Jason O’Grady (of PowerPage fame) recently ordered a stock Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro and published some of the technical details of installing a different SATA hard drive into the machine. He notes that the built-to-order Macs can sometimes take longer to ship, which is something I have experienced in the past, and can vouch for. In the hands of a capable technician, buying a completely stock Mac and upgrading it yourself can often be very beneficial for both your computer and your wallet. Apple tends to overcharge on pre-ship upgrades — especially RAM — but additional RAM can usually be installed without much difficulty. Hard drives are another story, though. Unlike it’s sibling MacBook, upgrading the Pro model hard drive is decidedly more complicated, but not impossible.
One of the most useful pieces of information during the upgrade is a take-apart manual for the MacBook Pro. When I overhauled my PowerBook G4 (pics), I used both the iFixit guide for my model, as well as the Apple Service Source documentation (which is all floating around the net). O’Grady used the iFixit docs too, and had great success disassembling his new machine and installing the new drive. Overall, it looks just like the sort of project I may attempt when I order my new Core 2 MacBook Pro — which will be sometime this month, funds willing.
123macmini is featuring a mod in which the guts of a new Intel Mac Mini have been transplanted into a beautifully repainted G4 Cube, seen at right. To attain the “new Apple product box” look, the internal casing was removed and painted matte black. When the core of the computer is slid back inside the clear plastic cube, it looks very much like an Apple-designed piece of electronics, especially with the white illuminated logo.
The real achievements of this hack, though, are the technical ones inside the box. Like the original G4 Cube, the redesigned model had to be carefully packed into quite a tiny space, which is why the Mac Mini was an obvious source for donor components. To overcome some of the storage limitations, the stock 2.5″ laptop hard drive that shipped with the Mac Mini was replaced with a 3.5″ 500 GB desktop SATA hard drive, which brought much more storage and speed than laptop drives currently offer (as well as better video playback and recording, as you’ll see in a moment). However, a small 5v/12v power supply was required to run the new hard drive, as it draws considerably more power than the 2.5″ drive. Wiring in the cube’s touch-sensitive power switch was a bit trickier than the plug-and-play hard drive, and required some rather detailed electronics work and reading up on the data sheet for the sensor. When completed, both the Mac Mini’s power switch and the Cube’s touch-sensitive switch can turn on the machine.
With power and storage out of the way, cooling was the next problem to tackle, as the Mac Mini’s fan didn’t push enough air to cool the whole assembly. A separate Zalman fan — originally intended for cooling video cards — was modified to lower the temperature of the Mac Mini’s CPU. To finish off the mod, an EyeTV Hybrid was attached externally to provide DVR capabilities, as well as Apple Remote integration. This G4 cube hack is one of the best looking and well executed Mac mods I’ve seen in a long time, so you’ll undoubtedly want to check out all the detailed step-by-step pictures.