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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 05:44 AM   #1
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What slows the Mac mini?

A few months ago I finally succumbed to the lure of the Mini, and bought a 1.42/80 gig HD to replace an aging iMac G3. While I'm not unhappy with it by any means, I find it surprisingly slow in comparison to my upgraded Cube; most noticably when I start up programs. This is inconsistent with a comparison I've made between the two Macs running xbench, where the Mini comes out slightly faster than the Cube. I want to know what is causing the slowdown.

My Mini has 512 mb RAM, which I understood to be sufficient. I rarely run more than two programs simultaneously, so I wouldn't have thought this to be a problem. There are two user accounts on it, both running, but when in one, the other isn't running any programs. The HD is a 4200 rpm, but so is the one on my 15" PowerBook Al and I don't notice the slowdown on it. I also keep my drive in shape by regularly running Diskwarrior, but I don't notice any change after doing that.

I'm willing to upgrade either the RAM or the HD, but I don't want to do both. Which do you think is the cause of my slowdown, or is it likely to be something else?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 05:54 AM   #2
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I think you'll find that most people here will tell you that RAM is king.. and the cheapest way to see significant performances gains.

Perhaps the difference in perceived speed between your Cube and the Mini has to do with the OS version? If you're running Tiger only on your Mini, my understanding is that Tiger is more RAM hungry.

Max out your RAM.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 06:18 AM   #3
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I agree. The more you can put into your RAM without swapping to the slower drive the better. RAM is the first thing that will give you a significant boost. Something you might wanna shoot for in the future, maybe an external HD.. you can build them relatively cheaply now.

Macaholic just posted a great summary in the troubleshooting section on externals:

Backing Up Music

Some great advice in that thread.

As well.. it couldn't hurt to run a maintenance utility like OnyX or MacJanitor. Clearing out the caches and repairing permissions really does help.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 09:01 AM   #4
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So both of you recommend RAM first, even with 512 mb already installed. Interesting; I waited to buy the Mini until they upgraded the standard RAM to 512, thinking it would save me from having to buy a 1 gb stick. I might as well have had 256 installed because the 512 would have to be replaced.

With regard to the external drive suggestion, I know that there are several firewire models available that have compatible case designs with the Mini. Does anyone know if running an external firewire as the startup disk is as fast as running the internal if both drives are the same type? Otherwise, I might be better off to just install a new internal. (If I can install stuff in a Cube, I'm sure I can do it in a Mini.)
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 09:22 AM   #5
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I just bought a stick of 512 Ram for my iBook from PC Cyber, www.pccyber.com. I'm not sure what type of ram the mac mini uses, I guess I'm assuming the parts would be similar to the iBook. The Ram cost me $82.00. It's Cosair ram, and it works fine.

Thought I'd add in my two cents.

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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 09:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fox
Does anyone know if running an external firewire as the startup disk is as fast as running the internal if both drives are the same type?
The answer seems to be, yes. See this discussion:
New Mac minis
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 10:43 AM   #7
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Before you buy any RAM, check to see how much you actually use, and how often your hard drive swaps out. Menu Meters is a great utility for checking this.

If your machine never uses all it's RAM, and never swaps out, then the whole "RAM is king" argument is bunk.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 11:33 AM   #8
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i'd say if you already have 512mb, you should try an external drive. i immediately upgraded my stock mini to 1gb when i bought it, being told by everyone 256mb isn't enough for OSX. so i didn't really have a chance to judge how much of an improvement the memory upgrade was. however, after several months of use, i finally bought myself an ext fw drive, spec'd much better than the internal HD. booting and app loading improved dramatically with the ext drive. my Mini is SO much more quick and snappier.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 11:41 AM   #9
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say you've got 512 MB RAM, when looking at the activity monitor and running Dreamweaver, my RAM goes pretty low, anywhere from 10 MB to 40 MB. would running that app externally on a 7200 FW drive make any difference?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 01:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fox
There are two user accounts on it, both running, but when in one, the other isn't running any programs.
The first thing I would do before anything would be to run only one account. With running only one account do you notice a speed improvement. You could also monitor RAM usage with and without the second account running. But my first suspicion would be that the second account running is chewing up some RAM and CPU resources.

If that isn't the cause, then monitoring your RAM usage will tell you if it's RAM.

The other options to then look at after RAM is HD and video card. HD - do you have a lot of space left, OS X likes some space to work with. What video card do you have in your cube that you're comparing the Mac Mini to, although I somehow doubt it's the video card.
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