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Mac Mini c. mid-2011 500GB HDD

The existing HDD is failing, have backed up and now looking to replace the drive. Don't want to spend $$$ for Apple service so going DIY. The hardware installation looks easy enough, and I can create a bootable USB key using a second Mac Mini at work, but...

All the sources suggest using the bootable USB key then pressing "Option" during bootup. Will this work on a Mac Mini with a new unformatted completely empty HDD?

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Yes, the option boot is independent of any OS present on the disk. You can always alt-boot, even booting off an external disk or network disk if there isn't any disk present in the computer at all.

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