Hacking a (Mini) Mac

macopenedNow that I have taken that important first step and added a Mac Mini to my home office computer array, the only logical next step was to open it up, take a look at the insides and add stuff to it.  Here’s the story of how I upgraded my RAM to 4-GB and my hard drive to 465-GB.  Because of the small size of the machine, it was harder than upgrading a desktop, but no harder than upgrading a laptop.  And there are lots of tutorials on the web to guide you through the process.

First, I shopped around for new hardware.  I ended up getting two 2-GB memory modules and a 500-GB hard drive from OWC.  The items were shipped immediately and sitting in my office within a couple of days.

I decided to add the RAM first.  Methodshop has an excellent walk-through of this process.  Of course, I didn’t back up anything.  I decided to play marbles for keeps and just grabbed a putty knife and started prying the case apart.  As noted in the walk-through, this first step is probably the hardest part of the exercise.  Once you get the hang of it, it gets much easier, but at first that Mac Mini looks about as hard to get into as Fort Knox.  Once you get the case open, follow the steps as described in the Methodshop walk-through and a few minutes later, you have an upgraded Mac Mini.  The only part I couldn’t get done was to reinsert all 4 corner screws.  The back left one proved to be impossible, so my Mac Mini is secured by only 3 corner screws.  I hope it doesn’t feel inadequate.

atm Adding the RAM was easy- and easier than I expected.  Now for the new hard drive.

Applefritter has a good walk-through of both the RAM and hard drive upgrade process.  OWC sells upgrade bundles along with its hard hdinfo drives, which include an external SATA enclosure and software to clone your existing hard drive to the new one.  Cloning my existing hard drive to the new hard drive was easy- and I didn’t read any instructions.  I just installed the application, put my new hard drive in the enclosure, attached it to my Mac Mini, opened the application and looked for the right settings (clone).

After cloning the hard drive, I followed the steps as described in the Applefritter walk-through.  It went relatively smoothly, with a couple of complications.  When unfolding the case to access the hard drive, the audio cable to the DVD drive came loose (see the last picture in the Applefritter walk-through).  It’s easy to reattach, but it would be a huge drag to fully reassemble the machine, only to find later that the DVD drive wasn’t working.  I also accidently pulled the cable that attaches the airport antenna off of the connector on the internal airport card.  It can be reattached easily if you know where to attach it.  I also found that you need to pull the T-shaped foam rubber off of the old hard drive and attach it to the new one.  You can see this foam rubber attachment in the eighth picture in the Applefritter walk-through.

All in all, these upgrades were quick and easy.  And at the end of the day, my little Mac Mini isn’t quite as mini anymore.

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