Question

Mac Mini

A few years ago I gave my wife a Mac Mini. Before doing so I did set it up with a name and password of her choice. To my certain knowledge she never made use of this computer. in fact it was never taken out of its box.

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Answer
First thing to try

First thing to try is to hold down the Option key at boot. After a couple of seconds you should see a mouse cursor appear on screen, and very shortly after that an icon of the HDD. If you wait a little longer the install disc should show up. When it does, simply double click on that and it will boot from that disc.

If instead you see a password prompt, then you're going to need to take the thing somewhere to get that password cleared. You could potentially do it yourself, but doing this on the older style Minis that were vaguely cube shaped, is a bit involved and requires some tools the average person probably wouldn't have. There's also a decent chance of damaging something if you're not careful about it. So probably best to take it somewhere if you run into this situation.

If you don't see a password prompt, but after a time (less than a minute) the icon for the install disc never shows up, then you are probably looking at a bad optical drive. It could also be that you have the wrong disc in the drive, so double check that it is the correct disc for that system. It probably came with an OS and Applications disc, and you may have accidentally put in the Applications disc. If it is the OS disc, then you probably need a new drive, and it honestly may not be worth the expense.

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Tried that

Thanks Jimmy. I have tried this and am still back with this confounded password. This Mini is not one of the old cubic looking things, so are there any instructions around about clearing the password mechanically. I am pretty used to dealing with circuits etc. And if it does turn out to be the drive, can these be obtained as replacements.

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Does it look something like this?
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Does it look something like this?

Yes, it does.

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(NT) Just checking.
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It would help

It would help if you could say what happens when you try some of the things I suggested above, because it rather dramatically changes the direction in which the support goes.

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OK This is what happened.

Carried out your suggestion. Inserted the No 1 disc for installation and held down the Option key. Drive was obviously running but nothing showed on monitor. After about one minute the same name & password image appeared. I did try this a number of times, but always with the same result.

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Gotta ask,

after you inserted the disk, did you shut down the computer and then restart it?

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What I did

Yes I did this as well. Inserted Installation disc and shut down. Restarted whilst holding down Option Key. After about 30 secs up came the request for name and password.

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As Jimmy mentioned,

there is a distinct possibility that the optical drive on this mini has shuffled off this mortal coil.

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And just to make sure

And just to make sure, you see the OS boot? So, there's an Apple logo that appears, then a little spinning gear under it, then the screen turns blue for a bit, and you get some kind of login prompt that says something along the lines of Welcome to Mac OS X, then wants a username and password? It's not just a plain gray screen with a single prompt?

If it's the former, then odds are the optical drive has died. It can be replaced, but working on the old style Minis is kind of a pain. You need a putty knife type thing, and a PH0 screwdriver. And it's pretty easy to accidentally damage the airport antennas which have to be replaced in pairs.

If it's the latter, then that's a fairly easy fix... Once you get the thing apart, which is kind of the problem. The older Minis were really not designed to be worked on, at all, by the average person like yourself.

If your wife never used the thing, there's no risk of there being any sensitive data on there, so I'd just sell it or pass it along as-is, and let it be a little project for the next person. Just be sure to state up front you think the optical drive may be bad, so anyone taking on the project has an idea of what they're getting into.

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Not looking good

Well I would say that it was the former. A bit of a surprise really since it has not been used. Are these drives that useless?

<div>P has suggested that replacements are available and they are not too impossible to replace. (Not that I know how)
</div>

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The other option, which would be easier,

would be to purchase an external Optical drive.
Firewire would be best as we currently do not know if the mini is PPC or Intel driven.

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It depends

It depends on what you figure your skill level is for working with electronics. The older style Minis were more annoying than difficult to work on, and required a fair bit of patience. Along with a couple of tools not commonly found in the average person's toolbox.

If you go to the ifixit website, you should be able to find some teardown guides for the Mini in various flavors, so it's just a matter of whether or not you think that's something you can do. I'd have to say though, if you have even some doubts, and aren't willing to make a pig's breakfast out of the thing while attempting to fix it, just don't even try.

But it is curious that if you hold down the option key, it just skips right past the boot loader. Are you using an Apple keyboard, and are you sure that it works? And it's a USB keyboard that plugs into the Mini, not some bluetooth keyboard? Also, at what point are you pressing the option key? It should be down before you even press the power button. Same with the "C" key for booting off the install DVD. If you wait too long, then you miss the rather short window, and it defaults to booting off the HDD. Something's a little rotten in the state of Denmark here, so let's see if we can't ferret it out.

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More experiments

OK folks am going to try some more times. I felt sure that I did hold down the key early enough, but since you ask doubts creep in. Will get back after I try again.

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latest trials

Yes, it is a working Mac keyboard.

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hack in through Terminal to reset password
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That's what I needed to know

That's what I needed to know. Someone set an EFI password which is preventing you from booting off the optical drive.

The only way to clear that, without knowing the password anyway, is to open the thing up, remove one stick of RAM, and then reset the PRAM about 3 times. If it only has one stick of RAM, then you either have to go out and buy more to put in, or take it somewhere.

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