Mac Mini adding external bits
February 23, 2007 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Mac Mini 1.66, 60gb with 1 or 2gb RAM - then adding big external drive and dvd burner - is this an economical / workable option?

Would like to try a mac.
My needs are fairly basic (web/cd burning/mail/) but i would like to run Parallels and a few windows programs.
60gb will soon run out - would an external drive and dvd burner be sensible way of upgrading - or are there downsides i've not considered?
The next option - an iMac is double the price (here in the uk) and I'm not sure if I would benefit from paying that as a new mac user.
posted by Megamix to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Get 2 GB of RAM. If you want to DIY you'll throw away whatever chip comes with the computer, so you may as well get it built-to-order through Apple. If you really want to DIY, invest in a putty knife to open the case.

Since there are Mac Minis with Superdrives I don't believe you would need an external DVD burner unless you plan on making disc-to-disc copies.

If you plan on using Parallels for, say, DVD copying or the external storage, then keep in mind there is no support for Firewire 400 or USB 2.0 devices (yet). Firewire devices won't show up, and USB 2.0 devices will downgrade to USB 1.1.

In this respect, then, purchasing a computer for use with Parallels is best served at this time with internal components. Where the hard drive is concerned, you can either DIY here or do a built-to-order through Apple.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 AM on February 23, 2007

I have one of these, it is my work box. If you're running Parallels, go for the full 2 GB; that way you won't have to spend 2 minutes closing it every time you want to run Safari. The drive in mine burns DVDs, so I don't exactly know why you'd want an external drive for that purpose.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:09 AM on February 23, 2007

Getting an external hard drive is definitely a good idea if you need it, since you'll be somewhat limited by the fact that Minis take 2.5" drives internally. Some people have even "hotwired" external 3.5" drives to their internal drive connector (this requires making a hole in the case and some fiddling).

An external DVD burner? It would probably be cheaper just to get a Mini that has that built in.
posted by adamrice at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2007

If you're looking at a used/refurb Mac Mini without a disk burner (or you need two optical drives), don't mind devices hanging off it, and already have a keyboard, mouse, and monitor you're happy with, it's a good buy. If you're going to also invest in a quality keyboard, mouse, and monitor, consider an iMac instead. But I'll join the chorus encouraging you to max out the RAM no matter what you get. Virtualization is a resource hog.
posted by ardgedee at 6:48 AM on February 23, 2007

Parallels allocates memory to Windows like pre-OS X apps- in fixed amounts. So, if you want Windows to have 1G of RAM, you really need 2G.

And it's really all about the monitor. If you've got an LCD, get the Mini.
posted by mkultra at 7:00 AM on February 23, 2007

the difference between a 2GB 1.83GHz Mini (i.e. the one with the DVD burner) and the better 17" iMac (the 2.0GHz; not the cheapest model, which has no DVD burner) upgraded to 2GB is £220. that's £220 you'd save if you have the keyboard, mouse and monitor. (note you don't have to use anything special here, though the keyboard and mouse need to be USB, and the keyboard does need to have a Windows key on it.) on the other hand, the iMac has a nice 17" widescreen monitor built in, a regular SATA drive (that's 160GB, not 80 or 60), keyboard and mouse (which is 4 buttons now, fyi) and a faster processor. (it's also got a real video chip in it - a Radeon x1600 - rather than the integrated graphics. whether or not this matters to you depends on what you're using - either will be fine for standard office-type stuff.) note that since both machines are Intel, you could theoretically use Boot Camp and just not have OS X anymore if you don't end up liking it, so it's not like you're going to be completely stuck with a computer you'd never use because you can't do anything but Mac stuff with it.
posted by mrg at 7:53 AM on February 23, 2007

RAM is never enough, and you use it all the time, get 2Gb
posted by matteo at 8:01 AM on February 23, 2007

Why build the Mini into something its not?

You'd be tossing out RAM, and putting the slow DVD burner and slow HD aside, plus buying all new components, which would end up costing around 1K USD for a machine that's not so mini anymore.

If you want to try OS X, why not build a PC and test OS X in VMware? It'd cost you 1/2 the price and you'd still be able to do everything you needed to.

But if you're so inclined on getting a Mini, at least ditch the slower external FW drive and do an eSata mod
posted by mphuie at 3:56 PM on February 23, 2007

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