Its been coming for a while but today I decided that I’d upgrade the memory in the trusty MacMini. The 512mb it had in it was fine but open a few applications, or start playing Wow, and it really starts to chug. Put your ear up to it (I love how quiet the little thing is!) and very quicly you realise its thrashing its poor little heart out.

Unfortunately its a Gen-1 Mini so only the one RAM slot. Frustrating, but far from difficult. After doing a quick bit of reading I discover that Macs, particularly the Mini’s, seem to be a little bit fussy about their RAM. PC2700 or PC3200 only and must be low density. Fine.

So I headed off to the monthly swap meet and purchased a 1gb stick of what I was assured was highly compatible PC3200 RAM, Kingston brand too so its not like it was the ultra crappy stuff.

I bring it home and the fun begins.

Normally when you think about replacing RAM you just whip out the ‘ol phillips head and 30 seconds later you’re clicking in sticks. With the Mini however, things are a little different. First, and probably most importantly, there are no screws so lose the driver. Its top is held on by a bunch (15) of plastic clips around the sides and front that are more than a little fiddly to get undone. Flipping the little box over reveals no obvious way to get at them. Now I’d read a few articles I found on Google that said the bes way was to stick 2 putty knives down the sides and press to release the clips. Easy done. Long story short here are my notes on disassembly of a Mac Mini:

  • 1 putty knife is more than sufficient for the job. I believe that two would actually make it trickier as you can’t hold the unit as easily.
  • You don’t need to stick the knife in very far. I made the mistake of thinking that I had to push it most of the way into the unit. All this achieves is ripping the seal that goes around the edge of the case which appears to be for sound insulation. The hard bit is getting the knife into the crack initially, once its in you shouldn’t have to use much pressure to push it down.
  • These clips are hard little buggers and just like everyone says they do take a fair bit of effort to pry open

So anyway I finally get the top off and witness the simply beautiful piece of engineering that is the Mac Mini.


After removing the antenna for the wireless/bluetooth (Not sure which) I popped out the old ram and slotted in the new. All very standard, much like any x86 unit. I may only be 23 but I’ve done these sorts of operations long enough to know that you don’t put everything back togerther until you know it works so I dutifully plugged the naked Mini back in.

I hit the power button and….
BEEP!
Steve happened to be in the room at the time and we both just looked up and said:
“Beep’s not good”
Nothing appeared on the screen and the power light just flashed on the front. Damn. DAMN!
I removed the stick and put it back in to make sure it had seated properly, I’d read that 1 beep on powerup meant that no ram was detected so I thought it may have just been badly seated. Try again….
BEEP!
OK, i tell myself, nothing to worry about, probably just needs its logic board cleared or something. I told myself this, but I knew it wasn’t right. I knew that it simply meant the Mini was turning its nose up to the ram.

Eventually I popped the original 512mb stick back in and it fired up perfectly. The nail in the coffin really. I tried the 1gb stick in my P4 and it ran like a charm, bummer, was kinda hoping the stick may have just been a dud.

So I’m left with a 1gb ram stick thats very much non Mac compatible. I’ve had a few offers to buy it from me so I’m not really worried about being out of pocket (I did get it for a pretty good price, apparently the vendor was selling it for a $3 profit). The mini is now going to run naked for a while as there’s no way I’m putting that cover back on just so I can take it off again henever this new RAM arrives.
Its a lesson in Macs though and really it was pretty frustating. I did my homework and bought exactly what i thought was needed and yet it still didn’t work. I guess I’ll just have to spend a few more dollars and get something that is gauranteed for a Mini, Apple tax strikes again (Even if it doesn’t go directly to them)