How to upgrade a Mac mini by yourself

I read the enjoyable “Forcibly Test-driving a Mac mini” by fellow Mac user and Northern Virginia resident Tom Bridge recently on OReilly. Tom’s PowerBook died suddenly one day and he started using his Mac mini for his daily work. It turned out to perform quite well.

So now I’m wondering, what if something bad happened to my PowerBook and I had to send it in to AppleCare? Or maybe hand it over to one of the nice guys at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store? Well, of course, just run everything off of my cloned backup from my external firewire drive, along with my Mac mini!

But there’s one problem, I think: my mini still has only 256MB of RAM, which is fine when my kids want to play Little Bill or my wife wants to check her web-based email. It would be a different story if I wanted to program in Eclipse or do my 24 bit audio editing.


So, I go to my favorite third-party Apple vendor, MacSales otherwise known as OtherWorldComputing (OWC). They came highly recommended by my good friend Rodney. And I’ve been happy with the RAM and firewire drive I bought from them almost a year ago. It turns out they’ve got a 1GB RAM chip for $129 that fits perfectly in a Mac mini.

But how to install it? I’ve seen some “putty knife” videos floating around the web, but the one by OWC tops them all! Check out the Mac mini DIY installation video at the part of the page that says “…Do It Yourself?” and “Quicktime Installation Videos.” I’m not sure exactly how long it is, but it goes through:

  1. opening up the mini (with the ubiquitous putty knife and a nice terry cloth so you don’t scratch the shiny top)
  2. taking apart the chassis (which holds the optical drive, fan, and hard drive)
  3. removing and then replacing the optical drive
  4. removing and then replacing the hard drive
  5. removing and then replacing the RAM
  6. putting the case back on properly (with the help of the putty knife, which was a surprise)

Note that the mini in the video doesn’t have Airport or Bluetooth, which would make the disassembly/reassembly harder.

After watching this video, I’m thinking that maybe I should stick a Hitachi Travelstar 7K60 7200RPM drive inside the mini… ;)

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