Mac questions - I think I'm taking the plunge.

I need a new home computer - I’ve been writing numerous threads here seeking opinions and answers. Fact is, computers are very expensive here. For the price of a low-end PC (2.6g, 512k RAM, 60gig HDD) I could buy a MiniMac in the USA and have it brought over by a friend. ?'s:

They have upgrades for the MiniMac that increase memory and HDD size online when you buy it. Are those normal memory chips and HDDs? Could I buy the cheapest MiniMac with the lowest memory and HDD, then if I want, could I upgrade easily? Even if I had to take it to an Apple shop, could I hand them some memory and say “Install this, oplease.”

Do they work with those wireless HDD stations (NES?) that hold a couple drives?

Are there any ‘things’ that a Mac absolutely cannot connect to or work with?

Anything else I should think about? I’ll still have a PC notebook and work on that during the day, but for the home, this could be just what I need.


Yes, they’re standard components. You can get RAM and a new HD cheaper from third-party suppliers than from Apple. However, the Mac Mini is not that easy to open up and fiddle with, due to its very small size.

I’ve never heard of a wireless HDD station, but if it’s running over standard wireless ethernet, then sure. (As long as you have that option included in your order – Apple calls it “AirPort.”)

Anything that uses a proprietary hardware interface for which drivers are not available. Most every-day items will work fine.

The mini uses laptop parts for memory, hard drive, and optical drive. As friedo noted, these can be swapped out, but they’re not quite as cheap as it would seem if you’re pricing standard desktop hardware.

The mini can connect easily to wireless ethernet, or USB/Firewire hard drives. There are some things that won’t work with your mini. For some reason, my HP printer/scanner combo doesn’t work despite it’s USB interface. There are also USB video capture devices that will not work. Most things will, however. USB keyboards and mice will plug right in and work fine, including those of the wireless variety. 2 button mice even work as they should.

The great thing about the Mac is that you shouldn’t have to buy too many accessories. It’s all included and works out of the box, including wireless ethernet, bluetooth, firewire, DVD burning… all this stuff considered “upgrades” on PCs is standard on the Mac.

I’ve got a used mini if you’re interested… I don’t use it anymore because I bought a MacBook. Email me if you’re interested.

Mind you check power supply: I had a nightmare getting a 240V power supply for a US-purchased Linksys wireless hub, even though it was just a transformer.

I am so used to buying notebooks that just need wall plugs that I didn’t even think of this. Hmmm…Might not be a terrible problem, just a tad inconvenient.

Oh, one of the main tasks I want to accomplish with this computer is making backups of all my DVDs. My kid loves to scratch them…grumble…I know Apple is all pissy about copyrights, would I be able to make a legal backup of my store-bought DVDs?

Actually, Apple’s waaaay more flexible about copyrights than MS is. Apple’s iPod player doesn’t add DRM to MP3s copied to it, while MS’s Zune player does.

I’ve not done much burning on my iMac, but I’ve never had it give me any flack about copyrights, whereas the various software programs on PCs that I’ve used have almost always popped up a message box about copyright issues, or failed to read the disks that I’ve burned.

Fffff, be inventive. I’ve got a synthesister which I couldn’t power, until I dug a Hornby model railway transformer out of a cupboard.

None of the software “built-in” to the Mac will make backups of commercial DVD’s (this is true on Windows, too). If it’s legal where you are, a program called HandBrake will do the conversion from a DVD to a .MP4 movie. After that, there are lots of ways to get the movie onto another DVD. However, you’ll lose the navigation and such: all you’ll have is the movie.

I don’t know what app you’d have to use to copy the whole disk on the Mac. It wouldn’t be legal where I live for commercial disks, anyway.

There is an OS X program named Mac the Ripper that will perform total DVD copies for you, ripping the DVD to a folder on your hard drive. You can then burn that folder to another DVD, and you’ll have a perfect copy of the original, navigation and all, just missing the copy protection.

Apple is less pissy about copyrights than Microsoft - OS X requires no activation, and the DRM in the iTunes Music Store is almost ridiculously lenient.

Regarding the power supply, I don’t know about the Mini, but Apple’s notebook power supplies handle 110V and 240V automatically - you don’t even have to flip a switch.

As for the memory and hard drive, you can certainly upgrade that later. Keep in mind, though, that you will have to discard the original hard drive if you upgrade, and possibly the RAM too (I think the Mini only has two RAM slots - if they’re both filled, you will have to throw out one of the sticks in order to upgrade).

After many years as a PC user, I recently bought a MacBook. I am very pleased with it.

AirPort and Bluetooth are standard equipment on all Mini Macs. There are only about 3 different Mini Mac models available, and they all have both wireless protocols.

When I bought my wife’s Mini, at an Apple Store, they informed me that for the Mini, you would void your warranty if you installed 3rd-Party RAM, or had anyone other than an authorized Apple Service Tech install the RAM. A check of Apple’s web site appears to confirm this (at least the part about Apple Tech installing it), so I’d buy the RAM in it initially. At the very least you want a gig, OS X runs pretty well with that, a bit sluggishly with 512K.

I was HIGHLY irritated by this, since Apple charges way more for RAM than it’s street value, and the Apple Service folks around here hit you for $85 to install (although they said they’d install non-Apple RAM without voiding the warranty, as long it was the proper spec). The Mini appears to be the only (desktop, I don’t know about the notebooks) Mac with this limitation – the others include memory upgrade specs and instructions in the documentation, the Mini does not.

If I recall correctly, my Mini has an external transformer and lead built on a two-part system like most laptop power supplies. That is, it has a mains cable with the appropriate local plug that plugs into a power brick that then has a cord which runs to the machine. This last bit has a proprietary connector that I have never seen anywhere else, but I believe the first part is just a standard cloverleaf cable like you’d get with any laptop. In which case your only concern would be whether the transformer is capable of 120-240v operation or US-only.
I’ll check when I get home if you want.

I tried everything - bought two separate transformers from Argos, then tried phone chargers, etc. and even stripped my friend’s old motherboard for its power supply. I was within 0.3V of the correct voltage, but it was very sensitive. Nothing worked until Linksys sent me a European one (for free, bless 'em! Best customer service I’ve ever encountered).

Yet another ?: How am I going to transfer 5 gigs of music files and 10 gigs of photos from my PC laptop to this new fangled Mac?

Which then makes me wonder about the iTunes on my PC…I assume I’ll have to do something to the new Mac to say that the files I transferred are OK for me to listen to. How?


External hard drive? 1 gig USB key several times? Burned onto CD-ROMs? Theoretically you could just plug both computers into a network and the Mac should be able to communicate (happened when I had a G4) but I wouldn’t rely on it going smoothly.

Just drag the files onto the iTunes library. If you meaning DRM-protected bought music, you will need to re-authorize the music files when you next play them on the new computer, with your Apple store username and password. This will require the Mac to be online. If you’ve done this for more than 5 (?) versions of iTunes, you will need to de-authorize one of them, but sounds like that won’t be a consideration. If you’re just talking about MP3s, just play them.


Oh…another ? (I am such a n00b)(did I spell that correctly?): I’d like to copy my digital camcorder (Digi-8? Hi-8? something like that) tapes and make them into DVDs. What software would i have to buy (if any - don’t Macs come with some pretty good video/photo software?) and what hardware would I need (or would I just need a special cable? Or do I need some type of converter?)?

You all are great, thanks!


Does your camcorder have firewire output?

I don’t think so. I remember it being those 3 round outputs: Red, White and Yellow (sound?). I would plug those into a little SCART converter for my TV.