Ok, I think the answer is here, but I've sort of lost the thread. For the mac mini buyer who MUST run Snow Leopard now, but will eventually upgrade to Lion, I see two choices --
- buy a 2010 mini from somebody who still has one around, or ebay, etc., upgrade it to Lion when ready
- buy a 2011 mini, downgrade it to SL now, upgrade it to Lion later
Clearly, once you get to Lion, you want the newer, faster 2011 machine. So the question is this -- what is the speed of a 2011 mini running SL vs a 2010 mini running SL? We already know that the 2011 running SL is a lot slower than the same machine running Lion, but that's not the choice.
So is the 2011-hacked-to-SL slower than the 2010-running-SL, and if yes, how much slower?
The 2010 mini is NOT cheap -- $849 from amazon -- so the question is how big a hit is the downgrade on the 2011 compared to the 2010?
I got the 2010 Mini for $469 + tax on the Apple Refurb store (-5% if you have Discover card). They stay there 5-10 min only, best to sign up with refurb.me
My install of SL on Mini 2011 2.5 behaved normally but the Geekbench score was only 1800. I would see the difference possibly only on Handbrake rips etc. Still, with a 60GB SSD 2nd drive and 8GB memory, I could not accept the slowdown, so for now reinstalled Lion and am waiting what this thread will come to..
I came across this site offering Mini modification for audio enthusiasts
Note the claim of SL running better after some tweaking than Lion. I contacted the developer and he confirmed this statement but did not get back to me with a specific Geekbench score his adapted SL runs at on 2011 Mini. I could not blame him for not spilling his secrets..He is charging $400 for the software install only:
So if there is somebody here who needs a home audio server based on 2011 Mini and SL, maybe he/she can let us know how that install behaves.
As explained on other (FAQ) pages of the site, some "processes" are killed, so this may be not an ideal universal machine.
The downside to "putting up with it" on a 2011 Mini running Snow Leopard -- although I, too, have advised that as a good path! -- is that it's not just the slowdown, it's also some unpredictable problems with peripherals, etc., that make the combination less than optimal, so we actually need to find / chase / create and finally HAVE a real solution.
I suspect that the first, best one will turn up through virtualization, via some hack or a facilitation from Apple.
As per Cathy and others, I am approaching Apple, Parallels and VMWare and others as directly and from as many directions as I can to see if someone, somewhere, will take on being our advocate and can nudge Apple into saying, Okay, lower the drawbridge, raise the gate - (and I think they just might do it!).
You CAN help. Keep posting in other forums about your hopes and needs and the dilemma, and make noise about this is a useful way. Don't knock Apple, just ask. And ask. And nudge!!! There's a benefit for everyone, including Apple, in having this work out well!
Update - as of Wednesday night, almost 16,500 views here and a nice grrrrrowwwwl is rising that someone important will hear.
Yes we can can! FREE THE SNOW LEOPARD 16,500 ! etc etc etc
I am sorry nobody will listen to you folks and make it possible to run your new Mac Mini with Snow Leopard. I feel bad that you all rushed into a new purchase to find all these flaws and hitches. IMHO Lion is not as good as Snow Leopard,(I don't like the new Finder sidebar) but then again I don't play with gestures I still use a mouse.
Due to this dilema with the new Mac Mini I was fortunate enough to sell my Mid 2010 Mac Mini Server with 8 GBs RAM and 2 years of Apple Care with Snow Leopard Server on ebay for $1150. More than I paid for it. I should have asked some of you if you were interested before the auction was over, sorry. It didn't have Thunderbolt or the fancy icore processor, it had core2duo.
I'll use the money on a new Mini if all this is sorted out. Until then I have my core 2 duo Mini early 2009, my core duo Mini 2007 and my G4 Mini to use in the meantime.... yes I am a Mac Mini addict LOL
One question I had though; is the Thunderbolt port functional under Snow Leopard on a new Mini? I ask because Thunderbolt is a device selection in System Profiler under Snow Leopard as well as Card Reader.
A great story about making $$$ by selling your last-generation Mini!
After the particular variant that I used of the John Fair installation procedure (for Snow Leopard on a 2011 Mac Mini), my Thunderbolt port is indicated in hardware scan but not fully functional. I expect that it's a driver issue and that the port is handled differently under Lion, so Snow Leopard isn't communicating fully.
That's one of the problems that I expect to become an instant "non-issue" under any successful, approved (Apple! Are you listening?) virtualization solution, which VMWare and Parallels can crank out easily -- and almost certainly solvable under any good hack.
We are closing in on 17,000 views on this thread as of Friday morning! Thanks for coming here!
REMINDER: YOU can make a difference. Keep posting in other forums and other websites about your hopes and needs and the dilemma, and make noise about this is a useful way. Don't knock Apple, just ask! And ask. And nudge!!! There's a benefit for everyone, including Apple, in having this work out well!
Yes we CAN! FREE THE SNOW LEOPARD 17,000 ! etc etc etc
I have a 2011 mac mini (non-server) that I am trying to downgrade to Snow Leopard. However, I don't have access to another real mac that would work.
I have a PowerPC G4, but you can't use that to install Snow Leopard onto anything (as it won't run SL itself). I also built a "hackintosh" type Intel Core2Quad PC (running SL 10.6), however it doesn't function the same way a true mac would in terms of booting off of discs (so that wouldn't work either).
I have read the forums and put the Mini into "target disc mode" and installed the SL retail onto the mini (via the PC), however when it gets to the part to reboot and continue the installation. There's where it differs. Hmmm....
It's interesting that the concept of virtualization has been brought up. That may be viable if there was a program (like Parallels) that actually supported a SL install.
Basically, all that is required for VMWare, Parallels and other vendors to offer a capability for Snow Leopard client to run under virtualization is for Apple to "okay" it -- meaning, that Apple will have to offer an exemption, or change the rules, so that Snow Leopard client can run under a Lion-based virtual machine.
I don't mean to minimize the technical challenges, because they're significant, but it certainly can be done!
We're working on it! There are certainly multiple attempts underway to bring the situation to Apple's attention.
"Views" on this thread are slightly under 18,000 as of Monday morning. And a reminder, again: YOU can make a huge difference in how this turns out. Please look at the suggestions that I posted two messages before this one, and then decide to do something! Pay it forward...
With the right approach and information, Apple will (as it often does!) make a user-oriented decision! We have a very real chance of a good outcome,
Yes we CAN! FREE THE SNOW LEOPARD 18,000 ! etc etc
Well, after many days of even more attempts, I finally have success (more or less anyways). I'll spare everyone the details of my all my failed attempts and focus on the technique that was more positive. I used a combination of a trial of Vmware fusion 4.0 and Snow Leopard Server "evaluation" to get a virtual mac inside of Lion.
From there, I connected a 250gb USB hard drive and a USB external DVD+RW drive (with the retail 10.6.3 Snow Leopard DVD inside it) to my mini. Inside the virtual machine (SL server), I used my knowledge of a "hackintosh" process to install Snow Leopard from the retail DVD without the need to reboot during the setup. First, I downloaded a program to "show all files" inside of Snow Leopard Server. There are command line functions that do this as well. Now that all the files were showing, I navigated to the /System/Installation/Packages folder on the retail DVD. I then found the Osinstall.mpkg file and launched it. The install from the retail DVD took about an hour. I was installing to the USB hard drive.
Once the install was complete, I downloaded an ran the 10.6.8 combo update (the latest one). My destination for the update was the newly installed USB hard drive. Now that was complete, I shut down the virtual machine, and told Lion to make my USB hard drive the bootable device. Some background I probably should have mentioned earlier is that I was using HDMI for my video all along, this hasn't changed yet. Continuing on,,,,
Once the system rebooted, it was loading off of the USB hard drive (slowly...). I noticed some graphical weirdness when the "welcome to Macintosh" introduction was coming on. My screen had at tint of pink to it. Something definitely was a bit wonky with the video (this i5 mini has the Intel HD 3000 video). I went through the setup and was on my desktop (with a pink screen). It wasn't completely pink, it looked like I was looking through pink glasses (or rose colored glasses, if you will,...but that's another story ).
Anyways, The sound worked great, my wifi and bluetooth seemed to be detected fine. Network speed was good. There was some cursor glitches. I also noticed my display somehow thought I was running dual displays when in fact I only had one HDMI cable plugged in (this mini doesn't even have two HDMI ports). So, what to do with a phantom dual display and pink screen? This "split personality" of sorts with the display?
I figured I'd tell the mac to 'pull itself together'. I set the appropriate refresh rate, and the key for me was the "mirror displays" option. Basically, having "both" displays act as one (when in reality, there was only one). When I did that, it got rid of the pink screen and it looked perfectly normal. I verified through opening a picture and running Xbench that my Quartz Extreme and Core Image were indeed functional.
I was still using HDMI at this stage. I figured I'd test my "thunderbolt" port with a mini-display to VGA adapter. Plugged it in, and the display now showed up as RGB (which is my vga setting on my monitor, 37" Visio HDTV). I unplugged the HDMI cable and the screen blinked but came back on (still on VGA).
Please excuse my rambling with the detailed description of the events in the last several days. My techniques were probably unorthodox, but I've glad I've been successful so far. It's a bit strange when I reboot the mini, my HDTV won't display any picture until I unplug and replug my mini-dvi to VGA adapter. I guess the mac is just "missing" its presence when I reboot the machine.
All I have left to do is use a program like SuperDuper and image the USB hard drive to the actual hard drive on the mini. This will be done through putting the mini into target disc mode (my G4 should be able to run SuperDuper well enough).
Outstanding work, patrick212 !!! Elegant and observant -- and it works. Thanks for posting the info!
Obvious question: have you run any Geekbench numbers to measure the general performance level of your Snow Leopard install with the 2011 Mini / i5? So far, so (very) good!
Patrick, I'm going to try to reach you through email and we can perhaps codify your steps into a general series of moves that others can follow (obviously, it requires Fusion 4 as an intermediate step, but that's a minor expense right now compared with the investment in the Mini). I'll do anything I can to support you in distilling it.
Also, ironically, what you've described will help me in my discussions with Apple regarding their dropping the "no virtualization" rule for Snow Leopard client. You've created a clever workaround, using generally available software utilities, that makes the ban potentially moot. And Apple is showing early signs of trying to "do the right thing" about SL and virtualization. (IMHO: Looking inside an installer package with the intention of working with the components contained within it isn't really a grey-area hackintosh move by most standards, even though it moves a bit past the "ordinary users shouldn't go here" intent of Apple in creating the installer package. Good insight!)
We're at almost 19,000 views on this thread and will certainly go past 20,000 views as we enter the weekend! Thanks to patrick212 and to everyone else who's following us -- and for posting here when you have something useful to add.
Yes we can! FREE THE SNOW LEOPARD 19,000 ! etc etc etc
FYI -- there is an interesting thread working on the same topics on iFixit at
WARNING: this is not as complete as what we're doing here (and has led to some different conclusions), but it's taken some interesting directions.
I'll try to summarize them here in the next few days. For those of you who are tech-oriented, you'll find some useful stuff on the thread.
and, hey, let's go for it...
Yes we can! FREE THE SNOW LEOPARD 20,000 ! etc etc etc
Successfully used SuperDuper to image the usb hard drive to the Mac mini drive using target disc mode.
As expected, there was a big difference in the Geekbench scores between this mini running Lion vs Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard: 1663
Well, there's performance, and then there's "performance" (as experienced by what the end user expects to happen). This machine as Snow Leopard is perfectly usable for most things I use it for. I definitely noticed a slight 'slow down' in the video in Snow Leopard. Youtube videos, for example, seem to be a bit choppy compared to Lion's full utilization of the hardware. The slowness of the video could also help explain why the geekbench score was lower (or it could be the processor may be running at reduced performance due to lack of specific drivers).
I'll admit that a slower Snow Leopard system may be preferrable to a full speed Lion
I have indeed looked at
http://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/58958/Snow+Leopard+on+Mac+Mini+2011. That was one the first threads I looked into before discovering this community.
I decided to put these benchmark scores into perspective, to see roughly how my Core i5 mac mini (with 8gb ram) was performing compared to similar systems receiving similar scores.
First, I used Xbench (I know, it's outdated).
Mac mini with lion: 162.51
Q6600 hackintosh system: 122.07
The same Mac mini with Snow Leopard: 72.04
Checking the score comparisons from (http://db.xbench.com/compareindex.xhtml?sort=score#tableTop), it would appear that ~72 average score was also given to either an iMac G5 (in the 1.8-2.0 ghz range, not sure if dual processor/core). or just an Imac (once again around the 1.8ghz G5 speeds).
Now, we move to Geekbench. My geekbench score was 1663. According to the comparison site: http://www.primatelabs.ca/geekbench/mac-benchmarks/
This same score is achieved roughly by an Xserv G5 or Powermac G5 (2ghz, 2 cores).
In as much conclusion as I can... well... conclude, I've managed to shrink down the computing power of a G5 into the size of a mini
Seriously though, the CPU-X program (similar to CPU-Z for windows) shows the following results:
Core speed: 2300MHz
Multiplier: x 92.5
Bus speed: 25MHz
Rated FSB: 100MHz
So, my core speed is good. I don't know about that Bus speed or rated FSB. I didn't get a chance to compare to Lion (as CPU-X doesn't speed compatible).
I do find it a bit ironic that the built-in Airport seems to have much better stability and performance in Snow Leopard than in Lion on this mini. I was getting ~6-10mbps on speed tests in Lion (which forced me to use ethernet for better performance).
However in Snow Leopard (which this mac mini doesn't "officially" support), I get consistantly over 20mbps internet performance (from the same speed tests) connected to the same wireless router as I used in Lion. The physical position of the mini has not changed, since that is one variable with wireless networks. I know there are a lot of factors that go into speed tests, and this may be just anecdotal. It seems to work well for me though, YMMV.
For the time being, I have gone back to Lion. After using Snow Leopard in its "unoptimized" for everyday tasks (ie Itunes,..etc), it seemed sluggish. I believe it had to do with the video drivers.
I installed a fresh copy of 10.7.1 from Apple and my wireless in Lion is as strong as it was in Snow Leopard. Must have been a bad install before. This doesn't mean I have given up by any means. I still really prefer Snow Leopard and will keep trying to crack the puzzle of why it doesn't perform as well on this superb hardware.
I don't buy the answer the new Mac Mini "just wasn't designed" for Snow Leopard. It could run beautifully. As I believe "some" Lion extensions (kexts) can work in Snow Leopard; I will experiment back and forth with replacing some files or parts of files until I can achieve the same speeds on both platforms (as measured by Geekbench).
We will all be waiting for your progress and postings. Remember, one potential part of the speed problem is that Snow Leopard is expecting -- looking in the 2011 Mini, and not finding -- some code resources that don't exist any longer in Lion-optimized Macs such as the 2011 Mini; and, also, it doesn't have the code to fully use the i5/i7.
At least, that's one set of assumptions. You're working with the tools that can fix a lot of it.
Virtualization is another path to having those missing resources, and it's cumbersome and resource-hogging, but someone may get that path opened up before anyone else can get crutches coded to get Snow Leopard up and loping along without virtualization. The no-virtualization solution will be a lot more elegant, and it'll probably run faster and use less RAM.
Almost 20,000 viewers on this thread so far. Don't you just love a long story that ends well?
Yes we will! FREE THE SNOW LEOPARD 20,000 ! etc etc