Transplant a 2013 Mini into a 2010 case?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Beta Particle, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. Beta Particle macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2012
    Recently, I have been thinking that a small low-power computer would be a nice companion for my high-end desktop PC.

    The 2010 Mini was the first unibody design, and came with a slot-loading DVD drive.

    The current Mini, and presumably the upcoming Haswell Mini, still use the same unibody design but have replaced the DVD drive with a second internal hard drive instead.

    As much as I would like the extra storage, I still need an optical drive today, and there are now even Blu-ray drives slim enough that they should fit inside the 2010 Mini shell.

    If I had the opportunity to pick up a cheap enough 2010 Mini, would it be possible to simply swap out the guts of a 2013 Mini so that I have a powerful quad-core CPU, Thunderbolt etc. along with an internal slot-loading Blu-ray drive?
  2. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    It seems like a lot of effort and expense IMO. You would have to buy two computers, as well as an internal blu-ray player, which may or may not fit easy depending on what kind of mounting setup the 2010 has. Maybe someone on the forum has a 2010 and a 2011/2012 to see whether the swap is even possible. It wouldn't surprise me if they were incompatible since a DVD and a 2.5" SATA disk have different footprints. And you'd have to bet that the 2013 is gonna be the exact same, which isn't a guarantee.

    I would just buy a 2013 and keep an external drive near by. It is slightly less elegant but will save a lot of headaches.
  3. bjm2660 macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2011
    You would do so at you own risk.

    That said, it's an intriguing idea.

    I can relate to your aesthetic desire for simplicity.

    Best of luck. Report back.
  4. benwiggy macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    The ports on the back are likely to be in different positions and in different configurations.

    Just buy an external drive and place it on the top.
  5. MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    Couldn't you just buy a a decent external drive one that aesthetically blends in with the Mac mini rather than brutalise it and damaging its resell value.....
  6. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    When the 2011's came out, someone started a thread wanting to do the same thing (by the way, the current Mini's are 2012's, there are no 2013's yet). In the end it isn't practical. You would need a 2010 case. Which you can buy and runs over $100. Secondly, you need to figure out how you are going to properly mount the DVD drive. Since the 2012 has no mount points for the DVD drive, you would have to some how mount it to the 2010 case. Not to mention you would need to make sure there is room (i.e. heat sinks and other components don't get in the way). It isn't a simple swap. Do yourself a favor and save yourself hours (possibly days) of headaches and possibly hundreds of dollars and just get a nice external DVD and/or Blu-Ray drive.

    Edit: Here are some backside comparison photos of the 2010 vs 2012

    You'll notice that the 2012 has capacitors/resistors/wifi wires/etc. poking up from the board closer to the hard drive "gap". That's exactly where you would want to put the DVD drive. That's pretty much a non-starter right there.
  7. i1100 macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2012
  8. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    It was done with the 2011 but required changing various parts. The guy who did it was an experienced case mod enthusiast.
  9. Beta Particle thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2012
    Thank you for the replies everyone.

    The thing that is so appealing to me about the Mini, is that it's a tiny all-in-one system that draws very little power.

    I really dislike external hard drives/optical drives, and the reason I have avoided PC solutions is because anything that size comes with an external power brick, unlike the Mini.

    Well my plan was to pull out the motherboard & backplate assembly, and just swap them out, leaving everything else intact. So things like port layout wouldn't matter.

    I'm not sure why you think this would have been "brutalizing" it. I am experienced with building computers and repairing laptops etc. so opening up the mini for this job would be trivial. I was really only concerned about whether or not the parts were an easy swap or not, as it looked like they should be from a quick glance at the iFixit site, and I thought someone here might have already tried it.

    Well all I had planned on doing was purchasing two Minis, and swapping out the backplate & motherboard. The hard drives/optical drive etc are mounted to the case, so I didn't think there would be any problem there.

    You would still be left with two functioning computers, it's just that the one with an optical drive would be fast enough for my needs, and the 2010 hardware (in the 2012 case with two HDDs) could have been used as a media server or given to a family member.

    Thanks, it never occurred to me to search for mods with the 2011 model for some reason, which put me on the right track. I've now found a good source of information for this, and it looks like you can do a simple modification to fit a 2012 mini into the 2010 case, but it's not possible with a Blu-ray drive:

    I think you might be able to use a Blu-ray drive with the 2010 motherboard, but that's far too slow for my needs.

    It's too bad that Apple has been so anti-Blu-ray, and removed the optical drive from the Minis completely. A 2012-spec Mini (or a 2013 one, once they are released) with a Blu-ray drive would have been perfect for me.
  10. helios16v macrumors regular

    Nov 1, 2008
    To put it simply, you "CAN" do this but it's going to cost a lot more money and way more time to fabricate mounting points for everything, it's not an easy conversion, not to mention you need to align the optical drive to match up perfectly with optical slot on the 2010 case. For what it's worth, you'll have a pretty awesome Mac mini on your hands. However for $80 you can buy the Apple external DVD drive and just plop it on top and you're done. It's not that nice, it looks awkward because it's smaller then the Mac mini and it's white cable out the back stands out when it's just that sitting on your desk but I suppose that's what Apple wants from us..

    The motherboard and stuff should just swap in and out but because Apple needs to be so damn efficient with everything, none of the cables are going to be in the right places so you would need to make some mounting points for the new motherboard, the hard drive, and the optical drive to accommodate for the cable locations of the new motherboard.

    Your best, cheapest, and possibly the easiest solution is to buy a 2010 Mac mini case off of ebay or something and do an ITX Hackintosh build, you won't get the nice Apple I/O board on the back of it but it's the cheapest solution to upgrading performance since you can get i7's on those little ITX boards now so that would be your best upgrade while keeping an optical drive since you would then be using all generic pc cables to connect everything.

    If you do fabricate a project up with this idea I would love to see it, make a build thread if you do it

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