Mac mini Model A1176 Core 2 Duo Processor Replacement

Upgrade your mini's aging Core Duo processor to a blazing Core 2 Duo.

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Edit Step 1 Top Housing  ¶ 

  • You can skip this step if you bought your putty knife from iFixit. Putty knives purchased from iFixit come with pre-ground edges.

  • You'll need a putty knife in order to open the case. A 1.5 inch thin putty knife will work well, but you'll want to grind the edge down. Rub the putty knife's short edge back and forth on a sheet of all purpose rough grit sandpaper (100 grit will work fine) until it attains a beveled edge.

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Edit Step 2  ¶ 

  • Carefully insert a putty knife into the crevice in between the top cover and bottom housing. Start on the left side first. Push the blade down until you meet firm resistance (roughly 3/8 of an inch).

  • Gently enlarge the existing crevice by prying the handle of the putty knife downward and away from the mini.

  • It helps to start in the middle, then work along the edge until the bottom housing pops up slightly.

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Edit Step 3  ¶ 

  • Next insert the putty knife into the crevice on the optical drive slot side of the computer.

  • Pry the putty knife downward while working along the edge of the mini until the bottom housing further separates from the top housing.

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Edit Step 4  ¶ 

  • Repeat the same procedure as the past few steps for the right side of the mini.

  • At this point, there should be a noticeable gap between the bottom and top housing around the perimeter of the mini.

  • Turn the mini over.

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Edit Step 5  ¶ 

  • Gently lift the top housing straight up off the mini and set it aside.

  • It may be necessary to wiggle the top housing while lifting it off the bottom housing. If any of the tabs get stuck on the top housing, use the putty knife to free them.

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Edit Step 6 Internal Frame  ¶ 

  • Later in this guide you will remove several recessed Phillips screws. Bit drivers are generally too large to fit in the recesses, so be sure to have a thin shafted Phillips screwdriver on hand.

  • First remove the AirPort antenna (the larger of the two), located near the power button.

  • Slightly squeeze the two retaining arms toward each other and lift the AirPort antenna off its post.

  • Squeezing the two posts excessively will surely break them off the internal frame. Work delicately.

  • During reinstallation, you will have to slightly squeeze the two posts together so they fit into the openings on the AirPort antenna board.

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Edit Step 7  ¶ 

  • Use the tip of a spudger to slightly lift the left side of the ZIF cable lock up from its socket.

  • The ZIF cable lock will lift about 1 mm and stop. Do not try to completely remove the ZIF cable lock.

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Edit Step 8  ¶ 

  • Lift the audio board ribbon cable up out of its socket.

  • If it refuses to lift from its socket, the ZIF cable lock is not fully released. Make sure it is evenly lifted about 1 mm from the socket on the interconnect board.

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Edit Step 9  ¶ 

  • Rotate the mini so that the SuperDrive slot loading mechanism is facing you.

  • Use a pair of tweezers to lift the hard drive thermal sensor cable connector up off its socket on the logic board.

  • Use tweezers to grab the connector (as seen in the picture), not the wires.

  • The connector is located under the optical drive opening, next to the PRAM battery.

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Edit Step 10  ¶ 

  • In the next few steps, you will remove the four Phillips screws securing the internal frame to the bottom case. Included in each step is an overview picture showing the general location and a closeup showing the actual screw.

  • Remove the recessed Phillips screw near the power button securing the internal frame to the bottom housing.

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Edit Step 11  ¶ 

  • Remove the recessed Phillips screw near the sleep light securing the internal frame to the bottom housing.

  • This screw is the longest of the four screws securing the internal frame to the bottom case.

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Edit Step 12  ¶ 

  • Remove the Phillips screw from the internal frame near the Bluetooth antenna.

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Edit Step 13  ¶ 

  • Remove the Phillips screw near the audio ports securing the internal frame to the bottom case.

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Edit Step 14  ¶ 

  • Gently lift the internal frame up from the bottom housing, minding the AirPort antenna and any other cables that may get caught.

  • It may be necessary to pull up near the interconnect board to separate it from the logic board.

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Edit Step 15 Logic Board  ¶ 

  • Firmly grasp the power button cable connector with a pair of tweezers and lift it straight up off the logic board.

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Edit Step 16  ¶ 

  • Firmly grasp the sleep light cable connector with a pair of tweezers and lift it straight up off the logic board.

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Edit Step 17  ¶ 

  • Remove the single T10 torx lug securing the logic board to the bottom housing.

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Edit Step 18  ¶ 

  • Use the flat end of a spudger to slightly lift the logic board near the PRAM battery to separate it from the bottom housing.

  • It will be necessary to gently pull the sleep light (shown in red) away from the mini to clear the edge of the logic board.

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Edit Step 19  ¶ 

  • Gently lift the free end of the logic board and wiggle the board as you pull it away from the I/O ports.

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Edit Step 20 Core 2 Duo Processor  ¶ 

  • Before removing the processor you must first remove the aluminum heat sink.

  • To avoid bending the fins, don't squeeze the upper portion of the heat sink perpendicular to the length of the fins.

  • A spring loaded plastic pin at each corner of the heat sink holds it firmly against the face of the processor.

  • The pins have barbs at one end that expand once the pin passes through the logic board. The barbs must be squeezed together to fit through the holes in the logic board. Use extreme caution when squeezing the barbs together with pliers near the exposed face of the logic board.

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Edit Step 21  ¶ 

  • This step requires working with both hands and may be better accomplished with the logic board sitting in your lap.

  • Using a plastic opening tool (or similar) in one hand, push down one pin holding the heat sink on the logic board. The spring under the pin will provide moderate resistance.

  • While holding the pin down from the heat sink side of the board, use a pair of pliers in your other hand on the underside of the board to squeeze both barbs against the plastic shaft of the pin.

  • With both barbs squeezed together, push the pin through its hole in the logic board.

  • Repeat this process for each of the four pins holding the heat sink on the logic board.

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Edit Step 22  ¶ 

  • The heat sink is still attached to the logic board by the thermal sensor cables.

  • Lift the heat sink off the processor and lay it on the AirPort card.

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Edit Step 23  ¶ 

  • Use the tip of a spudger to push the heat sink thermal sensor connector out of its socket.

  • It may be necessary to work from alternating sides to 'walk' the connector out of its socket.

  • Remove the heat sink and set it aside.

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Edit Step 24  ¶ 

  • To unlock the processor, use a small flathead screwdriver to rotate the processor lock 180 degrees counter-clockwise until the indicator is near the open lock symbol.

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Edit Step 25  ¶ 

  • Grab the processor by its edges and lift it straight up off its socket.

  • Rotating the processor while lifting it out has the potential to break pins off inside the socket. Lift it straight up.

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Edit Step 26  ¶ 

  • Processors are extremely sensitive to electrostatic discharge. Only handle your processor by its edges.

  • To aid in installation, processors and sockets have a small alignment arrow (shown in red) so the chip is installed in the correct orientation.

  • Align the chip so that the arrow in its upper right corner corresponds to the arrow molded into the upper right corner of the socket.

  • Carefully lower the processor onto its socket.

  • Note that if you are upgrading from a core solo or core duo processor to a core 2 duo processor and wish to run operating systems of Lion or later, you must delete the hidden file /System/Library/CoreServices/PlatformSupport.plist after the upgrade.

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Edit Step 27  ¶ 

  • Use a small flathead screwdriver to rotate the processor lock 180 degrees clockwise until the indicator points toward the closed lock symbol.

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Edit Step 28  ¶ 

  • Now that the processor is in place, turn your attention to the heat sink.

  • Apple uses a thermally conductive film that must be removed prior to reinstalling the heat sink.

  • Use a razor blade (or anyother flat object such as a credit card, etc.) to remove all of the old solidified thermal material from the heat sink.

  • Next use a small amount of rubbing alcohol to remove all traces of the old thermal material.

  • Allow the heat sink to dry before proceeding.

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Edit Step 29  ¶ 

  • Apply a thin layer of thermal paste to the reflective silicon face of the processor.

  • Check out our thermal paste guide for detailed instructions on applying thermal paste.

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Edit Step 30  ¶ 

  • Lay the heat sink on the AirPort card and use a spudger to reconnect the heat sink thermal sensor.

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Edit Step 31  ¶ 

  • Position the heat sink the same way it will permanently sit before lowering it onto the processor to avoid spreading thermal paste on regions not in contact with the processor.

  • Gently lower the heat sink onto the processor.

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Edit Step 32  ¶ 

  • While holding the heat sink in place, press the four plastic posts down through the logic board to reattach the heat sink.

To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order.

For more information, check out the Mac mini Model A1176 device page.

Required Tools


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Phillips #00 Screwdriver

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Flathead 3/32" or 2.5 mm Screwdriver

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1.5" Thin Putty Knife

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Comments Comments are onturn off

I'm learning from that the Core Duo (and Core Solo) are 32-bit architecture, whereas the Core 2 Duo is a 64-bit design. Does this matter in any way?

Richard, · Reply

When going to all the trouble of replacing the CPU, a few other upgrades can be done at the same time:

- Upgrade RAM to 2GB maximum (required for OS X Lion), for example, Crucial CT541128

- Upgrade internal 2.5" SATA hard drive to larger size, and/or faster 7400 RPM or SDD.

- Replace PRAM battery with a fresh one (CR2032 lithium 3V)

Jake Errs, · Reply

This guide worked very well for me. Entire process took less than 90 minutes, and that was having to pull the upper frame a second time because I'd let the Airport antenna cable get snagged under the fan ductwork.

Thank you!

garyobrien, · Reply

Without a spatula I resorted to a Pizza cutter. It worked perfectly as it has a bevelled edge and was easy to move across the side to loosen the clips.

Phil Millard, · Reply

Great idea - a pizza cutter worked great for me too!


I too used M3 nylon screws and nylon nuts for the winged pins I broke during reassembly

I only got 30mm and cut it to about 20mm.

On the second A1176 where I removed the heat sink I didn't bother to remount the pins and used 4 nylon screws.

A special note: The second A1176 was much louder and got hot (fan running full speed) easily. When I removed the heat sink I found a die sized piece of plastic between the die and the thermal paste. Someone forgot to remove it when the Mini was assembled originally.

ste, · Reply

hello, core 2 duo model I can use to upgrade my mac mini

Daniel Ilich, · Reply

After upgrading to a Core 2 Duo (64-bit)

is it possible to install OS X 10.9 Mavericks ???

Sascha Faller, · Reply

I used a tool for opening the back of watches to replace the battery (the type that have the non screw-on backs). Worked fine!

Mike Haines, · Reply

IMHO there are many steps not necessary. The guide is very good but i can't find the reason for steps 7-15. It is all about freeing the internal frame. As far as i know it is enough to remove the antennas and the 4 screws holding the optical drive?!?!

Markus Obdenbusch, · Reply

For reassembly, test your Mini before replacing the cover. This could save time, should the test reveal problems.

Steve, · Reply

Now also lift the right side of the ZIF cable lock up from its socket.

chriZ, · Reply

Hmmm... what if I didn't read this before and I removed the cable and the lock sort of broke?... what would happen... would I experience problems? I can still put the cable back in place and push the lock back down with the spudger.

Dan O, · Reply

Same. I totally removed the lock , the edges are busted and won't stay in place, How can I get the cable to stay? what's the fix?


does any one know, where to get the connector from zhe ZIF Cable?

someone, that preowned my mac broke the holder!

julian gmeiner, · Reply

Julian, did you ever find where to get a replacement lock for the Zip Cable. Mine is also broken..


This is not my first memory replacement in a Mini and I got over-confident and stupidly fully removed the audio cable ZIF lock and assumed I had broken something. But, now that I have read this guide more carefully, I am not sure. I sure would love to hear some detailed instructions for putting a ZIF lock back on.

Is it possible that I have removed it without having broken it? If I have broken it, do I have to buy a new cable? Just a new ZIF lock? A new audio board? This is a 2.0 GHz A1176.


Michael Tyler, · Reply

Michael, Mine seems to be broken. I bought & tried the Kapton Tape that was suggested & still no sound.


Managed to leave this connected by flopping back the drive rather than totally removing

pglock, · Reply


separated one of the wires from the connector very easily. i would have preferred to use a spudger at this step. the tweezers in effect snipped the wire!!

mklsvg, · Reply

As my experience you should definitely use angeled tweezers as shown in several pictures. To avoid stripped cable deflash sharp edges of the tweezers a little bit. I never experienced problems when using that kind of tool carefully.

Timpetou, · Reply

I've had to remove a few of these connectors on iBooks and other small Apple devices ... I've found that, with careful and gentle pressure (working first one side and then the other) using a small flat-headed jeweller's screwdriver is best.

Mike Haines, · Reply

Note where the airport antennae connecting wire comes out from the interior along the top. When reassembling, it has to be routed the same way, or it won't reach its install position.

robert, · Reply

If your fan runs at high speed after you complete this project, you have forgotten to reconnect the thermal sensor.

Curt, · Reply

Before removing any of these screws, there is another step needed which is not here:

On the front of the optical drive, right side as you look at the slot-load, is a small blue board attached by a single black screw. This needs to be removed before the optical drive can be taken out.

Mike Haines, · Reply

On reassembly, if you don't have a magnetic screwdriver, a tiny dab of grease at the tip of your screwdriver will help hold the screw on the driver so you can lower it into the recessed slot.

pfbloom, · Reply

At this point be careful that you don't pull out the Airport antenna ... but if you do, just check that it is back before re-assembling.

Mike Haines, · Reply

During re-assembly, the internal frame has to go in at an angle ... the back of the optical drive goes in first.

This means that you can seat the fan cover correctly, but more importantly, there is an interconnect board on the back of the optical drive that must be firmly pushed back into its housing on the logic board.

Mike Haines, · Reply

Reassembly: Before slipping the main frame back into its place, refer to earlier photos, ensuring proper routing of the WiFi cable.

Steve, · Reply

Be careful to not break the nylon pins during removal or insertion. The strength of the spring can break the barbed end off the pin.

Also, be sure to orient the heat sink in the right direction when putting it back. The fins should allow air to flow towards the openings at the back of the Mini (where the ports are).

wattmagner, · Reply

I busted the little expansion fins on 2 of the four plastic connectors here. I was gentle, but they are brittle buggers. Heads up.

Tim Hirzel, · Reply

Oh, and then I busted the other two trying to put them back in! They are 3+ years old, and seem to break quite easily. I looked from nylon fasters at the hardware store, but couldn't find small enough ones. I had some small stainless fasteners, and made sure they were only touching the grounded material. I don't know if I recommend it, but all is well for me. I kept the spring in, and just put a washer a nut to hold the spring down. Try to do the operation in a small room so when the posts and springs go flying, you don't have many square feet to cover to find them. I spent a good portion of the upgrade time crawling around on the floor looking for a lost spring...

Tim Hirzel,

The springs holding the nylon pins are stronger than you might think.

Use the finest tip needle-nose pliers you can find. The trick is compressing *and* pushing at the same time.

Around 2mm or so from the surface of the circuit board is the furthest point at which the barbs can be compressed sufficiently to pass through the hole in the board.

If you grasp the barbs closer to the circuit board, you won't easily be able to push the pin through the board.

garyobrien, · Reply

Adding to my note, the illustration for Step 21 is a bit misleading. You'll have to grab the barbs much closer to the end of the pin than is shown here.

garyobrien, · Reply

I also broke one of the winged pins and replaced it with 4-40 Nylon machine screws and brass nuts I bought from McMaster-Carr. They are #94605A115 and #95130A110 respectively. Also, to press on the pins while squeezing the wings while holding onto the board is a challenge. I found a removable eraser from a mechanical pencil works great to press as it fits down into the heat sink just enough to be self stabilizing so one had presses and holds while the other just deals with the wings.

terryandbonnie, · Reply

Do yourself a favor and just accept the fact that these little buggers WILL break and that you will need to find replacement nylon screws and bolts. A quick google shopping search for "Mac Mini Nylon Screws 4-40 X 3/4" should pull up what you need -- I found an ebay listing for $3.99 USD!

Even if you somehow manage to keep the pins intact during this step, realize that getting the heat sink back on is an even harder task in my opinion.

I found it easier to have another individual assist here -- one to securely push down the pin on one side and the other to firmly grip and squeeze the barbs. Don't underestimate the strength of the springs. The pin and spring can go flying if either end is not secured properly.

William Adan, · Reply

Mechanical pencil eraser does work perfectly to press pins. Let's you control the board and the pin with one hand while manipulating the barbs with the other. I found that a straight hemostat worked really well in place of pliers. Squeeze the barbs as near to the end as you can, then push them into the hole until they're wedged. Use your fingers or a spudger to push them the rest of the way through so you don't endanger the logic board with a metal tool. Got all four of mine out and back in intact, all in about five minutes. If the barbs don't break off, there is no danger of the pins flying because of the spring -- they are captive on the heatsink.

Roger Mercer, · Reply

Forget all the original plastic posts. I bought M3x20 (Sorry, I just know the measures of the "metric world" ;-)) plastic screws and according nuts in an ordinary DIY superstore. They fit perfectly. When fixing the heat sink it is recommended to get help from a second person. You should place the screws with springs from the upper side down through head sink and logic board with one hand while you simultaneously press on the heat sink on the processor. (Avoid canting it!) The helping person just tightens the nuts downside the logic board. Needless to explain that you should fix the screws diagonally.

Timpetou, · Reply

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