Over the holiday weekend I decided to take advantage of some down time to swap out my home and work Mac minis (both owned by me) and perform some upgrades. Beginning next year we’re going to be installing some new software at the office that will require me to virtualize Windows on a a daily basis and I was concerned that my Late 2009 Core 2 Duo Mac mini may start to lag behind in processing power. (You may recall I previously pulled out the putty knives to install an SSD and RAM upgrade in that Mini a couple years ago.)
I purchased a Mid 2011 Mac mini i5 a couple years ago when I cut the cable with the intention of using it as a media server. However, over the years I’ve actually used it only for serving up my iTunes library to my Apple TVs and for some more mundane tasks like email filtering and we also use it for the MPU live show stream. Thanks to advances on the Apple TV, wider adoption of AirPlay both on the Mac and iOS, and enhancements with my NAS most of my media related tasks are being handled by other devices.
So, I decided I’d simply swap out the two Mac minis and take the more powerful model to the office. However the one draw back was the newer Mini still had the stock 500GB rotational hard drive. After being spoiled by an SSD there was no way that would do. I picked up a 256GB Crucial SSD (similar to the model we recommended on the MPU Geek Gift guide) and decided Thanksgiving morning would be a great time to crack the case and swap out the hard drives.
Using an installation video from Other World Computing as my guide, I set out to swap out the hard drive. The installation took less than an hour and mostly went off without a hitch, right up until the point when I ripped the IR cable connector off the logic board. This was a stupid mistake due entirely to poor preparation on my part. I didn’t pay close enough attention to how the cable was connected and I pulled it from the wrong direction. I also only referenced the installation video when I probably should have read more detailed instructions from a site like iFixit before digging in. I also decided to undertake a fairly complicated disassembly while preparing two dishes for Thanksgiving dinner and in a time crunch. In my defense, the SSD arrived the night before and (like any geek) I woke up early that morning excited about the project and just couldn’t wait to dig in.
The good news is of all the pieces to break, this was the one. The rest of the installation went off without a hitch and the Mini is back up and running, with the exception of the IR port. I’ve probably voided my warranty (and what’s left of my AppleCare) and somewhat reduced the future resale value of the Mini, but overall I was lucky. The lack of an IR port will have no significance in an office environment. A quick Google search looking for fixes to my problem show that I’m far from the only one who has broken this fragile piece during a hard drive upgrade. Seems the fix is a new logic board which would be cost prohibitive.
All in all, I think it was a good venture. I learned a lesson about the importance of better preparation, gained more experience and confidence for future projects like this and didn’t cause too much damage in the process. The 2006 Mini is performing well as my new iTunes media server and overall I haven’t noticed any difference in day-to-day use. The 2011 Mini is ready to go back to the office Monday morning and is faster than ever thanks to a new SSD.
I’ll call it a success.