Upgrading Late 2012 Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by realhiphop, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. realhiphop macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    #1
    My Mac Mini has gotten noticeably slower and I’ve started to see the spinning wheel far more frequently.

    I currently have the Late 2012 Mac Mini with 2.5GHZ i5, 4GB Memory, 500 GB HDD, and a 3TB Lacie Drive externally that houses my media.

    I’m looking to boost performance of my computer so that I can use it for some time. I likely have 3 upgrades available to me.

    1. Swap HDD for an SSD or keep HDD but add SSD as Boot Drive and use HDD with OWC Data Doubler

    2. Upgrade to 16GB Ram

    Would buying an SSD, or upgrading the RAM make the biggest impact on Mini speed/performance? Doing both is obviously an option as well.


    What would you guys recommend doing?
     
  2. Ebenezum macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2015
    #2
    It would help to know what you are using the Mini for...?

    Things like software, external hardware, etc.
     
  3. oneMadRssn macrumors 68040

    oneMadRssn

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #3
    I would do the following:

    At first, open it up and add an SSD. You can either set it up as a fusion drive, or keep it separate as a boot drive and manage which files are on which drive manually. Put the SSD in the upper bay, and put the HDD in the lower bay, since the lower is easier to access later on and the HDD is likely the one you will want to access sooner. Further, take this opportunity to clean out the Mac of dust. (Also totally optional and not for those who cannot afford the risk, while you have the MM open, if you're up for it on a technical level, I would also clean out and replace the thermal paste.)

    Later or at the same time as above, second, I would upgrade the RAM to either 8GB or 16GB if you want to spend the cash. DDR3 RAM prices are finally falling right now after a being stuck pretty high for a while, so the longer you wait to do this the less it will cost.

    Much later, third, I would replace the HDD with a second SSD (hence putting the HDD in the lower bay in the first step). I bet within a year, we will see 1TB or 2TB SSDs at $0.20/GB, which will be quite affordable if you need it.
     
  4. realhiphop thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    #4
    Is there any downside to keeping the existing HDD and using for additional storage? Seems to me that the consensus opinion would be to upgrade the boot drive to an SSD.
     
  5. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2008
    Location:
    Zurich, Switzerland
    #5
    Actually, adding 16GB RAM is much easier than adding an SSD.
    If you do a lot of I/O, move a lot of data around (VMs, pictures), you will notice the slowness of the HD. And booting is still slow with 16GB RAM. Just a little bit faster.
    Admittedly, the 2012 i5 of my mother isn't really loaded with all kinds of software - but when I visit, I'm amazed at how fast it actually is (given the fact that I just upgraded the RAM to 16GB and nothing else).
    Prices of RAM aren't going to fall much more - especially for DDR3 SODIMMS.

    So, you could try getting 16GB RAM and see how it's working for you, while you wait for SSD prices to drop further (or rather: more capacity being available for the same money), while speed and reliability of the SSDs improve further.
    RAM is RAM. It's not going to get better or faster ;-)

    I'm not a fan of Fusion-drives. Not the least because it's a pain to completely dismantle the Mini. If you just swap the HD for an SSD it's much less work.
     
  6. danb1979 macrumors member

    danb1979

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2015
    Location:
    Preston, Lancs - UK
    #6
    I'm on my mini all day with my business and things were getting a little slower than I liked

    Fair enough mines an i7 and already had 16GB RAM, but I still wanted to up the speeds.

    I've installed a 250GB SSD alongside the OEM 1TB HDD and its managed via the Fusion a drive and I couldn't be happier!

    It's fast, everything is uber-slick and the boot speeds are superb compared to beforehand!

    I'd highly recommend this way
     
  7. macmesser, Dec 30, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015

    macmesser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2012
    Location:
    Long Island, NY USA
    #7
    I have the same setup and I concur with danb1979. I would update the RAM first if you can't just go for everything right away, preferably to 16GB. 4GB is really light if you are using the machine for anything but web surfing, word processing, spreadsheets, etc. When you can, add an SSD. You can probably go with a 120GB SSD and I'd recommend an OWC SSD drive as their firmware obviates the need to enable trim for a non-Apple SSD. You won't need to for a while, but they also provide upgrades for firmware/driver that are easy to install, or you can buy an inexpensive usb drive from them with the installer if you want 0 hassle. You probably won't need this, as they have downloads available with instructions and they will provide excellent support in the unlikely event that you get stuck. The Mercury Electra 120GB is currently 65.99 while the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 120GB is $91.75. I have an Extreme Pro and would recommend this one since it's not terribly more expensive and you will be booting from it. External storage is easy with either USB 3 or TB so I'd set up a Fusion drive with the OWC SSD. That will give you a 620GB boot drive which should be pretty zippy and give you more than adequate capacity. A 250GB Mercury Extreme Pro might be a little faster and give you a full .75TB fusion drive but for your machine I'd say the 120GB gives real bang for buck.
     
  8. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2008
    Location:
    Zurich, Switzerland
    #8
    IIRC El Capitan (or even some later update of Yosemite) completely removes any restrictions on which SSD and firmware it will activate TRIM. Now that Apple sells proprietary PCIe SSDs, they're not going to lose a lot of business there nevertheless...

    You can buy the cheapest Crucial, Kingston, Toshiba, Samsung - whatever.
    Here, the cheapest Kingston 480GB is about 150 USD (incl tax and delivery). If you don't have it, add the iFixit kit to that bill.
     
  9. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #9
    Hi,

    I own the exact same model as you and have performed the following upgrades: 960 GB SSD, 16 GB RAM kit. My 500 GB factory drive was installed in the upper bay so I just left it there and installed the 960 GB SSD in the lower bay and set it as my primary drive. I use the old 500 GB drive to archive media mostly.

    RAM kit offers a significant and noticeable performance boost. I own a 2014 Macbook Pro with 8 GB of RAM. In day to day operation these two machines are functionally identical. My Mini can run more apps and handle virtual machines better because of all the extra RAM and storage space it has. If budget is a concern you can go with just an 8 GB RAM kit and will likely see all the performance gains you want. This is a significant upgrade for the 2012 Mac mini that will eliminate almost all of your memory issues.

    For the SSD, performance is slightly below that of the Macbook's flash memory. Say 1-2 seconds longer boot. It is still lightning fast compared to the old 500 GB drive. It was a great upgrade but is also fairly difficult because it involves disassembling the logic board to get to the drive bays. If your HDD is installed in the lower drive bay, you'll have to remove the logic board in order to get to the upper bay. If you can use the lower bay, you'll still have to partially remove the logic board in order to give yourself enough space to work.

    This was a very hard upgrade for me because I am a big dude with big godzilla hands and the bits you are working with are very small. I purchased my parts from OWC and they have very useful instructional videos for doing the upgrade

    http://eshop.macsales.com/installvideos/mac_mini2012_server_hd/

    One thing I really appreciated about ordering my upgrade kit from OWC is that they sent it out with a full color manual explaining the install process. Great company! Their upgrade kit also includes all of the screw drivers, bits, and other things you will need.
     
  10. c8rlo macrumors 6502

    c8rlo

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2015
    Location:
    FL
    #10
    to the OP, i would just go with an SSD upgrade and 8gb RAM for starters. you can always add more of either later on to suit your needs.
     
  11. kaibob macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Location:
    Prescott, Arizona
    #11

    I have the same exact computer. I upgraded to 16GB of ram and saw some performance increase but not near what I expected. I then started using a Samsung 840 Pro SSD in an external enclosure as the boot drive and the increase in performance was significant. So, to directly answer your question, I think you will see the biggest impact on performance from an SSD.

    BTW, ram and SSD's are cheap enough now that I would do both.
     
  12. tibas92013 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Location:
    Costa Rica
    #12
    I too have the same MM as both you guys in which I upgraded the Ram to 16GB, however, with no significant performance increase. I will be putting a SSD into this "beast" in the very near future.
     
  13. chrfr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #13
    Upgrading to 16GB of RAM would only improve your computer's performance if you were actually using all of whatever RAM you had in there before. Most users don't need 16GB.
     
  14. D.T. macrumors 603

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #14
    Same here, '12 Server model, 2.3GHz QC i7, love this little machine. It had 2x 500GB HDDs, and I did the same - partially due to the complexity of accessing the upper bay - retained the upper 500GB HDD, used for media and archives, put my 512GB SSD in the lower bay.

    It's actually an older MX100 that I originally had in my '11 MBP, then a '12 Mini DC i5, and finally this QC i7 Mini** :)


    It's really just the antennae screen and fan/vent assembly for the lower drive, I was able to swap out my i5 SSD back to the original HDD (to sell), and the i7 lower HDD to the SSD in < 20 minutes, it's like 5-6 screws, though I'm always futzing around with tiny components and whatnot.


    ** Additional SSD migration amazement: my current SSD was setup using the image option in Disk Util to transfer the OEM boot HDD in my MBP, using an external interface to connect the SSD. That boot HDD originally came with Lion, the SSD has since been updated to Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, currently on El Cap, no fresh installs, no issues. I love OSX. :D
     
  15. realhiphop thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    #15
    Thanks everyone. It seems to me that the SSD upgrade is a pretty obvious one, but I'll likely do the RAM as well. How do I know which bay my drive is in without opening up the Mini?

    Is the install to keep my stock drive while adding the SSD as my boot drive a lot more complex than simply swapping the stock drive for the SSD?
     
  16. D.T. macrumors 603

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #16
    If it's a non-server machine, that came with a single drive, then it should be in the lower bay, i.e., the easier to access location. Per my post above, if you look at some guides like at iFixIt, they will say to remove a few additional screws and partially pull out the logic board, you definitely don't have to do that. I swapped the HDD for an SSD in a '12 i5, then put the HDD back in to sell it, then swapped out the lower drive on my current machine - I've never, pulled out the logic board, and for that matter I've never even removed the cable from the antenna plate, I just set it to one side.

    Definitely, that gets into removing the logic board, plus you'll need some of the mounting studs, the very specialized cable, etc., available as a kit from OWC:

    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/DIYIMM11D2/
     
  17. Daisy81 Suspended

    Daisy81

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Location:
    Virginia
    #17
    This page has a step by step guide on finding out what slot your drive is in and they have the kit for installing the second drive for either position the drive is in. I bought the kit from these people and it works. :D

    Edit: beaten to the punch by D.T. I second his suggestion.

    I know a lot of people don't like Best Buy but they were able to install the kit for me and my SSD for $30. If you don't feel confident tinkering with such a compact device they have some good Mac people there.
     
  18. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    #18
    What's not to like? $30 for an SSD & kit installation with a Best Buy guarantee sounds like a real good deal. Assuming the risk of popping the logic board is worth more than $30 without even considering the labor. :D
     
  19. Daisy81 Suspended

    Daisy81

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Location:
    Virginia
    #19
    Keeping in mind I bought the Mac Mini, 16GB RAM and the SSD from the store.

    I assume they are covered by insurance. If it had been damaged they told me they would have swapped out the unit and tried again. :D
     
  20. addictive macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2008
    #20
    I have a question regarding buying and upgrading the late 2012 Mac Mini. I have a 500GB+ SSD and 8GB RAM which I would like to use in the upgrade. However, if I purchased a new Mac Mini (or waited to Skylake) what actual differences will I see in performance? PCIe Flash vs the SSD I would install myself? The 2012 i5 processor vs the current i5 or Skylake i5.

    Which would you recommend? Is it myopic to consider buying a used Mac Mini (2012) now which is already several years old? Certainly upgrading to SSD and maxing out the RAM would help the performance. Or should I spend more money and buy the newest Mac Mini available when the time comes to buy and buy it with PCIe Flash and the maximum RAM?

    Please let me know your suggestions. Thanks.
     
  21. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #21
    Assuming they use the same flash memory in a potential Skylake mini that they are using in the current MacBooks, read/write times would be significantly improved. When I compare my 2014 Macbook Pro to my mini, the Pro is certainly faster though by maybe 1 1/2 seconds, so for me it is not significant. I am not regularly doing heavy read/write options though and from my experience people who do have to perform such operations are quite happy with the faster drives that Apple has been using in the 2015 MacBooks.

    As far as CPUs go, Skylake is more or less an incremental upgrade of what was already an incremental upgrade. Skylake CPUs are certainly faster than Ivy Bridge CPUs and burn less energy (not as much of an issue in desktop computers) but only marginally so. A Skylake dual-core i5 is not going to be the deal-maker to help you run programs and applications that an Ivy Bridge CPU cannot. In real world use it might be able to run those programs slightly faster (if we're talking something where you'll even notice CPU speed like processing work).

    I do not believe the 2012 Minis are a bad purchase right now and will most likely continue to be a good purchase throughout 2016 and into 2017. Unless Apple radically departs from the design direction they appear to be heading in, the 2012 Minis will remain a better buy than the Minis for the next several years. The new dual-core machines compare quite favorably to the old dual-core machines but the quad core Mini from 2012 will most likely be a top performer on this model for some time to come.

    One major issue is in graphics work where the HD 4000 in the 2012 Mini is only getting older and the Iris chips that Apple is using in the higher end 2014 Mini (and likely higher end configurations of a 2016 or 2017 Mini) are a significant upgrade. The HD 4000 is quite capable of running a desktop environment at high resolution and includes multi-monitor support but it struggles with 3D work, especially on software that is newer than 2012. I rely on mine for gaming and it is a fine chip for Indie titles and older games but falls apart with virtually anything new. The last major release I have played on it with a reasonable frame rate and visuals was Borderlands 2, though I am sure other gamers on this system might have experience with newer titles. I'd been thinking of trying Fallout 4 on it but I loathe the idea of playing that game on low with a resolution below 1080p just to get playable FPS. It goes without saying that if you aren't planning to run these kinds of programs, the HD 4000 should remain adequate for the next couple of years. This chip is capped at 2k resolution (2560x1600 IIRC) however, so if you are planning to upgrade to 4k+ in the next few years you will want something newer.

    My personal plan is to keep my Ivy Bridge mini until 2017 when cannonlake becomes widely available. Unless Apple does something really surprising with the minis (like offering user upgrades and quad core CPUs again), I'll likely retire it for an iMac. I don't figure on it being a bad computer in 2017, but I will be looking to upgrade from that HD 4000 to at least a 4k display. I'll probably turn the computer into an HTPC or give it to my parents after that.
     
  22. addictive macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2008
    #22
    Thank you Algus. This is a really informative post. I won't be doing any 3D work and gaming is not part of my life so having a HD4000 probably wouldn't be a significant issue for me.

    I'm currently using a Macbook Unibody 2008 which I'm got a 500GB SSD and 8GB RAM and apart from terrible battery life and a display which is not Retina this Macbook still works fine. It is an old core2duo and been running great for over seven years now. I could get it to run for quite a lot longer I believe. The only problem is battery life and it would be considered heavy now for a laptop. The optical drive is not used anymore and I would like a Retina display but I'll keep waiting for Macs to improve with each iteration and when I really need one or this Macbook stops working then I'll buy the best available. Once USB-C conquers all the ports (or at least the majority of them) a new style chassis should be implemented for the Retina Macbook Pro.
     
  23. Daisy81 Suspended

    Daisy81

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Location:
    Virginia
    #23
    This is the MacBook that didn't have the SD card slot? t had that MacBook too. I remember when it first came out it was awesome. That was my first MacBook laptop.

    I like my 2012 Mac Mini but the HD4000 is the thing that I hate the most. If a external cpu on thunderbolt 2 could be used to run something like a GTX 560 TI in OS X tit would be years before I considered retiring my Mini.
     
  24. voyager03 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    #24
    I'm thinking of adding an SSD to my mini (2012 2.6 i7 8Gb memory 1Tb drive)

    I see that Apple has dramatically reduced the size of the flash memory in the new iMacs to 24GB - so is there much benefit in having a larger SSD over a smaller - given I have enough storage on my current drive? I'm guessing an OSX install (El Captain) is not that big So, rather than buy a large SSD I could just have a small one? Is there really much disadvantage to using a 32GB over 128 or 64? I do a bit of photo editing and playing with video, but nothing serious, but I'd like to 'speed it up' a bit!
     
  25. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #25
    If you go pure SSD then EVERYTHING can take advantage of it. I play a few different computer games that require loading off the disc as you move into different areas of the game. With the SSD these load times are virtually nonexistent and the entire game is more seamless. Big file transfers like moving around collections of media, etc. are a snap.

    Using small SSDs for the OS and a few key apps is very popular as large SSDs (mine is 1 TB and cost about $430 USD) are still quite expensive. Apple even sells their "fusion drives" like this. It is really an SSD and an HDD but software magic makes the computer think it is just one drive.

    My advice if you plan to install an SSD? Buy the largest you can afford. You can use your slower plate drive for data. That works great but if you have say 128 GB SSD that is the OS + all apps on that drive that are benefiting from the improved speed for super fast loading, etc.
     

Share This Page