How to Upgrade a 2011 Mac Mini for Use in 2020

How to Upgrade a 2011 Mac Mini for Use in 2020

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 run like a new computer. Here we show you how to upgrade a 2011 Mac Mini for use in the current year.

What do you need

You will need the following items for this project:

1. Prepare the Mac Mini

Turn the Mac Mini over so that the open and closed dots are facing you. Turn the black base counterclockwise to unlock the base and gently lift the base to release it from the device.

Mac Mini assembled

2. Remove the wireless shroud

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

Mac Mini No RamMac Mini No Ram

3. Remove the fan

Using the T5 Torx screwdriver bit, unscrew the 3 screws connecting the fan to the device and start removing the fan until you can reach the place where the fan connects to the board mother. Remove the connector from the motherboard and remove the fan completely. Using the same screwdriver bit, remove the screws holding the black piece that was next to the fan and remove that piece for easier access.

Mac Mini fan removedMac Mini fan removed

4. Remove the motherboard

To remove the motherboard, you must first pull it out half an inch. If you’re having trouble, you can use any small screwdriver you might have in two screw holes to pry it off. From there, disconnect any connections still present on the motherboard, which at this point should only be the hard drive SATA cable and the power supply.

Mac Mini without SSDMac Mini without SSD

From now on, my photos will no longer be a direct reflection. I rebuilt first to make sure my methods would work, and when I reopened my device my fan screw was removed and currently cannot be removed. Let that be a word of warning, be very careful with Torx screws not to strip them, as they tend to do so.

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5. Remove the old hard drive

Place a credit card or a small nylon tool under the hard drive to pry it up and remove it entirely. Register the SATA cable for use with the new hard drive.

6. Remove / replace RAM

Pull lightly on the metal tabs on the sides of the ram to unlock the old RAM boards. Pull them out to a 45-degree angle and carefully remove the boards from their support. Place the new ones at a similar angle, then gently push them flat until you hear the planks click into place. If you encounter resistance, pull on the metal tabs to clear the path. After that, you can completely remove the motherboard.

Mac Mini No RamMac Mini No Ram
Mac Mini Ram insertedMac Mini Ram inserted

7. Remove the plastic from the hard drive

There is a piece of plastic that guides around the power supply, motherboard, and hard drive. It is connected to the back of the power supply, furthest from where you have placed the device. To remove it, since the power supply is grounded on this model, you need to gently wiggle the plastic to release it. You can then remove it completely.

8. Install the new hard drive

Connect the SATA cable to the new hard drive. Using the T5 screwdriver bit, remove the screws from the side of the old hard drive. By guiding the new hard drive through 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 rubber inserts. Put them through the plastic before inserting the screws. You can guide the plastic to where you pulled it, putting the connection back in place.

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9. Install the new SSD

Connect the new SATA cable from the hard drive kit (make sure you are using the one that faces up when placed in the Mac Mini). Gently lay the SSD on the new hard drive and slide it out until it clicks into place.

Mac Mini motherboard removedMac Mini motherboard removed

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

Slide the motherboard into the Mac Mini case. Once it’s about a half inch, plug the power supply back into the motherboard. Once it is connected, slide the motherboard all the way. Connect the 2 SATA cables to the motherboard. (The cables took some work to fit perfectly, so make sure you have patience. It’s totally worth it!)

Mac Mini fan removedMac Mini fan removed

11. Reconnect the fan

Put the black piece back in place and screw it down. Connect the fan cable to the motherboard, then replace the fan. Replace the screws and secure them.

12. Reconnect the wireless fairing

Connect the wire from the wireless adapter to the motherboard in the only spot left in this area. Replace the wireless shroud and tighten the final screws. Replace the base and turn it clockwise to secure it in place. You are done with the hardware part!

Mac Mini without baseMac Mini without base

13. Enter Internet recovery mode

The next thing to do when you start your Mac for the first time is to keep the Order, Option, and R keys at the same time once you hear the Mac startup chime. This puts the machine into Internet recovery mode.

Mac Mini startupMac Mini startup

14. Reformat hard drive and SSD

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

Mac Mini reformatting drivesMac Mini reformatting drives
Mac Mini Erase DrivesMac Mini Erase Drives

When finished, return to the main screen.

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15. Reinstall MacOS

My computer came with Mountain Lion, so the operating system installed automatically. This process takes about 30 minutes, so find something to do while you wait.

Mac Mini Reinstall MacosMac Mini Reinstall Macos

16. Install Mac High Sierra (latest supported for this model of Mac mini)

This part was frustrating because Safari did not support any website. You can use this link to drive you to High Sierra on the App Store. Click to download / install and wait about another 30 minutes.

Mac Mini High SierraMac Mini High Sierra

At this point, you are done! You can now enjoy an upgraded Mac Mini at a fraction of the cost of a new one. If, after all, your Mac Mini refuses to start, you can check out some of the fixes here.

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


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