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Hello all I have an early '09 Mac mini 3,1 (Intel Core 2 duo 2GHz, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD) which I need to upgrade soon as it is slowly dying (i.e., runnning an IDE like netbeans while having chrome open is becoming overkill for the poor thing).

I am looking at maxing out the RAM to 8GB (from my research I believe this is feasible) and replacing the HDD with a 60GB SSD as I do not really store much (if any) media. Monetarily, I have worked the cost to be around £100 which is not too bad?

I would appreciate your feedback on the following especially if you have done this or similar

  • ease of replacing the RAM
  • ease of replacing the HDD
  • whether 8gb does indeed work (well)
  • whether SSDs do work as well as benchmarks and hype suggest (in this context)
  • any problems that can be incurred by doing this (I'm not to concerned re. void waranties more breaking hardware)
  • anything I need to take in to consideration that I possibly am not

The hardware I am looking at getting is Corsair CMSA8GX3M2A1066C7 and Crucial CT064M4 though I may go for the slightly cheaper Vertex 2, any comments on these choices would be much appreciated also.

If anyone from the UK has had experience with getting a second HDD 'dock' to replace the optical drive with a second HDD/SSD then any infromation surrounding this (both obtaining and installing - though the latter I guess is regionally unspecific) would also be very helpful.

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You have a 3 year old machine. Your projected costs are 1/4 of the cost of a new machine. Personally, I'd lean towards buying the new one. –  james.garriss Feb 9 '12 at 19:16
    
Personally, I would see what I could get selling the mac and see how interested you might be in upgrading. The SSD will help random switching of apps, and even 4 G of ram is a huge jump from 1 so you might keep costs down with one SSD and 4 or 8 G of RAM rather than jump to new hardware now. –  bmike Feb 9 '12 at 19:57
    
4GB is even pushing it for software development work and multitasking. Was doing that with a MacBook Late 2009 2.0GHZ core 2 duo, with only 4GB of ram, it was terrible... 8GB of RAM is the way to go to avoid paging out. –  MrDaniel Feb 9 '12 at 20:07
    
FYI, you might consider purchasing a used Mac Pro, I recently bought a used Mac Pro for about $650 USD, instead of upgrading the same model of Mac Mini. A risky move but the Mac Pro even though its older offers much better performance and ease of upgrade access than my MacBook and Mac Mini. –  MrDaniel Feb 9 '12 at 20:25

2 Answers 2

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Replacing the RAM and the hard-drive on this Mac Mini is a moderate to challenging task, check out iFix's Guides for RAM and Hard Drive install guides.

And 1 GB is not enough ram, to do development work with. The 8GB should provide a night and day difference just itself, since its going to stop your mac from paging out to the slow 2.5" laptop disk drive.

With that said, the SSD drive should also provide a dramatic speed increase too. Although, one consideration with SSD drives is that its performance might degrade over time so plan on being able to make time to Recondition[...] [your] solid state drive (SSD).

I would also recommend keeping your user directory on an external drive (firewire 800 will give you the best speed) to avoid the space limitations of moving to a 64GB drive. This is suggesting a popular configuration of using a SSD for just the OS and applications and a regular hard drive to store all your files see Installing a solid state drive (SSD) and SSD and Hard Drive Combo: How and Why for some guidance .

As for ram make sure to get it from somewhere that has a good lifetime warranty and return policy as well as a good price.

Other than that take your time and have fun, should be a nice speed improvement for you when your all completed.

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The 2009 and earlier model Mac Mini all lack the black small round access port, so are much easier to get at the hard drive than the newer thin "unibody" Mac Mini computers.

I really like RamJet for checking which machines can run more ram than Apple places in their "what we support at the time the hardware is released" manuals. They only sell to Macs, so really have to work hard to mix up your models or get the wrong ram. Where you buy is certainly up for debate, but the RamJet tools are the nicest I've seen.

As to your hard drive exchange - the SSD will replace the HDD easily. Putting a second drive will be less easy as I'm not aware of a mounting kit for the optical drive attachment in that class of Mac Mini. Do your homework well or get a good return policy if you find out your drive doesn't work when connected to the optical drive SATA connection.

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