Saturday, July 07, 2007

My Mac Mini taken apart and put back together

mac_mini_dsc01310.jpg My Mac mini had been pretty much dead for the last couple of months. It just wouldn't boot and would give a gray screen (without the Apple logo), after the Apple chime. Following advice on Apples's Support site, I tried the weird key combinations that were supposed to clear the CMOS and other settings, but that didn't fix the problem.

I was thinking about taking this for repairs to either BTOptions or DMS but both will take a fair amount just to open it (and it may well be fair, because opening and servicing this thing is a pain) and possibly more to fix (warranty had lapsed). I felt adventurous and as if there was nothing to loose.

The fact it was a Friday night and after the end of a long week, I felt the need for a change from thinking about software to may be thinking of hardware. But before I could give much thought to the idea, I found myself tearing the Mac Mini apart.

I've seen a couple of videos on Youtube on opening up the mac and it looked easy enough :) One problem was that I didn't have a putty knife. What I did have was something that looked like a putty knife, if only slightly bent and was primarily built to flip eggs.

To make a long story short, I managed to open the mac mini, remove its memory and test that separately using my desktop, remove battery to manually clear the CMOS. I also got access to the hard drive and made a few mistakes along the way which came back to haunt me during the re-assembly.

For some weird reason all the partitions on the hard driver were gone, not even recoverable from testdisk. Finally I ended up repartitioning it from within the MacOSX beta (intel) boot CD I had. Then it occurred to me that this might actually explain the gray screen because on Macs, part of the firmware is on a special partition (EFI partition). But then again, I think the CMOS clearing also had something to do with it.

Finally, the Mac mini started to work after I had put everything back together. I was quite pleased that it was now booting to the boot loader and more astound to find that my data partition (which had all my downloads) still in tact. Hmmm, one of those X files things, I can't quite explain. Anyway, I re-installed MacOSX on the first partition and it works great now!

I'll install GNU/Linux on it later, but before I closed the casing I decided to upgrade the memory, since it risky reopening it and old memory types will run out. So I went to Unity Plaza and "got me self" a 1GB stick and put that sucker in. My mac mini seems a lot more happier now.

One good thing about using the Mac Mini (G4, in my case), is that it consumes a lot less energy than, say my AMD64 desktop. It essentially has notebook like hardware, and I've even seen a few hacks that convert it to a battery driven device.

Well the Mac mini is all setup and updating itself, and I'm just in time to watch the Earth Day Concert.

You can see photos and comments of the dissemble process on my photo blog.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

BT Options is the last place you want to take it. They are incompetent, greedy bastards.

cerno said...

That's quite a feat! :)

btw, what's your opinion of mac tech support in Sri Lanka? Does it reflect what "Anonymous" says?

Bud said...

Well I don't have much experience in their competency. But as far as being greedy bastards, I can comment. In my case they were kind enough to replace my iPod without making much fuss about it, even when the fault was on my side.
http://budlite.blogspot.com/2007/05/honey-i-sunk-ipod.html

I haven't yet met a local mac geek who knows their way around the architecture/darwin OS like people generally know about PC/Windows/Linux internals.

Arunan said...

It's called a "spatula"!