How to Upgrade a 2011 Mac Mini for Use in 2020

Mac Mini Featured

Buying a new Mac computer can be an expensive affair. However, if you have an old Mac Mini lying around, like we do, you can easily upgrade it to work like a new computer. Here we show you how you can upgrade a 2011 Mac Mini for use in the current year.

What you need

You will need the following items for this project:

1. Prep the Mac Mini

Flip over the Mac Mini so the open and closed dots are facing you. Twist the black base counter-clockwise to unlock the base, and gently lift the base clear of the device.

Mac Mini Assembled

2. Remove the wireless shroud

Using the Torx T8 screwdriver bit, unscrew the screws for the wireless shroud. Gently start to remove the shroud until you see where the wire connects to the logic board. Gently loosen the wire from the connection to pull the wireless shroud clear.

Mac Mini No Ram

3. Remove the fan

Using the Torx T5 screwdriver bit, unscrew the 3 screws connecting the fan to the device and begin to remove the fan until you can reach where the fan connects to the logic board. Pull the connector from the logic board and remove the fan entirely. Using the same screwdriver bit, remove the screws holding the black piece that was next to the fan and remove that piece for ease of access.

Mac Mini Fan Removed

4. Remove the logic board

To remove the logic board, first you need to move it out by half an inch first. If you have trouble, you can use any small screwdrivers you may have in two screw holes to pry it loose. From there, disconnect any connections still on the logic board, which at this point should only be the hard drive SATA cable and the power pack.

Mac Mini No Ssd

From this point forward, my pictures aren’t going to be a direct reflection. I rebuilt first to make sure my methods would work, and upon reopening my device, the screw for my fan was stripped and unable to be removed currently. Let this be a word of caution, be very careful with the Torx screws to not strip them, as they have a proclivity to do so.

5. Remove the old hard drive

Place a credit card or a small nylon tool underneath the hard drive to pry it out of place and remove it entirely. Save the SATA cable for use with the new hard drive.

6. Remove/Replace RAM

Slightly pull on the metal tabs on the sides of the ram to unlock the old RAM boards. Pull them up on a 45-degree angle, and gently remove the boards from their holding. Place the new ones in on a similar angle, then gently push them flat until you hear the boards click into place. If you are encountering resistance, pull out on the metal tabs to clear the path. After this, you can remove the logic board entirely.

Mac Mini No Ram
Mac Mini Ram Inserted

7. Remove the hard drive plastic

There is a piece of plastic that guides around the power pack, the logic board, and the hard drive. It is connected in the back of the power pack, farthest from where you have the device placed. To remove it, with the power pack being grounded into place on this model, you have to gently wiggle the plastic to get it free. You can then pull it out all the way.

8. Install the new hard drive

Connect the SATA cable into the new hard drive. Using the T5 screwdriver bit, remove the screws from the side of the old hard drive. Guiding the new hard drive into the plastic insert, you can screw the hard drive into place using the same screws you just used. The new SATA cable kit will also have some rubber inserts. Put those through the plastic before inserting the screws. You can guide the plastic back into the place you pulled it from, working the connection back into place.

9. Install the new SSD

Attach the new SATA cable from the hard drive kit (make sure to use the one that faces up when placed into the Mac Mini). Gently lay the SSD on top of the new hard drive, and slide it until it secures into place.

Mac Mini Logic Board Removed

10. Connect the hard drive, the SSD, and the other connections to the logic board

Slide the logic board back into the Mac Mini housing. Once it is about a half inch away, connect the power pack back into the logic board. Once that is connected, slide the logic board the rest of the way in. Connect the 2 SATA cables to the logic board. (The cables required some work to fit perfectly, so make sure to embrace patience. It’s so worth it!)

Mac Mini Fan Removed

11. Reconnect the fan

Place the black piece back in place and screw it on. Connect the cable for the fan to the logic board, then place the fan back in place. Put the screws back in place and secure them.

12. Reconnect the wireless shroud

Connect the wire for the wireless adapter to the logic board in the only remaining spot in that area. Place the wireless shroud back in place and screw the final screws back in. Place the base back on top and spin it clockwise to fasten it into place. You’re done with the hardware part!

Mac Mini No Base

13. Enter Internet Recovery Mode

The next thing to do upon booting your Mac for the first time is to hold the Command, Option, and R keys at the same time once you hear the Mac startup chime. This enters the machine into Internet Recovery Mode.

Mac Mini Boot

14. Reformat the hard drive and the SSD

Go to “Disk Utility” to erase and format the new hard drive and SSD to reformat to “Mac OS Extended (Journal).”

Mac Mini Reformat Drives
Mac Mini Erase Drives

Once finished, go back to the main screen.

15. Reinstall MacOS

My computer came with Mountain Lion, so that’s the OS that installed automatically. This process does take about 30 minutes, so find something to do in the meantime.

Mac Mini Reinstall Macos

16. Install Mac High Sierra (the most recent supported for this model of Mac mini)

This part was frustrating because Safari was not supporting any websites. You have to find a copy of Mac High Sierra and install it on your Mac mini.

Mac Mini High Sierra

At this point, you’re done! You now get to enjoy an upgraded Mac Mini at a fraction of the cost of a new one. If, after everything, your Mac Mini refuses to boot up, you can check some of the fixes here.

Image Credit: “2011 Mac Mini 2.5ghz 14-5-2019”

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