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    #15
    I have the same issue and did a PRAM reset and worked a bit, but the sound faded out later on. I give it very little thought now, since it does not bother me. Some members even download a program to shut the chime off.
     
  16. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

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    Jul 26, 2011
    #16
    Just a suggestion that you postpone plans to upgrade until Mountain Lion has a chance to "age" a bit. I usually wait to do major OS upgrades until forum chatter about problems thin-out or at least the 10.X.3 iteration, whichever comes first... Of course, I have legacy software and hardware which tends to complicate OS upgrades.
     
  17. Biggles-90 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17
    I thought I would just let everyone know the page ins and page outs on my Mac Mini as it was mentioned earlier on. I just remembered to check and it was.. well 6.66GB page ins and 2.45 GB page outs. That sounds massive.
     
  18. CalmEnvy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    #18
    I bought the base model mini as well and like everyone says, 2GB is nowhere near enough. It was slow and sluggish. Then I installed 8GB of ram and everything is perfect now. Not to mention seems a little faster with Mountain Lion.
     
  19. philipma1957 macrumors 603

    philipma1957

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2010
    Location:
    Howell, New Jersey
    #19
    yeah go to 8gb ram. 2 of these

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crucial-Sod...1_2?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1344734728&sr=1-2


    you will get a lot of improvement. many of us don't put in a hdd we use an external thunderbolt to boot.




    here is an option for you


    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1317577&page=15



    I like this one a bit more

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1280118


    don't rush to do either one but I do think that down the road they are better then opening a mini up. Pulling the oem hdd and adding a ssd.


    I have opened and upgraded hundreds of minis and the external thunderbolt is my preference even though it hurts my mod - upgrade business on ebay.
     
  20. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #20
    2GB is brutal. I've found disk warrior to help with beachballing issues as it cleans up the directories, but the first thing to do would be move to 8GB of ram. It's around $50 and it's way worth it. 2GB is barely enough to run Lion, so yeah running Fusion VMs on that is a bad idea. XP in its later service packs ran pretty tight at 512. Even with that 1GB was much better.
     
  21. Panther Al macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    #21
    Even 4GB is a bit too little in my mind: I went and found a deal on 16GB (Which is more than I need, but, for 80 bucks, why not) and there was a massive improvement. The only thing I would suggest is look into a new HDD/SSD - 5400 RPM is a bottleneck once you have the RAM sorted out.
     
  22. Biggles-90 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 7, 2012
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    United Kingdom
    #22
    Many thanks to everyone here. So many replies and so much wisdom on the topic, it is much appreciated. :) Thanks philipma1957 for the link to the ram on Amazon. Amazingly, you can buy 2x the 4GB sticks on that link or pay £10 extra for a 8GB kit which says compatible with Mac Minis, even though they are exactly the same! I will let you all know how the ram upgrade goes. I'm hoping it will ease things up enough so that I don't need to go into any HD upgrades too soon, even though it is obviously the next bottle neck. I'm not the most demanding user on the planet so hopefully I will be contempt with the extra ram and have what I wanted from the start, trouble free computing for a couple of years. :)
     
  23. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2011
    #23
    It's obviously the lack of sufficient RAM. Upgrading the drive will speed up some things but that isn't the bottleneck causing your problems.

    Apple should be selling Macs with at least 4GB RAM but these days 8GB is the minimum if you do much beyond the basics...
     
  24. Biggles-90 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #24
    Agreed wholeheartedly. Also I think it is a little bit in the cheeky side to be selling a Mac with a 5400 rpm HD, but hey ho. Oh and one thing I forgot to reply on. The start up chime. It could well have been the case that I have the volume too low at times or left the headphones plugged in. I might have been imagining it to be an intermittent fault. At the moment, when I unplug headphones and cranck the volume up, it chimes.

    And another thing which just came to mind. Knowing that 16GB of ram is not completely necessary, I was browsing Amazon and figured a single 8GB ram chip is nearly the same as two 4GB chips (or at least there is a deal on at the moment). Thinking way ahead if I decided to have 16GB at some point, couldn't I have the 8GB chip now and leave a 1GB chip in there? I have never heard of anyone running with 9GB of ram, but I thought it would make use of an otherwise spare 1GB ram chip for a while.
     
  25. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

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    Jul 26, 2011
    #25
    The Mini is essentially a MacBook Pro minus the display and keyboard, so a 5400RPM drive doesn't surprise me... A 7200RPM 2.5" drive would increase its cost.

    Frankly, I think that a lot of people are hung-up on incremental increases in speed. And spending a LOT of money to gain a few seconds. SSDs are a fad as far as I am concerned; I'll get on board when the cost and reliability catch up to platter drives.

    I get plenty accomplished with 5400RPM drives, 7200RPM FW 800 externals, etc. I wouldn't get excited about faster hardware unless I was making money using the gear and the time-saving penciled-out for me. I certainly wouldn't spend more than I can afford/go into debt in order to save a little time.

    I don't see a problem with running a Mini on 9GB and 1GB RAM chips unless there are problems associated with using different size RAM.
     

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