Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mac Mini SSD 2nd Disk Upgrade

Ifixit is a famous (to Apple fanboys) company that sells tools and components to upgrade your Apple computers.

As will be clear from this posting Apple is now going to obscene lengths to make it as difficult or near impossible for you to perform any upgrades, except the ones they permit you of course.

But there is one thing that iFxit could not sell me .... new Eyes.   Knowing what I know now, upgrading my modest i5 Apple Mac Mini was a terribly stupid idea and I don't recommend it to anybody.

Why is it stupid?

  • The rear cover of the Mac Mini allows you to replace memory. You can easily put in upto 16GB (2x8GB) SO DIMM.  So far so good!
  • Inserting a new Hard disk  (what I document here) involves removing the motherboard but the connectors for the Fan and Wireless are not designed to be removed.
  • The design is claustrophobic and the chances of you buggering something up are high
  • To attach the  2nd hard disk you need the iFixit Dual Hard Drive Kit which can only be shipped to Europe at > 30 USD even though the cable weighs less than 50 grams  (On the plus side the kit comes with a wire to lever out the motherboard and a Torx set)
  • All the disk and fan and other sockets are really tiny.  I mean a child with perfect eyesight would have difficultly making the reassembly

Anyway here is how it went, and let's just say it all worked out in the end

I used some of the above tools plus large magnifying glasses and 2 headtorches

Getting the back off and memory out was the easy part

 By moving the motherboard to the left slightly you can get the Apple Hard disk out

 But this is what happens when you try to pull a connector out.   Busted!

We will try to fix that later!

 This is the Dual drive cable from ifixit

It's like this.    With the Mac Mini upside down i.e. looking down onto the internals as is my photos you will find the factory installed disk on the top.   I am adding a second 128GB SSD.  So my desired config is 128GB disk as primary disk  (physically on top) and original Mac Disk  (500GB spinning) on the bottom.

So the ifixit cable and hard drive mountings are attached to the Apple Disk.  Then my Crucial disk will use the original Mac SATA cable and be placed on the top.

Now the Gotcha:  You can't mount the bottom drive without taking the whole motherboard out.

A long while later both hard disks are installed, but we had to take out the Motherboard, insert the disks, then slide back Motherboard.

Also note in above picture the connector I broke still needs fixing.

This ifixit Guide formed the base instructions.  Unfortunately ifixit don't mention the fragility and size of the connector blocks.

Power on the and SSD is not found.      Take apart again ...

The SATA connector for the SSD had disconnected itself.  It's a terribly small, non standard connector, which seems to just sit in position.  No reassuring click or confident closure.  Not impressed.

Now eventually both SSD and Original 500 GB Hard disk are operational.  That was not easy!

Partition the 128GB SSD with 2 Partitions.  127 GB Macintosh SHD  for the Operating System and 1GB Recovery SHD for the Recovery Partition

Download SuperDuper and cloned your current OSX Lion to the SSD

Before shutdown in Control Panel select the new Disk as my Startup disk

Rebooted fine (to SSD)

There is a 6Gbps SSD connected on a 6GBps interface .. good.

This Mini has only 8GB of RAM but 16GB is possible, I tested it.

Carbon Copy Cloner (Beta) now has knowledge of Recovery HD, the hidden partition which you should also copy as well as the OSX partition.  However I was not confident it would not screw up my original Recovery HD  (at this point new Recovery HD was shown above as unititled)

So instead  I made Carbon Copy cloner clone my source disk to the new SSD  (overwriting SuperDuper's work).  In so doing it makes a disk image call Recovery HD.dmg and places it as shown above.

So then I did a Block copy of that image onto the Small 2nd partition that I created  (and now renamed from Unititled to Recovery SHD).

  • Upgrade performed, but really I would not recommend it
  • Apple are very serious about not wanting you to upgrade their machines.  Must be a nightmare to work in their serivce department!
  • System now boots to a desktop in under 20 seconds
  • I am still not sure my Recovery Partition is working correctly.  Will test laters.

Power on to ready  (including Auto logon)  17 seconds
Power off  16.5 seconds

Crucial Memory for Mac Mini  upto 16GB
ifixit Mac Mini 2011 teardown
iFixit Dual Hard Drive Kit
Carbon Copy Supports Recovery HD