2006-2008 Mac Mini eSATA Card (mini-PCIe) Install/Mod for eSATA use
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Updated: Sept 7th, 2010 (more info in "Raoul's" report again)
Updated: Oct. 13th, 2010 (Note about later Mini's)
Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 (another report)
Updated: Sept 17th, 2012 (another report)
NOTE/FYI: 2009 and later Mac Minis DO NOT have a Mini-PCIe Airport card and therefore cannot use this mod. Many Intel-based Macs have had a Mini-PCIe slot Airport Extreme card (even the AE "G" card in early intel-based macs), but some later models have combo Airport/BT cards that are not Mini-PCIe form factor, such as the 2009 and later Minis. PPC Macs also do not have Mini-PCIe Airport cards. (My G5 has a mini-PCI Airport Ext. card, not Mini-PCIe. Original (802.11B) Airport cards were based on a subset of PCMCIA.) Verify your Mac has a Mini-PCIe Airport card slot BEFORE buying a Mini-PCIe SATA card.)
(FYI: Here's a link to a page with notes/pix from iMac owners that did this same mod and a Photo Gallery/Guide to iMac eSATA Card Install/Mod.)
This page has reports/replies to a report here originally in August 2010. A complete take-apart for the mini is not included but here's OWC's 2006-2008 Mini page of take-apart videos. (I checked ifixit but was only able to find their 2009 and 2010 mini takeapart guides there.)
Reports below are from 2006 (mini 1,1) and 2007 (Mini 2,1) Mac Mini owners. (The mini 2,1 was also sold thru 2008 until mini 3,1 model was intro'd in spring 2009.) Again this mod is NOT usable with 2009 (mini 3,1) and later mini models which do not have Mini-PCIe Airport cards. (A Mini-PCIe Airport card slot is required of course for this mod to work.) Early Intel-based Minis (1,1 and 2,1) also had a Socketed CPU, a plus for CPU upgrades/swaps.-Mike
Reader Reports/Feedback on Mac Mini 1,1/Mini 2,1 eSATA Card Mod:
(Don't forget that Driver Installs are required for these SI3132 based cards. Links/notes included in reports below like here.)
When I read the reader report (in Aug 24th, 2010 news page here - a copy is below) of a SATA card [Commell MPX-3132] that was compatible with an (intel-based) Mac Mini, I was immediately interested. I too have a 2007 Mini currently used for DTP work. Though maxed out at 3Gb, it struggles with huge PhotoShop files especially when used in conjunction with Quark and Word. I am using a 1394a external drive as a scratch disk but this is hardly an ideal situation. Gaining access to a fast scratch disk was appealing as was the prospect of utilizing cheap and fast eSata drives (firewire enclosures have traditionally been far more expensive).
The German poster apparently had apparently revealed his discovery on another website's forums and, surprising to me, it elicited few responses. What it did help with was pointing me towards a US webstore that stocked the card.
You can actually purchase them here: www.globalamericaninc.com
I called Global American and purchased the card for $61.63 ( including freight. Not exactly cheap but if the card delivered I figured it was worth it. They shipped the card the same day and I received it three days later. (Incidentally, the salesperson I spoke to mentioned that this was a popular item and they were down to seven units left in inventory.)
I later saw xlr8yourmac.com's request for user reports on compatibility so I decided to record my installation in detail so that other Mini users considering this upgrade would be able to make an informed choice. (Sorry for the quality of the pictures but I was too lazy to employ proper lighting...)
Above is the interior of my Mini. I previously upgraded the Wi-fi to 11n but since I seldom used this connection (my bandwidth intensive workload needed the wired gigabit), it was a small loss to part with the card.
This is the Commell card seated in the mini-PCIe slot.
In order to perform some before and after comparisons, I ran AJA System Test on a drive mechanism (a Samsung HD502HI). The 'before' tests are with the drive in a USB enclosure.
Pretty pathetic. Firewire performs better but is still capped at about 34 MB/s.
The (2) cables provided end in standard Sata terminals. You'll have to purchase a Sata-eSata cable adapter in order to hook up an eSata enclosure. Although I purchased one, it had not arrived in time so I was forced to do my testing with a direct connection to the drive.
Once you've installed the card, you'll immediately notice that the cables are not very flexible. This would have serious repercussions later on. For my initial 'proof of concept' testing, I simply folded it over and ran it under the drive cage. Removing the DVD facilitated this.
Having read what little I could find about this installation, I recalled that the RAID drivers had to be used from this page (same SI 3132 drivers page linked earlier here). This proved to be absolutely true. The non-RAID driver does not work. (A note in red was added to that earlier post, however one report (below) said he's using the non-RAID driver w/10.6.4 but he's using a different card/adapter - a Mini-PCIe to (std) PCIe adapter.)
I'm running Leopard (10.5.8) not 10.6.X so I used the 10.5 RAID5 driver. (see below for a OSX 10.6.4 Mini owner report on this mod working.) I was a little leery because it listed 10.4.9, 10.4.10 & 10.5.1 as supported. I hoped having 10.5.8 wouldn't prove problematic (and thankfully it didn't).
The (raid) driver installs a kext as well as a java-based RAID utility. Note that there is NO uninstaller included.
After installation you have to reboot. I did so hoping I hadn't wasted my money and possibly faced having to reinstall my OS. When the Finder appeared, I was pleased to see my Sata drive mounted on the desktop! (The same drive that had previously been in my USB enclosure.) Awesome.
I did another AJA System Test to compare performance. The numbers speak for themselves.
So far, so good. The numbers were great, especially from a run of the mill drive. The internal WD Caviar Black I have as my Mini's internal boot drive were 15-20 MB/s slower!
Now that I knew the card would work in Leopard, I faced the far tougher problem of cable management. Trust me, this is the real problem. Intuitively this card is not designed for the Mini and the very inflexible cables would be a chore to permanently install.
Most of my effort in this project was invested in figuring out what to do with the cables. I considered trimming off the sleeving but was discouraged by a number of small splices made to the ends of the cable covered in shrink tubing. I felt there was a good reason why these were so encapsulated and didn't want to risk these irreplaceable unique cables.
In the end, I discovered that you have to run the cables flat under the drive cage. There is absolutely no clearance to fold the cables over. Bends would have to be made after they cleared the cage. Fortunately the card connector end has loose wire that could be easily folded over. Even then, it caused a bulging of the drive cage once it was screwed down. I hoped that the backplane would seat far enough in to ensure a good connection.
It proved impossible to get good pictures of the flattened cables running out from under the drive cage. However, this is how I got the cables twisted once they cleared the cage.
There's a chamfer on the back left support post that I razored off in order to provide more clearance when routing the cables out the back.
In order to get the cover back on, I had to cut away a small section of the aluminum casing to the right of the USB ports. This turned out to be far less atrocious looking than I feared.
In conclusion, the Commell MPX-3132 does work (at least in Leopard) provided you use the RAID drivers. Cable management though may dissuade you from choosing this upgrade.
I hope this guide was informative.
© 2010 Steve Johansson. All rights reserved.
(Permission to post here was given)
Other Mini Owner Reports on this eSATA Mod: (later added first)
"2007 Mac Mini with Commell MPX-3132 Card
I used your website as a guide to install one of the Commell MPX-3132 SATA Cards in a 2.1 Mac Mini, with favorable results. I had already upgraded the processor to a 2.33 GHz Core2Duo, and replaced the hard drive with an Intel 120GB SSD. I also pulled the DVD drive and put the originally upgraded 500GB hard drive in an enclosure from iFixit in place of the DVD drive.
I was concerned that I would need to use a Raid 0 or 1 setup with the two external drives attached to the new SATA card, but it turns out that wasn't required. After installing the Silicon Image Base, and then the Raid Management Drivers, both drives appeared on the Desktop and were behaving like other external drives. No Raid setup was needed.
"A few months back you had an article on replacing the Airport card on a (2006-2007) Mac Mini with a (Mini-PCIe eSATA card. (Also articles here on the same card swap for intel-based iMacs reports here and Photo Gallery/Guide to iMac eSATA Card Install/Mod.-Ed) Just thought I would follow-up and say I did the mod and it works really well. Used the same card from Global American as in the article and works great with the RAID driver. Hooked up several different drives including a 2 drive port multiplier case (will try with 5 drive case when time allows) and everything so far has worked really well - particularly hot swapping drives. Other than the lack of ability to boot off connected drive it is pretty nice. In fact works as well as some FirmTek controllers I have in 2 Mac Pros. Have not tested with really fast drives yet but on the drives tested so far seems comparable to same drives on FirmTek controllers.
Using a USB 802.11n adapter for wireless access - which also works well - not quite as handy as Airport software but it is 802.11n.
1.66GHz Mac Mini (2006? model), OS X 10.6.5 (not updated to 10.6.6 yet) - spare machine not really being used for anything else.
Done with the idea of using as a backup server and wanted faster storage than FW400 or USB 2.0. May even use it as file server running Leopard Server - but the lack of a fast alternate boot drive is a bit of a handicap.
Thanks for the article - never would have thought of it otherwise.
(added 9/7/2010 - note he is NOT using the Mini-PCIe card others here used.)
"Yes, I'm using a Macmini2,1 (2007 model) where I've removed the Airport card and installed a Mini-PCIe to PCIe cable. (I wrote to ask for a link to that cable/adapter. See below for info.-Mike) And I'm using a Sil3132 2-port SATA card which is being recognised and working fine under 10.6.4 client.
(After some saying only the RAID driver install worked for this, I asked what version of the driver he used. For (full size) PCI Express cards (in a Mac pro) and Expresscard slot (i.e. MacBook Pro) Sil3132 cards, I've always used the non-RAID drivers personally. But I don't have a Mini (Mac) to try these mods.-Mike)
I specifically wanted the non-raid driver as ZFS works best with a JBOD setup. (an optimal ZFS setup is to have direct access to all of the drive) Here are the details of the driver from ASP.
Last Modified: 2/06/10 5:04 PM
Architectures: i386, ppc, x86_64
64-Bit (Intel): Yes
Kext Version: 1.2.3
Load Address: 0x93a000
A nice thing about using ZFS is that I now don't care about using cheap nonserver-grade disks. (I've never used ZFS but thought apple had dropped support for it? (IIRC?))
Yes that's correct... However the project still lives on - http://code.google.com/p/maczfs/. My colleague (Michael Shaw) made the icon for the project. Someone has even implemented basic support for ZFS into Disk Utility. The build version is somewhat behind the current solaris build, but Alex is doing an almighty job in following Apple's and Sun's source trees.
(More info added about his PCIe card and the mini-PCIe to PCIe card adapter/cable he used. Other reports here just used a Mini-PCIe card.-Mike)
www.addonics.com/products/host_controller/adsa3gpx1-2em.asp - ADSA3GPX1-2EM, 2 Port eSATA II PCI-E Controller for Mac Pro.
(You can find very cheap PCIe 3132 SATA cards. Some are under $20 at even Brick and Mortar stores.
Here's his later mail tonight with info on the Mini-PCIe to PCIe (full size) adapter/cable.-Mike)
Search for: PEMINI2X1 (third entry from bottom) at: www.adexelec.com/pciexp.htm.
All sorts of goodies on this page.... They delivered to me in Australia!
(Not sure how many Mini owners would go that route (adapter to a full size PCIe card), but if you did and if I had a choice I'd prefer some other (not SIL3132 based) PCIe card. For instance a natively supported (in 10.5.x and 10.6.x) PCIe SATA card like NewerTech's 6G model instead. (No drivers to install and better than typical 3132 card performance without being overly expensive as noted in my review/comparison back in Jan.)-Mike)
(The rest of his original report follows)
I've connected up 2 Silicon Image Port Multipliers to each SATA port and now have a total of 10 SATA ports available.
Here are some pics a crude proof-of-concept using 2 1TB drives. http://gallery.me.com/tangles#100082
And here is the macmini inside an old Apple Network Server (ANS500) case. http://gallery.me.com/tangles#100084
The ANS500 (I called it LittleBox on my network) used to house a G4 motherboard (Gigabit series) with an upgraded 1.33GHz dual CPU. I had ZFS running on this back when Apple announced ZFS support, using 2 PCI Acard 4 port IDE controllers with 500GB drives for the raidz ZFS pool.
This is why LittleBox looks rather messy and adhoc inside, as I've only just sat it there and used velcro on it's base to keep it in place. (the mini has always been a temporary build)
Currently, the macmini is serving up two ZFS pools via OSX using NFS exports to our machines on the network (macmini3,1 in lounge, MacPro3,1 in study, nforce790i in study, and a MacBookPro4,1)
I have iTunes', iPhoto's, XBMC's and EyeTV's data all on a ZFS pool which works really really well now that I got rid of AFP!! (AFP and ZFS = bad)
I really love this set up now. I sleep better knowing my data (i.e. photos) are protected from silent data corruption etc etc
So, yes, back to your original query, it's working for me, speed is great (PCIe-1.0 1x lane is 250MB/sec each way!)
(YMMV. Any Interface spec's max rate (the theoretical max) is rarely seen in real-world use (due to other hardware bottlenecks, overhead, etc).)
Cheers, Raoul C."
And here's a copy of the original/first report (from Aug 24, 2010 news page)
From a reader mail on Aug 23rd, 2010 (a reader in Germany)
(BTW: This could also be usable for iMacs w/mod to bring the cables out the bottom. Not checked the older iMacs but the 2010 models have the airport card very near the bottom and it should be possible to run the cables out the bottom with a mod to the plate, similar to what OWC does with their 27in iMac (onboard) eSATA mod.
Update/FYI: Here's a link to a page with notes/pix from an iMac owner that did this same mod.)
"Hi, I've read your site for more than 10 years and it helped me a lot upgrading my old beloved 7500. But in late 2007 I finally switched to a new mac mini and upgraded RAM and HD. Now I want to report about removing my Airport card (which I don't need) and replacing it with a mini PCI-e SATA card, since this is not very common.
(FYI: Of course you lose your Airport card with this mod, but if you must have wireless, there's USB Wireless options or better yet (IMO) an Ethernet to 802.11n (and g/b) Wireless bridge. Rather than the usual single ethernet port models, I'd be more interested in this Buffalo model with 4 Ethernet ports.-Mike)
The switch is no more difficult than installing memory and HD. To move out the cables it was necesarry to remove a small peace of the case. (I.E. for the eSATA card cable pass-thru. I asked if he could send a pix of that - he said he would over the weekend.) You should not try the switch if you are not used to this kind of work.
I used the following card: Commell MPX-3132, Modul, Mini-PCIe, 2x SATA-II (Silicon Image 3132 chip based)
drivers for the card can be found at SI's 3132 drivers page.
(FYI: Gunter later noted he used the RAID driver and some others said only the RAID version of the 3132 drivers worked for this mod w/Mini PCIe card, athough one report (above) from a 10.6.4 user said he used the non-RAID driver but he's using a MiniPCIe to PCIe card cable/adapter.
The SI driver comments reminds me of some past mails on 3132 drivers in general where some had problems with the SI site driver installs working where I didn't (ever - I installed at least 3 different versions over the last year from the SI site (used with 10.5.x and 10.6.x - all worked OK), yet some have had problems with them. For those that did the recommendation in the past was to use the Sonnet driver installer (their 3132 expresscard/PCIe card drivers - which as I've mentioned many times in the past appear to the very same ref SI driver extension in their installer package as is in the SI site non-RAID driver download although the SI site has had a later version/update).
Regardless, if you do see a problem with one version of the SI driver, try the other to see if that helps.
Also remember some major OS X updates will remove the installed 3132 driver (with a note in an incompatible software folder on the boot drive) and require a 3132 driver reinstall (or updated driver).-Mike)
(Is this the card you used?
and did it come with cables? (they show this cable pix)-Mike)
Yes, that is this card. I bought it here in Germany (product page link)
It came with two cables. One side fits in the connector of the card, the other on the sata port of an internal HD. To connect to an e-sata port of an external drive you need an additional adapter (sata->e-sata).
- 1.83 GHz Core2duo Mini w/2.5GB RAM (667MHz),
- OS X 10.5.8 and (bootcamp) Win XP SP3
- Int. HD: WD WD3200BEVT (320 Gig, 2.5") Partition 1 Mac extended, 200GB, Partition 2 NTFS, 120GB
- Ext. HD: Seagate ST350041-8AS (500GB, 3.5") Partition 1 Mac extended, 250GB, Partition 2 NTFS, 250GB
The bad thing about the SATA card is that I can not boot from it. (If anyone knows of a natively supported card (i.e. JMB 36x, etc) send a note to see if we can test one.). I think it is a problem with the firmware of the mini that it does not recognize the mini pci-e port as something to boot from. (Generally cards that require 3rd party drivers to work (no rom/efi support) are not bootable either) If someone knows better please let me know.
When selecting the boot device on the mac os the drive can be selected but it does not boot from the drive. The drive can be dismounted in the finder and after power down and power up again the drive remounts.
Under XP the drive behaves like an internal drive. I have not set up any raid system for maximum speed.
Here some real world copy tests:
(I asked if he'd run tests duplicating the folder/files also. That rules out the effect of other drives.)
Copy Tests w/OS X: 1 folder w/20 files (11.94 GB) using either the eSATA port or an external USB port
- Internal HD -> Ext. USB HD: 495s
- USB Ext. HD -> Int. HD: 435s
- SATA Internal HD -> eSATA HD: 239s
- eSATA HD -> Internal HD: 253s
Copy using Win XP: 1 folder w/1366 files (total 2.76 GB:
- Internal HD -> eSATA HD: 137s
- USB Ext. HD -> Internal HD: 138s
- Internal HD -> eSATA HD: 124s
- eSATA HD -> Internal HD: 105s
And Benchmarks with HD Tune 2.55 under Win XP:
- Internal HD: Min 18.8 GB/s, Max 63.9 GB/s, AVG 49.4 GB/s
Access: 17.0ms, Burst 38.2 GB/s, CPU 2.8%
- Ext USB HD: Min 23.6 GB/s, Max 28.0 GB/s. AVG 27.3 GB/s
Access: 14.8ms, Burst 20.6 GB/s, CPU 21.1%
- eSATA HD: Min 68.6 GB/s, Max 109.8 GB/s, AVG 100.6 GB/s
Access: 14.5ms, Burst 79.0 GB/s, CPU 3.8%
(Could be limited by the drive, not the card)
Unfortunately the card does not allow me to set up a multiboot system. The speed gain in copying large files is worth the appx $30 for the card, at least for me. (Plus access to much larger HDs, at a lower cost per GB than 2.5in HDs)
For one to get most out of the mini, you can replace the int. SATA drive with a solid state drive as boot system and use this card to have access to large data sets.
I hope this report is helpful to someone.
best wishes, Gunter"
He later sent a photo and a few more notes:
"I am very busy at the moment, but here is a photo with the mini, the cabes coming out of the mini and one cable goes into my old SCSI case which supplies the drive with power (the adapter from IDE/SCSI power cable to SATA power cable came with the drive).
The end of the other cable can be seen on the photo. The whole at the side of the mini was made by a metal saw and some some tape was added to protect the SATA cable from sharp edges of the whole.
Duplication of 1 folder with 3.53 Gig and 5 files in the finder took 69s, about 50 MB/s or 100MB/s read and write.
best wishes, Gunter