As you know, I’m not a huge Mac guy. Up until I started building Hackintoshes out of NUCs, I had pretty much no experience with them. But after playing around with MacOS on several different NUCs I decided I liked the interface, features, and software. I don’t really have a need for a Mac in my life, but I was interested in experimenting further, so I started watching for a used one on the various sale sites (Craigslist, OfferUp, Ebay, etc.)
Last week I came across an i7 Mac Mini from 2012 for a great price on Craigslist, so I took a chance and contacted the seller. A very friendly gentleman from a nearby town was selling it because he’d bought it for his wife long ago and she just didn’t use it anymore. He was extremely helpful; he sent pictures and even a video of it. He then offered to meet me closer to my house to save me a long drive. Needless to say I was hesitant, as usually that would be a red flag. I was starting to wonder if what I’d get would be a Mac case filled with rocks. But I decided to take a chance and drove to meet him. In a public place, of course.
It turned out he was on the up & up, and I got to chat with him and his wife for a little bit while we completed the transaction. He ended up selling me the entire setup: Mac Mini, 27″ monitor, keyboard, and magic mouse. These were easily the nicest folks I’d ever met buying anything on Craigslist, and it gave me some hope for the online community.
Anyway, back to the Mac. What I got was a late 2012 model Mac Mini with a quad core Ivy Bridge i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD.
I powered it up as soon as I got home and was happily surprised with the performance. Booting took a bit longer than I’m used to, only because of the HDD, but once it was booted up it was a snappy little computer. My plan was to use it for things like making USB installers computers, as well as Facetime (something I was never able to get working on my hackintoshes). I also intended to use it as a platform to familiarize myself with the world of Macs more. I assumed I’d use it for a few months, then sell it to recoup my expenses.
But why, you ask, wouldn’t you just use a NUC with MacOS on it? It’s a fair question. I’ve gotten pretty good at installing MacOS on the NUCs. But some things just don’t work, like WiFi, bluetooth, and as I mentioned Facetime. Also, the build can be fragile. On more than one of my “NUCintoshes” I’ve painted myself into a corner with MacOS and had to start from scratch. In one case I had to install the OS multiple times because every time I tried to change a particular config setting I was rolling the dice on whether it would boot up again. Having a real Mac handy just made sense to me.
After reading up on the specs for it here, I learned it could handle up to 16GB of RAM. Luckily I had a couple of 8GB sticks of the DDR3 it used, so I popped that in and it worked right away. My research revealed that these systems would actually be able to support 32GB of ram were it not for Apple never releasing the required update in the software. Oh well, 16GB is way more than I need anyway.
Next I decided to upgrade the storage to something with more respectable performance. I’m sure the 1TB HDD it came with was sooper-dooper awesome back in 2012, but in 2020 it just wasn’t cutting it. Who has time to wait more than 30 seconds to boot up, right? I had a spare 240GB SSD that I wasn’t using, so I planned to pop that in. But then a little more research showed me this model could handle two 2.5″ drives at once. I checked into the needed cables and found there’s an inexpensive kit that comes with not only the SATA cable but the rubber grommets, screws, and tools needed to do the job. So I ordered one from Amazon and it arrived promptly.
The kit includes everything you need, and even one SATA cable you WON’T need. The second SATA cable is there because the installed drive can be in one of two positions. For most computers, adding a second drive means opening it up and connecting the drive. For the Mac Mini, however, the process involves removing the memory, the WiFi adapter, the power supply and the main board. The point is, it’s clear Apple would rather you not do this. But I’m a rebel, and the more difficult you make it, the more I want to do it.
There are many great videos showing the process for installing a second drive, but this is the one I followed. I’m never one to shy away from more complex installations, but it was surprising to me how involved the process was. The video walked me through it and I didn’t run into any problems, but there were a couple of times my hands started to sweat when I was sure I’d made a mistake. Still, even stopping to watch the video multiple times, I was able to get through the entire process in about one hour. I don’t have any video or photographs to prove I did it, so you’ll just have to take my word there are two drives in it now.
When all was said and done, I had a nicely spec’d out system: Quad-core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 240GB boot drive with a 1TB storage drive. Like I said, I’d only planned on keeping it for a few months at most. But here’s the thing; I’ve been using it for the last few days…and I love it. This is a nice system. You wouldn’t know it was 8 years old at all. It’s fast, has room for anything I’d want to use it for, and looks great. Something else I hadn’t expected is just how quiet it is. This is an i7, and I don’t hear the fan at all until I put it under load. Even then it’s surprisingly quiet. I just might keep it indefinitely!
Does this make me a Mac convert? Nah. I’m just expanding my depth of OS knowledge. Any geek worth his/her salt should be familiar with as many operating systems and interfaces as possible. Still, I definitely get the appeal of Apple products. They’re beautiful, they work out of the box, and they hold their value for a very long time. And if I ever decide to dump MacOS, this will run Windows or Linux just fine, too. Options are nice.
If I do decide to sell this one eventually, I’ll be sad to see it go.