Monday, February 05, 2007

scenes from an upgrade

So I finally got around to putting a reasonable amount of memory in the Mac mini at home. I've had the thing for close to two years now, and I've been convinced it needed an upgrade for a while now, but the prospect was a little intimidating. Adding memory to a Mini is a fun little chore, so here are a few photos.

I should start out by saying that although I'm a computer geek, I'm generally a software geek, and I'm not the world's biggest hardware tinkerer. If there's a hardware problem, you call IT and a harried, underpaid, sleep-deprived schmoe with a tool belt will come and take care of it. If the hardware needs to be upgraded, you talk to management, fill out the appropriate TPS reports, lobby for budgetary approval, and wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually a harried, underpaid, sleep-deprived schmoe from IT will arrive bearing shiny new hardware.

Except that doesn't work so well at home. And for some reason I keep buying hardware that's hard to upgrade. Not impossible; that would take all the fun out of it. It's always possible, just rather harder than it needs to be.


Note the putty knives. The putty knives are for opening the case. Seriously. You open the Mini by wedging the putty knives into the left and right edges of the underside of the case, and prying the thing open.

Some people have suggested that you can get by with a single putty knife. Which I suppose is possible, but they're cheap and they make the job easier. So get two.

Sadly, I was not doing the upgrade with an accomplice, so there aren't any photos of me actually prying the case open.

I should point out before I get much further that there's a lot of other info out there about upgrading Minis, with photos and everything. Some of the photos are better than mine, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Here are a few I referred to when getting ready to take the plunge. You probably ought to look at them too, if you're thinking about doing the same:
mac-upgrade2 Ok, so here's the Mini with the case open. The accounts I read invariably talked about an alarming "rice krispie" sound, which is supposed to be the little plastic case latches unlatching. It didn't make much of a sound for me, though. Go figure. A bit of advice: If you're prying open a computer that isn't designed to open easily, and you're afraid of damaging it, but you have to be a bit ungentle to get the job done, a glass of cheap domestic syrah may be helpful. Two glasses would probably be overdoing it. mac-upgrade3 A closeup of the Mini, caseless. There's not a lot of empty space inside the thing, as you can see here. G4 Minis have a single DIMM slot, which can take up to 1GB memory. Memory's cheap these days, so you may as well max the thing out. The memory's the green doodad on the left. Basically you bend back the black plastic tabs on each end that hold the module in its slot, slide it out, put the new one in, and relatch the tabs. There can be a bit of prying to get the old one unseated, and some shoving to get the new one in place. If the latches won't latch, you'll have to push on it some more. But before you start shoving, note that there's a little notch in the bottom of the memory module, which is there to keep you from installing it backwards. If you're holding the thing backwards, no amount of shoving will lead to satisfactory results. Here are a few (PC-centric) pieces on how to install memory properly. mac-upgrade4 I forgot to take any pics of me actually installing the memory, but here's a shot of taking it out of the package. This photo is for the obligatory cheap shot about plastic packaging that's almost impossible to open. In the unlikely event that you have some pinking shears handy, they do a decent job, and there's less danger of you slicing your hand open than there would be with a straight blade of some sort. Bleeding all over your new memory is inadvisable, after all. mac-upgrade5 So the installation went fine, yada yada, and here's the machine all booted up. You might as well make sure it boots before putting the case back on. If it doesn't, it's putty knife time again. Overall, the upgrade was easier than I was afraid it would be. So far as upgrading Mac memory goes, it's much easier than upgrading a Mac Plus, but not anywhere near as easy as upgrading a Mac IIcx. (Please note how I subtly demonstrated my Mac oldtimer street cred in the last sentence.) The machine does seem noticeably faster now, since it doesn't have to swap as much as it once did. GIMP is happier, and gcc is happier, and even iPhoto is less sluggish than it once was. But still, no machine is ever really fast enough, and so I'm starting to read up on overclocking your Mini. Although the part about changing out resistors on the motherboard sounds a little shady to me. Oh, and although you probably can't see it in this photo, lurking in the shadows under the desk is my other toy, the Sun Ultra 30 I mentioned a while back. I think it may need more memory too. And the CDROM hasn't worked since I got it, so I need to find a new SCSI internal CDROM somewhere. Plus I haven't gotten around to finding the right keyboard+mouse & monitor adapters yet, so it runs headless for the time being. So there's no shortage of stuff to tinker with, is basically what I'm saying.

And if you're wondering about the two tiny plastic frogs in the photo, they're for good luck. Hey, it can't hurt.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Great and Brave story!!!

I have a mac tower with an easy access side panel and am too nervous to touch it. One day I will get brave!

Loved the mac street cred comment! Have found myself uttering a simialr phrase.....