The Mac Mini is the smallest form factor desktop computer created and manufactured by Apple Inc. Originally released in 2005, as the “cheapest, most affordable Mac ever,” Apple was focused on the budget-friendly consumers on the market. They also had the intention of switching consumers of other operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Linux to the Mac OS by allowing for universal monitor, keyboard, and mouse connections.
While the first two generations of the Mini didn’t allow for upgrades (unless you knew how to take the case off), starting from the third generation, a removable panel was attached to the bottom of the case to allow for RAM upgrades. Removing this panel does not void the original product warranty and future models allowed for upgrades to the hard drive and even a second drive.
Please note that the Mac Mini allowed for upgrades to the RAM and hard drive starting from the third generation all the way up to the late 2012 model. Starting from the late 2014 model, the memory became integrated into the main logic board and can’t be upgraded. The late 2014 model was also the last model where the hard drive could be upgraded.
Upgrading the RAM
- Turn off your Mac mini. From the Apple menu, choose Shut Down.
- Disconnect the power cord and all other cables from your Mac mini.
- Lay your Mac mini upside down on a soft cloth or towel, and then rotate the bottom cover counterclockwise to the unlocked position using your thumbs.
- Once unlocked, Press on the cover to pop up the opposite side, and then remove the cover.
- While the cover is off, you should be able see the RAM module(s).
- Gently spread the retainer clips at the ends of the top memory module just enough to let the free edge pop up.
- Once the clips are open, slide out the RAM modules.
- Repeat to remove the second, bottom module.
- Install the new RAM by reversing the process done in steps 6-8 and slide in the new memory module into the bottom slot while keeping the opposite edge slightly raised in the same position that the previous RAM was.
- Press down on the raised edge until the clips snap into place.
- Replace the bottom cover using the alignment dots to place it in the unlocked position.
- Rotate the cover clockwise to lock it in place.
- Connect the power cable and any others you have disconnected.
- Power on your Mini and check that the new RAM is recognized by going to the Apple menu, then ‘About this Mac’. The window should display new information about RAM that you had just replaced.
If the memory size isn’t correct or if the Mini repeatedly plays three tones, it may be having trouble recognizing the RAM modules. If this happens, shut down your Mac mini, verify the RAM module size specifications against the requirements for the Mac mini model, and then repeat the memory installation instructions to make sure that the RAM modules are installed correctly.
Upgrading the Hard Drive
Upgrading the mac Mini hard drive isn’t going to be as straightforward as upgrading the RAM because the hard drive is not readily accessible as the RAM in most of the Mini models. With the varying types of hard drives and Mac Mini service models, you will need to do your research extensively to make sure you are upgrading the right type of drive and that it will be compatible with the model of your Mini. You can also find videos on the internet showing the steps to get to the hard drive if you think it will be too difficult for you or if you just don’t have the confidence. Of course, the easiest way to upgrade your storage is to just get an external hard drive, just make sure it is compatible with your Mac operating system.
I had really hoped to cover the upgrade for the hard drive here but because all the models are so different, and there are videos available that does more justice to this upgrade, I’ve decided to let you (the consumer) research on their own because this isn’t a simple upgrade and may require a lot more attention to detail, not to mention the technical know-how of treating your electronics.
Upgrading the Operating System
The operating system on a Mac is determined by the year of the processor and logic board since Apple likes to limit their operating systems to certain machines. Normally, the system will update itself or you can manually upgrade the operating system yourself, but there are limitations to the operating system level. The importance of this upgrade is not tied to speed or storage as previously mentioned, but more effectively towards the programs that you use on a daily basis. Most applications have their own upgrade system and if the updates to your program do not match the upgrade to the operating system, you can lose all your data or access to the program itself. This is a real fault to the system that Apple has created in my opinion since updates and upgrades are always needed and access to your files may be in trouble when you’re so used to a certain system.
If you’ve recently upgraded your hard drive, you’ll need to install the operating system again. When botting your MAC, hold CMD + OPTION + R at the same time until you hear the chime. As long as you’re connected to the internet, you’ll be going into Recovery mode.
Once there, open “Disk Utility” and erase, format the new hard drive and SSD to reformat to “Mac OS Extended (Journal).” Once you’re finished, return to the main screen and reinstall the operating system that originally came with the Mac. You’ll have to install the original operating system before upgrading to the latest that the board supports.
The Mac Mini is a very popular option for those that need a simple device for surfing and streaming the internet. The small form factor makes it easy to set up anywhere, especially for us New Yorkers where space is limited. It can be mounted to the back of a TV or monitor or just have it sitting on a desk with a monitor sitting on top of it. Because of it’s size and look, many would think that it’s a device that can’t be upgraded but hopefully this article shone some light in the process!