My 1st Generation Mac mini Bit the Dust: Now What? Hmm...

by Todd Ogasawara

1st generation Mac mini in 2005
My 2.5 year old 1st generation G4 1.42GHz Mac mini (and the first Mac I ever bought) bit the dust. I'm pretty sure it is either a system board or power supply problem (betting on the power supply being the problem). Although I thought about it at the time of purchase, I decided not to get AppleCare for a desktop Mac mini even though I told myself it is really a notebook without a battery. So, now what to do with it? Everything is backed to to an external hard drive. So, data loss is not a major issue. ifixit.com has how-to guides for everything but the power supply. So, I'm guessing it may be a difficult part to find. If it is just a power supply issue, I'm tempted to try to stick it in a bigger case of some kind and use whatever power supply will work with it (regardless of size). Any leads on that idea?

The next decision is what to replace it with. The new iMacs look great. But, I really really hate the idea of all-in-one computers (with the exception of notebooks of course). The Mac Pro is way too expensive. And, the Mac mini? Well, that first one went bye-bye in under three years and appears difficult for my less than nimble fingers to repair (compared to regular ol' non-Apple large PCs which are easy to open up and replace components). The various Mac rumor sites have been talking about a sub-notebook sized device being introduced in October. That sounds pretty interesting. But, all I really need is a small iTunes box with a browser and email client (the Mac mini is perfect for that). I just took a look a the 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini. But, do I really want another hard to repair box? Actually yes, but... :-)

Well, time to look around the house for a putty knife I guess. Might have a little project for it this weekend.


UPDATE...
070929-geniusbar.jpg
I took the Mac mini to the local Apple Store Genius Bar where the friendly geniuses there took me in right at my appointment time tested their power brick on the mini and...sigh... it didn't work with that either. So, it looks like it is the system board after all. They figured the out-of-warranty repair price would be in the $300+ range.

So, now it is time to decide on whether to get another Mac mini (most likely at this point), get a low-end iMac (not likely), or wait a couple of weeks to see if Apple announces a new sub-notebook form factor MacBook (very tempting).

25 Comments


2007-09-29 01:31:02
Isn't the power supply on mac mini that white brick on that white cable outside of mini? Anything else inside is on the system board.


Todd Ogasawara
2007-09-29 01:37:32
Anonymous: Doh! (in my best Homer Simpson voice). Good point. Guess it is probably the system board then. Or, could be it be as simple as replacing the brick (nah... couldn't be that simple).
Rob
2007-09-29 01:59:55
Take it in (to a Genius bar). Let them find out what's wrong, and give you a quote. Decide what to do then.
Another anonymous
2007-09-29 02:45:00
Try to replace the power supply…
My old Mac Mini revived with new new power supply.

2007-09-29 02:45:39
I've had two minis need their power supply bricks replacing. You checked the output with a multimeter?
Chris Bitmead
2007-09-29 06:27:19
So haven't we proven that the mini is easier to fix than any other computer since the primary weak points of computers the power supply is external? If you do decide to replace it, get another mini.
Kirk
2007-09-29 06:38:37
I had the same problem with the same machine - took it to the Genius Bar at an Apple store, and they plugged in a new power brick and it worked. Turns out there is a protect relay in the brick that sometimes goes bad, sticks, or takes some time (temp?) to reset, but when I got home, the old brick worked as well.
Domo
2007-09-29 10:07:16
Available at welovemacs.com, who were fine when I bought a replacement PSU converter for an old iMac. Pricey, though at $139.95. Definitely worth investigating the alternatives first.
Kody
2007-09-29 12:05:51
Since we're coming out of the prior age where PC hardware never changed, I can understand your resistance to getting an all in one. But with the Mac, just go for it. Hardware improves, the machines get and look better. You won't want that same monitor for ten years.


Secondly, your desk is like the before shot of a reality makeover show. An iMac would move you from drab to fab. Do you think you're going to get laid with that mess of a computer? Although I'm not sure what that thing on the right side of your desk is, maybe your seeing enough action already...



Rob
2007-09-29 13:57:43
I agree take it to the Genius Bar and let them do the diagnostics. If you can get buy with replacing the power supply for $140 then do it. Make it last as long as you can.


If you need to replace it because its a bad board and are happy with the mini's form factor then I say replace it with another mini. If on the other hand you want to step it up a notch then I would go with the 20" iMac. I just helped my in-laws replace their 17" flat panel iMac with the new 20". Have not heard a word out of them as far as having problems. I have a Dual 1GHz 2002 Quick Silver that just won't die, else I would have replaced my system as well.

John
2007-09-29 14:09:55
If the power brick replacement suggested doesn't fix it, send your Mac Mini to DT&T Computer Services in California. I have sent my iBook to them for repair and am now about to send my PowerBook. With the iBook, I paid for a Logic Board repair, but they also repaired the canted screen for no additional charge. Highly recommended. Their Mac Mini G4 Logic Board repair is $225. Their price is cheaper than buying a Logic Board part elsewhere, because they try to repair the logic board first, and if they can't, then they replace it. So they leverage the price of their service because they don't always have to actually replace the logic board. Go to: http://www.dttservice.com/macmini.html Be sure to check their testimonials page; it will make you feel good about sending your baby to them.
Randy Smith
2007-09-29 20:52:28
Are you sure it is dead? When the battery in my eMac went dead it was like my Mac died. It would not run again until I unplugged it from the wall and left it unplugged for a few minutes. After that it booted just fine but the clocks were off. A new battery and it has been as good as gold. I find there is little to go wrong with a Mac other than the hard drive. My Mac is in a bad environment with plenty of dust and high temps during the summer time. I have a Mac7100 with an upgrade board, a 7200 and a blueberry iMac. All in storage and all working just fine. My main desktop is my old eMac 800mhz, my laptop is a Core Duo 2hz Macbook. I am having the most fun with my new iPod Touch! Applecare is pretty much a no brainer for me. I get it for every computer I can afford to get it for.
Stan
2007-09-29 22:47:00
I thought a similar Mac mini had died on me. I eventually traced it down to badly seated RAM. The cure was to pick up the mini and give it a gentle tap on all 4 sides against a table top. It has been running perfectly ever since.
Simdude
2007-09-30 04:16:37
The Apple store had some Core Duo's with a superdrive for $479. Even if you can get it repaired for $275-$300, that's not much for for an updated machine. Sell the old on ebay as non-working for parts (after you wipe the drive). You might even think about selling part of it as you would end up with more money. If the power supply is good and the hard drive, you'll probably get $30-$40 each for those. Makes the refurb look even better.

2007-09-30 05:14:10
Given the facts, I will wait for that new Newton they are introducing in January ...
Ilgaz
2007-10-01 07:27:04
which facts? Mini is really a reliable machine thanks to Amiga way of engineering, the most heat producing , trouble potential part is external, easily replaceable.


Yes, power supply I speak about.


In fact, Mac Mini G4’s are one of the machines which I never turn off running without any failure. Just.. Yes, buy a cheap UPS, its watt levels are so low that you can buy the best brand without spending too much money.


2007-10-01 11:57:36
Well, the overall feel of the article is that author need us to encourage him, to wait for brand new "revolutionary" device possibly coming in January.


So, if the time is not a problem, let's encourage him :-) And in January he will buy another (possibly refreshed) mini :-)

Mike
2007-10-01 12:21:47
You've only been using Macs for 2 and a half years and you're writing for MDC?
esmith512
2007-10-07 11:52:41
I've been hearing reports of this for about a year now and have been hard at work since we got our MmG4 and MmICD units. We've seen the same thing and in our first week managed to burn out two Mac minis by simply connecting them to peripherals and merely powering them up out of sequence (which is unheard of in the PC world). I recently wrote an article on Epinons about the motherboards. As far as Apple's Genius Bar, these are excellent technicians who know the machines well, but about a couple hundred hours of seriously facing down dead Macs and technical internet searches on your own will give you comparable experience and technical skill. We found the logic boards (Apple's term for the motherboard) for the Mac mini are amazingly static and thermally sensitive and have to be handled with care similar to how you'd treat a prototype on an electronics bench. They're also expensive ($310 from Apple), as you've noticed. Also another huge point of system failure (with OSX 10.2 and above), there's also been a prelinking (Unix term)/prebinding (Apple term) bug (the "Optimizer" in Apple's parlance) which can randomly destroy files during system updates and configuration changes. The bug will cause usually runtime-fatal behavior (kernel panics usually, but sometimes lockups too) because the prelinker is apparently not thread-safe!


The problem you seem to be having is with the motherboard's PMU and maybe the VDG turning into a complicated electrical fuse. We've cooked a few Mac minis in nearly identical ways--so much so we were thinking this was an engineering defect where ground-loops and non-zero "ground" components were cooking signal-emitting components (USB/Video/Audio--but not power). We also found the boards to be thermal-mechanically sensitive. The boards tend to get hot in the Mm case and the VDG is sinking to the plastic and rubber base's RFI groundplane. We found the VDG overheats, heats it's ball-grid-array mounts, and tries to break itself from the board as the board expands with the joule heating. We also found one way to get more life out of your mac is to tip it up on it's side (light up is slightly better because heat rises and the blower is on the right-side (light-side) and this exposes the base to cooling air. Setting a Mm on an aluminum defrosting plate also helps with heat removal (and reliability/survivability) too. Static and heat kill Macs. Keeping them static free, ground loop free, and cool greatly improves reliability.


Also, we developed better testing platforms--but not as good or complete as Apple's (yet). We've so far managed to completely recover from OS/X self-destructs and some hardware strangeness--we're still working on recovering recoverable situations with increasing ease.


I'm sorry to hear your Mm died, but you're actually in large and good company. Some of us want to fix the engineering faults and return Macs to average to superior reliability--maybe Apple will join us in that quest someday.


Save the parts too or sell your dead Mm on ebay. Some of us techies out here in the world would love a good failure mystery and technical thriller! (Also some of us just want spare parts too.)


--Ed

J
2007-11-22 21:19:51
My first gen Mini also bit the dust shortly after the 1-year warranty expired(logic board)...I am now in the process of looking for cheap replacement parts for it...Sigh, so much for Macs being the most dependable computer out there...
John
2007-12-05 19:30:20
My Mac Mini Core Uno logic board died at month 11 (covered by warranty). It was only lightly used (maybe 3 hrs per week) as I use my PC system more often. I don't know if I should consider myself lucky or unlucky. Either way it sucks to have it die after less than a yr.
esmith512
2007-12-12 10:14:56
I was checking back after my October 7th entry (a little over two months ago), and had an additional thought. Some things we found and heard too is the Mac Minis are electrically and thermally sensitive, meaning some additional precautions beyond ordinary consumer electronics are merited. If treated like your TV or clock radio, the Mac is more likely to have a shorter life than the rest of your appliances. I run my Mac Minis 24/7 integrated with a similarly 24/7/265 Linux cluster and as such pay more attention than average to cooling, clean air, and clean power. (I also keep backup systems and spare parts if/when a machines blows itself away.) (a) I group the Macs on their sides (like a book is upright) with air gaps between CPUs and hard drives to enable cooling (the gear sits on side-of-case adhesive rubber feet), (b) have the electrical and network cables equipped with transient filters (surge protectors) and UPSs to maintain steady power (Macs love steady power), (c) use filtered cooling fans (air filtering devices generally) as reasonable to keep dust as low and as filter-captured as reasonable, (d) ground everything as reasonable to prevent electrical ground-loops (which Macs are particularly susceptable it seems), (e) limit electrical and thermal cycling of the machine (low environmental/state deltas are the goal--keep temperature and run state changes few and far between), (f) with healthy pessimism and paranoia back up the machines with the full expectation that some unknown factor will completely and unpredictably mess up something, (g) and configure and operate the system(s) with some redundancy so unpredictable component failures range from at best being completely user and process transparent to at worst being irritations. With these precautions and proactions, we're expecting the Macs to be able to safely and reliably serve us for years through their entire missions.
esmith512
2007-12-12 10:22:59
(Actually our systems run 24/7/365, with individual machines in the full-time cluster occasionally cycling totally offline and completely down for routine maintenance. 265 days is a little typo. :-D ) One more thought. Keep the Mac maintained and clean. Macs hate dust.
Todd Oqasawara
2008-01-11 19:31:08
Just wait until the Mac Nano comes out and buy that, it will be out in less than 4 days!!!!
esmith512
2008-01-11 19:32:25
Yeah you rock man, nano is going to bring down the house!