Before You Buy a 2009 Mac mini

An Older Mac mini May Make a Great Second Mac

What You Should Know Before You Buy a Mac mini
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Mac minis are small and inexpensive. They're a good choice for first-time Mac users, for adding to home theater systems, for adding a second Mac to the household, or for serving as very portable desktop computers for college-bound students.

But as attractive as the Mac mini is, it’s not flawless. The Mac mini’s small size and low price demand some compromises you should be aware of before you decide to bring one home.

BYODKM (Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse)

The Mac mini is currently the only Mac that doesn't come with its own keyboard and mouse, a somewhat strange concept at first blush. But considering that the target market for the Mac mini is Windows switchers, the idea makes perfect sense. Most Windows switchers already own a display, keyboard, and mouse that can work with the Mac mini.

If this is your first computer, or your old keyboard and mouse are getting a little long in the tooth, you can order the Mac mini with an Apple keyboard and Magic Mouse, or purchase almost any standard USB-based or wireless keyboard and mouse available for Windows or Mac computers.

Note: This document covers Mac minis through 2009. You can find additional Mac mini buying guides at:

Before You Buy a 2010 Mac mini

Before You Buy a 2012 Mac mini

Is Adding Memory a DIY Project?

Apple says the 2009 Mac mini supports up to 4 GB RAM, however, that specification is based on the memory modules that were readily available at the time of the mini’s release. The 2009 Mac mini can actually support up to 8 GB of RAM, using two 4 GB PC8500 DDR3 1066 MHz memory modules. Apple suggests filling the mini's two available slots in matched pairs; you can also leave one slot open. You'll find the larger memory modules for the Mac mini available from various third-party sources, including OWC (Other World Computing) and Crucial, both of which have configuration guides to ensure you're getting the correct memory for your Mac.

Because the Mac mini's RAM isn't designed to be user accessible, I generally recommend buying it with the largest upfront RAM configuration you can afford. If you're handy, you can upgrade the RAM yourself for about half the price that Apple charges. But the disassembly and reassembly process isn't easy, and any damage you inflict could void the warranty.

What About Adding a Hard Drive?

The Mac mini came with the buyer's choice of a 160 GB, 320 GB, or 500 GB hard drive. Because the hard drive in a Mac mini is difficult to replace, you should consider buying a 2009 Mac mini with the largest hard drive configuration available.

If you’re a DIY person, the Mac mini has a number of do-it-yourself options when it comes to upgrading internal storage, including replacing the optical storage with a second or third drive.

Another option would be to go with the base 160 GB drive and add an external hard drive, in any size you wish. An external drive from a third-party vendor should be less expensive than Apple’s hard drive options and should perform better as well since an external will probably use faster hard drives.

What's in the Box?

The Mac mini is sometimes thought of as just an entry-level Mac. But while it is the least expandable Mac model available, it's by no means an underachiever. The Mac mini’s performance is on par with many of the models in Apple’s MacBook Pro line of notebooks, which isn't surprising since they use many of the same components.

  • iLife
  • Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Specifications

Published: 1/21/2008

Updated: 7/3/2015