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Thread: 2012 Mini restore/repair (internal drive questions)

  1. #1
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    Default 2012 Mini restore/repair (internal drive questions)

    Hola all -

    I'm getting mighty tired of hard drives dying. My previous Mac Minis (2003, 2007) died of premature HDD failures, and now I've got a 2012 Mini with an almost brand-new Fusion drive that is dead. The 250GB SSD is still there, but the 1 TB HDD (less than a year old!) is completely unresponsive. I get the "circle-with-a-line-through-it" trying to boot normally. The Mini does boot in recovery mode, and Disk Utility shows the SSD as unformatted, while the HDD is completely absent.

    I've been using CCC (for years) to back up to an external USB drive, and I have a clone of my drive that's only two weeks old... but this page now tells me that this particular WD drive can't boot an Intel Mac, which means it's useless for the very reason for which I bought it. Wish I'd known before. In fact, I have FOUR physical storage devices, with SIX partitions and FIVE copies of OSX, and ZERO of them will boot my machine. I'm typing this on a crappy Windows laptop.

    I live in the middle of PA (USA), several hours' drive from the nearest Apple Store. I only know 2 other people in my county who use Macs; my plan as of now is to take my Mini and external drive to one of their homes, install CCC on their Mac, and hope I can TDM my machine and clone my stuff onto its internal SSD.

    I guess my questions are as follows:

    1) Anybody have a smarter idea to recover my stuff?

    2) Anybody have strong opinions about Fusion drives? Gotta say, my feeling right now (data points = 1) is that they are a terrible idea. If I had two separate drives in my Mini, instead of one hybrid one, I'd be using it right now.

    3) What suggestions have you regarding a final solution for the dead drive? Is it reasonable for a casual user to swap out drives on the 2012 Mini? (I did it successfully several times on older models.) Should I put in a second SSD? My feeling about spinning platters right now (data points = half a dozen or so) is that they are no longer worth the trouble.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    I'd much rather have an SSD. Apple Fusion drives have the worst of both worlds. The Fusion drive is a spinning drive with a smallish SSD section built into it. They are not two separate entities. If you replace your Fusion with an SSD you will gain a number of things - Reliability, of course is first. Speedy response times since all the data is on solid state and not just what the Fusion drive's software thinks should be on solid state. Lower power use, which equals cooler, which equals more reliability of the entire Mini.

    Can you do this yourself - absolutely. I like the guide at iFixit.com.

    What drive would I install? No doubt a Crucial MX300. Fastest on the planet?.... no, I think Samsung currently holds that title. But best supported?... you bet! If you have an issue and call their support line (in the US, BTW) you will get a very knowledgeable tech who can and will help you. You cannot say that about a Samsung rep who may not even be able to spell Mac Mini.
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  3. #3
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    I don't think I could have said that better and agree 100%. I bought an iMac with SSD early in the adoption of SSDs. I was amazed and the speed and the computer ran cooler. I still have the this one replaced, it's in "her" office. When I update the machine I find myself reliving those hoe hum moments waiting for something to happen. Plus this iMac is older than your Mini by a year and I still have not said to my self "boy I sure would like to buy a faster machine". So either I'm getting old and may not appreciate improved speed for my uses or this iMac is still awesome. I think both are true

  4. #4
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    Thanks to you both for your replies. I realized yesterday that there is really no reason to rush to replace the dead drive immediately - the 250 GB SSD that's in there is more than big enough for all my stuff. I continue to be amazed at how fast SSD prices are dropping; I think it makes sense to wait until I NEED another drive and get more storage for less money.

    Unfortunately plan A didn't work, as I didn't have a Thunderbolt cable to connect the two Macs - I was surprised that my friend's iMac does not have a Firewire port. Plan B is to accept the offer of another friend's bootable external USB drive, which should allow me to clone MY external drive to the SSD. Will Apple Disk Utility be able to successfully accomplish that, or should I try to find a way to run CCC from his system?

  5. #5
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    So did some light reading and here. Seems you can split and recreate a Fusion drive. I had not known that. And I guess you can also replace the spinning part with an SSD and make up a new Fusion or two separate devices with discreet volumes. Silly me, I thought the Fusion drive was all in one device....

    You will have to do some command line stuff in Terminal, which means you also need to make a bootable external drive.
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  6. #6
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    So it isn't as easy as I thought, and now I'm scared.

    I've successfully booted the Mac from a recovery disk, and I'm in the process of making a new bootable external drive. But the article you linked, describing how to take apart the Fusion drive, worries me. Seems easy... IF everything is working. But my HDD is toast. How are those terminal commands going to work if the mechanical part of the "drive" is dead? Am I going to be ordering the machine to reformat a volume that doesn't exist? Is there a danger that I'll screw up the SSD and render it unusable? I guess we're going to find out.

  7. #7
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    That guide makes it pretty easy. Of course, I have done quite a bit of Terminal stuff over the years. Still, if you take it slow and easy and relax, you will get through it without a lot of fuss. Still, first step is get booted up on an external.

    RIck
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  8. #8
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    I'm happy to say my Mac has been restored to full function. I needed only one of the Fusion drive disassembly steps - deleting the logical group. The logical volume did not show up on the core storage list, which, I suppose, provides confirmation that the HDD catastrophically failed. I was able to format the internal SSD with DU and CCC copied my backup volume to it with no trouble.

    I now have a bootable backup on a 10-year-old Seagate Barracuda I took out of an old Mac and put in a USB enclosure... and I'm planning on buying an external SSD for faster backup.

    Thanks for your help and encouragement!

  9. #9
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    Cool
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

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