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How do you upgrade the hard drive in the Intel Mac mini models? What type of hard drive do they support? Is it possible to replace the optical drive with a second hard drive?
All Intel-based Mac mini models have at least one Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive. The Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 2.53 (Server) has two hard drives (with the second hard drive in lieu of the optical drive).
Apple does not provide instructions for end users to upgrade the hard drive in the Mac mini, and considers neither the hard drive nor the memory to be a "customer installable part" and instead warns that the hard drive should only be replaced or upgraded by an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.
As Apple does not consider the hard drive to be a "customer installable part", EveryMac.com cannot recommend that users perform the upgrade themselves and likely would be better off with a quick and easy external hard drive addition. Given the small and densely packed nature of the Intel-based Mac mini models this is not the ideal system to upgrade yourself without previous experience upgrading the hard drive in similar systems.
However, experienced users who are able to upgrade the memory need not be concerned about replacing the hard drive, as both procedures are of similar difficulty. Essentially, once the computer is disassembled, you need to merely unscrew two screws on the bottom and two screws on the side of the hard drive that attach the drive to the "interior cage" and slide it out.
Although it directly explains memory installation, this video covering "pre-Early 2009" models -- the original Intel (Early 2006), Late 2006, and Mid-2007 models -- from Apple Specialist TDCurran is likely to be useful for the hard drive as well:
Other good upgrade videos include ones from site sponsor Other World Computing and helpful individuals -- MrBit10 and Loweded Wookie. Between the four, you have a variety of sound track options and text and verbal instruction options from which to choose. AppleFritter also has a photo "take apart guide" which directly covers hard drive installation.
Please note that all of the above cover models released prior to the "Early 2009" line. Although the overall procedure for the "Early 2009" and "Late 2009" models is similar to the upgrade procedure for earlier models, there are a handful of interior differences, particularly with regards to antenna and power cable placement.
Although it isn't officially possible, to replace the optical drive in optical-drive equipped Intel Mac mini models with a second hard drive, MCE offers an "OptiBay" product -- essentially a custom drive sled with an adapter -- that replaces the internal optical drive with a second hard drive in the Mac mini.
The OptiBay is US$99 before the cost of the hard drive itself (and labor if applicable), so those interested in a Mac mini with two hard drives may wish to just purchase the Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 2.53 (Server) which has two hard drives by default, but it is a relatively easy solution that is well worth consideration.