Speedier Hard Disk Option For Your Mac Mini

[Andrew] was left wanting by the slow hard drive in his 2011 Mac Mini. He set out to add a 10,000 RPM drive and we think he did a great job of pulling it off. Luckily he also took the time to document the process so you can try it yourself.

As with a lot of Apple products, a big part of this hack is just getting the darn thing apart without breaking something. Once that’s done, you’re got to do a little bit of interface hacking. To save space Apple uses a non-standard SATA breakout cable so [Andrew] starts by ordering a second hard drive cable from the company. He then soldered a thin wire connecting 12V from the motherboard to the 12V pin on a SATA connector. From there it’s just a matter of altering the original hard drive sled to make room for the 500 GB WD Velociraptor drive. It fits below the original and serves as additional space instead of as a replacement.

36 thoughts on “Speedier Hard Disk Option For Your Mac Mini

      1. Hes not a “apple hater”. I have a macbook that i installed extra ram and a SSD, and to me that is an upgrade not a “hack”. Ive done it to 5 other apple products, each different. Sure it wasnt an option from apple, but i mean its entry level stuff.

    1. Well, I guess: Welcome to *Ivan’s* world, where you don’t have time to read the article — but you DO have time to post wit which is based on a false assumption.

      All SATA 2.5″ drives are intended to run solely using 5V power. This 2.5″ drive however requires 12v.

      A 12v jumper hack is needed to use this drive in ANY device that’s not a desktop (like say an Asus “mini” PC, Playstation 3, or laptop).

      This is a useful hack, but a drive like this will have a very high thermal footprint relative to a standard 2.5″ drive.

      1. Sorry to disappoint you. I think this is a “mod”, I don’t see how this is quite a hack. If this wasn’t branded “Apple” would you call it a “hack” or a “mod”? Nice for him he found the jumpers (ah.. old times), realized that 10krpm drives are not regular sized 2.5″ but thicker and noticed the great disadvantage of not using standard connectors.

      2. Ivan –

        You were tackling Apple for making things difficult (presumably for leaving the 12v line out), when in fact Apple is correct: 12v lines are -not- part of the micro-SATA standard.

    1. This is incorrect. A proper SATA power connector will offer 3.3v, 5v, and 12v.
      Usually the one that is missing is the 3.3v line since that wasn’t available on the old 4-pin Molex drive power cable.

      Anyway, it’s a nice mod! I hope the 12v wire is thick enough gauge.

      1. @fr4nk – I am pretty sure your information is incorrect… you will not find a 12V line on 2.5″ micro SATA. In fact the Wikipedia page shows the pinouts only supporting 5V and 3V.

        Now “desktop” 3.5″ SATA does require 12V, but the Mini does not use desktop SATA.

    2. It’s a standard drive. Turns out that performance drives (10k) from WD are now 2.5 inch but thicker, mounted on a 3.5 inch heat sink. So it’s a standard 3.5 inch. Seems however, that Apple uses a different connector to save space. I didn’t read anything on the writeup about the huge heat sink (I had one of those drives around 3 years ago). But I’m guessing he’s using the thicker version of the 2.5″ that it’s supposed to run very hot.

  1. Regarding the added heat, a couple of fixes:
    – smcFanControl: my experience has been that OS X doesn’t kick a Mini’s or MacBook’s fan into gear until the innards are damn hot. SFC allows you to set your own fan speed profile.
    – external SATA case: the older Intel Minis have a bit more room for cutting a hole for either a SATA plug, or snaking a SATA cable through. This is a wee bit more of a challenge for the unibody case, but gives you more options as to drive model.

    1. @cmholm Original author here, thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely check smcFanControl out. The Mini does not get very hot unless I’m running a lot of things at once. It does get a tad warmer than before, so it might be nice to up the fan speed a bit.

    2. Regarding smcFanControl, I should add a couple of caveats:
      – it sets a new default minimum fan speed, does not create a completely new fan speed profile.
      – the UI on the version I downloaded a few months back didn’t seem to be working on my Mini with Snow Leopard. There is a command line workaround:

      # To set a 1500 rpm default speed,
      # multiply desired speed by 4,
      # then convert to hex (eg. 1500 -> F0Mx).
      # This setting does not survive a reboot.
      # perl -e ‘print sprintf(“%X”, (4*1500))’
      /Applications/smcFanControl.app/Contents/Resources/smc -k F0Mx -w 1770

      A similar controller that completely takes over control of fan speed is FanControl:

      The developer isn’t updating it, but he seems open to someone else taking it over.

  2. He could have gotten the same speed by raiding two drives together and saved whole lot of trouble. I did that with my mini with dual 500 gig drives.

    But do you really need 500 gigs on the main partition? I ditched the two 500 gig drives and put in two 80 gig ssd’s, raided them, and am very happy. Machine boots in about 5 seconds. From experimentation I have found no advantage to have thing like iPhoto, iTunes, or aperture libraries on the fas partition, it makes no difference whether they are on an external drive or not.

  3. Well okay. Kudos on the hacker front for doing it. But… they will be short lived unless the next post is how he hacks a portable chiller to the case to keep the thermals in check. There is a reason you void the warrantly on a velociraptor drive if you remove it from the heatsink cradle. Either the PS, HD, or both will go nova in short order.

    1. @buzzkill Original author here. The need for the original VelociRaptor heatsink is debatable. The VelociRaptor is an Enterprise-grade drive, which means Western Digital had to make sure they would be able to run in hot server boxes crunching data constantly. Under those conditions, extra heatsinking is needed, but for the light use I’m giving it in my well-ventilated Mini, with a aluminum chassis against which it is mounted I might add, it does not seem to be much of a problem.

      Also, keep in mind this is the Core i5 model with integrated graphics. With that in mind, I think that it is fair to assume that the cooling was already being under-utilized, at least compared to the higher-end Minis, so adding another heat-generating component inside shouldn’t tax it too much.

  4. agreed about the heat issues he might end up facing.

    but the wire hack is an important hack/mod to know.

    so the fan was completely off until its “too” hot eh? yet another model programmed to die early? thats why people hate…

    i usually “fix” that myself with a soldering iron and 25 cents of parts hehehe

    unfortunately on a mini-anything or even plain laptop u often have to dissasemble half the unit to fix/hack the fan, but well worth it once its done and reassembled.
    say where did that screw go?

  5. k that was uncalled for and way too personal.

    FYI plenty of straight hetero guys own and use apple computers, why? because they dont know what the hell a “folder” is NOR DO THEY CARE!
    nor what to do when the drive letter pops up when they plug it in… … but “MyComputer” doesnt have a “sync my playlist” button so they get confused.

    apple products are for rich OR tech.illeterate OR snobby OR dont really care about the whole bandwagon of standards…

    this kid obviously doesnt care for standards, standards can be flawed too with arcane limitations, either that or its just what he happens to have already.

    but now it needs a bigger “free” harddrive, hmm…

    and it IS a bandwagon, no matter how much i love it, its a fad and nothing less, a bus connector can have unlimited combinations of wire functions really. so can software and firmware ect

    but this guy is modding through hacking (and learning i assume) a “purposly-impossible-to-mod” hardware, give him a thumbs up everyone for doing what he isnt allowed by apple to do!

  6. lol. I should do a write up on replacing the hdd in an HP NC6000. Waaaay easier ;)

    /good on him for busting out a brick of the walled garden.

    @therian that was not necessary- it is common knowledge about apple users ;)

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.