Is there any way to secure erase the primary SSD drive of a moribund late 2018 Mac Mini?

I have a late 2018 Mac Mini which is basically moribund, close to dead.

When I turn the power on, the Mini LED Power Light turns on for a few seconds, then turns off, and the cycle spontaneously repeats. I replaced the fan because it made a noise and the mini seemed hot, but there were other problems like the mini rebooting spontaneously and repeatedly rebooting. I had misattributed the problem to overheating due to the fan.

The problem is probably the logic board which needs to be replaced or needs soldering. It may be the power supply although I doubt it from all my reading on the subject. A problem with the power button seems unlikely.

At this point, it is definitely an apple service center issue but I have one big problem. Being an idiot, I had not turned on File Vault.

The mini contains strictly confidential client accounting files and I cannot legally expose clients to the privacy risk of giving the mini to a 3rd party.

I need to secure erase the primary drive. I did some research and found the following:

  • I unplugged all cables and devices

  • I wanted to take out the primary drive to secure erase it (as an external drive of another mac) but this is impossible with a late 2018 Mini because it is soldered to the logic board and cannot be removed.

  • I tried to put the defective mini in target mode to the used as an external drive and secure erase it but to do so I would have have it turn on and stay on long enough.

  • Replacing the logic board myself would be very expensive, and would basically be equivalent to replacing the whole computer.

  • I tried reviving the Mini by connecting it via a Thunderbolt cable to another Mac using Apple Configurator but the app could not connect to the moribund Mini.

  • Obviously I tried all the Mac OS boot options, safe mode, recovery, etc but the Mini is not on long enough to boot.

Would you have any idea as to the next step ?

That’s a T2 Intel Mac. So the T2 contains the hardware key (volume encryption key). If you remove the flash it will still only contain encrypted data even if you did not have FV2 enabled (which adds a KEK on top of the VEK). Anybody accessing that flash directly without that mini’s specific T2 and its hardware will have nothing. As long as that flash is not re-paired to that specific mini’s T2, the data will remain scrambled forever.

You can destroy the flash in place on the motherboard if you like. Hammer, 45, howitzer, whatever floats your boat. Or you destroy the T2. Without both of those two there is no way to access that data. If you do not like the idea of destroying either, you’ll have to hold on to that motherboard (put it in a safe or something etc.) so you can at least demonstrate due diligence. The rest of the mini you can toss

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Unfortunately, the 2018 Mac mini has the flash storage soldered-down. So unless you’re skilled with microsoldering, you won’t be removing the flash without damaging the board.

See also: Mac mini Late 2018 Teardown - iFixit

If you can’t trust Apple with your data, the only thing I can think of would be to call around to see if you can find an independent repair shop that will let you enter the shop and watch the tech do his job, to make sure there’s no attempt to access your data.

I have no idea if this is possible, but I would like to think that some shops may allow it. But if they aren’t near you, it might not be practical.

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Unless you want to try and revive it…a sledge hammer or .45 round will solve the problem quite nicely. It sounds like the internal drive has failed so unless you let Apple replace it (and that will give them the drive which they are unlikely to try and recover but your legal requirement is understandable so I would just write the whole machine off and destroy it.

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One thing that is worth trying:

It could well be a graphics problem, so if you have another Mac, plug an ethernet cable between them, and try Startup with no monitor attached. Give it plenty of time. You can then try connecting to it via Remote Desktop or simply going to it in the Finder/Network and trying Screen Sharing (which is essentially the same).

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I will try and give you and update. thanks very much

thank you very much @Simon @GFS @Shamino and @neil1 for your most erudite answers. I may have lost a computer, I learned a lot from you

good idea. I will give it a try. thank you very much

It did not work, but thanks for the suggestion.

A home electric power drill with a 3/16 to 1/4 inch drill bit thru a few chips , the motherboard and thru the drive should be adequate and then to an electronics recycle… video the process would help as to verification

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The OP wants to repair the computer, not destroy it. Drilling holes through the motherboard won’t accomplish this, for obvious reasons.

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I believe I was responding to the person who wanted to scrap his computer, and worried about destroying the hard (ssd) drive due to certain legal issues such that it would be impossible to recover the confidential data no matter what. SSD ( memory chip ) drives are NOT easily erased, even with a 3 to 6 level overwrite commonly used for a steel/ aluminum disk drives of yesteryear
Even then, for high enough security, after chopping up, steel/ aluminum disks were often dissolved in acid bath or similar.

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