My 2011 dual core i7 mini developed a logic board issue. I've acquired a quad core i7 2012 mini as replacement. The 2011 has a new 1TB SSD running Sierra OS. I plan to move the SSD to the newer mini.

  • Will the 2012 mini run with the 2011's SSD as is? My suspicion is no, I likely need to reinstall Sierra so the OS knows about the new hardware interface, but then I don't know how macOS works at that level. (I'm sticking with Sierra for app compatibility.)

  • If I need to reinstall OS Sierra on my SSD in the newer mini, can I simply install the OS "on top" of the current drive leaving data and files intact? Will that tune the OS to the new hardware and leave my user files alone? Or will it erase all but the OS (see Bonus Question)?

  • Or, do I need to erase the SSD and install the OS "fresh" for it to recognize there is a new hardware configuration to match? Then I'd migrate data and files from recent backup.

Bonus Question:

  • I have both a bootable Sierra installation thumb drive and "install macOS Sierra" app in Applications. Do those invoke different installation modes? If so, how do they differ.

Thanks for your help.

1 Answer 1


Your 2012 Mac mini should be able to boot and run off the SSD from the 2011. Technically speaking, this is basically what Target Disk Mode is - using a different drive to boot your Mac.

There's no "tuning" of the OS nor are there any different "installation modes."

  • Thanks, @allan. Am I understanding correctly? I can simply install the drive from my 2011 mini internally in the 2012, and everything will work? All the I/O, etc? Seems too good to be true (I'm used to more of a struggle with transitions.) The 2012 mini isn't here, yet, I'll report back after I give it a try. Feb 10, 2018 at 15:57
  • Correct. The 2011 and 2012 aren't so vastly different. This will work with no issues.
    – Allan
    Feb 10, 2018 at 16:30
  • Yes, worked exactly as Allan answered. No problems whatsoever. It did seem to take an awfully long time between power on and the Apple logo appearing the first time, and longer than I thought my old mini did on subsequent power ups, but maybe that's just due to me paying so much attention to this new system. All the I/O works fine, including my two displays. Feb 14, 2018 at 15:20

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