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Mac mini: teardown, adding second hard drive, 1TB upgrade kit

post #1 of 74
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Apple's new Mac mini can be taken apart in fifteen steps with an easy-to-follow, photo-rich instruction guide from a third-party solutions provider, which has also announced a do-it-yourself upgrade kit to replace the standard storage and optical drives with two 500 GB hard drives.

The Mac and iPod repair gurus at iFixit have taken their first look at the new Mac mini, and they've found it much easier to disassemble than the new iMac also introduced earlier this week.

Teardown and comparisons

The mini can be torn down with a Phillips #0 screwdriver and 1.5-inch thin putty knife. This week's refresh represents just the third significant architecture overhaul to the diminutive deskop, all three of which -- PowerPC, Intel Core Duo, and Intel Core 2 Duo -- can be seen stacked on top of one another in the photo below.



The top cover is removed with a careful prying motion to separate it from the bottom housing, and since there are no longer any cables attaching the two, it was easy to get out of the way before diving right into the components. Here, iFixit has just removed the top cover for a look at the undisturbed contents. Visible on the vertical edges are two antennas for the Broadcom AirPort wireless and a Bluetooth radio.



Later on in the process, iFixit spent a lot of time searching for the screws holding the internal frame to the bottom housing but finally was able to locate them to disassemble the top half of the mini. The technicians found their $599 mini shipped with a single 1GB memory chip, which had 128 MB allocated automatically to the NVIDIA 9400M graphics processor. When they tried installing a second chip in the machine, totaling 2GB, the 9400M automatically doubled the graphics memory to 256 MB.

Then, out came the AirPort/Bluetooth board, followed by the logic board. Here are all the components laid bare, and iFixit reports it was quite easy to put them all back together as well.



Full instructions, complete with helpful photographs of hard-to-find screws and cables circled, are available here.

Hard Drive Upgrade Kit

Wasting little time putting their newfound knowledge to work, the solutions provider discovered it's possible to remove the optical SuperDrive, swap out the original hard drive, and cram two 500GB models from Western Digital into the case for total storage of 1TB.

Technicians caution, however, that the challenge in making both drives fit snugly without being damaged when the machine is reassembled, combined with some necessary soldering, makes the installation "very difficult." That said, their step-by-step instructions -- covering nine pages and 27 steps -- do well to remove virtually all of the guesswork.





Once finished, Time Machine can back up to the internal drive with no hacking required, and a couple Terminal commands enable the MacBook Air's Remote Disc sharing feature should users ever need the use of an optical drive. You can also RAID the drives together to make a single 1TB disk instead of using Time Machine. All of these steps are explained in the guidelines, available here.



The upgrade kit, complete with two SATA hard drives, cables, and tools, is being sold for $249.95. Soldering supplies must be purchased separately.
post #2 of 74
Wow that's annoying. Apple should have designed it to be easy. Four screws, or something. Poor mini gettin' no love.
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post #3 of 74
Nice brain surgery.
post #4 of 74
Now how about an instructional on lashing together 50 of these to create a mini cluster?

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post #5 of 74
I hope transintl.com, macsales.com or newertech will manufacture a custom cable that is the correct length and doesn't require any soldering and sell it separately at a reasonable price.

The Mac mini is such a great little machine.
I wish Apple would dedicate more resources to build the ecosystem around this product.
post #6 of 74
Have fun and void your warranty - all at the same time!
post #7 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Wow that's annoying. Apple should have designed it to be easy. Four screws, or something. Poor mini gettin' no love.

It will........ All in good time. all in good time.

"the best is yet to come" MACWORLD 09'
post #8 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Now how about an instructional on lashing together 50 of these to create a mini cluster?

I read somewhere recently that a Visual Effects house compared the performance of an XServe with a Mac mini for use in a rendering cluster.
They found that they could get about half the performance for one-fifth the price.
So instead of buying 1 quad-core XServe you can buy 5 dual core Mac minis and get 2.5X performance.

I would love to see a company create a rack specifically designed for Mac minis.
post #9 of 74
But with the FW800 built in you can run some damn snappy external RAID setups in a plug and play scenario.
post #10 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

I read somewhere recently that a Visual Effects house compared the performance of an XServe with a Mac mini for use in a rendering cluster.
They found that they could get about half the performance for one-fifth the price.
So instead of buying 1 quad-core XServe you can buy 5 dual core Mac minis and get 2.5X performance.

I would love to see a company create a rack specifically designed for Mac minis.

Yes which is why, hindsight being 20/20, no high volume OS vendor that I know has attempted to bring grid computing to the masses. If you earn your bread selling boxes you don't want people just buying the basics. A render farm is just a bunch of connected procs..it's the infrastructure and software that matter more than the shiny case and hot swapability.

Quote:
Originally Posted by triadone View Post

But with the FW800 built in you can run some damn snappy external RAID setups in a plug and play scenario.

Yeah I personally wouldn't go through the hassle and potential thermal issues to get more internal storage but some unique cases may require such benefits.
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post #11 of 74
Just use the FW800 port to hook up an external HDD..
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post #12 of 74
I'm glad that the entire Apple product line finally shit-canned parallel ATA. Assuming the SATA port used for the optical drive isn't crippled somehow, I'd rather route a cable from it out the back, possibly by milling open a gap through the existing air vents. Then you could use a port-multiplier to set up a serious RAID array.

Perhaps this could also be done with the existing FW800, as has been mentioned. It would be great to see an I/O performance test between the Mini's FireWire port and the optical SATA port to see if there is any significant difference.
post #13 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dlux View Post

I'm glad that the entire Apple product line finally shit-canned parallel ATA. Assuming the SATA port used for the optical drive isn't crippled somehow, I'd rather route a cable from it out the back, possibly by milling open a gap through the existing air vents. Then you could use a port-multiplier to set up a serious RAID array.

Perhaps this could also be done with the existing FW800, as has been mentioned. It would be great to see an I/O performance test between the Mini's FireWire port and the optical SATA port to see if there is any significant difference.

You're not guaranteed port multiplication with SATA. I doubt the mini supports it at all.
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post #14 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

Just use the FW800 port to hook up an external HDD..

FW800 is fast...but it's MUCH slower than SATA
post #15 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

You're not guaranteed port multiplication with SATA. I doubt the mini supports it at all.

Is it something that is specific to individual SATA implementations? I've never seen or used it myself, so I have no experience with it. But it is something I'd like to investigate, especially if 10.6 Server supports RAID-Z at some point.

http://www.sata-io.org/portmultiplier.asp

My ideal affordable home server (short of the mythical xMac) would be a Mini running Snow Leopard Server, with a 5+disk RAID-Z attached externally. If FW800 is up to the task, fine. But that second SATA port in the Mini is awfully tempting...
post #16 of 74
I will never understand Apple. Not that I want to open up my computer and do stuff myself, but why must they (Apple) insist on producing stuff that is not user serviceable. Kinda like we are just borrowing the device from Apple, it is still their property. Don't even think of going inside. Hell, a blind person could likely upgrade a Dell Mini 9 (910). Nothing more is required than the correct screwdrivers.
post #17 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Yes which is why, hindsight being 20/20, no high volume OS vendor that I know has attempted to bring grid computing to the masses. If you earn your bread selling boxes you don't want people just buying the basics. A render farm is just a bunch of connected procs..it's the infrastructure and software that matter more than the shiny case and hot swapability.

What about XGrid? It's a little bit sad that there's not more applications taking advantage of it.
post #18 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by WPLJ42 View Post

I will never understand Apple. Not that I want to open up my computer and do stuff myself, but why must they (Apple) insist on producing stuff that is not user serviceable. Kinda like we are just borrowing the device from Apple, it is still their property. Don't even think of going inside. Hell, a blind person could likely upgrade a Dell Mini 9 (910). Nothing more is required than the correct screwdrivers.

I'm sure they designed the mini first and foremost to be easy for them to assemble, not for you to disassemble.
post #19 of 74
Everyone that's thinking about getting a Mac-Mini, be aware that it appears to not put out analog video. The mini-dvi appears to be digital only. So now I'm trying to find out how to drive my analog TV.
post #20 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

What about XGrid? It's a little bit sad that there's not more applications taking advantage of it.

I know...in today's era of Green computing having a few power efficient devices working could be better than one big monster.
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post #21 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hudson1 View Post

I'm sure they designed the mini first and foremost to be easy for them to assemble, not for you to disassemble.

That would be part of my point. This is more about Apple than us. Is the 8 hour battery life on the 17 inch more important than having the option of changing the battery myself? Would you purchase a cordless or wireless phone with a permanent battery? For this reason alone I will not, not, not buy an iPod.
post #22 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by WPLJ42 View Post

That would be part of my point. This is more about Apple than us. Is the 8 hour battery life on the 17 inch more important than having the option of changing the battery myself? Would you purchase a cordless or wireless phone with a permanent battery? For this reason alone I will not, not, not buy an iPod.

Watch it- you're inviting a matrix-like attack from the Kool-aid brigade.
Trust me, I know.
post #23 of 74
It almost looks from the pictures like you might be able to replace the one DVD drive with 2 (two)? hard drives? Is it possible to cram three drives in the mini?
post #24 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by dm3 View Post

It almost looks from the pictures like you might be able to replace the one DVD drive with 2 (two)? hard drives? Is it possible to cram three drives in the mini?

Maybe tape the third drive to the top of the case?

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post #25 of 74
I picked one up yesterday... and I'm loving it.

Why apple doesn't offer this little monster in a different enclosure is beyond me.

If you could throw in a few regular HDs, I'd be jumping for joy. I've already nearly filed the 120GB drive. We finally have dual screens... so I guess I should be happy.
post #26 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Watch it- you're inviting a matrix-like attack from the Kool-aid brigade.
Trust me, I know.

I am old, fat, and mostly fearless while hiding behind my keyboard. Unafraid to speak my mind. Never married either. So there you go. Apple has issues. It is so easy to slam Microsoft, why not be honest with regard to Apple?
post #27 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by WPLJ42 View Post

That would be part of my point. This is more about Apple than us. Is the 8 hour battery life on the 17 inch more important than having the option of changing the battery myself? Would you purchase a cordless or wireless phone with a permanent battery? For this reason alone I will not, not, not buy an iPod.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Watch it- you're inviting a matrix-like attack from the Kool-aid brigade.
Trust me, I know.

Nahh, I don't see that Matrix Attack coming. At least not until he decides to post multiple and similar complaints into every thread.

Dude is entitled to his opinion--it is clear that Apple makes non-standard choices that upset some reasonable people.

If, on the other hand, he were to appear to make it his life's hobby to spend his free time complaining about Apple's decisions on an Apple enthusiast site, well then certainly a reasonable person would see why he could expect to take some serious flack...
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post #28 of 74
Soldering is complete overkill for this. All you need is a few wire butt connectors that you can crimp the wire in place with. Not only is this a heck of a lot easier, but you don't risk a solder joint breaking.
post #29 of 74
I do have other posts. Uh Oh! I am not an Apple fan, but a Mac OS fan. I use a Mac only for the audio enforcement I require. Visual processing issues. I could survive by going back to the dark side, but would miss my best buddy Alex. If you look around, blind people are happily migrating to the Mac and that is awesome!!! Blind people can use a Mac right out of the box. Windows people must spend an extra $1,000. My eyes are bad for life. Apple will always be my first choice. Had an old iMac 350 and never understood Mac OS 9. Loved the voice Victoria. So, I apologize for slamming Apple. I love and need what they can do for me. Don't think Microsoft will EVER catch up. Windows 7 looks less blind-friendly than the others. Go Apple, Go!!!
post #30 of 74
wouldn't the mini get a LOT hotter with a second hd???
post #31 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Watch it- you're inviting a matrix-like attack from the Kool-aid brigade.
Trust me, I know.

Aren't people tired of trying to argue that Macs should be infinitely user-customizable yet? And that anyone who doesn't care is drinking the kool-aid?

Look, I've got a custom-built Linux box in my basement which is running RAID-5 (4 SATA drives), file serving to my LAN via SMB/AFP/NFS/SSH/UPnP, routing my wired LAN traffic over 2 bonded and load-balanced gigabit ethernet ports, routing my wireless LAN traffic, bridging my wired and wireless LANs, routing internet traffic for them, priority queuing internet traffic to ensure quality of service, doing nightly incremental backups to an external hard drive via rsync. I was even thinking about setting it up to make me coffee when I request it.

I've been using this same computer in various forms (changing/upgrading the internal components) for about 10 years now. For such a system, I'll never go with a Mac because a custom-built PC running Linux just gives me far more upgradeablity and flexibility.

That said, for my main work computer I choose a Mac because I don't want to spend my time fiddling with my computer. I want something that just works so that I can get my job done. And if it breaks, I can get full-service repairs -- either by taking it in to an Apple store and getting fast and knowledgeable service or, if I'm really pinched for time, having someone come out and service it for me (ProCare). Sure I have enough knowledge to diagnose and repair things myself, as well as tweaking all sorts of things on my Mac, but I simply have other things I need to be spending my time on.

Like it or not, this is the market Apple is designing their computers for.
 
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post #32 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

Nahh, I don't see that Matrix Attack coming. At least not until he decides to post multiple and similar complaints into every thread.

Any Apple shortcoming is turned into a "complaint". Multiple and similar posts on different threads are usually the result of multiple threads on similar issues and/or products.

Quote:
Dude is entitled to his opinion--it is clear that Apple makes non-standard choices that upset some reasonable people.

Then why Dude, do you and your ilk always call it by your insipid mantra- a "complaint"?


Quote:
If, on the other hand, he were to appear to make it his life's hobby to spend his free time complaining about Apple's decisions on an Apple enthusiast site, well then certainly a reasonable person would see why he could expect to take some serious flack...

See -didn't I tell you?
My life's hobby? If you put down the drink you would have a free hand and be able to multi-task- so sorry.
BTW- read my post on the new Georgetown store- is that complaining about Apple?
post #33 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

Aren't people tired of trying to argue that Macs should be infinitely user-customizable yet?

Greats comments auxio.
No- we're just tired that whenever we do for whatever reason, it's called a complaint.
post #34 of 74
Is there anything precluding you from putting a single 1TB drive in there?
post #35 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gyokuro View Post

Have fun and void your warranty - all at the same time!

As far as anybody can tell, you don't necessarily void the warranty getting inside the computer unless what you did to it caused the computer to fail. But I think the techs will give you a hard time, this is a bit much. I really don't have so much interest in it though, there are so many more interesting electronics projects to be done if one were into tinkering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by triadone View Post

But with the FW800 built in you can run some damn snappy external RAID setups in a plug and play scenario.

I was thinking a mini+FW800 Drobo and it would be a very simple yet powerful network storage appliance. I'm still surprised that Apple put FW800 into this thing. A Drobo can be attached to the Time Capsule by USB, but I think a mini would give you plenty more flexibility and better performance, with only a little bit more hassle and probably a lot lower power consumption compared to a regular desktop with RAID as a server.
post #36 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by wtbard View Post

Everyone that's thinking about getting a Mac-Mini, be aware that it appears to not put out analog video. The mini-dvi appears to be digital only. So now I'm trying to find out how to drive my analog TV.

That's good to know. Is there a mini- dvi to HDMI connector available now?
post #37 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by vitaflo View Post

Soldering is complete overkill for this. All you need is a few wire butt connectors that you can crimp the wire in place with. Not only is this a heck of a lot easier, but you don't risk a solder joint breaking.

When it comes to reliable power connections I'd take a soldered joint anytime over the use of butt splices. Mechanically the soldered joint will be more reliable and have less of a power loss. I've seen enough brown butt splices in my life to understand that they are not the device to run power though.

About the only thing I'd do differently if to use liner melting shrink tubing as the first line of electrical insulation over the soldered joint. The second thing I'd do, given an abundance of money, is to install SSD drives in both locations. It would be very interesting to see how low one could lower the Minis power profile, while at the same time keeping it responsive.

Dave
post #38 of 74
Stories floated around at one time about matched memory chips providing better system performance than non-matched chips in Intel-based computers. I don't have much recollection of the details, though.

Question: The new base mini comes with a free memory slot. Is it a mistake to buy a 1GB RAM mini and then add a 2G memory chip to total 3GB? Or is it better to add only a 1GB chip to an existing 1GB configuration to make 2GB?

Thanks,
post #39 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

I've seen enough brown butt splices in my life to understand that they are not the device to run power though.

TMI! TMI!

And auxio, there is in fact a persistent subgroup of Mac power users, including some moderators here and veteran pundits/techs like Andy Inahtko, who want to buy something from Apple that can be hacked up like your Linux boxes. I don't understand it either; I use Macs for the same reason you do.. But there it is.
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post #40 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

That's good to know. Is there a mini- dvi to HDMI connector available now?

Monoprice has one for just under $10!

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