Worth it to upgrade RAM in 2011 Mini?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by allisonv7, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. allisonv7 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Currently I have 8gb of RAM in my mid-2011 Mini and I'm thinking of upping that to 16gb. I'm not necessarily having problems with the machine, but was wondering if a boost in RAM at this point would be worth it and/or noticeable. I mainly do the basic stuff with some photo processing and photoshop work thrown in.

    Does anyone have experience doing this upgrade fairly recently? What do you guys think? Would I be better served to upgrade it now, or save the money (~$75) for my next computer (which probably wouldn't be for at least a year, hopefully).

    Thank you!
     
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #2
    You'd be better off throwing in an SSD, the difference between 8GB/16GB isn't hugely noticable unless you're running masses of plugins and the RAM is paging to the HDD.
     
  3. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3

    Thanks for the feedback, if it's going to speed up the computer I'm definitely more interested in hearing about this. I've never upgraded anything besides RAM. How difficult is it to install the physical drive? Also, and what I'm more concerned with, is how do you get the drive ready with the OS and and things like that? How would I transfer my date onto this new drive?
     
  4. Ebenezum macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 31, 2015
    #4
    You can find instructions here. It isn't exactly easy and if you're not certain of success you might want to hire a professional to do it for you...

    Alternatively you could by external case and instal SSD into it. Unfortunately your Mini doesn't support USB3 so have to use either WireWire or Thunderbolt case which are more expensive.

    Regardless of which way you choose to go first you want to clone your current drive into SSD by placing it into case and connecting it into Mini, then you can clone contents of your Mac into SSD by using Disk Utility, SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner.

    Mini should serve you well for several years with SSD and current RAM unless your needs change dramatically.
     
  5. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    I was hoping to do the external SSD and researched a bit, between the drive and the enclosure it looks like I'd spend a couple hundred. Not sure that's worth it, unfortunately. I read through the instructions to physically replace the drive and it looks fairly tedious and I don't have many of the required tools :(.
     
  6. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #6
    Actually, it's quite easy to determine whether extra RAM would provide a noticeable improvement to your computer. If you run the application "Activity Monitor" (normally found in the "Utilities" folder within the "Applications" folder), and select the "Memory" tab, you'll be presented with a list of apps in order of their memory usage, along with some statistical information at the bottom of the window. The "Memory Pressure" graph provides a very general estimation of how well memory is being managed, but the two bottom values, "Swap Used" and "Compressed" will give you exact values for how much benefit you could derive with more RAM.

    First, when OSX runs out of physical space in RAM, it tries to compress rarely-used data. This is a tradeoff of space for time; it allows you to fit more data into RAM, but requires CPU power to uncompress that data when it needs to be accessed. It's a cool trick, but only goes so far. :) You can only compress data so much; after that, the OS will start to "swap" regions of memory out to the long-term storage (HD/SSD). This requires even more time than compression does.

    If both "Compressed" and "Swap Used" values are 0, you'll get no benefit at all from more RAM. If you've got a fairly high "Compressed" value, you'll probably get some benefit from more RAM (as long as you get enough to avoid any compression). And if you've got any "Swap Used" value, you'll probably see significant improvements in speed from any increase in RAM.

    (And yeah, you'll probably want to check the Activity Monitor when you are putting the most stress on your machine, such as the photo processing you were mentioning.)

    BTW, let me go ahead and mention my (highly unpopular) point of view on SSDs. The SSD serves the same purpose as a hard drive -- it is used for persistent data storage. For most people, it is mainly used when loading data into the machine; so, at boot-up time (loading the operating system), and when starting applications (loading the app). The SSD significantly improves these two operations. It does _not_ significantly improve anything else. For myself, I tend to leave my computers running 24/7 (so I'm not constantly turning them on and off), and I tend to keep my most important apps running (so I'm not constantly opening and closing and reopening them). As such, I don't really see much value myself in the SSD; more RAM provides a better boost in speed for me...
     
  7. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #7

    Great information! Thanks!

    I just checked and my Swap is at ~44mb and Compressed ~809mb. Not sure what qualifies as high, what do you think of these numbers?

    What you pointed out about the SSD is one of the questions I was wondering about. So once an app is booted, there's no change in speed when running the app, am I getting that right? I leave my computer on 24/7 and rarely reboot, but I do open/close out of photoshop cc, iPhoto, lightroom, as I go. It take a good 10 seconds for photoshop to open, so the SSD might be something I look into. Though I suppose I could get a large enough drive for my photo library, right now it's at about 125gb.
     
  8. jpietrzak8 macrumors 6502a

    jpietrzak8

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    #8
    44 Mb of swap is, i think, a fairly tiny amount, but it does indicate that you've reached the very limits of your physical RAM (and the fairly large value for Compressed memory confirms it). I think you would be able to notice some improvement in performance with an upgrade in RAM. :)

    It depends on the app -- if you have something that frequently accesses long-term storage (large databases are the classic example), you would benefit from the fastest long-term storage you can afford. But e-mail, web browser, word processor, etc. tend not to need to access the drive very frequently, so don't really see an improvement from the SSD.

    Photoshop is an app that can probably use as much RAM as you can throw at it, but I don't think it gets any real value out of an SSD (other than a reduced startup time, of course). (I think this goes for Lightroom as well.)

    iPhoto, on the other hand, is pretty much a database app; if you've got a huge library of photos (and it sounds like you do), it probably _would_ get a fairly substantial boost out of an SSD. :)
     
  9. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #9

    Thanks, I might read a bit more, but I'm leaning towards upping the RAM if I'm going to notice a difference, it's the cheapest option. I'm just looking to get another year or two out of this machine. I am curious about the SSD option too, and I could use that drive with my next computer as well..... decisions, decisions!

    BTW, I grew up in Dayton :p
     

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