Questions about installing an SSD in a mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by namelessme, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. namelessme macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Many of these questions may seem very newbie-like, but I never owned an SSD drive nor know how they work in a mini... so forgive me in advance.

    I just finished adding extra ram, so my mini is quite a bit zippier than before. But I still have my original sluggo HD. What I was wondering is, can I install a small SSD drive as a cache drive, and get some (yet obviously not all) of the speed benefits seen with SSDs?

    Something like this:

    Or any drive below 60GB?

    I am a little wary of using an SSD as my main drive, as I have a fear of them dying on me, taking out the OS. Or in my case, both Lion and Win 7. But if using as a cache drive, the only risk is it simply one day not working, and then my original HD and all files are still fine, right?

    And what tools are needed to get into my mini's innards? Special screwdriver, right? And then I need a special cable? There is room in there for 2 drives, right?

    And will Lion and Win 7 automatically know how to use the SSD as a cache drive? Seeing as there is no bios to set, not sure how to get it all working correctly.
  2. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I believe Windows 7 with AHCI enabled you will get the option to use an SSD as a cache drive. Not sure where I saw this, perhaps in Control Panel > Performance? I have all SSDs so the option says the drive performance is too high for cache drive.

    Cache drives are not available in OSX.

    You should have any concerns over SSD reliability. They are just as prone to failure as their platter based mechanical counter parts. You can always use the included HDD in the secondary drive bay. Then you can split your home directory and important files on to the HDD. You could get a low cost 120GB drive for OS only and run both Windows and OSX using this setup. Another option is to get a larger SSD and use the internal drive as a TimeCapsule disk. So you have a really fast backup location.
  3. namelessme thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Thanks for the info.

    I primarily use the mini to run Windows 7, so I guess I could set it up as a cache then. But how does the system know it's a cache when booting, before Windows 7 even starts up? I assumed it'd be in bios or something?

    My concerns about SSD reliability has less to do with the timeframe in which they die, but more how they die. With a mechanical HD, there are usually signs beforehand. They get a bit clunky, some errors may pop up, but most of the time (at least when it's happened to me), one has time to get all important files off of there before it finally conks out.

    With SSDs, I've read it's more like a total disaster. One day it works, next day every file is gone, completely broken, and very very hard to recover any data at all.

    I realize I could store most data onto a HD, and use the SSD for booting only. But that would still require a full Lion re-install and a full Windows 7 re-install, if it broke. I figured a simple cache drive could give my wimpy HD a bit of a boost, be safer, and also be somewhat less expensive.

    Still not sure how to even install it though. I'll also assume nobody has come out with an inexpensive thunderbolt SSD option, have they? If that actually worked, it'd certainly be a lot easier to install.
  4. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Unfortunately, I have all SSDs for my OS drives so I can't provide much more insight.

    There are a lot of threads about installing a second drive in the 2011 Mac minis. It's about $60 in parts plus the drive. IFixit has a full tear down, instructions and parts.

    You can built an inexpensive Thunderbolt SSD using the Seagate Thunderbolt GoFlex 2.5" adapter which runs about $99 plus $50 for the cable. Any SSD will work as long as its under 480GB. The SSDs 480GB and up tend to be picky. You can pickup a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex enclosure only with drive on eBay for about $20. I built several of these including a poor choice with the 512GB Samsung 830. They are compact, bus powered and look great. Windows treats Thunderbolt drives as a secondary SATA controller, so it should work.
  5. namelessme thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Thanks again for the info.

    I guess I have a different idea as to inexpensive though... was hoping more for like a $25 adapter or thereabouts.

    Small SSDs (less than 64GB) which are used for cache drives seem to go for about $50-$75, if you get them on sale, or less. I was hoping to keep it all under $100, if possible.

    I think I'm a bit spoiled in regard to hardware upgrades, from previously owning PCs. Normally I'd just buy any drive, use one of a million HD cables I have lying about, install it in about 5 minutes, and that's it.

    I'll look into what is available though. Interestingly when looking at thunderbolt options, I did run across a thunderbolt graphics adapter (MSI GUS) that may be coming out soonish (rumors of possibly by April). It'd be real nice to add an external video card to a mini, but that may be wishful thinking.
  6. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    You can find the Readyboost setting under the drive properties. The Sysmain service aka Superfetch must be enabled for Readyboost.
  7. namelessme thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Setting an SSD to be a cache drive simply involves setting it to readyboost? I assumed readyboot worked with flash drives/SD cards only, and SSDs would require some other settings?

    I need to research this more, obviously. I had been using an 8GB flash drive as a readyboost drive for a while now. Although I expect that with 8GB of memory it may no longer be needed. I have a bunch of spare USB drives lying about, so figured I'd use one for something.
  8. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    my original birth certificate reads (no Name) for my first name as my parents had a fight as to what to name me.

    seagate t-bolt adapter = 99 bucks cable = 50 bucks ssd some good 128gb ones are 150 or so.

    total 300

    some 240 ssds are 275 or so total would be 425. there is a long thread on this.

    Having opened and modded a lot of minis. the t-bolt adapter is a better choice .

    why? a lot of minis get broken on hdd to ssd upgrades.

    I get that dropping in a small ssd sounds cheap and easy.

    well it is cheap.

    easy not so sure.

    for tools a 6 and 8 torx and a hex but I forget the size. 2.5mm maybe. also a plastic pry bar or a spugder.

    here is a link to a kit

    and it does not have a hex which is needed.

    this kit has everything you need plus it has a cable for a second drive
  9. namelessme thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    I'm extremely hesitant to install an SSD, but first wanted to just get general info as to what that entails and what options are available.

    Just getting to my mini's innards safely seems like a real pain. I'm not all thumbs, I've built PCs before, I've swapped hard drives in laptops before (and had to tear them apart to gain access). But they were all cheapo PCs that I basically got for free, and if they broke, they broke... no big deal. For my mac, I'd prefer not to pull it all apart, then try to put it together again *has visions of Humpty Dumpty*

    One concern with the thunderbolt option is the fact that new peripherals may eventually come out. If they came out with a neato graphics card enclosure (still hoping) I'd rather use that on the thunderbolt than have it tied down to a SSD cache drive. I also consider the price of the cable/adapter probably more than I wanted to spend on the SSD upgrade anyway.
  10. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    well not to discourage you but here is a link to a new I broke my mini thread; this is a common
  11. namelessme thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Yeah, I saw that right after I posted here. I can't say it gives me any extra confidence to read that.

    So... I think my best option may be to simply wait for now, see what comes out for the thunderbolt (if anything).

    Only other ways in are USB and firewire. Firewire too slow to be useful with an SSD?
  12. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    firewire800 with an ssd is faster then the internal 5400 rpm drive. it does not allow full use of the ssd's speed.

    as it will max at 75 to 85 MB and the ssd could do more. you have to understand that with ssd's there is the long copy rate of big files you know those nice 500MB figures.

    those numbers are fake in the practical world. they are only import if you do long clones. the 4k read write numbers in random tell the quickness of an ssd. think of a moped in heavy city traffic it can dart in and out and beat a corvette or any fast car.

    if you use a 60-64 gb ssd the way that you want. it is more like a messenger darting in and out of heavy city traffic. In this case the speed of 20 40 MB is great. why because your fw800 will allow those speeds and your current hdd will do speeds like .5 to 2 MB. So the moped in the city doing 20 to 30 miles an hour will kill the corvettes that are stuck in traffic doing 1 mile an hour.

    A decent fw800 case is 30-50 bucks if you look around. you can even go a bit higher end and buy this case World Computing/MEQMH0GBK/

    put in a pair of cheap 60-64 gb ssds this is more then you may want to speed but it will smoke the internal hdd.
    this runs about 225-300 for identical ssds and the case. what is nice is you can run it as a raid0 or raid1. you must use 2 identical drives in raid.

    I used to run this with an older mini I have it in a box in storage.
  13. namelessme thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Okay, so if I understand this correctly, using a SSD as a cache drive, going through firewire, should be perfectly fine?

    The limitation on firewire would be when moving large files, yet small ones should be zippy? And for a cache/readyboost sort of drive, it's the read/write speeds, not the amount of data that matters (I think)?

    I also considered USB, but read that although USB 2.0 can achieve similar or faster speeds than firewire in theory, it tends to not be as reliable a speed in practice.

    And if I wanted to go with a big SSD, it should at least be faster than my internal, based on what you said, so that's another option. Not ideal using if through firewire, but it's also better than tearing my mini apart.

    I'll keep an eye out on deals then. I've seen Firewire enclosures go pretty cheaply, sometimes around $10 on eBay. I have seen small SSDs go for relatively inexpensive prices too -- one deal was for a 64 GB for about $50, another I recall some time ago was a free one at Newegg, w/$99 purchase (forget its size, but expect it was tiny). But as a cache drive, tiny is fine. Just unsure how much of a speed boost I'll get from using it solely as a cache, however -- assuming it'll all even work for Win 7 without a bios.

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