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Since the same questions about Mac mini RAM upgrades pop up all the time, here's a short guide to what kind of RAM upgrades options there are for your Mac mini.
Power PC Mac minis have one slot for a single DDR-333, PC-2700, 184 pin DIMM. PowerPC Mac mini: max. 1 GB.
All Intel Mac minis released to date have two RAM slots for SO-DIMMs. Apple's default configs are paired.
Pre-2009 Mac minis use DDR2-SDRAM, PC2-5300, 667 MHz, 200 pins*). Mac mini with Core Solo or Core Duo (Early 2006, Late 2006): max. 2GB **
Mac mini with Core 2 Duo (Mid 2007): max. 3GB / 4GB ***
Early 2009 Mac minis have two slots for DDR3-SDRAM, PC3-84500, 1066 MHz, 204 pins. The 1 GB config comes with a single SO-DIMM, the other configs are paired. Mac mini with Core 2 Duo "Penryn" (Early 2009): max. 4GB **** Mac mini with Core 2 Duo "Penryn" (Late 2009): max. 8GB
*) You can also use 800 MHz PC2-6400 DIMMs if you like. However they will in any case run at the memory bus clock speed of 667 MHz. There will be no performance advantage.
**) The Calistoga chipset supports addressing of up to 3GB, but Apple limited the CS/CD Mac minis to 2GB in firmware. If you put more than 2GB of RAM in a CS/CD Mac mini it will not boot.
***) Although you can install 2x2GB RAM in a C2D Mac mini for a total of 4GB, the chipset has an addressing limitation of 3GB. This is not something software, the OS or firmware could change - it is an inherent limitation of this Intel chipset. If you install 4GB in a C2D Mac mini the system will recognize the total amount of RAM, but you actually won't be able to use the last GB. Unless 2x2GB is cheaper (or more easily available) than an unmatched 3GB or you are concerned with maximizing GPU performance at all cost (and hence want matched pairs), there is no reason to install more than 3GB in a C2D Mac mini.
****) You can install up to 8 GB and this Mac mini will still boot and work properly. However, as soon as the system tries to use more than 4 GB of RAM you will experience slow-downs and other weird behavior. For all particle purposes 4 GB is the limit.
A final word on matched DIMM pairs. It is true that memory bandwidth is increased by installing matched memory modules. In actually benchmarks this is something that is most noticed in GPU-dependent tasks (like 3D games) on systems with integrated graphics (like the Mac mini). The reason for this is that the GPU has to use RAM as video memory (rather than using dedicated VRAM over a dedicated bus) which means memory bandwidth can become a limitation. Therefore, if you are interested in getting the maximum possible frame rate, you would probably want to install memory in matched pairs. However, this doesn't mean that less matched memory is better than more unmatched memory! If your system is paging out to disk because not enough memory is available (this is something you can find out by looking at Activity Monitor's "System Memory" tab) this will cause a huge performance decrease. This effect is orders of magnitude larger than the slight performance reduction due to unmatched memory pairs. Therefore: If you're paging out with 2GB of matched memory, DO NOT hesitate to upgrade to an unmatched 3 GB!
Last edited by Simon; Oct 26, 2009 at 05:01 PM.
I just upped my Intel core-2 duo Mini to 4 gb today. Got it at Double-Click computing in Bethlehem PA - $151, including installation (and tax!). Took about 15 minutes for them to do it. System shows "4 gb", but yes, will only address 3.18Gb max. It does run Windows better now with VM ware. I'm going to upgrade to the VM 4.0 shortly. Ocean charts and radar should run much smoother as well.
What the article doesn't mention is if these issues also appear if you install only 6 GB. On the MBP 6 GB works fine. Only once you install 8 GB and the system starts using space above 4 GB, things slow down.
My very first post in this forum and I'm NOT AMUSED (because I didn't read this article BEFORE I bought RAM...) ;-)
I'm absolutely glad I stumbled upon this - almost grew gray hair about my MacMini...
But - one last question before I give up...
I have a MacMini 1.1, 1.83 Ghz CoreDuo with 2 Gigs of RAM - the Calistoga chipset which is unfortunately limited to 2 GB max. Today I exchanged the CPU for a Core2Duo 2.00 Ghz (T7200), which runs just fine.
I was hoping that with this upgrade it would be possible to upgrade the RAM to 3GB as well - what a capital misinterpretation of facts...!
My last hope was to update the EFI, but that's already up to date. EFI update for MacMini 1.2 won't install.
So, unless there's a chance to hack the EFI or to force another EFI to install, I'm selling a 2GB 667Mhz SO-DIMM. Tested in my MacBook. Works.
Btw. the whole idea started out by installing SnowLeopardServer on the MacMini - I wanted a little more than the required 2 Gigs. And buying a new model which is still Core2Duo is no option for me, I'll rather wait for the Core i CPUs to show up in the Minis.