Damage Report: Mac Mini Crash

As I was trying to recover the data, I was getting angry with Apple. I started wondering if I should go back to Windows or move over to Linux. Do I really need to restore this computer? What would I really miss?

Considering that I was incredibly annoyed, I obviously would miss a lot. I like Macs. Yet, I wasn’t prepared to buy a new Mac. $1500 for a 13″ MacBook Pro seems too expensive. That’s without 16GB of RAM, which brings the price to $1700. I already missed out on the Black Friday sales too. No, I was determined to fix the¬†Mac Mini.

I went way back in history to fix the Mac Mini. I pulled out my copy of Snow Leopard. This version of Mac OS is from 2009. And wow, it feels newer than El Capitan. Version 10.6¬†has a great look. Everything is so shiny, so embossed, so colorful. And even though this operating system is nearly a decade old, I didn’t feel like I was missing much. Safari loaded up Photics.com without trouble.

Back to the mission, I was working my way through history. I wasn’t using Snow Leopard for nostalgia. I was using it as a way to restore my computer and install El Capitan. Apple makes it surprisingly difficult to get previous¬†operating systems. Sure, there are ways to do it, but it’s a lot harder when you have your main computer sprawled in pieces, laying¬†across the desk. The putty knives were out again. I had to pry open the Mac Mini case one more time.

I replaced the troublesome¬†SSD with the original Mac Mini hard disk. Reverting back to a spinning hard drive is noticeably slower. Applications load much¬†faster with an SSD. Yet, I wasn’t about to spend money on a computer¬†that’s obsolete. The latest version of macOS does not support the 2009 Mac Mini.¬†That was a significant hurdle in this tech challenge. I ran into issues making a boot disk while running Snow Leopard. That’s because the¬†OS¬†was so old. I had trouble making an El Capitan boot disk on Sierra. That’s because the OS was too new.

I remembered the movie Groundhog’s Day. Like Bill Murray’s character, I was going on a strange journey through time. To get my Mac Mini running again, I ran a lot of old updates. It was a trip from the past to the modern day.

Once my Mac’s internal hard drive could run El Capitan, I proceeded to move the Time Machine files over. While the backup couldn’t do a full restore, I was able to access the files manually.

Here’s the odd part. While I consider my Mac to be at 95% of where it was, I have about double the available storage space. Previously, I had about 15-20 GB of storage available. Now, I have 49.64 GB of storage available. Both drives were about the same size. The SSD was 128 GB, while the original Mac Mini hard drive stores¬†120 GB. Where is that extra space coming from?

That’s years worth of damage. Files and preferences from applications long gone, they were stuck in the system. It really needed a good cleaning. I’ve been wondering if I was missing something, but everything working as expected. The backup files are still available. Time Machine didn’t work as expected, but it did work.

Here are the lessons learned from this experience

  • It’s probably a good idea to run the Disk Utility after a power outage / hard crash. The disk should be verified / repaired to minimize potential software issues.
  • SSDs are scary. While the speed is great, I’m not liking the reliability. I’m glad that my Time Machine backup is on a spinning disk.
  • I’m looking forward to new Mac hardware. Reinstalling software with an old CD-ROM or a USB 2 device is slow. I’ve seen¬†way too many progress bars¬†during the past few days.
  • Having a macOS boot disk can make a big difference in recovering a crashed Mac.
  • A clean install of the operating system can remove a lot of bloat. It’s tedious, but a good way to reclaim storage space.
  • Time Machine is good ‚Äď but can also be susceptible to the same damage that crashed the main drive.