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Desktops (Apple) Hardware

Apple Mac Mini 1TB Upgrade — Not Easy But Possible 95

Posted by timothy
from the check-out-that-hot-centerfold dept.
designperfection9 writes "The new Mac mini is all well and good, but anybody hoping for gobfuls of extra capacity will come away disappointed. Apple's entry-level mini gets 120GB of storage, and it costs $175 to take that up the official 320GB maximum. Happily iFixit decided to step in and take matters into their own hands, with a nine-page pictorial guide to fitting your Mac mini with 1TB of storage." They're also offering a kit to accomplish the same end for $250 — that seems high to me now that 1TB external drives can be had for quite a bit less, and require no putty-knife action to install.
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Apple Mac Mini 1TB Upgrade — Not Easy But Possible

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  • The summary says the actual content is on iFixit, but the link goes to some useless blog which then links to iFixit.

    Link directly to the content, include a via link if you want to reference where you got the link from.

    For the record, the proper article URL where the actual content is follows:
    http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Repair/Mac-mini-A1283-Terabyte-Drive/660/1 [ifixit.com]

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:35PM (#27095479)

      I hate when submitters do this...the link goes to some useless blog which then links to iFixit.

      They do it in remembrance of Roland [slashdot.org], you insensitive clod!

    • Pimp my karma... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And here's the content in PDF format in case you want to keep it for later reference: http://www.ifixit.com/pdf/guide_660_en.pdf [ifixit.com]
    • by EvilIdler (21087)

      That's not the only flaw in the summary:

      They're also offering a kit to accomplish the same end for $250 that seems high to me now that 1TB external drives can be had for quite a bit less, and require no putty-knife action to install.

      Mac mini uses a 2.5" drive. The article explains how to insert two 2.5" drives. The US prices I find for those drives are around $125, so that kit isn't excessively priced. The submitters obviously don't read articles, either.

  • Why isn't it as simple as take the old hard disk out, and put the new one in?

  • The amount of work involved in upgrading a Mac has, usually, been excessive. Probably the worst example of this are the old PowerPC-based Macintoshes like the Performa 6400. The case was made from layer upon layer of plastic and metal panels that each snapped, screwed, or slid into place in ridiculous ways. I always wondered why they even bothered to include PCI slots on these machines, when it was such a pain to get to them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CompMD (522020)

      What about the G3/G4 towers? Those are some of the easiest to work on machines out there. Pull the lever, lower the side of the case, tada! Easy to change drives, PCI cards, CPU, and memory. These were probably the best built Macs ever.

      • by Nimey (114278)

        It was still more difficult than it needed to be to remove disk drives from those towers. The IDE and power cables were just long enough to reach where the needed to go, but that meant that removing them could be a chore, and drive screws could also be difficult to remove and install.

        • by CompMD (522020)

          Ah, you're right about the IDE cables, I forgot about those, the routing for them is rather silly. :)

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:49PM (#27095801)
      *Sigh* The MacMini was/is not meant to be upgraded. If you want an upgradeable machine, don't buy a MacMini. Complaining that take it takes an excessive amount of work to upgrade it is like complaining that it takes a massive amount of work to make a MiniCooper pull a boat.
      • by Big Boss (7354)

        The funny thing is, I don't think it's that much work for most reasonable upgrades. I put 4GB of RAM in mine, it wasn't hard at all. Get a thin putty knife and an old credit card and it only takes a few minutes to pop it open. A few screws later and there are the SO-DIMM slots. I don't think they are much harder than most pre-built systems to get into.

        Yeah, it's tightly packed inside, so things take a little more work to extract. Big deal. I expected that for such a tiny machine. The RAM is standard, as are

        • What is this "backup" that you speak of?
          • by Yvan256 (722131)

            It's that thing automagically done by a Time Machine [apple.com].

            • by Zemran (3101)

              I have had to restore from a Time Machine backup and I will never use it again. It was so much work because it does not backed up most of the system and needed the original install disk to get that data from as well as all the online-updates. It lost Aperture which needed to be re-installed separately. I had changed a lot of the way that my MBP looks because I like the Unix side of OSX and TM lost all that but confused a lot of the links so that I had to find out how to put right a lot of things. It too

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Solra Bizna (716281)

                I have had to restore from a Time Machine backup and I will never use it again. It was so much work because it does not backed up most of the system and ---

                Whoah, whoah, whoah. Hold it right there. By default, Time Machine backs up every single file on the hard disk. If you were cheap enough to deliberately exclude system directories, you should expect that a full restore is going to be less than painless.

                Not only that, but doesn't it pop up a scary warning dialog if you exclude system dirs?

                -:sigma.SB

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by doconnor (134648)

        The trouble is that Apple doesn't sell an upgradable machine unless you get a Mac Pro, which is CAN$2900 and up. If you want a modest Macintosh computer you have no easily upgradable options.

        • Never mind upgrading. I recon the most likely thing to fail in the mini is the HDD. If you don't live near an Apple Store and work all day long, its hardly convienient to ship the HDD back to Apple abd wait for UPS to deliver it.

          If its easy to replace the HDD, you can at least DIY and get another warranty replaced easily.

      • by danomac (1032160)
        Or using a VW Jetta as a truck [danomac.org]. There's always someone that'll try...
      • by mdwh2 (535323)

        I entirely agree. Get a PC if you want to do something useful - there's no point getting a Mac, and then complaining you can't upgrade.

        • Install Linux on the PC, of course, unless you have tons of money to throw around.

          Apple has become the BMW of computers. No, I don't have that kind of money to throw around just so I can upgrade my PC. Screw that. Apple does make better computers, but they're ridiculously expensive too, like many other superior products (except Linux, and open source).

    • by kriebz (258828)

      I've never seen a 6400 in the wild, so I had to look it up. Looks like an oddball. Even the All-in-one Performas could be opened easily. The PowerMac 7x00 desktops could be opened by grabbing two handles and lifting. Shortly after this era came the clamshell towers, which were extremely accessible (although the hard drives had to be screwed to metal plates, wtf).

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Worst Macs to work on were the original egg shaped iMacs. So many sharp edges in there. The older PowerMac towers (PPC 604 machines) were pretty nasty, too, if you were doing anything beyond upgrading RAM/HD.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DLWormwood (154934)

      The amount of work involved in upgrading a Mac has, usually, been excessive.

      This has only been true historically with the consumer models. The models that Apple designates for "professional" usually upgrade much easier. My current G5 has full access from a side door (as well as the current Mac Pro line) and even my old LC and 4400 had easily accessible PDS and PCI slots when the case is slid off. (My iMac G4 was the only machine I had I couldn't upgrade myself.) It's just that, as the "ease of use" brand in the industry, Apple's more famous machines are the all-in-one and lapto

      • It's just that, as the "ease of use" brand in the industry, Apple's more famous machines are the all-in-one and laptop units that have the more cramped assembly and design.
        It's also the fact that they simply don't do a "normal desktop", they do a high end workstation, a 1U server an all in one, a small form factor box and a range of laptops.

        This really pissess off a lot of geeks who like OS-X but want a normal desktop. Some of them build hackintoshishes but that route has issues of it's own (especially if y

    • "I always wondered why they even bothered to include PCI slots on these machines, when it was such a pain to get to them.I"

      What the hell are you talking about? The 6400 had an easily removed backpanel, revealing a slide out logic board. Installing or removing PCI cards, adding RAM or a processor upgrade was simplicity itself.

      It is only slightly more difficult to get the front panel off, accessing the main hard drive, optical drive, ZIP drive (tossed and replaced by another hard drive) and an empty bay for a

    • by chartreuse (16508)

      I always wondered why they even bothered to include PCI slots on these machines, when it was such a pain to get to them.

      Performas didn't have slots, so no wonder they were hard to find.

    • On the other hand, possibly one of the best-designed cases I've ever had the pleasure of working with was on the Power Macintosh 7500. [wikipedia.org] Pop off the top, flip up the drives to reveal the motherboard completely exposed. No screws, the whole process takes less than 10 seconds.

      Meanwhile, PCs from that era were still in the hand-gashing followed by cursing sharp sheet metal stage.

    • by Megane (129182)

      The 8100 series was probably the worst case design Apple ever came up with. In order to upgrade the RAM, you had to almost completely disassemble the machine, removing all expansion cards and the motherboard, because the memory slots were between the motherboard and the inner frame.

      The next generation was the G3 and G4 towers, which were some of the easiest cases to work with ever.

  • Firewire and USB (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:29PM (#27095361) Homepage Journal

    Or just plug in an external drive. I use an external firewire drive and it performs extremely well. Use a mobile drive and you won't need an extra power source, either. I don't see the need to upgrade the internal drive.

    • Re:Firewire and USB (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Phroggy (441) <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:47PM (#27095753) Homepage

      Or just plug in an external drive. I use an external firewire drive and it performs extremely well. Use a mobile drive and you won't need an extra power source, either. I don't see the need to upgrade the internal drive.

      In fact, you can get something like these [123macmini.com], so your external drive fits precisely underneath the Mac mini. I don't know if any of these support FireWire 800 yet, but obviously new versions will (the new revision of Mac mini has a FireWire 800 [IEEE1394b] port; previous models had FireWire 400 [IEEE1394a]). An external enclosure can use a faster, cheaper, and larger capacity 3.5" drive, so there's pretty much no downside, unless that extra inch and a half of vertical space is really that important to you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pope (17780)

        MiniStack 3 came out a couple of years back: http://www.newertech.com/products/ministackv3.php [newertech.com]
        eSATA, FW800 and FW400, USB 2.0.

      • The miniStack v3 supports FireWire 800 and eSATA for a slight increase in price. If you follow the links to the price page [macsales.com]. For a product description, you can go to NewerTech [newertech.com].
      • My only concern with that would be the heat factor. I wouldn't want the external drive to generate heat (some of them a fair amount!) and then the Mac Mini uses that air to attempt to cool its components. However, it appears to have its own cooling system which jets the hot air out the back, just like the Mini. Looks like a really cool [ahem!] product.

        • Yeah, that's definitely the miniStacks biggest flaw. I have my Airport Extreme Base Station stacked on top of mine and the fan runs all the time. Newer should have included some stand offs on top to allow better airflow between the top of the miniStack and the bottom of the Mac mini or AEBS.
        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          I've made some ceramic legs, to put 1-1/2" between my Apple TV, Mini-stack, Mac Mini, and Airport Express. Works pretty well and I left the clay the plain white it gets from initial firing. Looks ok.

    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      Even better, get a network drive like the d-link DNS-323 [dlink.ca] or others. I got one of the 323s a year ago for external storage. It's plugged into my 802.11n router. Nice streaming media to everywhere in the house with RAID1 backup in case of a drive failure. Considering there is close to a TB of stuff on there I would hate to lose, having it mirrored is nice. No modification or extra stuff plugged into the mini, no extra wires.

      • by SBrach (1073190)
        You do realize that if one of those drives fail, chances are, the other is right behind it. Raid != Backup.
    • by hcdejong (561314)

      I've run a Mini G4 off of an external disk for a year or two. This FireWire disk was the boot device, I even removed the internal disk. It was fast, and it seemed a bit quieter as well (less heat load in the Mini, so the fan rarely came on).
      The only problem with that setup is sleep/hibernate. Despite a hack that enables hibernation, in this configuration the computer would not hibernate at all.
      Sleep was iffy as well, with quite a few wakeup attempts ending in an unresponsive computer.

  • Uh, why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:29PM (#27095365)

    I could kind of understand this back when the Mini only had USB and FW400. Now that they have FW800—why bother? What does anyone use a Mini for that requires 100MB/s+ transfer rates?

    • by Phroggy (441)

      I could kind of understand this back when the Mini only had USB and FW400. Now that they have FW800—why bother? What does anyone use a Mini for that requires 100MB/s+ transfer rates?

      And if you really needed those fast transfer rates, wouldn't you be better served by using a fast 3.5" hard drive connected via FireWire 800, instead of a slower 2.5" drive connected via SATA?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        SATA is 3Gb/s max, FW800 is 0.8Gb/s max.

        And the 2.5" 10000RPM VelociRaptor is faster (in most respects) than any 3.5" HD out there.

        • by Nimey (114278)

          Velociraptor drives are vertically thicker than laptop 2.5" drives. Apple places a premium on being small, so I'd be surprised if the Mini's drive bays are big enough for a VR.

          • They're also as hot as hell. I'd be even more surprised if the Mini could handle the heat.
            • by Nimey (114278)

              Your sig is an atrocious pun.

            • by Ilgaz (86384)

              Mini's purpose and design is always misunderstood. For example the Seagate Momentus 4200RPM internal coming with G4 Mini is actually more expensive than some 5400 or 7200 drives of same age.

              Why Apple choose it? Because that thing has almost no heat produced, no noise either. You can't hear it even while you defrag.

              The drive making sense for Mini internal is a 64 or even 32GB SSD along with fw800 or better, gigabit ethernet connected HD in other room used for /Users

              I don't want to sound like BillG but 32GB w

          • I'd assumed the VelociRaptor was, like most "large" 2.5" drives, 12.5mm thick (and would fit in the optical drive enclosure). After doing a little research, it's actually 15mm—an oddball thickness for a 2.5" drive.

            Still, there are 7200rpm 2.5" drives that are faster over SATA than any 3.5" drive is over Firewire.

  • by Phu5ion (838043) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:30PM (#27095381)
    Anything worth doing, is worth doing with a little putty-knife action.
  • Why would you ever want to do this? Mac hardware is targeted at specific niches, if you don't fit the niche then you're wasting your money buying the hardware. You'd be better off just using a couple of external HDs and hiding them out of view if you want that much storage on your Mac Mini - it'd only be marginally more expensive than this project and you'd still have a DVD drive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CortoMaltese (828267)

      Why would you ever want to do this?

      You must be new here. Did you buy that three-digit id or what? ;-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nick Ives (317)

        Well, I appreciate it in the cool "I've got more money and free time than sense" aspect of pointlessly modifying hardware, I just don't have that much free time.

        A computer the size of a Mac Mini with that much storage space is basically a media-centre. If you're prepared to spend time with tools then you might as well build it yourself; if you want OS X build a hackintosh.

        And yes, this is my UID. I signed up on the day user accounts were announced. It was quite controversial at the time (Oh noes! Wot about

        • Well, I appreciate it in the cool "I've got more money and free time than sense" aspect of pointlessly modifying hardware, I just don't have that much free time.

          Yes, I totally agree with you here, regardless of my previous remark.

          Personally I'm more interested in running Linux on the new Mac Mini. People seem to think that's pointless as well, turning a Mac into over-priced hardware. For me the form factor is appealing, something I haven't seen in any PC hardware with comparable specs, no matter how much time you're willing to invest in it. And there's the hack value there too.

    • by maxume (22995)

      I would think you could buy drives that looked nice sitting under the mini.

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        Actually yea, those Lacie lego bricks would probably look good stacked at the side. I'm sure there are alternatives too!

        Time to go out and drink! W00t for Friday!

  • by Eravau (12435) <tony@colter.tonycolter@com> on Friday March 06, 2009 @04:06PM (#27096151) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure what the point is when you can keep the same desktop footprint with one of the many stackable external drives that have been manufactured with a Mini form factor. There's a list of links on a post here [ehmac.ca].
    • Same reason why people put Linux on toasters. Because they can.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Chris Tucker (302549)

      "I'm not sure what the point is..."

      Some people like to open their machines and fiddle with them, adding their own RAM, installing larger harddrives, overclocking the CPU, etc.

      They're called"hardware hackers".

      Sometimes, it's done simply to save a little money. Sometimes it's done for the fun of messing around with the hardware.

      As the folks from MAKE magazine say, "If you can't open it, you don't own it!"

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Eravau (12435)
        Hacks that add functionality I get. I guess I just don't see the point of this hack when you're removing capabilities (all optical drive functions) for very little (if any) real gain. I guess if you never need optical drive access again (have fun with those software installs) then this would be fine... but I don't see it being worth anything... unless you get your jollies from doing it "just because you can" as UnknowingFool said above.
        • note: this hack does seem to be easilly reveresable, yes there is a soldering iron involved but you don't use it on any of the original parts of the mini or on anything valuable.

    • by pklinken (773410)
      You must be frustrated, so close to a wonder UID!
  • We decided to see if we could stuff a full terabyte worth of storage into our new Mac mini. Why would anyone possibly want this much storage?

    • Built-in Time Machine. Sure, you can hook up an external drive, but it's sure nice not to have cables everywhere.

    Brilliant! When the drive dies, it takes out your backup too!

    • by kwiens (604321)
      No, the guide is for installing a second drive. In the described configuration, the second drive would only store the time machine backup. The whole point is so that you're not vulnerable to a single-drive failure, and time machine also protects against accidental deletion..
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Yet something that takes out the whole computer can still take out both drives. Backup drives should be in separate enclosures or at the very least readily removable so that they can be periodically moved off-site. This fails both.

        If you don't want a clutter of wires, use a WiFi NAS for your backups. At least then you can prevent losing both drives to a coffee spill. (Don't use the Mac Mini as a coffee hot plate.)

        Meanwhile, make sure you learn how to Remote Install Mac OS X for when you need to reinstall or

  • As New Mini have fw800, the difference is way more obvious but let me repeat just in case.

    FW800 drives have really 800mbit speed, not like 1.5x of USB2 therotical (not real) speed with almost zero CPU overhead. You can also chain them like SCSI without performance loss. That is why it has 1 fw800 port and 4 USB2 ports. Firewire can also be added to PC with very cheap PCI cards if needed and it is NOT a Apple only thing, a conspiracy etc.

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      FW800 drives have really 800mbit speed, not like 1.5x of USB2 therotical (not real) speed with almost zero CPU overhead.

      I'd rather go with (e)SATA (3Gb/s max), also with almost zero CPU overhead (SATA hack for Mac Mini [erebos.net]).

      • by Lars T. (470328)

        FW800 drives have really 800mbit speed, not like 1.5x of USB2 therotical (not real) speed with almost zero CPU overhead.

        I'd rather go with (e)SATA (3Gb/s max), also with almost zero CPU overhead

        Are you sure? http://www.ithelps.eu/Temp/Disk%20Speed%20test/default.html [ithelps.eu]

        • by Ash-Fox (726320)

          That's just filesystem overhead.

          • by Lars T. (470328)

            That's just filesystem overhead.

            Then why does eSATA have a little over twice the transfer rate, but three times the CPU usage? Not to mention that the test simply reads from the disk, and shouldn't hit the filesystem much.

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        eSATA doesn't get you daisy chaining, Firewire does. Which would be nice if Apple would keep developing it, as it's speced to at least 3.2 GPBS.

  • Insulation tape has a nasty tendancy of either getting knocked off when moved arround or drying up and failing with age. I would strongly reccomend using heatshrink instead.

  • It says that you have to run a terminal command to enable AirDisk mode.

    After you install two blank drives and remove the optical drive, how do you get the OS installed in the first place?

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      If worse comes to worst, one can buy an external USB DVD drive and boot from that.

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