Should I upgrade Mac Mini??

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by scottspooner, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. scottspooner macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2017
    #1
    Hey Everyone,

    First time posting on here but I need some advice regarding a Mac Mini I have. It's a 2010, Intel Core 2 Duo... I think 2GB ram and a standard hard drive. I've upgraded it and of course it's running very slow. It was slow on the older version too but not it's pretty much unusable.

    I want it on sierra so I want to know if upgrading the ram to 8GB instead of 2GB will be a good improvement? And also the possibility of popping in a small SSD? Will this work or will i always be held back by the intel core 2 duo?

    Thanks!
     
  2. jpietrzak8, Mar 8, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017

    jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #2
    Hi @scottspooner! I'm typing this message from my own 2010 Mini; it's still working just fine for me. :)

    On RAM: I'm afraid 2 GB of of RAM is practically unusable with modern versions of macOS. :( Four is just barely usable for very light duty work; eight is most likely the minimum needed today for a computer being used for any serious applications. I'm using 8 GB on my machine right now, which leaves plenty of room for my browser, my e-mail, iTunes, and often one or two other applications to remain up without running out of room. But how much you really need can only be determined by the workload you give your machine. :)

    On SSD: Yes, it is quite possible to install an SSD into the 2010 Mini! However, it is not all that easy of a process; the Unibody-style Minis are less forgiving to those who wish to modify their internals. But many folks on this forum have successfully done so. Alternatively, it is possible to connect an SSD externally (and even boot from it!); however, even using the Firewire 800 port would not give you the same speed advantage as having it installed internally.

    I have to admit, though, that I'm still doing just fine with my good old HDD. :)

    On C2D: Yes, the Core 2 Duo CPU is getting a little long in the tooth today, but I've gotta say that it still holds up well for most standard tasks. :)

    In any case, I think the most important improvement you could do right now is to increase the RAM. I've tried to run a Mini with just 2 GB of RAM before, and with macOS now consuming almost all of that space for itself, it is almost impossible to use...
     
  3. Partron22 macrumors 68000

    Partron22

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    #3
    I just checked speed of an SSD over Firewire on a 2010 Mini.
    It's not any faster (within 10%) than a spinner. The interface is the bottleneck.
    The surgery involved to get it inside seems to me a little much for a machine of that vintage.
    If you're running Sierra, just back it down a version or two.
     
  4. now i see it, Mar 8, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017

    now i see it macrumors 65816

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    #4
    Pay a shop to install a 500 GB (or 250 GB) Samsung 850 EVO SSD
    Install 8 GB of ram
    Install El Capitan.

    Although you can attempt to replace the drive yourself, plenty of people have broken things while attempting to do so. My advice would be to only attempt a SSD swap if you KNOW you have the skills and dexterity to disassemble small intricate parts. Take a look at OWC's HD replacement videos to see if you think you could manage it. There is a real risk of messing up the machine.

    The C2D CPU in the 2010 Mac Mini is plenty fast enough for Mac Mini kind of tasks. It doesn't lag with the extra ram & SSD. I have one.

    Virtually none of the hallmark features of Sierra will work on the 2010 Mac Mini. Unless you're a big fan of Siri, El Capitan is a much better choice for this machine.


    The disk speed tests below show the difference of the HD vs SSD on a 2010 Mac Mini.

    The first picture is the stock 5400 rpm mechanical drive,
    image.jpeg


    SSD in an external enclosure using FireWire,
    image.png


    SSD installed inside the machine.
    image.jpeg
     
  5. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #5
    This is true, for sustained throughput. You will, however, still be able to gain the advantage in random-access speed (due to lack of seek-time in an SSD), so there is some advantage. ;)
    --- Post Merged, Mar 8, 2017 ---
    Er, other than Siri, just what are the hallmark features of Sierra? ;) There really isn't all that much difference between it and El Capitan...
     
  6. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #6
    Nobody can really answer this because you haven't said anything about how you use your computer. I still have my 2008 MacBook Pro which is Core2duo 2.4ghz. For anything processor intensive, the difference with Core I series is pretty dramatic. For example, I was ripping a lot of one hour black and white TV shows from DVD using Handbrake on the 2008 MBP and it would take about 75 minutes. The same thing took about 15 minutes on my 2013 MacBook Air with a 1.7ghz i7 CPU. Now the base model Mini is probably 30% slower than that, but it would still be a big improvement over core2duo.

    But maybe you don't need that kind of CPU power? And of course, the other question is the cost vs. benefit. If you want to keep a new computer for 7 years like your old Mini, you had better get 16gb of RAM and either a big SSD or Fusion drive. Now you are spending "real money" and you have to ask yourself if it's worth it for 2014 technology….
     
  7. scottspooner thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Mar 8, 2017
    #7
    Didn't expect so many replies so quickly. Thanks for all your advice jpietrzak8, Partron22, now i see it and Boyd01. I'll go ahead and upgrade the ram and put the OS back to El Capitan. All I need it for is basically a little admin computer, Mail, Messages etc. I think it can be only upgraded to 8GB from what I've read.

    I'll see what it's like with that first and see if I want to upgrade the HDD
     
  8. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #8
    I think it should work just fine for that. :)

    Actually, it can in fact manage 16 GB of RAM, although I doubt you'd need that much for the applications you're describing...

    A lot of folks on this forum just rave about the difference between HDD and SSDs in bootup time and application load time. But, for most situations, an SSD only provides an advantage in bootup time and application load time. I leave my machine running 24/7, and keep my applications open 24/7 (which, with 8 GB of RAM, is no problem with relatively small applications like web browser, e-mail, and iTunes). So, I spend essentially 0 time booting up or loading applications. :) It depends on how you use your machine as to how much advantage an SSD would provide for you...
     
  9. twalk macrumors member

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #9
    Your biggest issue isn't the speed (which isn't great, but decent enough for normal stuff). It's the age and upgrade cost.

    The 2010 is now a 7 year old computer. That's old. While it could last several more years, it could also die tomorrow. It's hard to spend money to upgrade something that old

    Then there's the cost. Last summer, it wasn't that big of a deal. Why? Cheap parts. You could get 8G of ram for about $20-$25. Now that same amount is $55. A 120G minimal sata ssd was $35-$40 last summer. Now they're $45-$60 (down from a few weeks ago). While that's not a massive $$$ cost, $100+ to upgrade a machine that could die soon may be pushing it
     
  10. cynics macrumors G4

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    Jan 8, 2012
    #10
    I agree and disagree. Since its a Core 2 Duo a 2014 Mini would be a significant upgrade without any loss in performance on any level (unlike 4 core to 2 core like the 2012 to 2014).

    However the flip side is on an old machine you don't have much to lose. Its not like adding an SSD into a 2015 iMac and potentially breaking something and costing yourself major money in repairs. If you are a thrifty shopper and willing to the do the upgrades yourself it could be all the OP needs. If things go wrong they could return the parts, if things go well they could get a bit more life out of it.

    On an older machine I feel its better worth risking the repairs yourself or upgrading to a new machine. Paying someone to do it will pretty much make it pointless and its money you can't get back. That is your cost vs reward working against you IMO.
     
  11. now i see it macrumors 65816

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    Jan 2, 2002
    #11
    To be able to get a 256 GB all SSD drive (not fake SSD aka Fusion drive) on the new 2014 Mac Mini you've got to choose the second tier 2.6ghz model.
    With 8 GB of RAM, that thing will set you back $900 + tax.

    Even the base model with 8GB RAM will cost $600 + tax.

    The 4GB RAM option is not an option.

    A new 250 GB SSD and 8 GB of ram to upgrade a 2010 Mac Mini will cost about $170. And if the mini dies, the SSD can be removed to be used for other things. So the only ""risk" in upgrading an old mini is losing ~$70 for the RAM upgrade. Labor charge for a HD swap from a shop can cost $60-$90 depending on where you take it.
     
  12. ahendarman macrumors member

    ahendarman

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    Feb 23, 2013
    #12
    A few cautions based on my own experience upgrading my mac mini 2010 server
    - Only PC8500 1066MHz DDR3 will work (unless you want to hack the RAM timing/speed)
    - 840 EVO negotiates the 3Gbps SATAII only at 1.5Gbps, 840 Pro negotiates at the full 3Gbps
     
  13. scottspooner thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Mar 8, 2017
    #13
    Yeah all good points. I will be leaving it on pretty much 24/7 and as I say it's only going to be for admin type stuff so nothing major. I think the best price I can find in the UK for 8GB of ram is around £68 which is quite a lot.

    I get your point on the risk of spending money on a 7 year old mac. If I was to spend the money and just to the RAM and put El Capitan do you think I'd be alright then? As I say just for Admin type tasks like email, messaging, invoices etc.

    Thanks for everyone's input, crazy how active this has been, most forums I go on rarely get a reply and when they do it's never as many or as quick :D
     
  14. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #14
    Why do you feel the need for a new version of MacOS for "admin type stuff"?
     
  15. scottspooner thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Mar 8, 2017
    #15
    Don't know, Just like it. I have it on my macbook and like the idea of Siri on a admin type mac. Might be handy with messages etc
     
  16. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #16
    That is basically describing the exact machine I've got right now. Works just fine for me. :)
     
  17. cynics macrumors G4

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    Jan 8, 2012
    #17
    I don't know about the consensus but I prefer Sierra.

    Apple recommends 2gb of RAM for both El Cap and Sierra. They can likely squeak by with 2gb because of memory compression. Memory compression is much better than using the HDD for swap however still requires the CPU to perform the compression and decompression. With your system I would want to avoid both as much as possible.

    8gb should be fine. Things will still open and load slow due to the HDD but once everything is loaded it should be fairly snappy at least better then what you are experiencing now.
     
  18. now i see it macrumors 65816

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    Jan 2, 2002
    #18
    I have my 2010 Mac Mini running right now with El Capitan and Safari is the only app that's been launched but it doesn't have any windows open. Nothing is running. The computer is using 4.39 GB of RAM currently and it is doing nothing. Wow! Talk about a RAM hog!
     
  19. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #19
    I agree completely! Your system does seem like a RAM hog. I have my 2010 Mac Mini running right now with El Capitan and Chrome (with 2 tabs open), and Thunderbird, and iTunes, and I'm only using 5.70 GB total (1.40 GB going to El Capitan, 4.30 GB to all other apps).

    Something seems wrong with your configuration; you shouldn't see that much RAM in use with just Safari open, I think.
     
  20. now i see it macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Just rebooted it. It's now using 3.78 GB ram after launching Safari and closing its window (but not quitting it). Activity monitor open too of course. Nothing else.

    Fresh install of El Capitan last week. Brand new SSD. Ram Piggy
     
  21. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #21
    Yes, RAM piggy. And different from my own experience. Could you perhaps try out Chrome, and see if you end up using as much? Thanks! :)

    (BTW, an SSD does not change in any way how much RAM is used.)
     
  22. now i see it macrumors 65816

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    #22
    Yeah,
    So this SSD is partitioned into 3 parts. I don't know if partitioning a SSD increases RAM usage???
    Snow Leopard on one, El Capitan on another, then the third partition is used for common storage of all documents from both OSes (so they are all kept together in one location easy to find on the network instead of scattered all over the place). I don't use iTunes or photos app.

    Anyway, booted it again. No items/app launching/login items at startup. Just fresh boot uses 3.6 GB ram doing nothing.

    Launch Chrome & close its window but keep it active, RAM usage up to 3.94 GB.

    ----
    Below:
    Fresh boot, no apps:
    image.png

    Launch Chrome & close its window:
    image.png
     
  23. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #23
    Nope, the long-term storage device (HDD, SSD, or whatever) has absolutely no impact on how much RAM you use, no matter how you partition it or what you store on it. RAM and long-term storage devices are completely independent of one another.

    Ah, I think I understand what I was missing before. My system has already done some memory compression and moved some pages into swap, which is probably why I'm not seeing the raw RAM usage that you are. On the downside, yeah, a full complement of OS X and all its UI goodies probably does take up nearly 4 GB of memory. On the upside, you probably don't need to use most of that most of the time; so, it can easily be compressed and left to sit.

    Here's what my list looks like, after being up for a couple of weeks. I've got several apps that have been up for weeks now; the browser's got several tabs open, Thunderbird is active, iTunes is currently paused. Altogether, almost 6 GB of RAM being used, so there's still 2 GB available and used for file caching:
    Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.47.26 PM.png
    I would love to see Apple try and clean up a little of their bloat, but as you can see from my results, once OS X has taken its initial bite out of RAM, it doesn't grow any further (even after weeks of usage).
     
  24. sorcery macrumors regular

    sorcery

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    #24
    It will perform fine on 4Gb RAM with your original Snow Leopard.
    Having said that, mine is running very sweetly on 8Gb, 250 SSD and Yosemite.
    Did not change SSD myself. Remember to salvage the new parts when the machine eventually dies or is replaced.
     
  25. CUDA_Switch macrumors newbie

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    Jul 23, 2015
    #25
    That's one of the reasons I hang out in this forum every now and again - lots of people with real-world experience who like to help. I've been thinking about this topic myself because my in-laws are in a similar situation with a similar machine. Theirs has 4 GB RAM on El Cap - right now they are ok with its performance but it would be a little too slow for me. Some additional points to consider:

    • I have a 2009 MBP which is pretty close to the 2010 Mini hardware-wise. Putting in an SSD and 8 GB of RAM made a world of difference. But definitely crunch the numbers to determine if it makes sense to upgrade. It did for me, but it's been a while.
    • OWC has a memory kit for the 2010 Mini that they guarantee will allow it to handle 16 GB of RAM. See https://blog.macsales.com/16353-owc...6gb-for-2010-mac-mini-macbook-and-macbook-pro. Does it financially make sense to do this? Probably not. But it is an option.
    • If you do upgrade to an SSD, keep in mind that there are known compatibility issues with Macs that have Nvidia SATA controllers (see About This Mac > System Report > SATA to check but I think yours would be the Nvidia MCP89). At best, drives with issues won't run at full speed and at worst could have serious slowdowns, beachballs, and data loss. Here's an old but still relevant article that describes this: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3564813?start=0&tstart=0. Some drives might be possible to make compatible with a firmware update, but it just depends on whether the vendor considered this an issue they would fix. The only reason I mention this is because it might be getting tougher to find a drive that's known to be compatible with the Nvidia SATA controllers because those Macs are getting old.
     

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