My old Mac Mini (mid 2009 model) has started to feel sluggish in the past months, so I decided to speed it up by installing a OCZ Solid State Drive (SSD).
It is well known fact that SSD drive will significantly improve your system’s performance, but I was still blown away with the results after I took my new hard drive for a test drive. In this guide, I will give you a detailed walkthrough on how to install an SSD on Mac Mini.
Please note that most of this guide is also applicable to a 2011 model of Mac Mini and also to other home theater PCs, but obviously the teardown steps are different.
Parts and Tools You’ll Need
OCZ 120 GB Vertex 2 SATA II SSD: I would recommend OCZ Vertex 2 Solid State drive as it has much faster read / write speeds compared to other SSD drives around the same price range. The maximum read speed is up to 285 MB/s and write speed is up to 275 MB/s. According to the user reviews this is one of the fastest drives at this price category, but some users are reporting drive failures, so you should take regular backups of your HDD.
USB HDD External Case Enclosure: It is recommended to get a USB enclosure for the 2.5 HDD as you will need to copy all your files to the new drive before installing it inside your Mac Mini. You can also use the old HDD as a backup disk after you have removed it from your Mac Mini.
Phillips Screwdriver Kit: You will need a small Phillips screw driver to open the screws.
Putty Knife: You will need a putty knife or equivalent to be able to open your Mac Mini. The case cover will be a little tight first, but it will get off quite easily after carefully lifting the cover.
Pressurized Air Duster: It recommended to use an air duster to clean the dust inside your computer.
Clone Your Existing Hard Drive
First, you need to insert the SSD drive to the USB enclosure, so that you can prepare a bootable drive before installing it inside the computer.
I would recommend to use Carbon Copy Cloner to make an identical bootable copy of your existing disk.
Before cloning, you will need to format the SSD drive (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility > Select hard drive > Erase). Then, open Carbon Copy Cloner, select your existing HDD as the source and the new solid state drive as the destination.
After an hour or so, you will have a bootable carbon copy of your existing disk.
Tip: it is a good idea to clean your old HDD as much as possible before cloning it so that you will not waste solid state drive’s precious space.
Mac Mini Teardown
Now you are ready start tearing down your Mac Mini and replacing the HDD.
The first part of the video will explain step by step how to teardown the Mac Mini.
Installing the New SSD
Next, install the solid state drive and assemble the Mac Mini back to its original shape.
Dramatically Improved Application Loading Times
Now you are ready to connect the cables and boot up your Mac Mini for the first time. As you did a carbon copy of the old HDD earlier, everything will look the same as before the upgrade.
However, the performance will not feel the same at all…
Here are some application loading times after installing the new SSD:
- XBMC: 6 seconds
- Boxee: 3 seconds
- Open Office: 3 seconds
- iTunes: 2 seconds
- Firefox: 2 seconds
- Picasa: 1 second
Take Backups with Time Machine
It is always good idea to take scheduled backups, so it will make sense to utilize your old HDD that you just removed from your computer. As you were using the USB enclosure in this upgrade process, just insert the old HDD to the USB enclosure and setup Time Machine to take scheduled backups.
In fact, Mac OS X automatically asks this question once you connect your old HDD via USB.
Having a solid state drive as an operating system disk means that you will need to have an external disk drive for your media files. Continue reading my complete guide to setup a network attached storage for your HTPC.