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macbro08

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Original poster
Jun 1, 2020
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5
Hi

I recently purchased a 2nd hand Mac Mini late 2012. I am thinking about upgrading some of its parts, but would like to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks a lot in advance!

1) Memory: It has 2x2GB = 4GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 memory at the moment. I'd like to increase this to 2x 8GB = 16GB of memory, but where can I buy these memory blocks? Are they still being sold? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

2) OS: The Mac Mini is currently running OS X El Capitan version 10.11.6. Do you recommend that I upgrade the OS to, say, Catalina?

3) HD: I am contemplating upgrading the 1TB SATA disc to an SSD. Do you agree this is a good idea, or is it too big a hassle? If you recommend it, do you have suggestions for what SSD I should buy?

4) Graphics: I have connected the Mac Mini to my 55" 4K TV via HDMI. Unfortunately, the resolution is pretty poor as HDMI on this Mac Mini at best supports 1080p resolution at up to 60Hz. On the support page I read that it can "support up to two displays at 2560 by 1600 pixels, both at millions of colors". How can I utilize this? Do I need a different cable?
 

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Wando64

macrumors 68020
Jul 11, 2013
2,210
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I am still using one of these as my home server.
Definitely upgrade to 16GB RAM. Go to the Crucial website for the right memory.
Definitely swap the disk with a SSD. Once again I got mine from Crucial, but you could also use a Samsung, or any other SATA SSD.
Definitely upgrade to Catalina. It works great with this machine and it is still supported.

All of it is fairly easy to do if you follow instructions carefully.
 

Freeangel1

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Jan 13, 2020
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memory at Amazon. cheap. easy return policy.


Cheap Sandisk 1 TB SSD. Real fast read and write. beat out the Samsung evo ssd.


 
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MBAir2010

macrumors 603
May 30, 2018
6,433
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Macbro'8,
where do you live?
if north america, OWC had everything you need RAM wise with warrantees, crucial is alright as well
I purchased a WD blue sd drive from an real actual in person walmart store and that runs very well.
Mojave is all i need to run my 32bit apps while syncing my macbook air and iPad.

you can double deck 2 ssd drives.
fixit has great how to guides
when i switch drives, i don't take out the fan or ram.
all i need to do is unlatch the cover, unscrew the 4 ones
holding down the aluminum shield and careful place that to the side
then you can remove the original drive with a new ssd after unlatching the cable-drive adaptor.

let us know if you need more assistance.
BTW what processor does your mac mini have?
 
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Freeangel1

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Jan 13, 2020
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Macbro'8,
where do you live?
if north america, OWC had everything you need RAM wise with warrantees, crucial is alright as well
I purchased a WD blue sd drive from an real actual in person walmart store and that runs very well.
Mojave is all i need to run my 32bit apps while syncing my macbook air and iPad.

you can double deck 2 ssd drives.
fixit has great how to guides
when i switch drives, i don't take out the fan or ram.
all i need to do is unlatch the cover, unscrew the 4 ones
holding down the aluminum shield and careful place that to the side
then you can remove the original drive with a new ssd after unlatching the cable-drive adaptor.

let us know if you need more assistance.
BTW what processor does your mac mini have?
OWC is currently expensive for all their parts. memory and SSD's
Plus they dont have an easy return policy like amazon. drop off at a target and it goes right back.
Don't fall for OWC.
they have good garage sale specials but that is about it
And I have received bad memory from OWC in the past.
 
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Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,748
4,616
New Jersey Pine Barrens
RAM upgrade is dead easy, since the 2012 Mini was designed to be user-upgradeable. But you need to do major disassembly to add a SSD. Personally, I'd be reluctant to do that with a 10 year old computer, lots of chances to damage something.

A USB 3.0 external SSD is a good option, I have run two 2012 Mini's with them myself and it's quite fast. I used a 1TB Samsung T3 on a 2012 Quad-core Mini with demanding software like Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro for several years and it was great. The Samsung T3 was discontinued and the T5 is the replacement, but there are other options too.

For comparison, my 2012 has an original Apple internal SSD and this is what I get

mini_sm256e.jpg


Here's the 1tb Samsung T3 external SSD. From a user perspective, the external SSD really "feels" just as fast. The only difference I noticed was that it takes longer to boot. But there's no "installation", just plug it in. :)

samsung-t3-1tb.jpg
 
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MBAir2010

macrumors 603
May 30, 2018
6,433
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there
OWC is currently expensive for all their parts. memory and SSD's
Plus they dont have an easy return policy like amazon. drop off at a target and it goes right back.
Don't fall for OWC.
they have good garage sale specials but that is about it
And I have received bad memory from OWC in the past.
sorry to hear that, i have been using them since 2001 for my Bondi blue iMac and never had a problem.
except recently with my account and old email address.
what i like about them is they have a longer warrantee than other providers.
then again, i think im sticking with WD for all my drives from now on.
they have a nice 132GB lighting thumb drive that is great!
OWC has mac parts and accessories we can't find elsewhere.
too bad  never sold part for their s, or maybe that is a good thing.
 

MBAir2010

macrumors 603
May 30, 2018
6,433
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there
RAM upgrade is dead easy, since the 2012 Mini was designed to be user-upgradeable. But you need to do major disassembly to add a SSD.
Some owners of this mac mini claim the double stack procedure is not that involved,
depending on one's skill level.
did you add the extra drive yourself?
one of these day i might add another drive but for now in happy with the single.
then again i replaced laptop screens, logic boards and battery latches for powerbooks with the 32 screws.
so this seems basic compared to an iPhone or iMac repair.
 

Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
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New Jersey Pine Barrens
My 2012 Quad doesn't have an "extra drive". It has an original, factory-installed 256gb Apple internal SSD, there is no hard disk. As I said, I ran it for several years with an external SSD and was very pleased. Not interested in opening it up, there are plenty of old posts here from people who damaged their 2012 Mini's doing that.
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,594
12,702
It's probably a good idea to NOT put lots of $$$ into a Mini that is 10 years old.

HOWEVER... you can spend a little $$$ and still do much to improve its performance.

Memory:
Instead of replacing both DIMMs, I'd suggest you buy ONE 8gb DIMM, and just replace the "outermost" DIMM (with the bottom cover off). This will give you 10gb of installed RAM.

For a RAM source, I like this:

Drive:
Be aware that doing an internal drive swap has its risks of breaking something during disassembly.
You can get about 85% of the speed (that you would get from an internally-installed SSD) by "going external" instead.
Get a USB3 SSD, or put one together yourself.
Then plug it in and set it up to be "the new boot drive".

I booted and ran my own 2012 Mini for SIX YEARS this way, and it's still running that way over on my "back table".

OS:
I'd put Mojave on it, instead of Catalina.
Mojave is a smooth and stable OS release, and it's "the last OS" that can still run 32 bit software.

Graphics:
The graphics options are limited.
And like Clint Eastwood said in the movie, "A man's got to know his limitations".
4k using HDMI won't work. I think the maximum res you can get from the HDMI port is 1080p (or possibly 1440p). Not 4k.
I believe you can get 4k @ 30hz via displayport (the tbolt connection port), but you have to do some tweaking to get that, as well.
 
Last edited:

Amethyst1

macrumors G3
Oct 28, 2015
9,398
11,546
1) Memory: It has 2x2GB = 4GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 memory at the moment. I'd like to increase this to 2x 8GB = 16GB of memory, but where can I buy these memory blocks? Are they still being sold? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
You can upgrade to 16 GB RAM using two 8 GB SO-DIMM 1600 MHz DDR3 modules. They're still widely available.

2) OS: The Mac Mini is currently running OS X El Capitan version 10.11.6. Do you recommend that I upgrade the OS to, say, Catalina?
The most recent macOS you can run "officially" on there is Catalina. If you don't need 32-bit applications, you could go for that. If you do need 32-bit apps, I'd suggest staying at Mojave. At the very least, upgrading to High Sierra ensures you can run, e.g. the current version of Firefox. El Capitan is getting long in the tooth.

3) HD: I am contemplating upgrading the 1TB SATA disc to an SSD. Do you agree this is a good idea, or is it too big a hassle? If you recommend it, do you have suggestions for what SSD I should buy?
Definitely, it's easy and will make the Mac boot and launch applications much more quickly. The mini can take a 2.5" SATA SSD in place of the original hard drive, so any reputable brand should do. I mostly use Crucial BX500 (budget model but decent) and SanDisk Ultra II SSDs. But others may have additional suggestions. One thing to keep in mind is: the more recent you go in terms of macOS, the less pleasant the non-SSD experience will be. So putting an SSD in there is strongly recommended.

4) Graphics: I have connected the Mac Mini to my 55" 4K TV via HDMI. Unfortunately, the resolution is pretty poor as HDMI on this Mac Mini at best supports 1080p resolution at up to 60Hz. On the support page I read that it can "support up to two displays at 2560 by 1600 pixels, both at millions of colors". How can I utilize this? Do I need a different cable?
You can get 2560×1440 at 60 Hz on your TV but only by using the Mac's Mini DisplayPort output, so you need an active DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter because I'm fairly sure your TV only has HDMI inputs. Important: Do not get a simple "passive" DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter or cable, because that will also limit you to 1920×1080. You could also run 3840×2160 at 30 Hz but that won't be fun (I've been there). If you want 3840×2160 at 60 Hz, you need to hook up an external graphics card ("eGPU") via Thunderbolt.
 
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MBAir2010

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My 2012 Quad doesn't have an "extra drive". It has an original, factory-installed 256gb Apple internal SSD, there is no hard disk. As I said, I ran it for several years with an external SSD and was very pleased. Not interested in opening it up, there are plenty of old posts here from people who damaged their 2012 Mini's doing that.
Every time i remove the mini cover to install that extra drive,
i realize this is not worth the efforts!
 
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Freeangel1

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RAM upgrade is dead easy, since the 2012 Mini was designed to be user-upgradeable. But you need to do major disassembly to add a SSD. Personally, I'd be reluctant to do that with a 10 year old computer, lots of chances to damage something.

A USB 3.0 external SSD is a good option, I have run two 2012 Mini's with them myself and it's quite fast. I used a 1TB Samsung T3 on a 2012 Quad-core Mini with demanding software like Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro for several years and it was great. The Samsung T3 was discontinued and the T5 is the replacement, but there are other options too.

For comparison, my 2012 has an original Apple internal SSD and this is what I get

View attachment 1951136

Here's the 1tb Samsung T3 external SSD. From a user perspective, the external SSD really "feels" just as fast. The only difference I noticed was that it takes longer to boot. But there's no "installation", just plug it in. :)

View attachment 1951137

the 2012 Mac mini did not come with SSD drives. someone put that in.



oops. my fault. build to order you can get a rather small 256 GB.
 

lederermc

macrumors 6502a
Sep 30, 2014
897
756
Seattle

Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
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oops. my fault. build to order you can get a rather small 256 GB.

Yes, it's the top-spec server model - quad-core i7 2.6ghz/16gb. Ten years ago, a 256gb SSD wasn't necessarily considered "rather small". :) I had a 2011 MacBook Air with a 256gb SSD, the biggest available back then (smallest was 64gb). Upgraded to a 512gb 2013 MBA and that SSD seemed HUGE at the time!


Screen Shot 2022-01-29 at 12.38.08 PM.png
 

nastysailboat

Cancelled
May 7, 2021
306
259
OWC is currently expensive for all their parts. memory and SSD's
Plus they dont have an easy return policy like amazon. drop off at a target and it goes right back.
Don't fall for OWC.
they have good garage sale specials but that is about it
And I have received bad memory from OWC in the past.
I’ve gotten a lot of Mac parts from them. I think they’re great. Not super cheap but the quality seems to be a little better to me
 

macbro08

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 1, 2020
24
5
Thanks for all the input. I'm going through them all right now, starting with finding new RAM sticks.

I found these (CT2KIT102464BF160B) by Crucial. On Amazon many customers say that they have successfully installed it in their Mac Mini late 2012, yet on Crucial's on site it says the RAM is not compatible with that model.

Do you know why that is the case and if they do/don't fit?

I don't live in the US, so buying OWC from their website is unfortunately not an option.
3 crucial.png
 
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Wando64

macrumors 68020
Jul 11, 2013
2,210
2,814
Crucial should allow you the option to scan your Mac and suggest the appropriate hardware.
I have entered the details manually and this is what it suggested:

EA5B3F6A-7BF7-4557-A862-08FDC604F3F2.jpeg


However there are others that are equally compatible so I wouldn’t know about the ones you suggested.
 
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macbro08

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 1, 2020
24
5
Drive:
Be aware that doing an internal drive swap has its risks of breaking something during disassembly.
You can get about 85% of the speed (that you would get from an internally-installed SSD) by "going external" instead.
Get a USB3 SSD, or put one together yourself.
Then plug it in and set it up to be "the new boot drive".

I booted and ran my own 2012 Mini for SIX YEARS this way, and it's still running that way over on my "back table".

RAM upgrade is dead easy, since the 2012 Mini was designed to be user-upgradeable. But you need to do major disassembly to add a SSD. Personally, I'd be reluctant to do that with a 10 year old computer, lots of chances to damage something.

A USB 3.0 external SSD is a good option, I have run two 2012 Mini's with them myself and it's quite fast. I used a 1TB Samsung T3 on a 2012 Quad-core Mini with demanding software like Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro for several years and it was great. The Samsung T3 was discontinued and the T5 is the replacement, but there are other options too.

Thanks, this is a great suggestion. I'm contemplating getting a Samsung T7 500GB SSD as external drive and install Catalina on it. Do you reckon this is a good idea? As far as googling goes, I haven't found anything that discourages this method besides the fact that the 2012 Mac Mini won't be able to fully use the USB 3.2 connection. But I guess it will still beat the SATA disc I currently have...
 
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Boyd01

Moderator
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Feb 21, 2012
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The T7 is great, I have three of the 2tb versions. They are really fast on my 2018 Mini, over 800MB/sec. But you are correct, the 2012 Mini can't acheive those speeds. It should be pretty similar to the disk test I posted above with the older T3, maybe slightly faster.

Unless you plan to upgrade to a newer Mac with a USB-C port in the future, you might want to get the Samsung T5 instead. It should be cheaper and just as fast as a T7 on the 2012 Mini (although I have seen sales where the T7 is about the same price).
 

Miat

macrumors 6502a
Jul 13, 2012
853
808
Have the same model Mini as you.

Running from an external SSD drive via USB is fine, I did it for a while. Slight speed penalty, but not really noticeable for general use.

The RAM is easy enough to do yourself. If you have never done it, you can find instruction videos on Youtube. Look for the ifixit and OWC vids.
 

Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,748
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New Jersey Pine Barrens
The RAM is easy enough to do yourself. If you have never done it, you can find instruction videos on Youtube.

No need to go to Youtube, Apple themselves have RAM upgrade instructions for the 2012 Mini. It's so easy, I can't imagine anybody would need to watch a video. Those were the days... how things have changed. :)

 
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Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,594
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OP:
"I'm contemplating getting a Samsung T7 500GB SSD as external drive and install Catalina on it."

That should work. Again, I'd suggest Mojave as being more compatible with older software.

WARNING: DON'T BUY RAM unless you KNOW it's the right kind.
Doing otherwise is a sure road to "problems".
 

Neodym

macrumors 68020
Jul 5, 2002
2,448
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I believe you can get 4k @ 30hz via displayport (the tbolt connection port), but you have to do some tweaking to get that, as well.
3440x1440@50Hz (aka 3.5k) via TB/DP is offered out of the box with - I think - Maverick and upwards. No tinkering, just plug and play.

And I could still run a second monitor via HDMI.
 

dazey

macrumors 6502
Dec 9, 2005
327
55
Don't really understand the concerns on adding second drives internally. It involves disassembling the whole mini but its a really easy machine to pull apart (granted I am an engineer). I have done 3 minis over the years. The cost to add the second drive is about $10 (excluding drive), just search on Mac mini second drive kit on ebay and there are plenty (all sent from china)
You would stick the newest and biggest drive in the new, lower position (as this required more disassembly to get at). The top drive is swapped by simply removing the fan and cover.

If you want to do things cheaply, stick a boot SSD in it/external and keep the 1TB spinning drive for data. SATA SSD Drives under 500GB are basically worthless these days (am selling a 256GB samsung 850 evo for £20 at the mo and they are only £50 new)

I would agree with Mojave as OS of choice

8GB RAM is a minimum recommended IMO. I have one 2012 with 10GB (8+2) and one with 16GB.
 
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