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How to Upgrade Pre-2010 Mac Mini to Run Lion Server

If you are going to put your pre-2010 Mac mini into service as a Lion Server, you may need to upgrade RAM and hard drive capacity. Contrary to popular opinion, the Mac mini is upgradeable.

Replacing an older Mac mini’s 5,400-rpm drive with a 7,200-rpm drive not only gives you faster performance, but also can triple the amount of storage. Be aware that when you do this job, the Mac mini runs hotter, and the internal fan runs more frequently.

Although the pre-2010 Mac minis are officially not user-serviceable, you can open them to upgrade RAM and the hard drive. Replacing the hard drive on the older, pre-2010 is actually easier than in the new models.

The main thing to figure out is how to open it. 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.

    The hard drive is located at the bottom of the internal plastic frame that also holds the DVD drive and the fan.

  4. Remove the frame by removing three small screws that hold it to the base.

  5. Unplug the small cable for the fan.

  6. Pull the base straight up, unplugging an interconnect board in the frame from a connector in the base.

  7. With the frame removed, turn the mini upside down.

    You find the hard drive attached with four screws.

  8. Upgrade the RAM.

    You find two slots on the base, connected to the motherboard.

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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