John, I have already posted on various forums (and in another thread, here!) regarding your solution.
If you happen to drive by your favorite church and you hear the "Hallelujah" chorus drifting our their doors -- maybe they're ordering Minis! Again, GREAT WORK! -- and Apple will sell some additional units, probably a bunch of 'em, because of your persistence and cleverness in adding utility (and value), Apple's plans notwithstanding.
In technical terms, Wahooooo!
I wonder if there are some specific pieces (drivers, etc) for that 2009 Mini that cause conflicts in the new hardware?
My suggestion would be to download Carbon Copy Cloner (it's free) and make a full clone of your machine as it is. Then I'd wipe it and try my route to get 10.6.8 on there. If it's faster and more reliable then problem solved. And if not you could always restore your CCC backup and have lost nothing.
For what it's worth my Mini w/ SL is running flawlessly. In fact this same Mini w/ Lion caused my 24" Cinema Display to freak out (constant flickering, image split vertically, etc) and yet now that I'm on SL it's perfect again (I'm using it right now to type this ). I haven't installed Plex yet or gotten my media setup in iTunes, but I suspect everything will go smoothly. If not I'll report back for sure.
No to using your 2009 iMac recovery disk as part of the 2011 Mini move to Snow Leopard, It won't drive the 2011 components.
The boot disk must be able to activate all of the new hardware, including CPU, GPU and Thunderbolt, that are included in the 2011 Mini. That's why the process works: it relies on the recovery disk rebooting the 2011 Macbook Pro, and thus being able to boot the very similar setup in the 2011 Mini and to fully activate its imporant components..
Items that need drivers not available in your 10.6.2 disk include the Intel i5/i7 CPU's, the Intel or Radeon graphics processors, Thunderbolt chipsets, etc. Someone will be able to create (and will do so. soon) a boot disk image with modifications that will help you get the job done without a MBP, and word will circulate on that.
You may be stuck with 10.6.8 pretty much forever, if Apple decides to detect and disable booting for the 2011 Mini in future 10.6.x updates. Let's hope that they value our needs and don't do that.
However, being "stuck" with 10.6.8, isn't really a bad fate: the re-released, revised version of 10.6.8 is strong, stable, full of drivers and hooks for recent hardware, and fast; it should serve us very well for many years. Until we someday update to.... (ohmigosh!)
If I'm understanding what you have available to you, yes it will work.
You have an iMac (running SL), the iMac recovery disk (which you think is 10.6.2), and a Retail OS X disk.
If that's correct then yes you can do it. My instructions reference an MBP because that's what I have, but it's certainly not a requirement.
The requirement is that you install the Retail copy of SL onto the Mini which is connected via Target Disk Mode. When your iMac reboots (which it will) you'll have to hold down the Option key right after the OS X Chime (before the screen turns white/gray). From the boot menu you can hold down Eject and remove the Retail copy. Insert your iMac recovery OS X disk and continue as usual.
Thanks for the info John and Steve. Seems to be conflicting opinions though as to weather it willl work with my setup (yes my iMac has the first gen i7 processor - late 2009?).
I do wonder that since my iMac restore CD wont have AMD/Intel HD3000 display drivers nor Thunderbolt support if this in fact would work? Unless those components will come into play when I apply the combo update via the Macs software update?
Right, I think because your initial post was a little confusing you inadvertently led Steve astray. No big deal...I'm right.
Your iMac restore CD simply needs to boot your iMac, it has NOTHING to do w/ your Mini. Your Mini HDD is going to boot via your iMac (so you will be viewing your new Mini's OS X install through the iMac) as soon as OS X is installed. Because of that we know the hardware drivers will be present to run the iMac, which will allow you to view the Desktop and run Software Update to obtain 10.6.8.
10.6.8 has all of the drivers you're looking for (Thunderbolt, Intel HD 3000, etc) so once the update is complete on the Mini and it restarts just shut it down, connect it to its own monitor and away you go!
Fortunately we are in agreement on everything apart from cross booting similar hardware with an older OS that predates the new system. I admit defeat there.
I admire your perseverance and congratulate you on pushing through the hole and getting a successful installation.
I guess it hinges on existing core hardware support in Snow Leopard for various systems, Lion being a software revision of Snow Leopard and the mini being the last one to get the core upgrade with I guess the same hardware parts?
I'm still kind of amazed at the method - which is not without hiccups and a custom install DVD would be handy - and that Lion is actually not required.
This might be unique in history ... and an interesting precedent
Well I'm glad we can maintain our friendship throughout this ordeal!
In previous releases (probably starting at Leopard) I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly that you cannot run new hardware on the previous full-release software. However it seems like with Snow Leopard Apple has gone to a more iterative approach where they aren't doing a complete tear-down re-write of the next generation OS. As a result there seems to be some edge cases like this one where we are able to get the previous OS onto new hardware.
Or that could all be non-sense and the reason the new Mini can go backwards to SL is because Apple recognized that many people still need Rosetta and they felt extra compassionate that day. I think dropping Rosetta is a pretty big deal and Apple knows that. As a result they made sure that the 10.6.8 update included the necessary drivers to keep the new 10.7 machines running for the short term.
To be honest my perseverance is partly due to finding some references to Thunderbolt in the System Profiler. It occured to me that the new iMacs with Thunderbolt were released BEFORE 10.7 went live. And as a result their hardware needed to be supported by SL (I think that was probably 10.6.7 but I'm guessing). This was just the glimmer of hope I needed!
As an aside for those who are interested. My Mac Mini has the upgraded video card in it (AMD Radeon HD 6630M) and video appears to be working as expected. I have not plugged it into my HDTV to try out movies yet (still importing my media collection into iTunes, it takes awhile) but I'm confident that will go smoothly. For those of you with the Intel HD 3000 you should be fine since that video card has been in several different Macs recently so it's fully supported by SL.
Thanks for your work on this John, looks like I'll be able to order new minis after all--I was thinking I'd have to order last year's model.
Since you could boot the mini from a MBP 10.6.8 in target drive mode, could you put both the mini and the MBP in target drive mode, and use a third machine to clone the MBP's drive to the mini? Seems to me the cloning should have the same result as a drive swap, but maybe I'm missing something.
Not quite...the install on your MBP is specific to the MBP hardware which the Mini doesn't share. The Mini's hardware (think WiFi card, Bluetooth, etc) is going to be different than the MBP's hardware. :\ This is why I had to use the Retail disk to install OS X on the Mini.
However if I hadn't tried as many things to get his working as I did I wouldn't have found a solution. It's certainly worth a try! My suggestion would be to use Carbon Copy Cloner (or SuperDuper) installed on the 3rd machine. Worst case you've wasted a half hour! All said and done I've got probably 25-30hrs into all of the various methods I tried to get this working. To be fair...most of that is waiting for processes like OS X installing lol but a LOT of it was filled with swearing and pulling at my hair!
Well, it is all too easy to get hung up on a right/wrong thing.
This is a most interesting case ... and am still surprised it actually worked. Especially point 3-4-5. I don't fiddle with Mac hardware & software enough; but have done more than a fair share over the past decade. To some extent I am not surprised as SL already supported various latest generation components in the other systems ... that still leaves the motherboard and the machine identifier check.
The OS has been pretty much always been software development, I think (apart from PPC/Intel). Now and then there are point releases in the OS to support new Mac hardware, iTunes releases to support new iOS devices, etc.
I agree that dropping Rosetta is a very big deal. I have advised several people explicitly not to update nor upgrade to a new system; because they need Rosetta for their software. A hardware failure for these people would be problematic because they depend on running their apps until they are updated, if ever, or a compatible application would come out that allows importing & conversion. People buy expensive software packages and have a far greater investment in them as far as time & data; then the hardware it runs on.