Which Mac Mini Models Allow for RAM and HDD Upgrades?

Macmini Upgrade Featuredimage

The Mac mini is something of an outsider in the Apple community. It doesn’t win the attention that an iPhone or MacBook does. In fact, many people who are not die-hard Apple fans may not initially recognize it when they see a Mini sitting on a desk. But to those who know and use the Mini regularly, it’s often a huge passion for them. 

Mini users love them for the versatility they offer in terms of easily adding components. Minis are also popular for the speed and ease in which many of the versions can be easily upgraded in their RAM and hard drive capacity. Let’s see which Mac Mini models are easy to upgrade, as well as the general process for how to do it in the 2010-2012 range.

Is an Upgrade Really Worthwhile?

At the outset, it’s useful to provide a quick overview surrounding why the Mini is so fantastic from a DIY-upgrade perspective. The reality is all computers will age. What makes the Mini special is its capacity to effectively utilize upgrades introduced into it well beyond its base model. For example, it’s common to see Minis from 2010 that shipped with 4GB of RAM or Minis from 2012 with 8GB of RAM – yet, a 2010 can upgrade to 8GB, and the 2012 to 16GB. 

As a result,  many people in recent years have found they could buy a used Mac Mini from as far back as 2010 and that it will hold its own with a Mac from 2020 in numerous tasks. True, there’s no suggestion such steps would deliver someone a computer that is on the cutting edge of today’s technology, but Apple fans would say the record of eight-year-old PCs being as easy to upgrade and as long-lasting is far more limited.

The Upgrade List for Every Mac Mini of the Past Decade

YearRAMHARD DRIVE
2010YesYes
2011YesYes
2012YesYes
2014 NoYes
2018No*No
2020NoNo
*The 2018 Mini’s RAM is upgradeable, but its a much more complex process than that of the 2010-2012 Minis. Apple advises allowing an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider to do the upgrade.

How to Upgrade RAM For Mac Mini

Many Apple users will be happy getting an upgrade at an Apple store or doing so via a tech professional. After all, it’s a reality that any upgrade comes with risks, and nobody wants to see damage to their Mac. But for those who are confident they can do it themselves, the following steps can be seen as a general guide to the process when it comes to RAM upgrades in the 2010-2012 minis.

1. Ensure your Mini is powered off and disconnected from power, then remove its bottom cover by twisting it with two thumbs.

Macmini Upgrade Cover

2. Once the cover is unlocked, press on the cover to pop it open.

3. Once the cover is off, you should see the RAM module(s), which you can unlock by gently prying open the retainer clips at the edges of the modules.

Macmini Upgrade Ramin

4. Once the clips are open, slide out the modules.

5. Install the new RAM by reversing the process done in Step 3 & 4 and sliding in the new RAM in the same position that the previous RAM was.

Macmini Upgrade Raminhand

6. Repeat Step 2 and 1 in reverse by returning the cover to the Mini, then screwing it back in with your two thumbs.

7. Power on the Mini and check that your new RAM is recognized by logging in, clicking the Apple menu and then “About this Mac.” This window shall display information about your RAM.

Upgrade Hard Drive in Mac Mini

Given the variations that can exist with hard drives and Mac Minis, it’s ideal to research extensively and make some specific inquiries before attempting a hard drive upgrade. It’s also possible to acquire an external hard drive you can use that will complement the existing one if you don’t wish to switch out the hard drive. Just be sure to check compatibility between your Mini and a external hard drive before you buy.

Check out this article for more details on changing your hard drive.

Mini Yes, but Massive Potential

The compact design and portability of the Mac Mini makes it a great option for anyone looking for an older computer that can be easily upgraded or starting their own journey down the DIY path.

Ed Kennedy

Ed Kennedy is a journalist and ghostwriter from Melbourne, Australia. A keen technologist passionate about all things digital, Ed also holds a background in public policy and law. When not at his desk Ed spends time with family, running, and reading.

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