Nuke Mac Mini from orbit and start again

I have a 2014 Mac Mini (bought in 2016) on Catalina which has a peculiar problem. This machine was restored from a 2009 MBP which was restored from a Blackbook. Neither of the previous displayed this issue.

Regularly it decides (after the screen sleeping) that it doesn’t want to wake the monitor. So the Mac Mini is running fine and if I use VNC/Screens I can remote onto it and it’s very happy, but for some reason the monitor doesn’t recognise the Mac is woken and and doesn’t wake up.

I’ve had this in twice with Apple to look at (2017 and 2018) but both time they couldn’t find anything wrong with the hardware.

A reboot “fixes” the issue, but is annoying.

This is really frustrating me at the moment, so I’m planning to re-install from scratch and rather than doing a restore from backup, I’m going to set it up from scratch.

I thought about 2 options

  1. Setting up a new account on the same machine and transferring data across, but I’m unsure whether that would cause issues with permissions (this would also provide whether it was some sort of errant software issue somewhere.
  2. reinstall everything from scratch.

All of my actual data is on separate external drives. My main uses are iTunes (now Apple Music), Photos and Plex, plus Backblaze backups.

So if I choose either option, I want to preserve some key data (e.g. the XML library file from iTunes and the Plex Library data.

I have a Backblaze backup and also Time Machine in case anything gets screwy. I’ll probably also (if I reinstall from scratch) buy a new SSD to put in the Mac Mini to preserver the old one just in case.

Does anyone have any tips?

I’d give option 1 a try first. If the problem doesn’t recur with a different user account you might then be able to isolate the problem and fix it.

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First, the performance on these is like night and day if you swap out to an SSD, plus Catalina’s required APFS virtually demands an SSD.

So keeping that in mind, I’d pull the existing HDD, stick in the SSD as a fresh Catalina install and before doing anything else, create an admin account and check your display issue. If it isn’t fixed now, it’s not going to be as it is a hardware compatibility issue (perhaps with Catalina).

Then do a Migration from the old HHD mounted externally.

Just a note that I’ve got 4 minis, 2 2009 and 2 2012, doing various server-like chores. One of the 2012s has an SSD upgrade and I use as a file server. One of the 2009s has an SSD upgrade and I used it for years as a subversive Mac at work. They both fly and are 100% usable if not under Catalina. The other two minis I’ve just ordered SSDs and additional RAM for. They are just too good to waste.


Thanks @tomalmy. It already has a 240gb SSD in it because with the 5400 rpm HDD it was virtually unusable, in fact it was far slower than the 2009 MBP.

The problem I’m seeing is intermittent. Sometimes it happens in a couple of days, but other times it will go weeks without the issue and I’ve found it impossible to recreate unfortunately. So I’d need to do a full switch of the account to see if it happened, and the only thing I’ve not done yet is restart from scratch.

Does cycling the power on the monitor work?

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Yeah, I was going to suggest disconnecting the interface cable, then reconnecting. There was some version os Mac OS X / macOS that this was a huge PITA with my 2015 MBP and external monitor. Plug, wait, unplug, wait, plug, wait, reboot, etc.

Edit: also the old standbys, reset SMC and NVRAM, because it’s only 2020, after all.

No, that makes no difference.

All done, spent an hour on the phone with AppleCare to try and diagnose before taking it in. Also tried different monitor, different cable, hdmi instead of DisplayPort. None of it made a difference unfortunately.

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Three thoughts:

  1. What make of monitor? (Shoulda’ said.) Some people had issues with LG monitors that resolved when they installed an updater.

  2. How much RAM do you have? (Again, shoulda’ said.) Since your Mac Mini shares video RAM with the OS you might now have enough RAM if, say, it’s only 8Gb. In this thread from 2018 someone’s similar problems disappeared when upgrading form 8Gb to 32Gb.

  3. If “Enable power nap” and/or “Wake for network access” are on turn them off. If they’re off, try turning them on.

I did this last week for a client and it made a world of difference :+1:

If anyone comes across this with a similar problem, I had an application (iFlicks) which seemed to have a memory leak. Regularly quitting that app after use seems to have resolved the problem. Macs with soldered on memory suck.