Best Hard Drive For Mac Mini

Posted By admin On 15.02.22
  1. Best Hard Drive For Mac Mini 2012

Mac mini Hard Drive or SSD Purchase Options. In theory, just about any hard drive or SSD that meets the minimum requirements should work in the Mac mini. However, it always is best to buy from a trusted company with Mac knowledge for the most trouble-free experience. Toshiba Canvio Premium for Mac. This one is the best for MacBook owners. Most portable hard drives are made for Windows. It shouldn't put off any but the most technophobic Mac owners, but the. The current Mac Mini is configurable with a standard HDD, Fusion Drive, or solid-state drive. However, some have argued that the new Mac Mini should come standard with PCIe-based flash storage. The Mac Pro is designed to have its hard drive replaced easily, while an iMac requires you to remove the entire screen. If you’re not sure you have the technical chops to do it right, you should consider asking a more qualified friend to help, or even going to the professionals. New MacBook Air and Mac mini show the Apple Tax on storage lives on. Black Friday 2018: The best deals on the Apple MacBook Air, Pro,. The iMac normally includes a 1 TB hard drive.

Aluminum 'Unibody' Mac mini Q&A

Update Published November 21, 2018

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How do you upgrade the storage in the Aluminum 'Unibody' Mac mini models? What type of hard drive(s) or SSD(s) do they each support?

There are five different lines of Aluminum 'Unibody' Mac mini systems -- the 'Mid-2010,' 'Mid-2011,' 'Late 2012', 'Late 2014' and 'Late 2018' -- with notable differences in supported storage.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Non-Server Mid-2010 - Left, Mid-2011 & Late 2012 - Right)

Identification Help

If you're not sure which Aluminum Mac mini model you have, the optical drive equipped 'Mid-2010' models and current 'Late 2018' 'Space Gray' models should be easy to spot (at least for now), but many models in between these lines are more of a challenge.

All Aluminum Mac mini models can be precisely identified by the Model Identifier in software or externally by EMC Number, and more details about specific identifiers are provided in EveryMac.com's extensive Mac Identification section.

To locate the model identifier in software, select 'About This Mac' under the Apple Menu on your computer and click the 'More Info...' button. If the Mac mini is running OS X 10.7 'Lion' or later, you will need to click the 'System Report' button after clicking 'More Info...' as well.

For the pre-Late 2014 Mac mini models, the EMC number is visible upon removing the bottom 'spin off' panel to the right of the memory slots (when the ports are facing you). It is on the bottom of the 'Late 2014' and 'Late 2018' models toward the ports.

As always, EveryMac.com has hand documented the model identifiers and EMC numbers unique to each model, which are most easily visualized as a chart:

Alu. Mac mini

Subfamily

Model ID

EMC No.

Mid-2010

Mid-2010

Mid-2010

Mid-2011

Mid-2011

Mid-2011

Mid-2011

Late 2012

Late 2012

Late 2012

Late 2012

Late 2012

Late 2014

Late 2014

Late 2014

Late 2014

Late 2018

Late 2018

Late 2018

EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- also can identify these models by their Serial Numbers.

Storage Types, Dimensions & Requirements

Regular 'Mid-2010' Aluminum 'Unibody' Mac mini models, which have optical drives, support a single 2.5-inch, 9.5 mm tall, 3 Gb/s Serial ATA (SATA Revision 2.0) hard drive or SSD (or two storage drives if you remove the optical drive). The oddball Mac mini 'Core 2 Duo' 2.66 Server (Mid-2010) supports two storage drives of the same type (and no optical drive).

All 'Mid-2011' and 'Late 2012' models hold two 2.5-inch storage drives with the same 9.5 mm height restriction, but have faster 6 Gb/s Serial ATA (SATA Revision 3.0) support.

The non-server 'Mid-2011' and 'Late 2012' models, which only ship with one hard drive by default, a second hard drive or SSD is supported, but one has to purchase the cable needed to attach the drive to the board before installation is possible.

A user from the MacRumors forums first determined that the needed part is referred to as the 'Bottom Hard Drive Flex Cable' (Apple Part Number 922-9560) and successfully installed a second drive. More recently, site sponsor Other World Computing began offering a 'Data Doubler' upgrade kit for the Aluminum Mac mini models that includes everything needed to perform this upgrade -- the cable, drive bracket, precisely sized screwdrivers and screws -- in one convenient package.

The 'Late 2014' models have a 6 Gb/s Serial ATA (SATA Revision 3.0) connector for a 2.5-Inch hard drive or SSD in addition to a proprietary PCIe connector for a 'blade' SSD. As first noted by site sponsor OWC, the cable to connect this SSD to the PCIe connector is not present unless the system is configured with a 'Fusion Drive' at the time of initial purchase. However, it is possible to buy this cable later. This 'PCIe SSD Cable Connector' is part number 821-00010-A.

The current 'Late 2018' models have onboard storage and it cannot be upgraded at all after the initial system purchase.

These details can be helpfully summarized accordingly:

Alu. Mac mini

Subfamily

Model ID

Dimensions

Interface

Mid-2010

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 2.0 x2*

Mid-2010

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 2.0 x2*

Mid-2010

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 2.0 x2

Mid-2011

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Mid-2011

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Mid-2011

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Mid-2011

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2012

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2012

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2012

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2012

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2012

2.5' 9.5 mm

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2014

2.5' 9.5 mm
Blade SSD

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2014

2.5' 9.5 mm
Blade SSD

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2014

2.5' 9.5 mm
Blade SSD

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2014

2.5' 9.5 mm
Blade SSD

SATA 3.0 x2

Late 2018

Onboard†

Onboard†

Late 2018

Onboard†

Onboard†

Late 2018

Onboard†

Onboard†

* By default, one SATA 2.0 connector in these models is occupied by an optical drive.

† These models have onboard PCIe-based storage that cannot be upgraded after the initial system purchase.

Hard Drive Upgrade Official Disclaimer & Cautions

Best Hard Drive For Mac Mini 2012

To upgrade the memory in the Aluminum 'Unibody' Mac mini models released before and after the Late 2014 models, Apple has made it straightforward. Replacing the hard drive or hard drives is a more complicated procedure and Apple does not support users performing this upgrade themselves.

In the User Guide, Apple formally states the following:

Except for memory, do not attempt to replace or repair any components inside your Mac mini. If your Mac mini needs service, consult the service and support information that came with your Mac mini for information about how to contact an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple for service.
If you install items other than memory, you risk damaging your equipment, and such damage isn't covered by the limited warranty on your Mac mini.

As Apple does not consider the hard drive to be a 'customer installable part,' EveryMac.com cannot recommend that users perform the upgrade themselves. Most likely should instead add a quick and easy external hard drive or alternately hire a professional. Given the small and densely packed nature of the Aluminum Mac mini models this certainly is not a good system to upgrade yourself without substantial experience upgrading the hard drive in similar systems.

Hard Drive Upgrade Instructions

However, for highly experienced users, upgrading the hard drive or hard drives -- or swapping in one or more SSDs -- is difficult, but feasible nevertheless.

These videos from OWC cover the procedure for the optical-drive equipped 'Mid-2010' models and the optical drive-less 'Mid-2010' Server, 'Mid-2011,' and 'Late 2012' models, in a step-by-step fashion:

'Mid-2010' Mac mini (One Hard Drive, One Optical Drive)


'Mid-2010' Mac mini Server (Dual Hard Drives, No Optical Drive)

'Mid-2011' & 'Late 2012' Mac mini (Dual Hard Drives, No Optical Drive)

It is hoped that by watching the videos you should be able to determine whether or not you feel comfortable performing the upgrade yourself or if you would rather hire a professional.

Mac mini Hard Drive or SSD Purchase Options

In theory, just about any hard drive or SSD that meets the minimum requirements should work in the Mac mini. However, it always is best to buy from a trusted company with Mac knowledge for the most trouble-free experience.

In addition to the convenient storage upgrade kit for applicable Aluminum Mac mini models, Other World Computing sells compatible hard drives and SSDs and offers an installation service, as well.

In the UK and Ireland, site sponsor Flexx sells Mac mini compatible SSDs with free shipping. The company provides flat rate shipping to France, Germany, and Switzerland and inexpensive shipping for all of Europe, too.

In Australia, site sponsor RamCity sells Mac mini compatible SSDs, in addition to memory, with fast, flat-rate shipping Australia-wide.

In Southeast Asia, site sponsor SimplyMac.sg sells Mac mini compatible storage, as well as memory, with free delivery -- and optional upgrade service -- in Singapore and flat rate shipping to Brunei, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Also see:

  • How do you upgrade the RAM in the Aluminum 'Unibody' Mac mini models? What type of RAM do they use? How much RAM do they actually support?
  • How do you upgrade the hard drive in the Polycarbonate Intel Mac mini models? What type of hard drive do they support? Is it possible to replace the optical drive with a second hard drive?

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The Right Connections

Buying an external hard drive for your Mac is not all that different from buying one for your Windows PC, except for one very important complication: Newer MacBooks and MacBook Pros only come with Thunderbolt 3 ports, but the arrival of Thunderbolt 3-equipped drives has been a trickle, rather than a flood. Most of the current models are designed for photographers and video editors who need to store mountains of footage and access it very quickly. As a result, they are typically SSDs or RAID arrays, which means they're also very expensive. So what's a Mac user who just wants to back up his or her files using Time Machine to do? Read on as we answer that question, and solve your other Mac external-storage quandaries.

A New File System

Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C are the latest innovations in the external storage market, but before we get to them, we need to address a basic building block of hard drives that has always affected compatibility, and probably always will: the file system.

An external drive's file system is the most important factor that determines whether or not it's readable by Macs, PCs, or both. With the release of the macOS High Sierra operating system, Cupertino ditched its venerable Mac OS Extended file system, commonly abbreviated as HFS+, and switched to an entirely new file format. It's simply called the Apple File System, and it's the first format to be across macOS products as well as the iOS ecosystem of iPads, iPhones, iPods, the Apple TV, and the Apple Watch.

There are many benefits to switching from HFS+ to the Apple File System, including better security thanks to native encryption, but the most important thing to note for external drive shoppers is backward-compatibility. Any drive formatted with HFS+ (which includes most Mac-specific drives on the market today) will work just fine with a Mac that's running macOS High Sierra or later.

Best Hard Drive For Mac Mini

Neither Apple File System nor HFS+ works with Windows, however. If you plan to use your external drive with computers that run both operating systems, you should consider a drive formatted with the exFAT file system. You won't get the security and efficiency of Apple File System, but you will get the convenience of being able to transfer files back and forth between Windows and macOS simply by plugging in and unplugging your drive.

Of course, you can easily reformat almost any drive you buy, so you're not limited to buying only those intended for use with Macs. If you really fancy a drive formatted for Windows (which will usually come preformatted in the NTFS format), you can use the Disk Utility in macOS to reformat it after you bring it home from the store. There are rare exceptions to this rule, such as the pro-oriented Akitio Thunder3 PCIe SSD, which uses a lightning-quick Intel SSD inside and relies on firmware that isn't Mac-compatible.

SSD Versus Spinning Drive

Once you've settled on a file system, you then have to determine which storage medium you want: solid state or spinning disk. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and—unlike the file system—the type you buy is the type you're stuck with for the life of the drive.

A solid-state drive (SSD) offers quick access to your data because it stores your bits in a type of flash memory rather than on spinning platters. SSDs are often smaller and lighter than spinning external drives, as well, which is also thanks to the lack of moving parts. Their small size means they can often fit into a jacket or pants pocket, which makes them a better choice if you're looking for a portable external drive that you'll be carrying with you frequently.

One major downside, however, is that they're more expensive. You could pay more than 30 cents per gigabyte for an SSD, while spinning drives can be had for less than 10 cents per gigabyte—and often much less. External SSDs also have lower capacity limits, with most drives topping out at 2TB. Compare that with external spinning drives, which are easy to find in capacities in excess of 8TB.

For professional videographers who edit lots of 4K footage and gamers or movie buffs who have large libraries of multi-gigabyte titles, an external RAID array is worth considering, since it combines the speed of an SSD with the gargantuan capacities of a spinning drive. An array typically contains as few as two or as many as eight spinning drives, which all work together to speed up throughput, or guard your precious files against corruption via drive redundancy if one of the drives fail. (Or both; it depends on how the array is set up.) The result is that you can get SSD-like speeds, with data throughput of more than 400MBps, and capacities that top out close to 50TB. You'll pay handsomely, of course. The Mac-specific Promise Pegasus3, for one, can cost as much as $5,000.

On the other hand, if you're looking to buy an external drive mainly to back up your files (which you should definitely do) and it will rarely leave your home office, an inexpensive spinning drive will work just fine.

Searching for Thunderbolt 3

So, to recap: Faster, smaller (both physically and in terms of gigabytes) solid-state drives come at a premium, while spinning drives offer a much better value while sacrificing speed. But what happens when you throw yet another variable into the mix: the connection between your drive and your Mac? As you might have guessed, the answer is more tradeoffs.

Almost every Mac laptop sold today comes with USB Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3, but other than a headphone jack, they are the only connectivity options available, which means you'll need an adapter to plug in any device that doesn't have a USB Type-C cable. Fortunately, Thunderbolt 3 via USB Type-C supports a blazing maximum potential throughput of 40Gbps, double the speed of the old Thunderbolt 2 standard and many times the 5GBps that USB 3.0 offers. Unfortunately, you won't find many Thunderbolt 3-compatible drives on the market currently. Even some Mac-specific drives are still sold with USB 3.0 connectors. Moreover, the Thunderbolt 3 drives you can buy are constrained by the maximum throughput of the drive itself, rather than the Thunderbolt 3 interface. With the exception of the Samsung Portable SSD X5, all of the external SSDs we've tested recently top out at around 600MBps, for instance.

This means that for now, it's best to include Thunderbolt 3 support in your buying decision only if you're concerned about futureproofing. While it's nice of manufacturers to include a USB Type-C cable for people who own a USB Type-C-only MacBook, you can pick up a converter for a few dollars online if the drive you're eyeing doesn't offer one. Meanwhile, iMacs, Mac Pros, Mac Minis, and the entry-level MacBook Air all still come with USB 3.0 ports, so they won't require adapters.

Other Considerations

Drives intended for PCs sometimes come bundled with software that will automatically back up your files to the drive when it's connected, but such software isn't really a consideration for Mac users, who already have an excellent built-in backup option in the form of Time Machine. The first time you plug in an external drive, Time Machine will ask if you want to use it as a backup drive. While you can customize backup options in System Preferences, such as asking Time Machine to exclude certain folders, there's no action required on your part if you're happy with the default settings. The next time you plug in your drive, Time Machine will automatically set to work creating a backup.

Unless your drive is never going to leave your home or office, you should also consider its physical durability. Rugged, waterproof drives are a good option not just for surfers and BMX riders, as their marketing seems to suggest, but also for people who are carrying their drives to and from school or work, where they might occasionally get spilled on or dropped on the floor. (Check out our favorite rugged drives.)

Finally, you might want to consider how the drive will look when it's plugged into your Mac. Some drives come in a variety of colors. Many others feature copious amounts of aluminum and industrial-chic styling to match the design cues of your MacBook or iMac.

Ready for Our Recommendations?

We've selected a few of our favorite drives for Macs below; for more, check out our main list of best hard drives. You can also read our full list of hard drive reviews, as well as our top SSDs.

Best External Hard Drives for Macs Featured in This Roundup:

  • CalDigit Tuff Review


    MSRP: $179.99

    Pros: Rated to survive 4-foot drops. Certified waterproof and dustproof. Comes with USB 3.0 and USB-C cables.

    Cons: Warranty limited to two years. SSD option is still unreleased.

    Bottom Line: Not only is the CalDigit Tuff a rugged hard drive designed to survive extreme conditions, it's also a terrific value.

    Read Review
  • Western Digital My Book Review


    MSRP: $249.99

    Pros: Comes in a variety of large capacities. Three-year warranty.

    Cons: Requires external power adapter.

    Bottom Line: With a full 8TB for less than $250, the 8TB version of the Western Digital My Book is a deep well of affordable storage for your photos, music, videos, and more.

    Read Review
  • LaCie Mobile Drive Review


    MSRP: $94.95

    Pros: Slick, faceted design. Solid-feeling aluminum enclosure. Useful LaCie Toolkit software handles backup and restore, as well as mirroring. On-the-mark performance.

    Cons: A little hefty. Toolkit utility requires a download.

    Bottom Line: A metal-skinned gem of a platter hard drive, the LaCie Mobile Drive looks great and performs on point. It's geared to macOS users, but it will please anyone with an eye for style in their gadgets.

    Read Review
  • Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch Review


    MSRP: $89.99

    Pros: Fabric-covered enclosure. Small and light. Seagate Toolkit provides handy backup/recover functions, as well as mirroring. Data protected by password and AES-256 hardware encryption.

    Cons: Fabric cover a bit slippery to grip. Seagate Toolkit a separate download.

    Bottom Line: Combining on-point performance and strong encryption, Seagate's Backup Plus Ultra Touch portable drive is a great choice for everyday backups and security-first use alike. Plus, a fabric coat adds appeal.

    Read Review
  • Samsung Portable SSD T5 Review


    MSRP: $799.99

    Pros: Excellent performance. Includes USB 3.0 and USB-C cables. Compact. Android-, Mac-, and Windows-compatible.

    Cons: While a comparable good per-gigabyte value, the drive itself is expensive.

    Bottom Line: Samsung's Portable SSD T5 drive has a speedy USB-C interface, plenty of reliable storage, and it takes up about as much room in your pocket as a short stack of credit cards.

    Read Review
  • Akitio Thunder3 RAID Station Review


    MSRP: $369.99

    Pros: Excellent connectivity options and transfer speeds. Solid build quality and attractive aluminum finish. Easy disassembly. Cooling fan can be disabled. No software required for Macs. Hardware RAID controller.

    Cons: Expensive. SATA interface limits read/write speeds. Only 27W of power delivery.

    Bottom Line: With its wealth of ports, the Akitio Thunder3 RAID Station is both a connectivity hub and a capacious external hard drive for multimedia content creators.

    Read Review
  • CalDigit AV Pro 2 Review


    MSRP: $249.99

    Pros: Relatively low cost per gigabyte. 7,200RPM. Drive is easily removable from its enclosure. Thunderbolt 3 support.

    Cons: Included Thunderbolt 3 cable is short. No DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 3 pass-through via USB-C.

    Bottom Line: Aimed at multimedia professionals, the CalDigit AV Pro 2 is a well-designed, Mac-formatted external drive that comes in SSD and spinning disk versions, and includes both a USB hub and Thunderbolt 3 support.

    Read Review
  • Promise Pegasus3 R4 Review


    MSRP: $1499.00

    Pros: Internal power supply. Little to no setup required. Supports daisy-chaining other Thunderbolt 3 devices. Lightning-quick file transfer times.

    Cons: Does not boast class-leading throughput.

    Bottom Line: One of just a few options for Mac-formatted external RAID arrays, the Promise Pegasus3 R4 is a good choice if you need to store mountains of data and access it quickly.

    Read Review
  • Samsung Portable SSD X5 Review


    MSRP: $699.99

    Pros: Extremely fast data transfer speeds, thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and PCIe NVMe interfaces. Multiple capacity options. Sleek design.

    Cons: Expensive. Heavy. No USB support. Difficult to connect to Windows PCs.

    Bottom Line: The sleek, expensive Samsung Portable SSD X5 offers the fastest single-drive external storage money can buy, but it's suited mainly to well-heeled content-creation pros using late-model Macs.

    Read Review
  • Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD Review


    MSRP: $499.00

    Pros: Durable. Built-in SD card reader and USB port. Plex support. Doubles as a power bank.

    Cons: Expensive. No Thunderbolt support.

    Bottom Line: The Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD is pricey, but this feature-packed drive can do much more than just wirelessly transfer files.

    Read Review