More Mini RAM

Apple designed the Mac Mini to be a non upgradable machine – even to the point where it is less easily upgraded than a MacBook/iBook or MacBook Pro/PowerBook. It is extremely difficult to open the case, and some have said impossible without causing some damage to the case.

I was somewhat in awe when I saw this video that comes from Apple, demonstrating how to crack open the Mac Mini case. It makes cracking the case look so easy. Alas, doing it that way will scratch the case and make noticeable marks from having opened the case that way. Furthermore, the tolerances on my brand new Mac Mini are even tighter. I know that a putty knife is the recommended tool. I bought one, but the blade was clearly too thick to get into the crack.

In the end, I was able to open the case, without scratches or collateral damage. Thanks to this tutorial for an older Mac Mini, I found a way to open the snap tabs inside the machine. I cut up an extra Ethernet cable I had and looped the individual wires around each tab inside (6 on each side and 4 in front) and yanked really hard while holding the outer metal case down.

After opening the machine, I had to make my own screwdriver to get at the RAM slots. I use a screwdriver with different heads, but the socket is too big to fit where it needs to be in the mini. I took the appropriate-sized head and taped it to a chopstick. Maybe next time I open the case, I will get a PH00 head screwdriver in advance that will fit.


Reassembly is much easier – I simply had to shove the top case back down after making sure everything worked. For a moment, I thought something was wrong. The first time I booted the Mini with 4GB of RAM, I got an error message saying that a boot disk could not be found. Resetting the PRAM actually did something of use for once, and allowed me to boot the machine normally. The Xbench scores are only 10 points higher than before (115.15 after the RAM upgrade, compared to 105.6 directly before), but the machine seems much more responsive now.

As for Apple saying the Mac Mini can only have 2GB of RAM, that is not true. Leopard can make use of 3059MB (close to 3GB/3072MB) of the RAM. Look at the screenshot of the Terminal window below: 252MB wired + 510MB active + 208MB inactive =  970MB used, with another 2089MB free. Total usable RAM by the system = 3059MB.

It does recognise that 4GB is installed (see the ‘About this Mac’ window in the screenshot). It just can’t use all of it since the chipset in the Mac Mini is 32bit. 32bit addressing allows for up to 4GB of RAM, but technical reasons prevent all of it from being used at any one time. The newer MacBooks and more expensive Macs have 64bit addressing now, so they can address 4GB or more of RAM.


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