Is a Used Mac Mini Worth Buying?

Don't need high performance? Apple's entry-level desktop is a smart choice

The Mac mini is Apple's most affordable Mac. Small, compact, and offering just a few configurations, it's a basic computer for users with basic needs. It can be unappealing compared to a powerful Mac Pro or an attractive iMac, but a used Mac Mini has perks.

What Is a Mac Mini?

While it depends on your needs, we can say, yes, a used Mac mini is worth buying.

Generally, a used Mac mini is the best option for anyone looking to buy a used Mac desktop. A used Mac mini is more affordable than a used Mac Pro and more versatile than a used iMac.

The Mac mini is Apple's entry-level desktop, a role it has served since its release in 2005. Its affordable MSRP translates to more affordable pricing for new models, and the lack of premium features makes this model less desirable. You can purchase a used Mac mini for hundreds, even thousands less than a Mac Pro or iMac of similar vintage.

A 2018 Mac Mini in space gray on a wooden desk.

Derorgmas / Wikimedia Commons

Despite the low price, the Mac mini is a practical and reliable used Mac desktop. It has a simple design that's inexpensive to repair. Older models allow users to replace or upgrade the RAM or hard drive (the new Apple M1-powered Mac mini is an exception). The lack of a built-in display eliminates an expensive component that can be tricky to replace if it malfunctions.

All Mac mini models offer a wide variety of ports. You can connect your existing peripherals, including a monitor, to reduce the used Mac mini's overall cost. You can also upgrade the monitor to a new model at any time. It's a significant advantage over a used iMac.

There is one downside: performance. Apple's budget desktop has consistently ranked among its least powerful machines. If you need a Mac to handle heavy tasks like video editing, complex spreadsheets, or 3D graphics, that will be a problem.

Should You Buy a Mac Mini 2020 (or Newer)?

Apple released the M1 chip, its system-on-a-chip, in November of 2020. Most Mac mini desktops sold since then have Apple's M1 chip.

You can tell the difference by the Mac mini's color. Apple M1 models are only available in silver, while Intel models are only in space gray.

Nearly all shoppers looking for a late model used Mac mini should buy the Mac mini M1 version. It will provide better real-world performance, handle the most demanding tasks, and consume little power.

A used Mac mini from 2020 (or newer)with the Apple M1 chip is a great option. Apple is converting all Mac models to chips of its design. Intel-based models will miss out on future macOS feature updates.

What About Refurbished Mac Mini Models?

A screenshot of the Apple Certified Refurbished store with Mac models available to purchase

Refurbished Mac mini models are frequently available from Apple's Certified Refurbished online store. This official store typically offers refurbished models at a 15 percent discount.

Buying a Certified Refurbished Mac mini is essentially the same as buying a new model. The refurbished Mac mini will have the same warranty as a new device, comes with the same items in the box, and is eligible for AppleCare.

You may find other retailers selling refurbished Mac mini desktops. These third-party sellers often provide more of a discount but won't be covered by Apple's warranty. You'll have to resolve any issues with the refurbished Mac mini through the retailer.

Because of this, we recommend caution when buying refurbished from a third-party seller. Also, be warned that most refurbished models listed on sites like Amazon are available through smaller retailers listed on the site and not directly by Amazon. Double-check the seller's ratings before making a purchase.

How Long Does a Mac Mini Usually Last?

An original Mac Mini on a desk.

Peter DaSilva / Stringer - Getty Images

A used (or new) Mac mini can last an exceptionally long time. The desktop's simple, compact design and lack of extra features means there's little to go wrong with the device. Most models have a user-serviceable hard drive and memory.

Before the Mac mini wears out, you'll likely decide to replace a used Mac mini with a newer, faster model. You can put aging Mac mini models no longer quick enough for enjoyable day-to-day use into service as a file server or do-it-yourself media center.

  • What is a Mac mini server used for?

    As a server, the Mac mini can act as a file-sharing device for other users on your network to access. You can also set up a Mac mini as a dedicated server for Time Machine backups. Another option is to use your Mac mini as a home theater PC by connecting the device to your TV and AV receiver or surround sound system.

  • What RAM does a 2018 Mac mini use?

    The 2018 Mac mini uses DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM and supports up to 64GB RAM. This generation of the Mac mini doesn't offer the option for users to install or upgrade RAM. Visit Apple's support site to see if your Mac mini has upgradeable memory.

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