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Mac mini - Upgrade & Repair
The Mac mini has filled the position of low-cost Mac desktop since its launch as a PowerPC G4 based machine in 2005. Optimised for a small footprint and low cost, these Macs have never reached the popularity of the iMac, but have been consistently well-liked machines among their users. Up until 2014 these machines saw good support from Apple, with updates released every year to 18 months. This then slowed dramatically, with the next model not released until 2018 - leading some to believe that Apple thought the Mac mini was cannibalising sales of some of its more expensive machines. The mini has made the jump to Apple Silicon however, with the 2020 launch of the Mac mini M1.
Up until 2012 the Mac mini was as upgradeable as any contemporary Apple laptop (they are essentially built as laptops without a screen), but this changed in 2014 with that model having soldered in RAM though a still upgradeable drive. The 2018 swapped this, with upgradeable RAM, but a non-upgradeable drive. With the 2020 change to the ARM based Apple Silicon architecture, the Mac mini is just not upgradeable at all.
Mac mini M1
The Mac mini M1 reverted to the silver colour used on pre-2018 Intel machines, and is in the same form factor that the mini has been using since 2010. A silver Mac mini with 2 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB 4 Type C) ports and 2 x USB 3 Type A ports is a Mac mini M1.
Mac mini Intel
The first Intel mac mini was released in 2006, and the last in 2018 (though this was also rereleased in 2020). Starting in the same boxy format as the Mac mini G4, it transitioned in 2010 into the thinner form factor used by the later ARM based Mac mini. Colouring was uniformly silver across the range, until the dark grey of the 2018 revision. None of the silver minis in the later form factor have Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C ports, the only Intel model these are present on is the dark grey Mac mini 2018.
Mac mini G4
Only a couple of models of the Mac mini G4 were released, both in 2005, before the switch to Intel CPUs. Intel Mac minis made before 2010 look the same as the G4 models. The G4s have pretty much vanished these days, but if you want to be sure, the G4 Mac minis all have only 2 USB 2.0 ports, while the Intel models in the same form factor all have either 4 or 5.