New Mac mini restricts RAM and storage upgrades, but hints at PCIe SSD possibilities

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Mac mini fans recently rejoiced after Apple updated the storied compact Mac after two years without a major overhaul. But for DIY types, the new Mac mini is a mixed bag offering both heartache and promise.

The teardown experts over at iFixit recently took apart the base model 2014 Mac Mini with a 500GB hard drive and 1.4GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 processor. The DIY site found that upgrading the Mac mini’s RAM is now pretty much impossible, but adding an internal SSD at a later date just might be doable.

The impact on you at home: Depending on a company’s design needs, a device’s internals can vary widely between generations. One year, a new smartphone or laptop may be the easiest thing in the world to upgrade, while the next model can end up being very unfriendly to do-it-yourself fixes and tweaks. Apple’s 2014 Mac mini is a perfect example of this, where swapping out or adding common components is now much more difficult—though it also adds the new possibility of PCIe-powered SSD upgrades.

RAM fixation

ifixitsolderedram iFixit

Good luck getting the RAM off there.

The first thing iFixit discovered was that Apple switched out easy access to the RAM, which used to sit in slots right underneath the Mac mini’s bottom cover.

Making matters worse, once you dig a little deeper iFixit found that there were no pop-out RAM slots at all. Instead, the RAM is soldered directly onto the logic board. In other words, make sure you get enough memory for your potential needs when you're ordering your computer, because you can’t upgrade it afterwards.

Digging deeper, iFixit found another bummer: The new Mac mini doesn’t come with an empty SATA port, as past models have. That means you can’t add an extra internal hard drive at home as you could have in the past.

But where Apple taketh away, Apple also giveth... probably. The SATA port is gone, but iFixit also found what it thinks is a socket for a PCIe cable that could allow you to add a blade SSD.

Adding to the DIY excitement, iFixit later found a mounting point for a “blade-style PCIe SSD.” To test the mounting point, iFixit took an SSD ripped from a recent iMac teardown and discovered the drive fit nicely inside the Mac mini mount.

The DIY site says it plans on tearing down one of the more expensive models of the new Mac mini packed with a Fusion Drive to confirm their suspicions. Apple’s Fusion Drive technology combines a standard hard drive and an SSD to create a single, user-facing storage system as opposed to two separate drives.

If the new set-up does turn out to be the real thing that’s not only good news for anyone hoping to rip apart their Mac mini at home—it also means iFixit can update its Mac mini Dual Drive upgrade kit.

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