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[BUILDING] Mac Mini3


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The why?
I am starting a new build since I recently got a problem with my current one. After upgrading to 10.8.5 I can only boot to a blank white login screen and have now tried for a few weeks to solve it without success. A reinstall is needed, so it might be a good time to change things up a little anyway...
Also I have started to play games like Battlefield4 on the Windows part of my system, but as that seperate SSD is only 64GB (an old boot drive I had laying around) the space is getting pretty cramped and I need to solve that too.
If I need a third reason it will be that the current rig is kinda big and unmovable, loved to carry my Mac Mini (genuine one, before I sold it) from place to place (family, friends and work) so I would love the new one to be small enough to make that happen. 
The how?
So to solve both problems I have thought up the following recipe.
I will change the Node 2.1, my primary machine, into the Node 2.1b - a fulltime Windows PC.
Windows: I will temporarily downgrade the CPU to a Intel Pentium G2030 to free up my i3 3225 for the other new hack. I will then Install Windows on the full force of my two RAIDed Intel 520 240GB SSDs.
GTX660, PSU, case and whatever that system has will be unchanged for now.
Enough of the Windows part, here comes the main even, the hack:
I need a tiny case with enough PSU power to run everything acceptable, with space for two 2.5" drives and some low noise coolers to keep it cool.
No need for seperate graphics as the 3225 is perfectly enough for everyday tasks and I will play games only on the Windows machine in the future.
The what?
The fun part. 
Parts list:
Chassis: Chieftech IX-01b ITX chassis in super tiny ITX dimensions and mostly in black metal (I hate plastics)
PSU: Chiectech IX 90 Watt power brick (yes I triple checked, it should be enough with only 90 Watt)
CPU: Intel i3-3225 with Intel HD Graphics 4000
CPU cooler: Akasa AK-CCE-7106HP low profile PWM controlled fan cooler
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-B75N, because it is perfect! Its ITX, it only has digital video outs (no point in having VGA when OSX does not support it), mini-PCIe port for a WiFi card and fully supported by various boot loaders for OSX.
RAM: Corsair low profile 8GB kit (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL9 black
Case cooler: Low noise Fractal Design 50mm R2 cooler
SSD+HDDs: Plextor M3 64GB SATA3 + Hitachi 5K750 500GB SATA2 setup in FusionDrive.
Cables: Some short black SATA600 cables and all the PSU cables sleeved black, because the case has a lot of holes and I want a uniform look.
* WiFi card: Not sure yet, last piece to be added after the system is up and running. Something OSX supported OOB. *
WiFi antennas: Already ordered 3 of the original blue Apple antennas as I have great experiences with them from an earlier build.
Cheap, small and pretty awesome imo...
The when?
Parts will start coming in monday and by then there will be pics.
Stay tuned for updates. //out

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Considering what to do with the wifi part...

Option 1) I will get a 300MBps half lenght card that fits right in.
Option 2) Get a 450MBps full lenght card and squeeze it in to fit.
Option 3) Do the right thing but also most expensive, get a half lenght mini PCIe extender and the full lenght card, place it somewhere else in the case with slightly better space.
Beside that, I just ordered a recording/playback module to make the little box chime like a Mac! :)
This build will not be very fast, but it will be cute and a pretty impressive DIY solution I hope, very close to the current i5 Mac Mini.

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As promised, the first packages arrived today so here are pictures:
Got the case and the PSU so far.
Disassembled the thing as much as possible without having to break out power tools (yet).
I need to remove the rivets in the rest of the case (16 rivets in total) so I can paint the grey metal in a mat black instead. After that I will re-rivet with black rivets.
Also just ordered a case of Rit fabric dye, as someone told me it works on wires - so I can get all the PSU wires to be black instead of mixed colors.
If that was not enough, I even picked up two frosted white 5mm LEDs I will solder onto the front LED wires, so they are a classy white instead of red and green (too old school).
Now I just need to figure out how to remove the ugly chieftec logo on the front... As its embossed in the plastic when the front was molded, I guess I can use some kind of plastic padding and level the whole front and then paint it over.
I knew I could not help my self... I have to mod when I build...
By the way, here is a size comparison with the cousins, the two Mac Mini models:

-Stay tuned for more updates whenever more packages arrive //out
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Well, I just went to the basement to find my dremel (to be fittet with a drill to remove rivets), soldering iron and a few other things I will need and what did I unexpectedly find? Plastic Padding Chemical Wood!
I also found out I don't have any mat black spray paint, only a buck load of jet black and chrome silver, not any of them ideal for this build..

Anyway, I figured that the chemical wood will be kind of just as good as the epoxy version of the same padding, even maybe easier to work with afterwards, so why not.

Here is the front before I did anything:





Not very sexy plastic with ugly logo...


Therefor I gave it a good layer of the chemical wood, but mixed a little too much hardener in it so it turned muddy too soon hence the not so smooth look:




Might need a very thin layer extra, but I will know that after I have sanded this one smooth tomorrow.




So far it looks like mission accomplished as the logo is nowhere to be seen, all that matters now is that it needs to be level, smooth and still not seen. Will see about that after sanding it.





Had hoped I could switch LED colors today, but seems i'm out of solder so it has to wait :(

/Beam me out Siri





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Today when I came home the first thing I did was sanding the roughest parts of the front piece till it looked like this:




Still not great so had to give it a second layer of padding:




Looks very promising! When this one is cured tomorrow I will sand it flat and see how it looks.

Im fairly convinced its good enough now, but you never know...


Tomorrow the hardware should arrive from Amazon so I at least can free the i3 3225 of duty in the current computer.



So stay tuned for more news. /out

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Im still working on getting the front piece perfect, but as it takes quite a while in between it cures and till I can sand it it's a longer process than expected. I will show you the result when Im satisfied.

In other news, I received the WiFi/Bluetooth antennas today, looks just like the ones used in a genuine Mac Mini, is even made on blue PCB with white Apple text on them.



After researching a lot and had to give in that there is no half size 450MBps m-pcie cards out there supported by OSX with AirDrop, I have decided to get a BCM94322HM8L card.
It will work OOB, support AirDrop, give me 150/300MBps and is half size + have a really reasonable price.
Not the best solution, but it's better than not having it... (best solution would be a native 802.11ac + BT4.0 in half size).

For the Bluetooth I already have a GBU521 but Im not super impressed with it, range is extremely limited.
I want something better this time, and it so far seems the GMYLE BT4.0 adapter is one of the best ones to go for. Also because its soo tiny I can actually plug it in on the backside of the hack and it will not really get in the way.

One more thing... I drilled out the first rivet today to measure the size I need for the new ones. Was a lot easier to do than expected, the new drill I have bought is extremely nice! Anyway, whole black rivets are apparently really really hard to find, can only get them in one single shop here in Denmark no matter what I Google for and where else I google.



So now I need deliveries of:
Hardware from Amazon UK
"Apple chime" record/playback module
Rit powder dye from Amazon UK
Black rivets from a Danish webstore


GMYLE BT4.0 module from China via eBay
BCM4322 WiFi card from Manchester UK via eBay

Also need to buy some black spray paint and finish the chassis modding.
I want to be done before the 1st of December and really hope I can make it, it all depends on deliveries...

-Stay tuned for updates later. /out

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Picked up one of my Amazon packages today, the one with the hardware in :)
I so wish I had my RIT dye now, because there is not much point in assembling anything when I know I need to disassemble most of it to dye the wires black...
Package is tiny, amazing there can be the components for most of a computer in this box.
And inside the tiny package? Motherboard, CPU fan, case fan and the G2030 CPU for my gaming rig so I can get my i3-3225 free for this build.

Did some manual labor today also, started off with popping out the rest of the rivets.


You might ask why there is a fork on the pictures?
It was the best tool at hand to push out the remaining rivet stem after drilling the head off (I'm doing this work in my kitchen afterall)...



I accidentally nicked off some of the black paint from the case frame panels, so I have decided that tomorrow I will give the whole chassis a primer before painting the whole thing satin black.
Had kind of hoped I did not have to paint the already black parts, but seems like a good idea to make everything the exact same color.
Then whenever the black rivets come I will assemble the case frame and then paint again, because when I push rivets trough and even when I push the four sides back together, a little paint will go off, it can't be avoided. Maybe I should even lacquer it for better protection... I'm pretty sure I have a mat lacquer in the basement...

Anyway, I have finally perfected the padding on the front and it looks super good!
Just need to carefully re-make the start button hole and give it a shot of primer and a few layers of black to be 100% done with it.
It is soo smooth now, and the stupid logo and other things are nowhere to be seen, now its just flat. I used a mirror to sand it down on, because I needed a hard flat surface to perfect it.




Hey, yes I know that a few imperfections can be seen in the pictures, but to be honest they only showed up because I used flash. I'm pretty sure the black paint will cover so nobody will see them when it's painted.

Stay tuned, now things are really starting to take shape :)

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Before posting todays update I want to see were we are with the budget for this build.

The whole point is to make something that in size, performance and money comes close to a Mac Mini. So the budget should preferably end up around £550 / $889 (because that is what the current cheapest Mac Mini i5/500GB HDD/4GB RAM/HD4000 cost here in Denmark).


$  13.69 Bluetooth 4.0 adapter

$  18.99 Black rivets

$  15.17 802.11n WiFi card

$  18.23 Black RIT dye

$    4.35 Record/play module for Mac startup chime

$  93.70 Power supply with wall adapter and my mini-ITX chassis

$139.29 Motherboard, case fan, CPU cooler (if I don't count in the CPU I need to free up my i3)

$  21.69 WiFi antennas (bought 3x but only ended up needing 2)

$438.85 i3-3225 CPU + 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP CL9 1600MHz RAM + 500GB Hitachi SATA2 HDD + 64GB SATA3 SSD (I already have all these parts, but if I was to buy them now the price would be this)

$  21.35 Grey metal primer and PlastiKote satin black spray paint

$    3.77 Two mat white LEDs + heatshrink

$  27.14 Estimated value of super glue, solder and chemical wood filling (plastic/wood padding)



$816.22 / £506.25




So even If I add more things, I am still well below the base price of a Mac Mini.

OK I have not added in the price of a OS, but if this was a Mac the new Mavericks cost $0 so who cares. Compared to the base Mac Mini I will have a higher CPU speed (3.3GHz vs 2.5), but only in a i3 compared to theirs i5. To compensate I will have something similar to a FusionDrive with my SSD+HDD solution, which you don't get in Apples cheapest model.

Also, mine has 8GB RAM compared to the standard 4GB.


In the end it looks extremely promising I can pull this off with PC parts :)

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I have a habit of doing my best work in the dark and late hours of the day, so here is an update that's actually from late last night.
Unboxed the motherboard just to get a peek at what I have bought and oh my it looks great!
Great news is that the back IO shield have no sticker, so if I choose to paint it I don't have to struggle with removing sticker glue first. I'm not sure about if I'm going to paint it yet as I want to somehow eliminate the PS/2 plug (will never ever use it so who cares). That decision is for later.
Another good thing is that the board comes with two SATA3 short black cables with clamps on the connectors. One angled in one end and the other straight in both ends. I will use these as they are a little shorter than the Akasa SATA cables I had left over from my last build.
The current work space in the middle of the living room looks like this now:
In other news I was disappointed to find that the Akasa CPU cooler was not sleeved :(
So I unscrewed the fan so I can dye the cables.
A really nice touch is that the whole center of the cooler is one big chunk of copper!
About to free up my i3 3225 and swap in the G2030 and had totally forgot all about how cramped and full my current build is. Omg this was difficult to swap!
Finally got the new chip in and as everybody knows, X marks the spot (and also because some test I once read made it pretty clear, that the best way to evenly distribute thermal paste is in a X).
One i3-3225 to go please :clap:

Hmm three pictures up and you find a picture that is a much larger size than the others. I don't know why, but ImageShack makes some kind of error from time to time and forgets to resize. But I just uploaded 19 pictures and the only one with odd size is that one. Very annoying and very strange :(
Enough complaining and more updating.
Today I re-made the power button whole in the front piece and did a little work on the LED holes too.
Fits like a glove.
I know it's Sunday, but I remembered that I had not checked my mail since Friday, so what do ya' know - two letters was waiting in the mail box.
One with RIT dye and the other with black rivets.
Tried one rivet just to see if it fit, and it fits really really well.
Tomorrow I will go look for satin paint and start painting all the case parts, as that is now the only thing stopping me from assembling the ITX case.

Could not wait so had to try dying the wires just now.
I found an old pink gift bag, who knows what my wife got in this, but it was sooner or later going to be trash. It fits perfect as dying bag for all the small wires, so I can pull them out of their black bath all at once.
This is how it looked before dying.
The pot is on the stove, with a candle holder thingy in the bottom of the pot so wires don't touch the hottest part and starts melting.
And then we are off. Dying.
To my surprise it actually worked ok. Not perfect, but ok. I will try if I can source some local dye somewhere around here to make it even blacker, for now its darkened - as in red is maroon, blue is kinda blueish grey and yellow is dark grey. I wish it was all flat black, but I guess I was too optimistic and should have bought twice or three times the dye as this is much harder than the cloth the dye is actually made to color.
A funny side effect is that the PCB the start button cable is attached to actually dyes very very well... Wonder if it would be possible to dye real electronics... Might try one day with something not important.
It did not work on the fan, so here I have to paint instead.
Funny as that was actually the only white thing, but OK it is a lot harder than wires, so that's maybe why.
Plan for tomorrow:
At least prime all metal parts, hopefully also shot it black. Buy more dye and re-dye the wires in hope of them to turn flat black.
/Stay tuned, I'm totally in the modding zone by now :)
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That TIM application, my OCD is killing me. Grain of rice is more than enough, that X is way too much, and wont cover the die very well. No offense to that one article, but I work in a repair shop, and about the size of a grain of rice is more than enough.


The dying process looks good for a single color, definitely. Were there any problems with the contacts after the dying process? I don't expect there would be, but I'm curious.


Any plans for custom wiring or sleeving, beyond the dying process?


Nice to see something unique again.

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That TIM application, my OCD is killing me. Grain of rice is more than enough, that X is way too much, and wont cover the die very well. No offense to that one article, but I work in a repair shop, and about the size of a grain of rice is more than enough.


The dying process looks good for a single color, definitely. Were there any problems with the contacts after the dying process? I don't expect there would be, but I'm curious.


Any plans for custom wiring or sleeving, beyond the dying process?


Nice to see something unique again.


Very sorry about the amount of TIM, but I had really no room to work in my case so could not see what I was doing. Didn't want to redo it as this is only until I upgrade to an i5 3570K.


Wires look ok, they are darkened at least. But they are not black as I had hoped. Dyed them again with some different dye I bought locally and made absolutely no difference :(

So I guess I have three choices: Leave as it is, buy more RIT dye and start again or sleeve.


I think it went wrong because my pot was a lot bigger than the one in the link were I found the method, so I simply just did not have enough dye and the dye I bought today didn't work on plastics at all.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Long time of silence but a lot have been going on, time for a big update:
First of all the last few parts arrived, here is my tiny Bluetooth dongle, never seen anything USB this small before.
Also received my recording/playback module:
And wifi:
I have also painted everything:
First in primer.
And then in mat black.
Even painted the fan.
So it can't be seen from the outside.

I have changed the LED colors from original red/green to white.
And I have assembled!
An extremely stupid detail is that if you use the original PSU for this case, made by Chieftec them selves - then the case cant close because of the fat modular connectors.
So I had to mod the lid to slide it in place.

...but then there came problems... First time I turned it on it only went on for like 5 seconds and then turned off. And its been doing that ever since every time I try.
It seems like its a dead power supply, because even if I unplug everything and only plugs in the power and a paperclip it still just turns on in a few seconds and then off (also had a fan connected to see if there was power).
Problem is that if I'm right and the PSU is dead, then I have modded it so much no RMA will ever cover :(
Could also be because the PSU is underdimension and I actually burned it first time I tried turning on...
Beside that I have discovered that the paint is not really as scratch proof as hoped, so I am now considering a total rebuild...
Just to be sure:
* I want a PSU with more power than the barely enough 90w I am trying with now.
* I want something in silver aluminum to withstand scratches.
* It also annoys me that the current PSU has a power brick.
* Would love to fit in my FireWire800 card.
Yes, no longer much similarities to a Mac Mini, just a plain cool small computer.
I'm thinking I can mod my PCI card to fit in a Lian Li PC-Q12, so I start with buying a SilverStone SST-ST30SF PSU, just to check if any other hardware have broken.
If everything works with that PSU then I get the Lian Li case instead.
I just pictured how it looks in size compared to Mac Mini and my current PC:
The Lian Li is the first and the last box.
Would not be too bad... Still easy to travel with.
I will update when more have happened :) ...project is NOT done yet
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  • 4 weeks later...
Just to let everybody know - I will restart this project some time in 2014. But for now it is put on hold as it started to annoy me...


Last thing I did was that I ended up buying the Silverstone ST30SF SFX PSU to test if everything was still alive, just to realize that is worked like a charm but the dye had screwed up my CPU fan so its now quite noisy.

Also my old SSD seems to have developed a slight high pitched noise and the HDD noise was also more than I had hoped.


So now I have the perfect PSU, CPU, MB and RAM, but the rest is a little annoying.

To be fair the PSU is not perfect, I wish it was sleeved better (so badly I even want to redo it whenever I get time).



Will let you guys know when an update is due.



(for now im just passing time with great xmas amazon offers on games)




Happy holidays!

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  • 2 months later...
At the moment this build is in a re-build stage, so the Node is now using a Pentium G2030 CPU and has changed name to Node 2.1b, running Windows 8.1. The 3225 CPU has been moved to a new setup called the Mac Mini3 and added a lot of new hardware.


The Mac Mini3 is at the moment consistent of:


Intel i3-3225

Gigabyte GA-B75N

Plextor M3 64GB boot SSD

500GB TimeMachine

LyCom FW400+800 PCIe card

1TB FW800 + 2TB FW800

Silverstone SFX 300Watt PSU

Akasa low profile CPU copper cooler

All inside a cardboard box from a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P7 headphones.

EVERYTHING works, even sleep!


The point is that the Mac Mini3 and the Node 2.0b will soon be rebuild into three different machines: 

A proper Mac HTPC, a unRAID server and a Windows 8.1 gaming PC.


//Stay tuned

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