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Aluminum "Unibody" Mac mini Q&A - Updated November 12, 2014

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How do you upgrade the storage in the Aluminum "Unibody" Mac mini models? What type of hard drive(s) or SSD(s) do they each support?

There are four different lines of Aluminum "Unibody" Mac mini systems -- the "Mid-2010," "Mid-2011," "Late 2012" and "Late 2014" -- with notable differences in supported storage.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Non-Server Mid-2010 - Left, Mid-2011 & Late 2012 - Right)

Identification Help

If you're not sure which Aluminum Mac mini model you have, the optical drive equipped "Mid-2010" models should be easy to differentiate, but the models without optical drives are more of a challenge.

All Aluminum Mac mini models can be precisely identified by the Model Identifier in software or externally by EMC Number, and more details about specific identifiers are provided in EveryMac.com's extensive Mac Identification section.

To locate the model identifier in software, select "About This Mac" under the Apple Menu on your computer and click the "More Info..." button. If the Mac mini is running OS X 10.7 "Lion" or later, you will need to click the "System Report" button after clicking "More Info..." as well.

For the pre-Late 2014 Mac mini models, the EMC number is visible upon removing the bottom "spin off" panel to the right of the memory slots (when the ports are facing you). It is on the bottom of the Late 2014 models toward the ports.

As always, EveryMac.com has hand documented the model identifiers and EMC numbers unique to each model, which are most easily visualized as a chart:

Alu. Mac mini

Subfamily

Model ID

EMC Number

"Core 2 Duo" 2.4

Mid-2010

Macmini4,1

2364

"Core 2 Duo" 2.66

Mid-2010

Macmini4,1

2364

Server (C2D 2.66)

Mid-2010

Macmini4,1

2364

"Core i5" 2.3

Mid-2011

Macmini5,1

2442

"Core i5" 2.5

Mid-2011

Macmini5,2

2442

"Core i7" 2.7

Mid-2011

Macmini5,2

2442

Server (i7 2.0)

Mid-2011

Macmini5,3

2442

"Core i5" 2.5

Late 2012

Macmini6,1

2570

"Core i7" 2.3

Late 2012

Macmini6,2

2570

"Core i7" 2.6

Late 2012

Macmini6,2

2570

Server (i7 2.3)

Late 2012

Macmini6,2

2570

Server (i7 2.6)

Late 2012

Macmini6,2

2570

"Core i5" 1.4

Late 2014

Macmini7,1

2840

"Core i5" 2.6

Late 2014

Macmini7,1

2840

"Core i5" 2.8

Late 2014

Macmini7,1

2840

"Core i7" 3.0

Late 2014

Macmini7,1

2840

EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- also can identify these models by their Serial Numbers.

Storage Types, Dimensions & Requirements

Regular "Mid-2010" Aluminum "Unibody" Mac mini models, which have optical drives, support a single 2.5-inch, 9.5 mm tall, 3 Gb/s Serial ATA (SATA Revision 2.0) hard drive or SSD (or two storage drives if you remove the optical drive). The oddball Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 Server (Mid-2010) supports two storage drives of the same type (and no optical drive).

All "Mid-2011" and "Late 2012" models hold two 2.5-inch storage drives with the same 9.5 mm height restriction, but have faster 6 Gb/s Serial ATA (SATA Revision 3.0) support.

The non-server "Mid-2011" and "Late 2012" models, which only ship with one hard drive by default, a second hard drive or SSD is supported, but one has to purchase the cable needed to attach the drive to the board before installation is possible.

As first spotted by HardMac, a user from the MacRumors forums determined that the needed part is referred to as the "Bottom Hard Drive Flex Cable" (Apple Part Number 922-9560) and successfully installed a second drive. More recently, site sponsor Other World Computing offers a "Data Doubler" upgrade kit for the Aluminum Mac mini models that includes everything needed to perform this upgrade -- the cable, drive bracket, precisely sized screwdrivers and screws -- in one convenient package.

The current "Late 2014" models have a Serial ATA (6 Gb/s) connector for a 2.5-Inch hard drive or SSD in addition to a proprietary PCIe connector for a "blade" SSD. As first noted by site sponsor OWC, the cable to connect this SSD to the PCIe connector is not present unless the system is configured with a "Fusion Drive" at the time of initial purchase.

Some adventurous users on the MacRumors Forum believe that the needed cable is part number 821-00010-A, but this is subject to confirmation. If you have additional information, please share.

Hard Drive Upgrade Official Disclaimer & Cautions

To upgrade the memory in the Aluminum "Unibody" Mac mini models released before the Late 2014 models, Apple has made it quite easy and provides instructions. Replacing the hard drive or hard drives is a more complicated procedure and Apple does not support users performing this upgrade themselves.

In the User Guide, Apple formally states the following:

Except for memory, do not attempt to replace or repair any components inside your Mac mini. If your Mac mini needs service, consult the service and support information that came with your Mac mini for information about how to contact an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple for service.
If you install items other than memory, you risk damaging your equipment, and such damage isn't covered by the limited warranty on your Mac mini.

As Apple does not consider the hard drive to be a "customer installable part," EveryMac.com cannot recommend that users perform the upgrade themselves. Most likely should instead add a quick and easy external hard drive or alternately hire a professional. Given the small and densely packed nature of the Aluminum Mac mini models this certainly is not a good system to upgrade yourself without substantial experience upgrading the hard drive in similar systems.

Hard Drive Upgrade Instructions

However, for highly experienced users, upgrading the hard drive or hard drives -- or swapping in one or more SSDs -- is difficult, but feasible nevertheless.

These videos from OWC cover the procedure for the optical-drive equipped "Mid-2010" models and the optical drive-less "Mid-2010" Server, "Mid-2011," and "Late 2012" models, in a step-by-step fashion:

"Mid-2010" Mac mini (One Hard Drive, One Optical Drive)


"Mid-2010" Mac mini Server (Dual Hard Drives, No Optical Drive)

"Mid-2011" & "Late 2012" Mac mini (Dual Hard Drives, No Optical Drive)

It is hoped that by watching the videos you should be able to determine whether or not you feel comfortable performing the upgrade yourself or if you would rather hire a professional.

If you have additional information on upgrading the storage in the "Late 2014" Mac mini line, please share.

Mac mini Hard Drive or SSD Purchase & Professional Installation Options

In theory, just about any hard drive or SSD that meets the minimum requirements should work in the Mac mini. However, it always is best to buy from a trusted company with Mac knowledge for the most trouble-free experience.

In addition to the convenient storage upgrade kit for the Aluminum Mac mini models, Other World Computing sells compatible hard drives and SSDs and offers an installation service, as well. Mission Repair offers a professional Mac mini upgrade service for these models by mail with a 24-hour turnaround.

In the UK and Ireland, site sponsor Flexx sells Mac mini compatible SSDs with free shipping. The company provides flat rate shipping to France, Germany, and Switzerland and inexpensive shipping for all of Europe, too.

In Australia, site sponsor RamCity sells Mac mini compatible SSDs, in addition to memory, with fast, flat-rate shipping Australia-wide.

In Southeast Asia, site sponsor SimplyMac.sg sells Mac mini compatible storage, as well as memory, with free delivery -- and optional upgrade service -- in Singapore and flat rate shipping to Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea.

Also see:

  • How do you upgrade the RAM in the Aluminum "Unibody" Mac mini models? What type of RAM do they use? How much RAM do they actually support?
  • How do you upgrade the hard drive in the Polycarbonate 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?



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