Upgrade advice for 2009 Mac mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by BigRed1, Nov 25, 2013.

  1. BigRed1 macrumors 6502

    Dec 13, 2011
    I just got a 2009 Mac mini with 2gb ram and the stock 120gb hd. I have around $100 I can put into the machine right now. I'm debating between a ssd and 8gb of ram.

    I have an external USB hd for mass storage.

    I mainly use this machine for home recording in Logic 9, home iTunes media serving (500gb or so), and basic photo work in IPhoto (another quite large library).

    I get a lot if beach balls. I'm thinking that ram should come first, then the ssd in a few months when I can afford part two.

    If I get the ram, can I just get one 8gb module, allowing me to add a second at a later date or do I really need a matched set? I value flexibility over a marginal performance increase.

    Thanks for any advice.
  2. bobtennis, Nov 25, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013

    bobtennis macrumors member

    Jul 8, 2013

    Congratulations on your Mini 2009! You did not say whether it is an Early 2009, or Late 2009, but based on the hard drive spec of 120GB, I suspect you have an early 2009. See this reference about this model and specs:


    Based on this, it seems you have a maximum of 8GB Ram limit, 1066 MHz PC3-8500 DDR3 SO-DIMMs. I would definitely max that out to the 8GB first, as it will help with the beach balls. I would recommend 2 4 GB sticks as opposed to 1 8GB stick, for compatibility and to allow dual channel CPU access. Might as well put them both in at the same time while you are in the case.

    As far as the SSD goes, you can wait until later, but the original drive in the Minis of that age were very slow (Fujitsu, I think?), so you will probably still see beach balls on disk access still (but the memory upgrade will definitely help). If you want to do the SSD now, remember that this has a Sata II speed, 3 gb/s, so you will be "bottlenecked" as far as maximum speed, however, it will be worlds faster than any hard drive upgrade. If you want somewhat faster disk access in the interim, consider a 7200 rpm disk, but actually, you are better off going the SSD route instead of "wasting" the money on the faster HDD now.

    As far as SSDs, relative speed does not matter as much due to the SATA II interface, as any SATA III SSD will saturate your bandwidth limiting top speed, so go for reliability. My personal choice would be a Samsung 840 (EVO or otherwise) as this is known for reliability and "bang for the buck", but you can look at others for a sale or if you want something else. I'm sure other forum members will have opinions to offer on that. A personal opinion, but I would avoid Sandforce drives, as some have had difficulty in Macs with SATA II controllers in them (e.g. Sandisk Extreme had to issue a special firmware to be Mac SATA II compatible). But, I am not certain of that, so take it for what it's worth. I have used Sandforce SSDs in Macs, but not with that vintage of controller. Also, I recommend 250-256 SSD size or larger, as anymore, 120GB seems small, this will give you some room for storage (unless you want to use an external drive for storage).

    So, to recap, I recommend you to up the memory first, then the SSD.
  3. BigRed1 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 13, 2011
    Thanks! You are right - it is the early 2009 version (which I should have mentioned...). I didn't realize that 8gb was the limit - I assumed that this was just the official limit, not the actual limit..

    I think I'll go for the 8gb of RAM now, then wait and get the SSD when I have a bit more cash. Maybe be then the bigger ones will be more affordable, too.
  4. bobtennis macrumors member

    Jul 8, 2013
    I think you are right doing the RAM upgrade first. In my "collection" I have a late 2009 Mini 2.53 gHz with 8 GB RAM, and a 500 GB 7200 rpm WD Black HDD, and it zips right along still without missing a beat! I used to use it with Photoshop quite a bit without issue, not so much anymore as I have new "toys", but I am not thinking of getting rid of it yet. Maybe I'll add an SSD to it someday, just to see what it will do.

    I noticed on rereading your post you are already using an external drive for storage, so if you go the SSD route, a 120GB size may suit your needs also. But, speed is addictive, and the "eternity" you'll wait for the HDD to read the files will seem longer than it actually is! But, be practical now, it really isn't that slow! You'll see!

    Best of luck with your upgrade!
  5. Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

    Aug 31, 2012
    An island in the Andaman Sea.
    4 GB along side the original 1 GB for a combined 5 GB of RAM in my early 2009 base model. It was getting slow last year, so I had a shop do the upgrade and install Mountain Lion (which requires 2 GB but they say is better with 4 GB). I have a very slow internet connection at home, and no credit card to pay App Store. About $US 125 well spent; up to speed and working fine without a matched pair of RAM sticks.

    Attached Files:

  6. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Maybe you can get both 4Gb and a Scorpio Black 750Gb drive. You say you put the files external, but USB2 is really slow with 480Mb/s. Internal it has Sata 3Gb/s. The Scorpio does around 1.5Gb/s. Many modern SSD's can do around 6Gb/s, but in this mac they will be slowed down to 3Gb/s because of the bus. I have the 2.26 boot with the suggested update in 25 seconds.

    Also, look for 1333mhz RAM. It is usually cheaper. I put my left-overs from a 2011 mini in this one, with the scorpio, so that was a 70 bucks update really improving the machine.

    If you have the iPhoto library external, USB2 really is your problem, not the ram or internal drive!
    You can also look for a Firewire 800 enclosure for the library. I do all the large file transfers with Gigabit, but a cheap gigabit external drive is usually nowhere as fast as a Mac on gigabit. Only high performance modern Synology's and the like deliver full gigabit throughput. Firewire 800 is probably the fastest/cheapest solution to speed up your external storage.
  7. BigRed1 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 13, 2011
    I like the idea of doing the 4gb ram upgrade with the big internal drive. That's a good idea. I could then add in the second 4gb chip later. I'd have to get a FireWire hub to use a drive since I'm using a FireWire audio interface. That starts to add up.

    I could probably do those two things for close to my budget.
  8. Acronyc macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2011
    I have 2 early 2009 minis, one I use for work at the office and another is a media server at home. The media server has a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive with 3GB of RAM and the office mini has 5GB of RAM with a 64GB SSD.

    If I personally had to choose only one upgrade, it would be the SSD. It really made the mini feel so much faster and has been great to use as a daily work machine (I don't do anything too intensive). In the end, both upgrades would be ideal. The mini I have at work really amazes me at how well it is holding up with the RAM and SSD upgrades. It does everything I need it to do and is almost five years old.

    Whatever you decide, congrats on the mini and enjoy it, these are great little computers.
  9. tivoboy macrumors 68040

    May 15, 2005
    addressable memory

    We have an early 2009 mac mini and I like that it appears one CAN put 8 GB in there with the 1.2 FMI, but I have read reports that the mac and even OS yosemite can only address 3GB of the memory and anything else will go to waste. Can anyone confirm that 4GB or even 6 or 8 GB CAN indeed be used and leveraged?
  10. batlogic macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2012
    I would keep saving and do both at once

    Opening up the 2009 isn't easy. Since the hard drive is under the plastic holder and the RaM is there as well. If I had the choice, I would only open it up once. You take less chance damaging the equipment.

    I have 8GB Ram in my 2009 mac mini. All 8 GB is addressed under every OS version that has been on the machine (including Yosemite). I have a 128BG SDD in there and it zips right along.

    At Other World 8GB will be 80 dollars and the SDD is another 80. I bought everything on Amazon. $60 for a Samsung 850 SDD (256 SSD for $90) and $56 for the crucial memory.

    You can do the larger drive and RAM for $150. I would just wait and do both at once.
  11. Jambalaya macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2013
    The late 2009 Mini can certainly address 8GM and use it all for Mavericks/Yosemiti etc - that's the machine I have and I did the 2->8 upgrade. Yours is an early 2009 machine however. Possibly not much help but just wanted to highlight the dangers of confusing early vs late 2009
  12. Razzerman macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2007
    Good old mini


    Looks like a topical thread revival ;)

    I recently upgraded my early 2009 mac mini with a 256gb ssd and 8gb of ram, and it's like a whole new machine. Currently running 10.7.5, and previously I would have to reboot the machine every 2 or 3 days as, for some unknown reason, the hard drive space would slowly deteriorate to zero. Nice.

    Anyway, now it's a lovely little mac mini again, with a new lease of life. Even the kids (and more shockingly the mother-in-law) have noticed it is a lot 'snappier'.

    I had to open it up twice, for one reason or another. It's not easy, but watch the owc vid and get the right tools and it's straightforward enough.


  13. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    The Mac Mini 3,1 (2009) can be upgraded to 8GB of ram.

    Early 2009 must apply EFI Firmware Update 1.2 first in order to be compatible with 8GB of RAM. Late 2009 is good to go.

    I have never heard of the 3GB limit except in relation to stock default prior to the firmware update. OWC and Macminicolo confirm that the full 8GB can be used in OS X.

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