The End of a Mac mini



A few weeks ago my mid-2011 Mac mini started randomly beach balling across all applications. The only way I could get it back to normal was to hold down the power button and force a restart. Last week it escalated to randomly restarting itself (saved me the trouble of holding down the power button, I guess :smile:). These random restarts persisted after a nuke and pave, and even cropped up when I was booted into the recovery partition, so I’m pretty sure it’s a hardware issue.

Eventually it got to the point where the mini would sometimes restart before it even got through the boot cycle and displayed the login screen. I reluctantly concluded this problem was fatal (or at least not worth spending a lot of time and money to fix in a 7 year old computer).

Thinking back on this troubleshooting process, one thing that strikes me is the dog that didn’t bark. I have enough backups that I really had no concerns about loosing data: Time Machine, a hard drive clone that runs every night, and for the things I used this computer for, everything important was in the cloud anyway. If I’d waited until things got bad before trying to backup I would have had a very difficult time. Towards the end it wasn’t running long enough between random restarts to get a lot of data off of it. Backups save the day again.

7 years is a good long time and while having it go down like this is a pain I feel like I got my money’s worth out of this machine. It served as my main home desktop, a headless server, sat on the shelf for a while, then got resurrected with an SSD and pressed into service as a secondary desktop at work. I’m very thankful that it didn’t die until after the new 2018 Mac mini was released. If it had died a year ago when the mini hadn’t been updated in years I really would have had some difficult decisions to make about how (and whether) to replace it.

As it is, this is a problem I could solve with a visit to the Apple website; I’ve already got a new 2018 Mac mini on the way.

The Mac mini is dead, long live the Mac mini.

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This situation is not only a good reminder warning for people with older computers, but for anyone with an SSD.

I can’t remember where it was recently posted, but someone talked about the fact that SSDs will die a lot more “quietly” than old spinning drives did.

It used to be that you could literally hear a hard drive having problems, and that might be a sign that something was wrong.

With an SSD, there will not be much, if any, of a warning. It will work right up until the moment it doesn’t.

So, as always, make backups before you need them because you never know when you might need them. It could be tomorrow.


And see them. I used to replace heads on hard drives (the size of a dishwasher and with 50MB capacity).

But to the point, we don’t know that the SSD was at fault, and their failure modes aren’t always instant and unrecoverable death. Sometimes they shift to a read-only mode, sometimes they flake out.

more here


I would reseat all the connectors (including the memory sticks). A very common cause of random gremlins are bad connections. And doing this costs you nothing if it works.

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