Mac Mini - refurb Mid-2011 vs new Late 2012? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 12-12-2012, 01:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi all...

My (windows) HTPC is due for an upgrade, and I'm trying to choose between buying a new MB/CPU for my existing case or making the jump over to a Mac mini. I already have a bunch of macs and a Time Machine for backup in my apartment, so I'm pretty much leaning in the Mac Mini direction.

The HTPC largely exists as a media server and player. I keep movies and tv shows on it (avi / mkv) and have it attached to a 1080p HDTV; it also runs Plex server to stream to iOS and android devices over wifi. I usually use XBMC to watch movies on the TV. It's running SABnzbd, and I also stream movies from Netflix and occasionally Amazon video. All of this is running on an old Pentium dual-core chip and the system has some troubles with stuttering when it's playing back HD video.

I wouldn't mind being able to do some light gaming on the thing as well (no crazy shooters, but maybe Civ V, Fallout 3, etc). That's not a big priority though.

So it looks like a Mini will be able to do everything I want it to do, the main thing I'm balking at right now is the price. I'm looking at the 2012 Mini, and if I get it with a Fusion drive and a trackpad it's pushing $1000. On the other hand, I can get a refurbished 2011 mini for just over $500 - no SSD, but it looks like I could install one myself, and besides that it's got a discrete video card which looks to be faster than the integrated HD 4000 graphics on the 2012 model anyways.

So is there anything I'm missing? Is there a good reason to choose the 2012 model for the higher price even though it's more expensive? (Apart from it being newer and shinier?) Also how difficult would it be to add an SSD to the 2011 model to boot the OS into?

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 25 Old 12-12-2012, 02:40 PM
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The 2011 2.5GHz Core i5 with the AMD Radeon HD 6630M is $549 as a refurb in the Apple Store right now, that's a good price for that model, it's what I paid for it on the very day the 2012 Minis were announced and it is what I have in my living room. I also have a 2011 base model 2.3 with the integrated HD3000 which is $469 as a refurb. Both machines can handle full-size bluray rips in XBMC, it's easy and inexpensive to go to 8 or 16GB of RAM, those who "game" would say you'd probably be happier going with the 6630M model.

http://store.apple.com/us/product/FC816LL/A/refurbished-mac-mini-25ghz-dual-core-intel-core-i5

You can decide whether to open them up and add an SSD internally, voiding the warranty. I did that with my first one last Summer as soon as iFixit released the kit for it, successfully, it is not as easy as many seem to report but it certainly can be done, there are several good tutorials and guides online at OWC and iFixit. With the other I decided to just boot off of an SSD via Thunderbolt and that's what I now recommend...both the Seagate GoFlex and the LaCie Little Big Disk are great with SSDs booting Mac minis. (I'm pretty comfortable doing my own Mac repairs, I took apart and repaired the notoriously difficult 12" aluminum Powerbooks many many times over the years, still my favorite Mac model ever...)

Some of the people who jumped on the 2012s have noticed there can be an annoying bluetooth USB3 interference issue and an HDMI flickering and/or black screen issue, and I'm not sure all those have been resolved. The best discussion of the 2012 mini problems is taking place in this forum:

http://forums.macrumors.com/forumdisplay.php?f=146

2012 Minis haven't yet shown up as refurbs, so if price is an issue and you can't wait for a while you may want to go with a 2011. I love my two 2011 minis and highly recommend them for what you plan to do since that's exactly what I do with them. I think the biggest advantage of the 2012s is the upgrade to USB3, but I suspect manufacturers of cables and external enclosures have to do a better job shielding them because the transition hasn't exactly gone smoothly:

http://blog.macsales.com/15990-shielding-resolves-usb-3-0-conflict-with-bluetooth

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1492414

The 2011s have FW800 and Thunderbolt and aren't that much of a step back from the newer, shinier 2012s power wise, in some respects the 2011s can actually be considered the better value: they have the same HDMI and Thunderbolt connections for video but their kinks have already been worked out, they've proven very reliable, and USB 2 is still "fast" enough for any video you plan to play, so you still have cheap external storage options if you decide not to spring for the more expensive FW800 and Thunderbolt options.
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post #3 of 25 Old 12-12-2012, 10:02 PM
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If you get the 2011 check it has the AMD HD6630 and not the Intel HD3000.

I have the i7 with the 6630M, I had a 2012 2.6 Quad and returned it to get this one. I see the 2012 as a sideways change and the switch to integrated video unimpressive.

The 2012 did not feel any faster probably because the heat from the HD4000 puts a thermal ceiling on how fast it can go.
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post #4 of 25 Old 12-13-2012, 09:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks very much for the detailed replies, that was super helpful. I did order the 2011 model - it's only a Core i5, but it does come with the discrete video card, and I have 8GB of RAM from my old machine I can throw in there. chefklc, do you notice a large performance difference booting on the external ThunderBolt drive versus just booting from the internal 500GB drive? I'm again balking at the price a bit, the external ThunderBolt SSDs I can see online seem pretty expensive. (I guess that's one thing I missed by not going the 2012 route, since super-fast USB 3 sticks are actually pretty cheap.)
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post #5 of 25 Old 12-13-2012, 10:37 AM
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An SSD via Thunderbolt makes a huge difference versus the internal 5400 drive and the Mini runs much cooler, in fact, I first tested booting the Mini off of an SSD in a FW800 enclosure and even that made a very noticeable difference performance-wise versus the stock drive.

Super fast USB3 enclosures may be inexpensive up front, but if you've read the forums I linked to there are users reporting lots of stability issues with the current state of USB3 enclosures and cables. Whereas booting off of SSDs via Thunderbolt has been pretty rock solid. You can run into a problem using a very large SSD in the Seagate GoFlex sled because it relies on bus power but as long as you stay right around 256GB or less for the SSD in that case you should be perfectly fine. I have booted a Mini off of a 256GB Samsung 830 series SSD in the GoFlex for months with not a single issue. Love that thing. Many other users have reported the same, and the nice thing about the LaCie LBD is you can buy the inexpensive 1TB model, which has two 500GB Hitachi drives inside, and swap them out for SSDs or a combination of one SSD and one HD. The LaCie does JBOD just fine, you're not limited to RAID 0 or RAID 1 only. That means you can boot off the SSD in the LaCie and stick a big 2.5" drive in there as well for storage.

The LaCie 1TB LBD is readily available as a refurb for $209 and I've seen the Seagate GoFlex thunderbolt for as low as $80-85. yes you do have to buy a TB cable, which adds another $40-50 to the proposal, but you can repurpose or sell the two 500GB Hitachis and you can approach this as an investment for your future--whatever you buy now you'll be able to use or repurpose down the road in or on future Macs. Nice thing about the LaCie is that it has 2 TB ports, and yes, you can daisy chain the Seagate with the LBD and RAID any, all or none of those drives if you want.
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post #6 of 25 Old 12-15-2012, 02:52 PM
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chefklc can you go into more detail please maybe even links to your suggestions? I'm switching to Mac mini from PC as well. I purchased the base model. I been trying to figure what's the best route for organization without tons of external drive wires etc. I have two external drives now (500 and 1tb just about full) obviously I need more space but since i will be receiving my new mini soon I'd like to have a set up with all my media in "one place" Maybe even not directly connected to the mini. I have a wndr3700 router so maybe I could attach my storage for the mini that way as well.
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post #7 of 25 Old 12-15-2012, 05:39 PM
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For most of us there still ends up being a bunch of cables connected to a typical home theater Mini, especially since there's no longer a built-in optical drive, but since all the ports are in the back it's usually pretty easy to hide them. In my case, with the Mini in our living room, I usually have two blu ray drives, a couple of USB2 enclosures with swappable drive trays, a firewire 800 external with 2 drive bays, and SSDs over Thunderbolt, either in the LaCie or the Seagate. The two TB externals I'm talking about are:

http://www.macmall.com/p/LaCie-External-Hard-Drives/product~dpno~9105214~pdp.hcjeaji

http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Portable-Thunderbolt-Adapter-STAE128/dp/B009HQCARY/ref=dp_ob_title_ce

The first good thread exploring SSDs with the Seagate:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1317577

The first good thread exploring SSDs in the LaCie LBD:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1280118

I also have 12TB of media connected over USB to an Airport Extreme, which Apple calls AirDisk, all the Macs in our house auto mount those volumes and XBMC sees them just fine. I also have storage directly attached to the Mini and to other Macs in the house...in whatever system you set up make sure you build in some backup and redundancy, not just for your boot drives but also your iTunes library and other important video that may not be so easily replaced.

To put an SSD inside your Mini, most people use one of these kits:

http://www.ifixit.com/Apple-Parts/Mac-Mini-Dual-Hard-Drive-Kit/IF171-005-1

http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/DIYIMM11D2/
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post #8 of 25 Old 12-16-2012, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

I also have 12TB of media connected over USB to an Airport Extreme, which Apple calls AirDisk, all the Macs in our house auto mount those volumes and XBMC sees them just fine. I also have storage directly attached to the Mini and to other Macs in the house...in whatever system you set up make sure you build in some backup and redundancy, not just for your boot drives but also your iTunes library and other important video that may not be so easily replaced.
Thank you sir. How do you have the 12TB connected? Many external drives? Some kind of bay? Drobo? Nas device? Should I incorporate the old dell into the network somehow? Can you recommend a decent optical drive I was going to purchase the SuperDrive cuz I own zero blu rays. I did lose a HD with lots of my old music on it so I definitely do need to back up. I was going to purchase a WD Duo but the more I read the more I'm leaning towards something's else maybe a few of the My Book 3TB(they only 129 on amazon) along with your suggestion to have a ssd boot set up as well.
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post #9 of 25 Old 12-16-2012, 06:06 PM
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Can you recommend a decent optical drive I was going to purchase the SuperDrive cuz I own zero blu rays.

well, if you ever want to rip blu rays, you need a blu ray drive, and since optical drives are now basically commodity parts, it doesn't really matter that much which brand drive you get. My first blu ray drive was a desktop 5.25" LG that I put in a Vantec external USB enclosure, not too long ago I picked up a slim Samsung bus-powered USB blu ray drive, both work perfectly well with the Minis, both rip dvds and cds as well as bluray. 5 years ago, it still mattered which optical you bought, which firmware could be hacked and updated, now, it's all basically irrelevant since optical is on life support. Buy what you can afford, from LG or NEC/Sony Optiarc, Pioneer, etc. MakeMKV and Handbrake work with all of them.
Quote:
How do you have the 12TB connected? Many external drives? Some kind of bay? Drobo? Nas device?

5 individual drives in 3 enclosures, one of those is a 2TB MyBook. Just plug a USB hub into an Airport Extreme and you can connect as many USB drives or enclosures as you want to the single USB port of the Extreme. In my case, I decided a long time ago not to rely on a "NAS" and not to rely on a proprietary formatted Drobo, I wanted all my drives to be formatted as Mac OS Extended, to be hot swappable on drive trays that could then be mixed and matched and plugged into or installed inside any Mac at any time and always be accessible. I have a bunch of aluminum Stardom and Sans Digital two bay enclosures but you can use any brand that allows JBOD and does't force you into RAID 0 or 1 only.

The main disadvantage of a commercial drive like the WD MyBook is that you void the warranty if you ever have to open it to get at the drive inside, in order to RMA the drive in case of a problem you have to send it back unopened and lose all the data in the process. You're better off buying bare drives and enclosures with separate full warranties. But, the price on those MyBooks or Seagate GoFlex units are often so low to be tempting, many folks buy them on sale just to rip open the enclosures to use the drives, warranty be damned. A good price on a 3TB MyBook USB3 drive is 99, a 2TB is 69. They'd work just fine connected to a Mini or an Extreme.
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post #10 of 25 Old 12-16-2012, 06:55 PM
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Thanks! You have been extremely helpful. I'm hoping a USB hub will work with the netgear wndr3700? I tried to look it up but could not find a definitive answer. Their support gave a vague answer. My old dell has many USB(2.0) ports would it be possible to keep the existing drives (and maybe new ones) connected to the dell and have the mini access them? I'm only asking since for now I have limited space under the main TV.
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post #11 of 25 Old 12-18-2012, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

For most of us there still ends up being a bunch of cables connected to a typical home theater Mini, especially since there's no longer a built-in optical drive, but since all the ports are in the back it's usually pretty easy to hide them. In my case, with the Mini in our living room, I usually have two blu ray drives, a couple of USB2 enclosures with swappable drive trays, a firewire 800 external with 2 drive bays, and SSDs over Thunderbolt, either in the LaCie or the Seagate. The two TB externals I'm talking about are:
http://www.macmall.com/p/LaCie-External-Hard-Drives/product~dpno~9105214~pdp.hcjeaji
http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Portable-Thunderbolt-Adapter-STAE128/dp/B009HQCARY/ref=dp_ob_title_ce
The first good thread exploring SSDs with the Seagate:
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1317577
The first good thread exploring SSDs in the LaCie LBD:
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1280118
I also have 12TB of media connected over USB to an Airport Extreme, which Apple calls AirDisk, all the Macs in our house auto mount those volumes and XBMC sees them just fine. I also have storage directly attached to the Mini and to other Macs in the house...in whatever system you set up make sure you build in some backup and redundancy, not just for your boot drives but also your iTunes library and other important video that may not be so easily replaced.
To put an SSD inside your Mini, most people use one of these kits:
http://www.ifixit.com/Apple-Parts/Mac-Mini-Dual-Hard-Drive-Kit/IF171-005-1
http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/DIYIMM11D2/

How hard would it be to replace the stock HD with a SSD? I'd rather not have any spinning HD inside the box.
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post #12 of 25 Old 12-19-2012, 06:20 AM
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Quote:
How hard would it be to replace the stock HD with a SSD?

Only you can answer that question for yourself:

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installing+Mac+Mini+Mid+2011+Hard+Drive+Replacement/6422/1

and before you start make sure you read through threads like this:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1322255

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1499985

to get a better handle on all the little "gotchas" that others have found. There are many, many threads over on that Macrumors forum about replacing drives in the Mini...
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post #13 of 25 Old 12-28-2012, 03:12 PM
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chefklc what do you think of these for upgrading the 2012 Mac mini? I just received it few days ago. I'm also ordering two of the 3tb seagate backup plus drives. one to transfer my other drives too and one for backup. Id prob get three if I could find a lower price than amazon. Then I was also going to use the ssd to boot externally with thunderbolt adapter or maybe a purchase of the rugged LaCie.

http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-256GB-2-5-Inch-Solid-CT256M4SSD2/dp/B004W2JL2A/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1356735572&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-PC3-10600-204-Pin-Notebook-CT2C8G3S1339M/dp/B008LTBJK2/ref=sr_1_24?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1356735608&sr=1-24
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post #14 of 25 Old 12-28-2012, 04:41 PM
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well, that Crucial m4 is a very nice, very reliable drive, I've had the 256GB model in a Macbook and Macbook Pro for most of 2012 and highly recommend it. I tested it for a while in the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt with a 2011 Mini and loved it, the only reason it's not still there is because I replaced it with a Samsung 830 Series SSD. That's a very reasonable price, snap it up.

As far as the RAM, your link is to 1333MHz RAM for the 2011 Mini, for the 2012 you want PC3-12800 1600MHz DDR3. Hard to go wrong with Crucial in terms of reliability and support.
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post #15 of 25 Old 12-29-2012, 05:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi all... Just as a follow-up, I wound up getting the iFixit dual-drive upgrade kit mentioned above and putting a Samsung 250GB SSD in there (I also swapped out the original HDD for a 2TB model while I had the guts of the mini open).

I definitely agree with @chefklc that the install procedure is not for the faint-hearted. I actually had a lot of fun doing it because it's been a while since I had to do that much physical work on a computer, and it gave me a lot of appreciation for the really outstanding work Apple put into the hardware design of the 2011 mini. But it's a pretty complex procedure during which every single component of the machine is removed from the case, and unless you get a great deal of enjoyment out of doing that kind of thing, I'd echo the sentiment that going with an external ThunderBolt drive is probably far easier.

Beyond just the physical install, getting OS/X onto a bare drive in a mini with no boot media is a profoundly irritating process during which the mini will download an entire install disk from Apple every time you boot. I finally realized that I could use the recovery partition from the original drive to do it and that sped things up somewhat (I had ordered an external 2.5" USB enclosure which was useful for this). I had already backed the mini up with Time Machine before the surgery, and everything came back perfectly, once I was finally able to get the recovery OS/X thing going.

I also ran into another problem while trying to install Boot Camp on the mini - I hit the dreaded 0x80300024 error and the Windows 7 installer wouldn't install anything in the partition I'd created. Fortunately, it wasn't too difficult to disassemble the mini enough to be able to pop off one of the two drive controllers and then continue the install (although, inevitably, I took the wrong one off and had to shut down, open the case again, replace the controller I'd disconnected and attach the other one, then put everything back together and start from scratch).

[Edit - to clarify the above, if anyone is curious, some Windows 7 install media will run into problems installing the OS onto Macs (and maybe other types of PCs) if more than one internal hard disk is present. Thanks Microsoft! The workaround is to disconnect one of the two drives, install the OS, and then reconnect the drive you disconnected once Win7 boots properly.]

So far the thing works like a charm - much faster and much quieter than my old HTPC. Thanks again for the advice!
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post #16 of 25 Old 12-30-2012, 05:18 PM
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nice. When I do work like that, Unless I have to, I leave the case off until I know everything is running as it should be. At least the newer Minis are easier than the pervious models, such as the late 2009, to get the case off. I have that joy when the HDD drive went bad. Getting the case off was the hardest part.
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post #17 of 25 Old 12-31-2012, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

Only you can answer that question for yourself:
http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installing+Mac+Mini+Mid+2011+Hard+Drive+Replacement/6422/1
and before you start make sure you read through threads like this:
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1322255
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1499985
to get a better handle on all the little "gotchas" that others have found. There are many, many threads over on that Macrumors forum about replacing drives in the Mini...

To clarify, my question should have been stated: "How hard would it be to replace the existing HDD with a SSD in comparison to adding a SSD as a 2nd drive.

I've never touched a mini so have no clue of the difficulty. I'm just looking for an informed judgment of relative difficulty (assuming you've done both or could guess on replacing with a SSD based on what you've done before).
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post #18 of 25 Old 12-31-2012, 03:05 PM
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I think he did answer the question as best as possible. We don't know which mini you have or you tech skills for such tasks. What may be very difficult for one, may be very easy for another.

The ifixit link would show you have to actually replace the physical drive. Minis are a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Just go slowly with the proper tools. The other threads are for the unexpected surprises that may be involved. Will OXS not recongize that SSD in the boot up, driver issues for the SSD, and so forth. Thus, it's possible to change the HDD with the SSD with installation problems, but you'll run into forest of problems with drivers and installing the OS.

If you're comfortable with replacing hardware on the PC or latpop, it'll be around as comfortable. I've only changed HDD on my Mini because the original went out. I can't imagine adding a second drive being more difficult towards the hardware installation. Can't comment on the rest.

Hopefully that makes more sense for what may have been bland answer previously.
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post #19 of 25 Old 01-06-2013, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thither View Post

Hi all... Just as a follow-up, I wound up getting the iFixit dual-drive upgrade kit mentioned above and putting a Samsung 250GB SSD in there (I also swapped out the original HDD for a 2TB model while I had the guts of the mini open).
I definitely agree with @chefklc that the install procedure is not for the faint-hearted. I actually had a lot of fun doing it because it's been a while since I had to do that much physical work on a computer, and it gave me a lot of appreciation for the really outstanding work Apple put into the hardware design of the 2011 mini. But it's a pretty complex procedure during which every single component of the machine is removed from the case, and unless you get a great deal of enjoyment out of doing that kind of thing, I'd echo the sentiment that going with an external ThunderBolt drive is probably far easier.
Beyond just the physical install, getting OS/X onto a bare drive in a mini with no boot media is a profoundly irritating process during which the mini will download an entire install disk from Apple every time you boot. I finally realized that I could use the recovery partition from the original drive to do it and that sped things up somewhat (I had ordered an external 2.5" USB enclosure which was useful for this). I had already backed the mini up with Time Machine before the surgery, and everything came back perfectly, once I was finally able to get the recovery OS/X thing going.
I also ran into another problem while trying to install Boot Camp on the mini - I hit the dreaded 0x80300024 error and the Windows 7 installer wouldn't install anything in the partition I'd created. Fortunately, it wasn't too difficult to disassemble the mini enough to be able to pop off one of the two drive controllers and then continue the install (although, inevitably, I took the wrong one off and had to shut down, open the case again, replace the controller I'd disconnected and attach the other one, then put everything back together and start from scratch).
[Edit - to clarify the above, if anyone is curious, some Windows 7 install media will run into problems installing the OS onto Macs (and maybe other types of PCs) if more than one internal hard disk is present. Thanks Microsoft! The workaround is to disconnect one of the two drives, install the OS, and then reconnect the drive you disconnected once Win7 boots properly.]
So far the thing works like a charm - much faster and much quieter than my old HTPC. Thanks again for the advice!

I've been running a BTO 2011 Mac mini 2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 with AMD 6630M since release date. The system is bootcamp with Windows 7 x64. I run OSX off a 240 OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS in a Thunderbolt enclosure and only connect when necessary. Windows 7 is on an internal 512GB Samsung 830 SSD with a 1TB Western Digital Scorpio Blue for storage and recording.

I'm interested in upgrading to the 2TB WD Green drive and understand its 15mm. I ordered the drive and was wondering if there are any additional modifications I need to make other than swapping the 1TB for the 2TB. The 1TB is already in the top spot (when the mini is in normal operating position.)
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post #20 of 25 Old 01-10-2013, 03:09 PM
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I ordered the 2.5" 2TB WD Green drive from Newegg and prepared to install it. I provide details once the installation is complete.
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post #21 of 25 Old 01-11-2013, 03:54 PM
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The 2.5" 2TB WD Green drive did not fit as well as I expected. It floats in the top (Mac mini in normal operating position) hard drive bay filling it completely. The SATA cables for both drives need to be bent because of the reduced space causing changed routing. I attempted to install in the bottom (Mac mini in normal operating position) hard drive bay and could not get solid SATA connection because the bottom position SATA cable has to wrap around the girth of the drive.

Was I doing something wrong or is this normal with a 15mm height drive?
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post #22 of 25 Old 01-12-2013, 05:56 AM
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Was I doing something wrong or is this normal with a 15mm height drive?

I haven't done this myself, but I think you found out what others have reported after trying to cram a 15mm drive in: there's only 22mm of space to play with, which means a 7mm SSD has to go on the bottom with the 15mm just resting on top of it. How is it working so far for you: have operating temperatures risen at all and are you planning to do the Terminal hack to create your own Fusion drive with them?
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post #23 of 25 Old 01-12-2013, 09:53 AM
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I'm actually running in Windows 7 for CableCARD LiveTV as a dedicated system. The 2TB is the dedicated storage drive. The temps have not really increased. The 2TB WD Green has the same power profile as the 1TB WD Blue. In addition, the drive is variable speed.

I already had one instance of a disconnected SATA cable. The SATA cables are not designed for the new drive placement. I'm not sure if moving from my desk to entertainment shelf caused it or if the cables were not broken-in.
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post #24 of 25 Old 01-18-2013, 05:24 PM
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A quick update, I added some 3.2mm 3M Narrow X-small Foam Rubber Open Cell strips between the 2TB WD Green and the Samsung 830. I also placed some under the WD Green's SATA cable to help maintain shape and routing. Overall, it helped re-assembly and holding the drive in place. I now feel much more secure operating with the 2TB WD Green floating.
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post #25 of 25 Old 01-24-2013, 05:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by russ_777 View Post

To clarify, my question should have been stated: "How hard would it be to replace the existing HDD with a SSD in comparison to adding a SSD as a 2nd drive.

I've never touched a mini so have no clue of the difficulty. I'm just looking for an informed judgment of relative difficulty (assuming you've done both or could guess on replacing with a SSD based on what you've done before).

I can only speak to the instructions that came with the ifixit SSD kit. If you look at that page, there are a total of 36 instructions - and note that they only cover taking everything apart, though if you search YouTube you can find some videos that also cover putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again. The bit where you pop out the hard drive itself is step 18, exactly halfway through. If you follow them up to there you should be able to just pop the new drive in and reverse course. I would say that this would still be a moderate to difficult procedure, personally, though not quite as much as adding in another drive is. The trickiest part to me about the entire dual-drive procedure was figuring out how to bend the included cable for the second drive. It's not very clear from the pictures, so I mostly just winged it and although I wound up getting it right I think that was more due to luck than anything else.

About your drive problem, for me everything fit snugly. It did take some patience to one of the drives situated in the right place (I can't remember if it was the top or bottom drive), there are holes in the back of the case that some grommets need to go into, and it's virtually impossible to see them while you're putting the drive back. One of the YouTube videos describes this pretty well, so I knew to watch out for it, but I wonder if that might account for your problems fitting the drive in?

The specific drives I'm using are this Samsung 840 SSD and this WD 2.5" hard drive, if that helps any with the dimensions.
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