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

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73
    irelandireland Posts: 17,384member
    Wow that's annoying. Apple should have designed it to be easy. Four screws, or something. Poor mini gettin' no love.
  • Reply 2 of 73
    hillstoneshillstones Posts: 1,490member
    Nice brain surgery.
  • Reply 3 of 73
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,753member
    Now how about an instructional on lashing together 50 of these to create a mini cluster?
  • Reply 4 of 73
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 73
    gyokurogyokuro Posts: 83member
    Have fun and void your warranty - all at the same time!

  • Reply 6 of 73
    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'
  • Reply 7 of 73
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 73
    But with the FW800 built in you can run some damn snappy external RAID setups in a plug and play scenario.
  • Reply 9 of 73
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 73
    Just use the FW800 port to hook up an external HDD..
  • Reply 11 of 73
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 73
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 73
    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
  • Reply 14 of 73
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    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...
  • Reply 15 of 73
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 73
    zandroszandros Posts: 537member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 73
    hudson1hudson1 Posts: 800member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 73
    wtbardwtbard Posts: 42member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 73
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 73
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    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.
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