How to Replace a Mac Mini DVD with a Hard Drive

A DVD drive doesn’t get a lot of use in an OS X Lion Server, but a second internal hard drive would come in handy and would be much faster than an external FireWire drive. Apple does this for you in the server versions of the Mac mini, but if you don’t have one, you can do it yourself in an old Mac mini.

The optical drive is parallel ATA (also known as IDE), while most drives sold today are Serial ATA (SATA), which means that you need to make sure that you buy an IDE drive. They’re not as high capacity as SATA but are still available.

Tom’s Hardware is a good resource for locating hard drives. Look for drives that are internal, 2.5-inch, and 7,200-rpm, and have an IDE interface.

Although the pre-2010 Mac minis are officially not user-serviceable, you can open them to do upgrades and replacements. Although there are no doors, once you know how to open the device, it takes less than a minute. You need a 1-inch-wide putty knife; it’s helpful to bevel one side of the putty knife with some sandpaper first. Then follow these steps:

  1. Place the Mac mini upside down on a towel.

  2. Position the knife blade where the outer casing meets the inner plastic housing and then press down firmly until the putty knife slips in about half an inch.

  3. Push the handle of the putty knife outward and down to release the internal plastic tabs, working your way around the unit until the base is free from the cover.

    DVD drive is right at the top, held in place by four screws, two on each side.

  4. Remove the four screws holding the DVD drive in place; then remove the two screws that hold the DVD drive to a daughter card that it plugs into.

    This is where you plug in the new IDE hard drive.

For an illustrated step-by-step guide to taking apart and updating the Mac mini, see Mac Mini Hacks & Mods For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). The photos and directions are of the older PowerPC Mac mini, but the basic layout is the same as in the 2007–2009 Intel Mac mini models.

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