Upgrade the Mac Mini in Six Minutes

I've upgraded quite a few Mac minis over the past several years, from the original 2005 model to the latest version, released last week, and some in between. We've also covered the topic of Mac mini surgery on the Macworld Podcast. But we still regularly receive questions from readers about whether or not performing such upgrades yourself is a good idea--many have heard that it's quite difficult to open the Mini, or that doing so voids your warranty.

Apple's official policy is that you can upgrade the mini yourself as long as you don't break anything in the process; if you do, that damage isn't covered under warranty. But how much risk is there of actually doing such damage? (It can certainly feel like you're breaking something when you pry off the Mac mini's top case.) And once you get inside, how hairy is the disassembly procedure? It's difficult to judge by looking at photos on a Web site.

To satisfy your curiosity, in this week's video, I show you the entire process of upgrading the Mac mini's RAM and hard drive, from cracking the case to snapping it back together again, pointing out some of the tricky steps along the way. Believe it or not, the entire process took me under six minutes--and that's including several places where I got slowed down by a tiny screw or spring that didn't want to cooperate.

(Note that the Mac mini in the video is actually an Early 2009 model, but that model is identical to the just-released Late 2009 minis when it comes to internal design and the upgrade procedure.)

Download Macworld Video #133

* Format: MPEG-4/H.264

* Resolution: 480 by 272 (iPhone & iPod compatible)

* Size: 13.2MB

* Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds

Show notes

You can view iFixit.com's guides to upgrading the mini's RAM (PDF version) and hard drive (PDF version). If you're looking to upgrade or repair any other component, iFixit has a complete list of guides for the mini.

In addition to a thin, metal putty knife, I used Newer Technology's $18 11-Piece Portable Toolkit for the procedure. This is a handy tool set that includes eight screwdrivers (three Torx, two flathead, and two Phillips), two nylon "spudgers" (the green-plastic pry tool you see in the video), a large set of tweezers, and a scissor clamp.

I also used Newer Technology's $20 Express USB drive enclosure for 2.5" SATA drives. I placed the new drive in the Express, cloned the mini's original hard drive to the new drive, and then swapped the drives. This let me boot the mini off the new internal hard drive with no down time. It also let me use the original drive as an external backup drive.

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