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Choosing and Installing a Hard Drive for the Mac mini

written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 7/19/2010

Whether you are installing a new Mac mini hard drive due to hardware failure or simply a desire for more storage space the process, if done yourself, can be a little stressful. Here's the quickest and easiest way to upgrade or replace the hard drive in Apple's Mac mini.

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    A Word of Caution

    caution If your Mac mini is still covered under the Applecare warranty do not attempt this upgrade yourself unless you understand that it will most likely void your Applecare warranty. If you are replacing your hard drive because the hard drive has failed or is experiencing problems, and your Applecare warranty is still active, have your Mac mini serviced by Apple at an authorized Apple repair center. If you are upgrading your hard drive to get more space you will have to resign yourself to the fact that you are voiding your warranty or you will need to purchase the hard drive through Apple and have their technicians upgrade it.

    As soon as you open your Apple Mac mini, in most cases, Apple repair centers will consider that a willful voiding of your warranty. If you're Applecare warranty has expired then you have nothing to worry about and you can move on to detailed instructions below that will walk you through buying a new hard drive and installing it in your Mac mini.

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    Buying a New Hard Drive

    The Mac mini takes one 2.5" SATA hard drive so it is relatively easy to upgrade or replace your Apple Mac mini's hard drive. This hard drive is your standard notebook hard drive found at any local or online computer hardware retailer. Older Mac mini models may take a serial ATA hard drive which is your standard desktop hard disk. Please consult your documentation before buying a new hard drive. My personal choice for a online webstore to purchase hard drives for my Apple computers is CanadaRam. At the CanadaRam website simply click Apple Memory > Mini Intel and G4 and locate your model of Mac mini. From there you can see the RAM modules that your Mac mini takes but you will also near the bottom of each listing you will see a section called Hard Drives where you are told what type of hard drive your model of Mac mini takes with a link to the page where they are sold.

    This is just the website I have used in the past for Apple parts and had no issues with. The prices are good, service is quick to respond and I have yet to have problems with any of the hardware I have purchased. Other great sources of hard drives include NCIX, Amazon and Ebay.

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    Installing your New Hard Drive

    I generally recommend the use of an Apple certified technician when it comes to Apple hardware replacements and upgrades. The reason for this is that Apple computers use proprietary hardware in many cases and the layout of the hardware in the very cramped Mac mini can be confusing and tricky to disassemble and reassemble.

    If you are dead set on doing this upgrade yourself you will need:

    • A putty knife to pry off the top housing.
    • A Phillips #0 screwdriver.
    • A Phillips #1 screwdriver.
    • Tweezers.

    hard disk I will not go into great detail about how to disassemble the Mac mini because if you've decided to attempt a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Mac mini hard disk upgrade I would hope you have the technical knowledge to see what parts need to be removed, in what order the parts need to be removed as well as the proper safety precautions that need to be taken to make sure you don't damage your Mac mini.

    In short you will take the following steps to remove an old hard drive from your Mac mini and replace it with a new one.

    • Remove the Top Housing using the putty knife.
    • Remove the Airport Antenna using the Phillips #0 screwdriver.
    • Remove the Internal Frame using the Phillips #0 screwdriver and tweezers.
    • Remove the old hard drive using the Phillips #1 screwdriver and a non-conductive stick (to pry the hard drive up).
    • Slide the new hard drive into the spot freed by the old hard drive.
    • Replace the 4 screws using the Phillips #1 screwdriver.
    • Replace the Internal Frame using the Phillips #0 screwdriver.
    • Replace the Airport Antenna using the Phillips #0 screwdriver.
    • Push the Top Housing into place until you hear it "snap" into place.

    That's it. Those are the basic steps involved in replacing the hard drive in the Mac mini computer. Exercise extreme caution when attempting this procedure and consult an Apple certified technician if in doubt!