Upgrading My Early 2009 Mac Mini (Again)

Activity Monitor and System Preferences IconsWhile I’m happy with the new iPad Air 2, and it has seriously cut down my desktop usage, I still need a traditional computer to get work done. The problem was that my Mac was running slow. It’s over five years old. I thought about getting a new Mac, but the¬†new models didn’t impressed me. They’re either too expensive for my budget or not a significant improvement over the earlier Macs. To save money, but boost performance, I decided to upgrade my Mac Mini.

Macs aren’t really known for massive upgrading. That’s one of my disappointments with the new Mac Mini. The RAM is permanently¬†attached. It’s not designed for RAM upgrades. The early 2009 Mac Mini doesn’t have that problem. I thought it was at the max already, as I had previously upgraded the RAM to 4GB. But apparently, a firmware update raised the cap to 8GB. Considering that I bought the Mac Mini with just 1GB of RAM, adding¬†two 4GB modules is¬†a huge upgrade.¬†The additional RAM seems to help with Yosemite. I’m not really a fan of this OS X update, as I think Mavericks was more stable and looked a lot better. While more RAM alone won’t make the OS prettier, it seems to help with stability.

About This Mac - Memory
8GB is not a huge amount of RAM by today’s standards, but it was enough to make my Mac feel like new again.

Although, to be fair, I did another large upgrade simultaneously.¬†I upgraded the hard drive in my Mac Mini from a spinning disk to a solid state drive. This change should¬†improve system boot times and data reads times, while reducing power consumption. The addition of a silent running SSD makes my previously quiet¬†Mac sounds¬†almost ghostly. The only noisy parts left are the optical drive (which I rarely use) and the fan. The latter is the one part I’m worried about. I’m not sure how long can that thing can keep spinning.

At some point Apple will likely stop supporting the 2009 Mac Mini. It’s already at the edge of hardware supported by Yosemite. Even though I think Yosemite is ugly, downloading the latest security updates are important. I don’t know how long the software will hold out, but I figure that I added at least¬†two years of life to my Mac. That should be enough time for the Intel Skylake CPUs to make their way inside Mac hardware. For now, my¬†Core 2 Duo processor is hanging in there.

Mac Mini (Early 2009) Hardware Upgrades
My Mac Mini (Early 2009) was upgraded with an SSD from OWC and an 8GB RAM kit from Crucial. Unfortunately, 5GB of RAM (1+2+2) is now unused.

Oh sure, my Mac is missing the latest features like USB 3, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Yet, the older versions are getting the job done. I was more concerned with getting rid of the lag with opening files, browser tabs and applications. If I was to buy a new mid-range Mac Mini directly from the Apple, with 8GB of RAM and an SSD, it could run $900. But instead, approximately $160 of parts turned my old Mac into a competitive machine.