Should I upgrade my 2011 mini with an SSD?

davidg4781

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Oct 28, 2006
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Alice, TX
So, I'm having an upgrade itch and have been thinking about upgrading my mini to an SSD. There are a few concerns though. After upgrading to High Sierra and missing out on some features since I have an HDD, I started thinking about doing the upgrade.

Will the performance be enough to justify the expense? I don't do much on here that may improve. It's turned off when I go to work in the morning, turned back on at night. I sometimes play some games and browse the web.

I would ultimately like to switch to a MacBook (Pro). Upgrading that storage is expensive. I am thinking about getting an NAS for the larger media files that I don't need access to all the time to save space on the MacBook. I could also do the same for this. Recently I removed the download for the few movies I purchased through iTunes, leaving me 225 GB free out of a 500 GB HDD.

Or should I just save the money and wait for the MB that I want to come out.
 

twalk

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Apr 22, 2009
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1) 8G ram + a SSD definitely do make a performance difference
2) It a 6 year old computer... who knows how much longer it will last
3) A NAS is a great idea and yes, you can then run with a smaller SSD if you have a NAS
4) SSDs have gone up in price a lot this year, because smartphones are using up all the flash memory
5) Since you are also looking at a NAS, my suggestion would be for the cheapest 120G SSD that you can find. Look at the Newegg email deals, techbargins, fatwallet, etc. Some deal will come up
6) If you want the MB, then selling the Mini is also a good option. 2011 Minis still often go for $250+ on ebay
 

davidg4781

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I have 16 GB of RAM. That improved performance a lot! It may be overkill but it wasn’t much more than the 8.

Maybe I’ll wait on the SSD, until I really need it.

And I’m not all that excited about the newer MB(P). It seems like they’re always missing something. At least now they’re all converted to USB-C.
 
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Boyd01

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FWIW, I think the NAS might be a good thing to have considering your future plans, and it would certainly work with your Mini. But don't expect much if any performance increase over your internal hard drive (unless it is unusually slow). I have a 2012 and 2014 mini with the stock 500gb hard drives and they clock at around 100MB/sec. If you connect to a NAS on gigabit ethernet, that is pretty close to what you will get (120MB/sec would be the theoretical limit). There will probably be some latency that makes this feel even slower.

Another strategy would be to forget the NAS and just wait until you get the MBP. Then activate the standard file sharing on the Mini and attach a big external disk which can be used as a NAS. This is what I have done and it works very well on both a base 2012 and 2014 Mini, each with only 4gb of RAM. I get about 100MB/sec on gigabit ethernet.

I was just reading that High Sierra has a built-in time machine server and also an update server. In the past you needed to purchase Apple's server app to get these features. So your mini can be a pretty decent server all by itself. :)
 
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Neodym

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Get a smaller SSD (around 250GB) as system partition and leave the spinner in the Mini as storage. If you are worried about completely gutting the mini (required to install a 2nd hard drive / SSD), get a suitable Thunderbolt housing / SSD and use it as system partition.

250ishGB SSD is now entry level and relatively inexpensive. Just buy from a renowned manufacturer, e.g. Samsung.
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If you connect to a NAS on gigabit ethernet, that is pretty close to what you will get (120GB/sec would be the theoretical limit).
WOW - that would be one hell of a NAS :cool: scnr ;)
 

Bunyak

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Aug 15, 2011
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Get a smaller SSD (around 250GB) as system partition and leave the spinner in the Mini as storage. If you are worried about completely gutting the mini (required to install a 2nd hard drive / SSD), get a suitable Thunderbolt housing / SSD and use it as system partition.

250ishGB SSD is now entry level and relatively inexpensive. Just buy from a renowned manufacturer, e.g. Samsung.
That's exactly what I did in 2011. I bought a Thunderbolt dock that has a second port to daisy-chain a monitor. The set-up has been solid. The internal HDD is for storage and Boot Camp. I find that Windows 7 on the HDD is slow as molasses so I hate to think what OS X would be like.
 

ziggy29

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Oct 29, 2014
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That's exactly what I did in 2011. I bought a Thunderbolt dock that has a second port to daisy-chain a monitor. The set-up has been solid. The internal HDD is for storage and Boot Camp. I find that Windows 7 on the HDD is slow as molasses so I hate to think what OS X would be like.
Interestingly, on my 2012 Mini (even with the top of the line 2.6 GHz quad i7), I originally had two, 1 GB spinners -- one running Mac OS, the other running Windows through Boot Camp. The Boot Camp install was native Windows, no emulation or virtual machine chicanery. It was pretty slow.

Later I bought an external SSD and put the Mac OS on that -- and also loaded Fusion on the SSD to run Win 10 as a virtual machine, with the Win 10 virtual disk being on one of the internal spinners. Despite the virtualization, the combination of "host" OS and virtualization software on the SSD and the Windows VM storage on the spinner is a LOT faster than booting Windows natively entirely on a spinner. In other words, using the Mac OS and Fusion on the SSD *much* more than makes up for the performance penalty in the virtualization.
 

ziggy29

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Oct 29, 2014
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I just did this for a friend. He couldn't be happier. There is a lot of life left in the 2011+ mini's.
Yes, when I added an SSD to my Mini it was really like a brand new computer. And that was using an internal drive booted externally through USB 3!

One thing to note, though, is that the 2011 Mini has USB 2.0, not 3.0, so a long-term external bootable SSD solution really isn't as feasible as with the 2012 and later, which have USB 3.
 

davidg4781

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I may be upgrading after all! I turned it on and after about 1.5 hours it was still at the grey loading screen, bar all the way to the right. I just restarted it. Hope it starts up.

If I do decide to get an SSD, do I need anything special? I’m partial to Crucial, and I hear Samsung is best. I also like Western Digital HDDs. Are they good for SSDs too?
 

Neodym

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If I do decide to get an SSD, do I need anything special?
If you intend to put it internally, any standard 2.5", SATA-equipped SSD will do. Don't buy too cheaply and take a closer look at reviews for the particular model you're interested in. Take note especially of the measured IOPS. A good drive would operate in the 70.000-80.000 range, while poor drives reach only 30.000-40.000ish values there. Influences the perceived speed maybe more than the MB/s, which usually hovers around 400-500MB/s for a solid drive.

For external models, you should go for a Thunderbolt-equipped model, as the antique USB2 ports on the 2011 mini would severely impair performance of any USB-only SSD. If you have other Thunderbolt devices connected (like e.g. a monitor or NAS), make sure you have two ports on either the new SSD or the device you already have connected.

Reason is that Thunderbolt operates by daisy-chaining devices and some vendors save money by putting only one Thunderbolt port on their devices.

Also make sure a Thunderbolt cable is included with the device (unfortunately not guaranteed). If it's not included, consider the additional cost for a Thunderbolt cable when comparing device prices.

I’m partial to Crucial, and I hear Samsung is best. I also like Western Digital HDDs. Are they good for SSDs too?
WD have no real own reputation for SSD's as of now (ignoring the 2010 SiliconEdge Blue). They purchased Sandisk last year and all modern WD SSD's are in fact Sandisk SSD's. In general solid drives, perhaps a bit on the slow side (when compared to other SSD's).

Crucials have solid reputation, but you need to take care of the exact model. I'd avoid the 200 series, as they had poor performance (at least the BX series). BX300 seems to be okay again, perhaps because Crucial returned to MLC NAND after testing (technologically inferior) TLC NAND in the 200.

Samsung are indeed leading the pack, but are also among the most expensive offers.

Alternatively you could also look for bargains on Toshiba drives. Not the fastest, but usually solid and good price/performance when on sale.

All imho. Gather other opinions and read some tests to get a wider opinion spectrum.
 

Cloudsurfer

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Apr 12, 2007
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If I do decide to get an SSD, do I need anything special? I’m partial to Crucial, and I hear Samsung is best. I also like Western Digital HDDs. Are they good for SSDs too?
I have always used Crucial SSD's and they have worked great to me. The MX300 series has a little bit more storage than the competition. At SATA3 speeds, I don't think you will notice much difference between brands on a day to day basis as they are all in the 500MB Read/Write ballpark.
 

davidg4781

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And it did the really long loading screen again tonight. I had to force it to shut down then start it again. Is this a sign that the HDD is going out? I ran First Aid in Disk Utility and everything checked out ok.

I do have a backup so if it goes out I should be safe... but I'd rather replace before that happens.
 

davidg4781

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And it continues to hang on boot. I'm hoping it's the HDD and not another issue, but once booted I don't have any real performance issues, other than that of a 6 year old mini.

I'm getting ready to pull the trigger on either a Samsung, Crucial, or WD. Just to get some opinions since I'll already have the mini open, should I get an OWC data doubler kit and keep the 500 GB drive, or would that be too much of a risk. I'm planning on getting a 500 GB SSD but MAY spring for a larger one if the cost is alright.
 

MarkJames68

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Sep 24, 2017
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IMHO the single best upgrade you can do for any Mac Mini (or any Mac in general) is to add an SSD. I bought the lowest spec 2014 model on sale to act as as a Time Machine server (and a few other mundane tasks) and I am about to upgrade the HDD because everything is painfully slow. And that’s before running anything.

In my 2012 quad core which I use for music work I upgraded to a SSD and 16GB and it was the best investment I could have made. Take it slow, follow the tutorial and you’ll be done in no time.
 

Boyd01

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I have the same two machines - 2014 base for an iTunes server and 2012 quad for video/audio editing. The base 2014 is more than fast enough to be a server with the slow internal hard drive. My media is on a fast external USB 3.0 drive that clocks about 180MB/sec. Running file sharing I get about 100MB/sec over gigabit ethernet. So, at least in my case, replacing the internal disk with an SSD wouldn't be worth it. Probably the only time I'd notice would be when the machine boots - 3 or 4 times a year maybe? :)
 

davidg4781

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Oct 28, 2006
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Alice, TX
That's exactly what I did in 2011. I bought a Thunderbolt dock that has a second port to daisy-chain a monitor. The set-up has been solid. The internal HDD is for storage and Boot Camp. I find that Windows 7 on the HDD is slow as molasses so I hate to think what OS X would be like.
Can you link to that Thunderbolt dock? I can't seem to find anything like that. Maybe I'm searching for the wrong thing?

And it looks like I'd be best getting a USB 3.0 enclosure. I have an ACD so I need to use the TB port. And Firewire enclosures are expensive! At least with 3.0 I can use it in the future with an USB-C cable... correct?
 
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MarkJames68

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Sep 24, 2017
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I have the same two machines - 2014 base for an iTunes server and 2012 quad for video/audio editing. The base 2014 is more than fast enough to be a server with the slow internal hard drive. My media is on a fast external USB 3.0 drive that clocks about 180MB/sec. Running file sharing I get about 100MB/sec over gigabit ethernet. So, at least in my case, replacing the internal disk with an SSD wouldn't be worth it. Probably the only time I'd notice would be when the machine boots - 3 or 4 times a year maybe? :)
Also beach balls a lot when I remote into it. Oh, and the real reason - I have a spare SSD, the right tools and I’m bored ;)

My Plex server is running on a much bigger FreeNAS system...dual 6-core Lenovo TD340 server with 48 GB of RAM. Between Newegg and eBay it wasn’t that expensive.
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Can you link to that Thunderbolt dock? I can't seem to find anything like that. Maybe I'm searching for the wrong thing?

And it looks like I'd be best getting a USB 3.0 enclosure. I have an ACD so I need to use the TB port. And Firewire enclosures are expensive! At least with 3.0 I can use it in the future with an USB-C cable... correct?
There are several - I have this one and it’s worked well for the past 18 months.

https://www.amazon.com/CalDigit-Thunderbolt-Station-Ethernet-TS2-US-6010/dp/B00R85YS1W