written by: Mike Piero•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 9/23/2010
Here we have a countdown of the five most beneficial upgrades for the Mac Mini. While the newer Mac Minis are very powerful and fast, some of the older ones were plagued by slow startups and long waits between opening applications. Before you replace it, think about doing a few inexpensive upgrades!
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5. Upgrade the Monitor
Upgrading the monitor connected to your Mac Mini may or may not be an important option for you, depending on what you're using now. But, for example, my dad was using a cheap, 17-inch HP monitor with his Mac Mini and the colors always looked off. After trying multiple times to recalibrate the video resolution and color scheme, I recommended just getting a new monitor. He upgraded to a 21.5 inch, wide screen monitor and it has made all of the difference in his experience. The colors are brilliant (as they should have been in the first place). So, if your color isn't vibrant, think about upgrading your monitor as long as you know it's a monitor issue and not a hardware issue.
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4. Upgrade to Latest Version of Mac OS X
As long as you meet the minimum system requirements, it can really improve your performance to upgrade to the latest version of Mac OS X. Unlike Windows upgrades that generally slow down a computer (with perhaps Windows 7 as a rare exception), or just require you to get a new one, Mac OS X upgrades oftentimes give you more performance and hard drive space back as they learn how to do things more efficiently. For example, if you're currently running Mac OS X Leopard on your Mac Mini, you would benefit greatly from upgrading to Snow Leopard, which is much faster and offers a ton of new features. It's like getting a new computer in a sense.
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3. Upgrade the CPU Processor
Now, while the two upgrade above can be done by most computer users, upgrading the Mac Mini's CPU is very involved and requires someone who is familiar with such tasks. If you are computer savvy and want to give it a shot, here is a website with really good instructions; just know that there is the potential to damage the computer permanently.
Also, be aware that this upgrade will void any warranty that you have on the computer. But, in terms of upgrade, switching out an old chip (such as the Intel Core Duo) for a newer and faster chip (such as the Intel Core 2 Duo) can make a world of difference for your computer's processing speed. Be sure that you order the correct chip, as each Mac Mini model will be compatible with only a particular series of CPUs.
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2. Upgrade to a New, Larger Hard Drive
While this may also void the warranty (unless performed by an Apple technician), upgrading the hard drive will give you a lot more storage space. This usually won't make your computer run faster unless you're using your Mac Mini with 5% or less free hard drive space; then, it actually could give you a speed boost.
As a general rule, you never want to let your computer go below 10% free hard drive space. This upgrade is relatively easy to do for someone who is comfortable opening up and working on computers. Again, you have to be careful, but this can be a very beneficial upgrade.
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1. Upgrade the Memory - the King of All Upgrades
Upgrading memory is the most common computer upgrade done for three reasons:
It's usually the most inexpensive, running between $30-75 to double or sometimes triple your memory
Memory has a huge impact on performance, so it's one of the first upgrades you should look into. If you're running your Mac Mini on less than 2GB of RAM, I'd upgrade to at least 2-3GB to be set for the future. Anything beyond that on an older machine is probably overkill.
Memory is also the easiest upgrade to do. While you still have to take the case off the Mac Mini (or, on the aluminum Mac Mini, remove the bottom for easy access to the memory), it is relatively easy to add more. In some cases, opening up the older Mac Minis may void the warranty.
Think about these best upgrades for a Mac Mini before you decide to recycle the old one. You may be able to get another three years or so while spending only a few hundred dollars on upgrades. That sure beats dropping $700-800 on a new computer!