Mac Mini surgery

My late-2009 Mac Mini has been playing up for a while, running Mountain Lion, so just before Christmas I decided to try and get it working thinking it just couldn’t cope with Mountain Lion.  I got a Lion USB stick and tried to install it – but on boot up the computer threw a tantrum because the hard drive was failing.

Disk Utility wasn’t able to repair it so I wrote it off; until a spare 2.5″ 200GB drive was given to me for nowt.  It only had a 160GB in it already, so this was an upgrade regardless.  I also remembered I had a couple of 2GB SO-DIMMS spare from when I upgraded an old MacBook Pro – so that’d double the memory in the machine too.

I found a video guide to upgrading on MacWorld/YouTube:


and set about to opening it.  I didn’t have a putty knife, so I improvised – using a Stanley knife which did the job fine.

Opening the Late-2009 mac Mini
Opening the Late-2009 mac Mini

It makes a worrying crack sound when the catches come away, but it came apart with no troubles.

Case separating
Case separating

Once it’s prised apart, just lift the base (which all of the computer is attached to) out of the case carefully.

Separated
Separated

I detached the antenna but the cable for the front one (which I later found out is the bluetooth antenna) detached in the process.  The rest went according to the video, and I put the “new” hard drive in along with the replacement memory.

The new hard drive.
The new hard drive.

Lion installed fine, and then I upgraded it to Mavericks.

After resolving most of the problems in the next section it’s working well – quicker than it was on Mountain Lion, even with Mavericks on.  Admittedly I’m not pushing it beyond some basic streaming – as it’s just a box for under the telly.  I’m not sure Mavericks is wise for a late-2009 Mac Mini in heavy use.

Problems!

I had a few problems after re-assembling the Mac Mini…

Aerials…

…in the sky.  Great song, if a little spiritual for me…  Anyway.

Somewhere along the way I’d managed to detach all the antennas from the main board, in addition to the damage to the bluetooth antenna joint.  This meant the wifi wasn’t working properly, I opened it up and re-attached them all.  It’s quite a small connection, so the slightest knock will cause it to disconnect.  The one below is the bluetooth connection.  The wifi aerials are to the left of this (two connectors).

Bluetooth connector
Bluetooth connector

Wifi was working but the bluetooth range wasn’t much beyond right next to the MacMini.  That wasn’t a big deal, but I did think i should have a go at fixing it.

Detached antenna
Detached antenna

The cable held in place by tape wasn’t doing the job, so I borrowed a soldering iron and set about trying to repair it.  I can’t say it’s the tidiest job…

Bluetooth antenna re-soldered
Bluetooth antenna re-soldered

…and it also hasn’t worked too well.  The range is about 1.5 metres, so a bit useless for using the bluetooth keyboard on my sofa which is beyond that range.

I’m wondering if the solder is bridging points it shouldn’t be, though I’m not sure how that would matter on an antenna, as it isn’t about forming a circuit but just getting the signal beyond the machine’s innards and to the top of the machine.  Does anybody know if that’d be an issue?

I may revisit it at some point – either to clean up the soldering job or swap antenna cables for the back wifi that isn’t broken.  For now I tend to use my MacBook Pro and screen sharing if I need to use a keyboard.

Turn it up…

…Bring the Noise!

On one of the occasions I took the Mac Mini apart again I forgot to re-attach the soundboard which has to be detached to get to the innards.  This manifested as no sound and the Mini complaining that it could’t find any devices for sound input/output.

Sound board connection
Sound board connection

Thankfully as the first step after cracking the Mac Mini open it took around a minute to open it up again and reconnect it and close it up again.

Sound board reconnected.
Sound board reconnected.