Older Mac Mini - still viable?

My basic computing needs are not that great but I am getting increasingly frustrated by some companies insistence on a new OS for each update (like Intuit with TurboTax and QB)

I am running VirtualBox but that is slow and has some random glitches.

I have a 2011 iMac on Sierra that I run my music library on an older iTunes. I run Lightroom 6 Classic on there too and it serves as a network drive as it has a larger hard drive than my laptop.

Which is a 2015 MBPr. I will lose a few pieces of software upgrading this too far. Word/Excel, Ascent and I think Illustrator (what is the name of the utility that will tell me this?). Nevermind TurboTax for the past few years and I now have 2 Quickbooks clients I am running in a VirtualBox. I have tried over the past couple of years to find Office 2016 and I’ve tried to move Word/Excel to the iMac but neither seems possible - MS won’t let me “re-register” the product on a different machine anymore.

I’m toying with the idea of getting an older Mini. I figured if I could get one with 16gb it would still be able to update pretty far and I could divide my workload between the machines. Or update the MBP as I sometimes take it with me when I travel.

I was looking at 2014 Minis last night - they benchmark a hair beneath my 2015 MBP. Does this seem like a viable option for the next few years or should I be thinking about a 2018 (which at first glance is a bit more than I want to spend).

How do either of these machines work with the newer OS? At what point are things going to go slow down and make it too hard to work?


Are you trying to get a mini for a specific macOS version, or just one that can handle upgrades for a while? Is there anything besides price that made you focus on the 2014? I am not trying to dissuade you, just curious if there is a technical reason such as the ports, price, etc. It also lacks the T2 chip which is a plus in my mind.

The biggest weakness of the 2014 mini is the 2-core processors. The 2012 mini had up to 4-cores and in some intensive applications could handily beat the 2014. However, as you describe mostly office applications this should not be a problem. The 2014 is currently listed as supporting the current macOS version, although speculation is that perhaps the coming macOS will not run on these.

I just purchased a used 2014 mini i7 and 16 GB RAM option with a larger SSD from OWC (macsales.com). I wanted it for a dedicated media player (audio/video playback, music hub, streaming web). The 2014 is also the last mini to have a built-in remote receiver (although that feature could be added with extra parts/software).

If more years of current macOS versions is important to you, perhaps look at the 2018 with an i3 chip. The generation of processor in the 2018 is much better and the i3 actually can outperform the 2014 i7 in more intensive apps. The down-side with 2018 was the non-upgradable boot device (but RAM can be upgraded).

I just wanted one that can handle OS upgrades, and it was the price that led me to 2014.

I was assuming 2012 would last as long.

I did NOT know the RAM could be upgraded on the 2018! That would allow me to keep an eye out for a smaller RAM machine and upgrade it here.

Is the 2012 the same?



The 2012 Mac Mini’s RAM can be upgraded but you are stuck at Catalina for OS unless you go the VM route.

The 2014 on Monterey will be supported with security updates until September 2024. As @macguyver states, we do not know if it will be supported after that. Apart from that, the 16 gb RAM option with ssd is an excellent machine for office applications. I am running several Virtual Linux instances and a music server on one with Monterey.

Are the hard drives upgradeable in any of them?


Not sure. Mine was a server version which had two internal drives. But these types of drives are slow. Later, I decided to use an external USB SSD for boot drives and speeds increased greatly. Using the Thunderbolt port would be even better but I decided to use that for extra USB peripherals using an adapter.

Do you have an i7? I realized when I looked at Geekbench scores, I compared my i5 MBP to an i5 Mini.


Just sayin’ here…
I own a 2014 8GB mini (replaced its 1TB HDD with a Crucial SSD), and an M1 Mini 8GB/256GB SSD. Both run Monterey. The M1 smokes the 2014 mini- no contest. My only regret was not getting the 512GB SSD model.

You can find which apps are still 32-bit with Go64:


While the 2014 mini and the 2015 MBP can run monterey, they can’t do most of the new features:

I’d get the 2018 intel mini even though it’s expensive. The biggest advantage over an M1 is that you can run other Mac OSes, both older and newer, (and intel windows) virtually. The older minis really don’t have enough oomph for that even with 16GB ram. For a better virtual machine experience and to keep it useful for the longest time, it’s worth getting the i7 upgrade (+$200). You’ll definitely want at least 16GB ram at some point, which you can do yourself or have someone do for you. If you revert its system to Mojave (a little tricky but not actually difficult), you can keep using your current 32-bit apps natively and run more recent systems virtually (but no security updates anymore), or boot a never system from an external drive. All in all, you get a lot of flexibility not available with an M1 or older mini, and you’ll still have your existing Macs to fall back on for whatever licenses won’t transfer. Consider an amortization period of 5 years, and see whether the total price works out at something reasonable per year of use.

“Are the hard drives upgradeable in any of them?”

2011 / 2012 can replace drives and RAM
2014 can replace drive but not ram
2018 can replace ram but not drive

ifixit.com has guides to all of them, and OWC has video guides. 2018 may be fussier than the others, but since I haven’t done it yet I don’t know from experience. I’ve never had trouble with any of the 2011-2014 minis, but if you do it yourself you do need the right tools. It’s always worth allowing more than enough time to take it slowly and breathe. The guides say exactly what tools you need.

That was it! I knew I’d downloaded it awhile back.

It and the M1 are out of my budget. Just trying to make some of my work a little easier. I do think getting the new SSD in the MBP would help, but I still don’t want to upgrade the OS much further.

If I do I will lose Word/Excel, Illustrator (trying to move it to the iMac, but as someone said a couple of years ago, it’s not that easy), Lightroom (which I rarely use on the laptop) and Ascent - which I used to be able to easily move but I’m not sure anymore. And a couple other smaller ones I think I can replace.


It is a high end Mac mini. I know many graphic designers who used this model to work with Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator until 2021. It is not blazing fast, but you get the work done.

Some vitals from system report
| Model Name:|Mac mini|
| Model Identifier:|Macmini7,1|
| Processor Name:|Dual-Core Intel Core i7|
| Processor Speed:|3 GHz|
| Number of Processors:|1|
| Total Number of Cores:|2|
| L2 Cache (per Core):|256 KB|
| L3 Cache:|4 MB|
| Hyper-Threading Technology:|Enabled|
| Memory:|16 GB|
Chipset Model: Intel Iris
Type: GPU
Bus: Built-In
VRAM (Dynamic, Max): 1536 MB
Vendor: Intel
Device ID: 0x0a2e
Revision ID: 0x0009
Metal Family: Supported, Metal GPUFamily macOS 1

Apple SSD Controller:

Vendor: Apple
Product: SSD Controller
Physical Interconnect: PCI
Link Width: x2
Link Speed: 5.0 GT/s
Description: AHCI Version 1.30 Supported


Capacity: 1 TB (1 000 555 581 440 bytes)
Model: APPLE SSD SM1024F

Thank you! I ordered one last night, but without the SSD. I’ve got a couple of weeks to try it out and see how it goes.


The SSD is a big part of this beeing a good alternative still. If you are satisfied with your choice all is well, else you can get a replacement SSD.

I do know that. I’ll be able to compare to the i5 with SSD in the MBP - which I suspect is bogged down due to space issues anyway.

Upgrading to the SSD added more than I wanted to spend, but I’ve already looked at drive prices and it is probably something I can swing on Black Friday sales.

And hah - it comes with Monterey pre-installed. I may actually run it headless for a bit because I like having two screens when I use the laptop, and if I make a Mini my main machine I’ll lose that. Should be here early next week!

Good news is I was able to move Ascent to the iMac without having to register it. I’ll deal with Adobe next week. They list away to get around the registration issue but I’m not sure a Friday is the day to deal with that.

Thanks again!

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Congrats on your mini purchase, Diane. I hope things go smoothly for your transition.

When you are ready to upgrade the internal drive to an SSD, be sure to get one that is actually made to work with the 2014 mini. Apple used proprietary tech that caused problems for many people who tried upgrading their drives early on. OWC has been very good with pre-sales technical questions, so avail yourself of them before you are ready to make the jump. Be sure they walk you through the relevant System Report tabs (ie. Apple > About This Mac > System Report > Storage).

The info below is not relevant for you right now, but a tip for the future. Apologies for the technobabble…

The 2014 mini technically has 2 internal storage device connections: SATA 2.5" (older standard form factor for laptop HDs) and PCIe (newer memory stick / blade). The PCIe option is a faster interface designed for modern SSDs. The only trick is if the mini did not ship from Apple with the PCIe option pre-installed, you may need the connector cable to use that internal port.

The SATA connection was originally designed for the older, mechanical spinning HDs (like your Fusion drive) and was tweaked when moving parts were swapped for flash memory (SSD). The 2.5" SSDs still work faster than any spinning drive and will make your system feel like it was upgraded, but some people opt for a bigger jump with the PCIe (stick) version.

Interestingly, the PCIe SSD is much easier to access. It is just inside the bottom plate. Meanwhile, the SATA drive requires almost a complete disassembly of the entire mini, including removal of the logic board tray.

OK, that was all way too technical. Bottom line, when prices fall it may be beneficial to aim a bit higher for the “stick” upgrade, but just make sure you get the right parts and are either comfortable mucking about inside the case or have a friend that can help.

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Thanks, I love technobabble most of the time! But you said a bad word - fusion!! I don’t think mine has it. It shouldn’t, it was listed as an upgrade and I didn’t select it. Unless OWC had the wrong info in there. No fear of pulling the machine apart, I still need to do my laptop. As long as it’s not extremely difficult I’ll do it. (started pulling machines apart in the 80s!)

Flagging this email for future reference - thanks!

I’ve done the replacement of the HDD with a SATA SSD in the 2014 Mini. iFixit’s instructions were pretty much spot-on and it wasn’t really too hard to do. The only thing to be aware of is you really do need both the Torx security screwdrivers and the U shaped logic board extractor tool.

No offense intended, Diane. :sunglasses: I misunderstood which boot device option yours came with. You should be able to call and ask before they ship. Looking quickly at OWC, the base 2014 mini with only the i7 + 16 GB RAM option appears to come with a 256 GB SSD. You can always add an external Samsung SSD if space gets tight. Deleting things like Garage Band and its support folders can clear space too.

I happen to have a more positive association with “Fusion” because it is the name of bundled phone & internet service for a local, independent ISP called Sonic (Sorry for the shameless plug but honesty, ethics, trust and reliability are rare in the industry).

Technogeezer, are you suggesting that one should not use a kitchen knife to open their Mac mini? :smile:

No offense taken, I was just trying to avoid fusion. :slight_smile:

I got the i7, 16gb with a 1t hard drive.

Not this one, but like it. If you scroll down you can see the Fusion option for more $$.


IIRC OWC sells bundles including tools for upgrades, I’ve bought a few from them in the past!