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How to Upgrade the Memory in Your Mac mini

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The Mac mini is a much underrated member of of the Mac line-up of computers, in my opinion. This diminutive little box is versatile Mac that can be used either as one’s main computer or as a media centre, or even a computer that is easily portable on those occasions when you might need it elsewhere.

Despite being – to all intents and purposes – sealed boxes, it is possible to upgrade these devices in order to further their useful lifespan. With a Core 2 Duo processor, upgrading the standard 512MB or 1GB RAM module to, perhaps, 4GB or 8GB RAM brings the machine up to a spec capable of running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

In this tutorial, I’ll be showing you how to upgrade the memory (RAM) in your Mac mini. For the purposes of the tutorial, I’ll be using a Mac mini Core 2 Duo machine, model A1283.


Preparation

It is important that you prepare your workspace. If you have lots of clutter, it’ll be easier to lose things. Ensure that you have a clean, level and spacious work surface in order to conduct the upgrade.

Having good lighting, either natural or with a good desk lamp, is important, too. A small torch may also help.


What You’ll Need

Before you start, assemble the required items on your clear work area.

  • A Mac mini (I’m using an A1283 model)
  • A RAM upgrade module (I use Crucial as their service is first class)
  • A cloth
  • A Phillips no.00 screwdriver
  • A 2-inch putty knife
  • A spudger

It is recommended that you grind down the edge of the putty knife so that you create a bevelled edge. This makes it easier to pry the case apart without causing damage to the case itself.


How To Upgrade The Memory

In order to upgrade the memory, of the Mac mini, I am going to remove the lid of the machine and then remove the internal frame (holding various components including the SuperDrive) so that I can gain access to the memory modules.

Step 1

Ensure that your Mac mini is unplugged and has cooled down if you have been using it recently.

Lay out your cloth on your work area, for protection, and place the Mac mini upside down on the cloth so that the grey, rubberised base is uppermost.

Mac mini
Prepare the Mac mini on your work area.

Step 2

Locate the (very small) gap between the aluminium outer casing and the white plastic of the base (adjacent to the vents around the edge)

Carefully insert the putty knife into the gap and push down until about 10mm of the blade is inserted and will go no further.

Gently pry the base, of the Mac mini, up and away from the top housing. You may need to repeat the prying motion in order to release the catches on the base that retain the top.

Opening your Mac mini
Using a putty knife, carefully pry the base apart from the lid.

Step 3

Repeat the same prying motion on the opposite side of the machine until the top housing is partly separated from the base.

Step 4

Invert the Mac mini such that the top of the machine is now uppermost. From the rear of the machine, where the connection ports are located, carefully pull the base and the top apart from each other using your fingers.

Separating the base and lid of the Mac mini
Separating the base and lid of the Mac mini

Step 5

Set the top of the Mac mini aside in a safe place and place the naked Mac mini on your work area, the correct way up, so that you can see the top of the superdrive.

Step 6

Orientate the machine so that the rear of the Mac mini (with the connection ports) is facing towards you. You will be able to see three antennas for Bluetooth and AirPort wireless functionality. There will be one (AirPort) on the left and two (Bluetooth) on the right.

Mac mini on the work area
Mac mini on the work area

Step 7

Tip: Exercise caution in removing these antennas from their mountings as carelessness will lead to broken components. If you exercise care then you will have no issues. Bear in mind that when you come to replace the antenna, the two retaining arms will need to be gently squeezed towards each other in order to mount it properly.

Starting with the AirPort antenna, on the left of the Mac mini, carefully squeeze the two outer retaining arms so that the antenna can be lifted from it’s post. Be careful as squeezing too hard will break the retaining arms. You want to be using just enough pressure so that the antenna can be released.

Removing the AirPort antenna
Removing the AirPort antenna

Step 8

Tip: Be careful, there may be some resistance before the boards suddenly release. You need to gently pry them away without yanking them. Don’t lose the springs underneath each antenna. You would be wise, at this point, to remove them and set them aside in a safe place.

Moving to the right hand side of the Mac mini, the two Bluetooth antenna boards will just lift from the internal frame. To remove the boards, just pull them vertically, and carefully, away from the frame.

Remove the two Bluetooth antennae
Remove the two Bluetooth antennae

The antenna located towards the front of the Mac mini may have a wire secured with a small piece of black tape. Use a spudger to release the wire

Release the wire secured by tape
Release the wire secured by tape

Step 9

Between the rear of the SuperDrive and the rear of the Mac mini, locate a brown ribbon cable the terminates in a beige, plastic connector. Use the flat end of a spudger to pry this ribbon cable away from the circuit board.

Disconnect the ribbon connector
Disconnect the ribbon connector

Step 10

Looking down on the Mac mini, locate the for Phillips screws that secure the black internal frame to the base. The screw that is in the lower right corner (assuming the rear of the Mac mini, with the connection ports, is facing from you as you look at the machine) is recessed deeper into the frame. It is also a longer screw than the others.

Tip: You might find it useful to use a torch, for this part of the process, to help in locating the screws.

Unscrew the four screws and set aside in a safe place.

Step 11

Pick up the Mac mini so you can hold the base in one hand that the internal frame in the other and, starting at the rear edge, lift the internal frame away.

You need to lift this carefully whilst paying attention to the motherboard connector which will disconnect. As soon as this has disconnected, you can separate the two parts whilst being mindful of the dangling AirPort and Bluetooth antennas.

Separating the internal frame
Separating the internal frame

Step 12

Now that you have removed the internal frame, you will be able to access the RAM module(s). To remove a RAM module, simultaneously pull the retaining tabs away from each side of the module. Releasing these tabs will cause the RAM module to pop up whereupon it can be removed. Repeat the process for a second chip, if there is one, before inserting your upgrade RAM modules and pressing into place.

Mac mini memory modules
Mac mini memory modules

Step 13

Lucky for some, you now have to put it all back together. To reassemble your Mac mini, follow the instructions in reverse order.


Check Your Working

Once you have reassembled your Mac mini, it is time to ensure that the upgrade has been conducted successfully.

Provided that the RAM modules are correctly seated, you will be able to boot your Mac mini into OS X, otherwise you will hear a series of beeps on start up meaning that you will need to shut down and follow the instructions once more to properly seat the memory.

Once you are logged into OS X, click on the Apple symbol on the top left of the menu bar to reveal a menu, then select About This Mac. This will reveal a window with some brief specifications about your Mac, including the amount of installed RAM.


Conclusion

Whilst Apple recommends that you always take your Mac mini to an Apple Authorised Service Provider – and you should if you are not confident to perform this procedure – it is also true that if you are competent and confident, it is quite straight forward to upgrade the RAM if you exercise some care and patience.

Have you upgraded the memory in your Mac mini? How did you find the procedure? If you have any questions, tips or recommendations, please leave them in the comments below.

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