How to Upgrade the Hard Drive in a 2010 Mac Mini

I have successfully upgraded the hard drive in a 2010 Mac Mini.  The process wasn’t a trivial one, but wasn’t an especially complex one.

First, note that as of this writing (August 2010), the largest-capacity hard drive that you can put into a 2010 Mac Mini is the 750 GB Western Digital drive.   Do not be tempted to buy the 1 TB version of the drive; unfortunately, the physical size of the drive (3 mm thicker) is too large to be accommodated by the 2010 Mac Mini case.

Here is how I removed the 320 GB factory drive and installed the 750 GB drive:

You need two Torx screwdrivers, size T6 and size T8.  If you don’t already own these, your cheapest option is to buy a set of mini Torx screwdrivers.

Having the size 6 and size 8 Torx screwdrivers in hand, your next step is to open up the Mac mini.  If you have never taken a computer apart, this will seem a bit intimidating, but if you follow the instructions carefully you should be fine.

I followed these two guides.  Most helpful was this video on Youtube.  In addition, I found that keeping the pictures located on this site open during the process was also a helpful one.

A couple tips that I had to learn myself, despite following the instructions in the video:

  • All of the screws inside the computer are different.  As you take the computer apart, start with a system of where you set the pieces.  Do as the guy in the video does and set all the screws on a mat, in the order in which you removed them.  Use a mat that won’t allow the screws to roll around (I used a kitchen towel).  The point is that when you put the computer back together, you can follow the reverse order and use the same screws.
  • You will get to a step where you have to take five screws out of the logic board itself.  Make sure that you remember where these came from, because they are all different.  The way I did it was to arrange them on a mat, literally spatially oriented as laid out to correspond to the shape of their arrangement on the logic board.
  • One of the final steps, which is inserting the wifi antenna back into the computer, tripped me up.  Note that you are going to be screwing the wifi antenna directly into the hard drive that you just installed.  If the holes in the wifi antenna do not line up with the screw holes in the hard drive, do not attempt to insert the screws sideways.  Instead, take the wifi antenna back out and reposition the hard drive to better align the screw holes.  I also found that I was able to use my screwdriver tip to nudge the hard drive a bit after the wifi antenna was installed, by poking on the far right side , behind the vertical part of the wifi antenna.  Be patient and keep nudging; eventually you will be able to get the holes lined up and the wifi antenna situated so that it sits comfortably in the grooves in the casing.
  • If at any point you find that you are muscling a screw into a hole, stop and start over.  I messed up a screw hole in the hard drive, trying to insert a screw sideways to attach the wifi antenna to the hard drive.  I should have stopped and repositioned the hard drive to get the holes to line up.  Now that they are lined up, the screw still only goes in sideways.

The final step is to install the operating system.  When I first put the CD in, the computer did not recognize it.  My setup has a wireless keyboard and mouse, which of course were not yet paired to the operating system, so I wasn’t able to hold “C” on the keyboard to tell the computer to boot from the disk.  This is easily solved if you have a USB keyboard, but in my case, I simply turned the computer off and on again, and the second time it booted from the CD.

The total process took me about an hour.  Let me know if you have additional tips in the comments.

One thought on “How to Upgrade the Hard Drive in a 2010 Mac Mini

  1. “The final step is to install the operating system.”

    Easier to just connect the drive (via cables or simple external drive enclosure) before replacing it and clone the original drive to the replacement before you stick it in. Installing from DVD takes more time… otoh, if you want to customize your install, it might be worth it.

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