Setup Upgrade (Questions re: Mac Mini, SSD, RAM, refurb, etc.)

My current computer set up is:

2012 Mac Mini, 16 GB aftermarket RAM, 1 TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD, 8 TB MyBook External HD
HP laptop, 5 years or so old, i3 processor, 6 GB RAM, 1 TB internal, 4 TB external HD

All of this lives on my desk, and shares a 50" 4K TV with my Nintendo Switch.

The laptop is something I got free, and it’s currently struggling in its role of transcoding machine / Plex server / Transmission / TorGuard machine. It also has old wireless, so it gets hit with interference and suffers slow network speeds quite a bit.

The Mini is my development machine, virtual machine host (not intensive usage, but frequent enough due to web development needing me to spin up Windows machines) and (occasionally) a media player / transcoder. It also runs my Bible research software, which is pretty heavy sometimes. Part of the reason I do some transcoding, etc. on the Mini is because the laptop doesn’t have the software I want, and it’s already under-powered for what it’s doing. If I could get that onto a more capable machine, my dev machine wouldn’t ever have to do that stuff again.

My tentative plan is to basically retire the laptop, move all of its data to my 2012 Mini, switch my 2012 Mini into the transcoder/TorGuard/Plex role, and get a new 2018 Mini for my dev machine. This will also let the 2018 Mini utilize the 4K TV properly, and give me Sidecar for my iPad Pro.

Thus far, I’ve basically decided that I want a 2018 Mini with an i7, under the logic that I want to get another half-dozen years out of the 2018, and an i7 is the most future-proof.

Which brings us to RAM, SSD, and other peripherals.

I think I’m going to need 32 GB for the Mini, based on my utilization on my 2012. Every now and then I bump into the top end. I’m debating whether to get the Apple RAM, or go with an OWC aftermarket upgrade kit.

I’m also looking at the SSD. I obviously need some reasonable amount of storage built-in, but the Mini has the capability to do super-fast Thunderbolt SSDs that would seem to be almost as fast as the internal storage. Based on the pricing of the OWC Envoy, it seems that Apple’s SSD upgrade costs aren’t as out of line as they’ve been in the past (OWC Envoy 1 TB = $280, Apple 1 TB upgrade from 256 GB = $400), but the external SSD is definitely something I’m considering.

I have $2400 to spend on upgrades here, and obviously if I don’t have to spend the whole amount I don’t want to - but that much is set aside.

Given my situation…

(a) Would you bump RAM up to 32 GB, or go all the way to 64?
(b) Would you buy the Apple RAM, or go with OWC?
© Buy a larger internal SSD from Apple, or go with a Thunderbolt SSD?
(d) If you went with the Thunderbolt option for ©, how much internal SSD would you pick?
(e) Would you try to go refurb if possible? Any potential pitfalls there?
(f) Any other things to consider, based on your experience?

I’m hoping to make this decision in the next week, so any advice y’all have would be greatly, greatly appreciated. :slight_smile: Thanks!

Apple RAM is twice the price for the same product. A lot of shops offer installation of the RAM bought through them. And the installation itself is quite easy.

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I would go with 32 GB apple ram. I have a 27" iMac and bought it with 8 gig Apple and added 32 gig OWC. I also run a Windows VM for development. 40 gig is more than adequate for me, I think you would be fine with 32. As the machine ages, if you find you want additional, you’ll feel much better about opening the machine up and adding more yourself.

I think I would go with the 1 tb Apple internal SSD. It feels like the sweet spot to me right now. If I went with the 512 gb internal and was thinking about external storage, I would at least look at a small raid solution, even just two disks to give you some redundancy. That would feel more like a step forward than a side step.

I wouldn’t worry about an “Apple” refurb one bit. Comes with an excellent reputation and a warranty. If you can find the configuration you want, I would go that route for a mini.


On the 2018 Mini it’s harder than the previous models, but it mostly looks very fiddly rather than being difficult. It’s as much (or more) work as the hard drive replacement on my 2012. That said, I used to build computers, so I’m not particularly afraid of tearing things apart - for me it’s mostly a question of the warranty (i.e. if you have Apple RAM they’re responsible for it during AppleCare), and convenience.

It’s about the money. Apple price for 32 GB - $600, OWC - $120 (

I am no technician and did it with no problem. I was just careful not to break the antenna. And I saw local shops that offered to install the RAM for free, provided you buy the memory through them.

One word of concern for OWC ram. OWC was my go-to supplier for memory. Unfortunately I was having to often problems with their modules. Now I am using Crucial.


I wrote OWC, but I meant Crucial (as evidenced by the link) :slight_smile:

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I recently bought and upgraded a 2018 MacMini.

(a) My old machine (2013 MacPro) would sometimes slow down with 32GB, so I sprung for the 64GB. No more paging to disk is terrific.
(b) I bought OWC’s RAM, along with their tool kit, and used their install video. It’s not too hard, but involved. First attempt only one RAM stick was seated, so I had to open it up again and reseat both RAM sticks. Much faster doing it the second time.
c ) I would buy a larger SSD … I find that I have a lot of things hanging off my main computer – one RAID’d box, a Drobo I’m trying out, another older monitor with a USB-C to DisplayPort adapter, still another CalDigit breakout box … so poof! all my TB3 ports are in use (I can daisy chain, of course, for more, but still.)
(d) 512 GB
(e) Yes! None than I can think of.
(f) The 2018 machine is really nice, although I’m finding the bluetooth flakier than my old 2013 MacPro. I’ve also read on line that WiFi may not work as well as it could given the proximity of the antenna to a TB port – I don’t use the WiFi, so I can’t confirm. Finally, think about future-proofing and getting the 10 GBe ethernet option. Sure, you can have it later, via a dongle, but as with the internal SSD, it’s just “neater” to get it built in.

One upgrade that I am particularly interested in is the 10GB ethernet port…

That’s an interesting perspective on the RAM. You’re the only one I’ve seen so far that says 64 GB is of significant value. Thanks!

I’ve thought about the 10 gig ethernet, and honestly the only use I have for it is for a second network interface to connect to my other computer that’s sitting on the desk next to it. Just shoveling files and streaming data over it, mostly - and that doesn’t need to be any faster than gigabit.

If I find a refurb that has it, I’ll nab it - but I probably won’t actively seek it out.

Thanks for the input!

I’ve found that 40Gb RAM has worked well for me. When I’m browsing I have lots of tabs open, including lots of Youtube tabs. Right now I have around 15 tabs open, 5 apps open, and a menubar full of menubar apps running as well … and I currently have 9Gb RAM free. If I were also running Ableton Live or Lightroom (probably also with Photoshop running) I’d start edging back into HD swap-space if I didn’t close something.

That’s interesting - especially considering that a lot of people seem to use “web browsing” as a low-spec use case. It sounds like 32 GB would be “barely enough” in your case (40 - 9 = 31, leaving 1 GB free), but definitely something to consider.


Paging to SSD is much less of a problem than paging to HDD ever was. It will slow things down, but apart from a few use cases I doubt many people would notice. The biggest argument for a lot of RAM (32GB or more) that I know of is virtualisation.
My overall feeling is that if you know you need lots of RAM get it. If you don’t know, 16GB is very likely to be absolutely plenty. If money’s no object, you probably wouldn’t be asking the question.

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Perhaps I’m an edge case, still running an old, pretty large Aperture library, and getting bogged down when Backblaze starts readying giant chunks to transmit – a situation that only gets worse if I open up a CAD program.

But the difference for me between 32 GB at 64GB was not subtle, so the delta in cost was worth it, especially considering I don’t have to open up the Mini again.

::raises hand:: Edge case here, oh I /noticed/.

This may be a dumb follow-up question, but the conventional wisdom always used to be that you needed to install RAM in matched pairs.

So if I got the 32 GB from Apple refurbed, and later decided I wanted more, could I yank a 16 GB stick and swap it with a 32 GB stick for 48 GB? Or would that cause a performance hit because the sizes don’t match?

And also…apparently that RAM comes in DDR4-3200 and DDR-2666 flavors. Is it safe to assume that if Apple is shipping 2666, that’s what I should get?

FWIW OWC suggests “install in pairs for best performance.”

And there’s this:

I know in the past there have been machines where you /must/ install RAM in pairs. But just because you may not need to in the Mini doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.

As for which memory, yes, the spec’s should match. I like getting the memory for a vendor that will verify on line that it will match … or I look on line for someone who really knows and do a search with the same specifications.

One module or two, bargain basement matches specs or vendor who will verify, but for more money … trade offs, to be sure. As you do your calculus, don’t forget to factor in what your time / stress is worth, too.

I wound up getting a 32 GB refurb with an i7 and a 1 TB SSD, so I’m thinking memory will probably be fine for the short term - but since those are 16 GB sticks in there now I figure down the road I might be able to do the upgrade in batches, one 32 GB stick at a time.

Or who knows? Maybe the price of 32 GB DIMMs will fall to the point where it won’t be as big of an issue.

As for vendors, I wouldn’t buy memory from anybody other than Crucial or OWC. There’s just no reason not to go with a reputable vendor. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the advice!

I think the board consensus is 32GB will be great!
Refurbs for the win.

Yes, definitely - refurbs + AppleCare FTW. :smiley:

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