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New Hard drive on mac mini

Hard drive on Mac Mini crapped out. Time machine ran onto external hard drive I put a new drive into mac mini.

Is running target mdd the best option to get new drive up and running?

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With a bad optical drive how can I get OS onto the new drive? Are there other ways?

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So, I don't have to worry about updating all my software or anything. Just make sure the external with TM is attached?

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No, your TM backup does not have a working system to boot up from (not exposed to the system to access). You must boot up from a viable drive which has a bootable OS installed i.e the recovery CD/DVD that came with the system, a USB thumb drive, USB or FireWire HD that was setup first (OS was installed via the OS installer). This could have been the same drive you are using for storing your TM files on but not the TM files them selves.

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OK, nix the CD/DVD (dead drive). Do you have a second mac system? If you do you could try connecting your mini to the other system via a FireWire cable, then setting up your mini in Target mode. Follow this Apple TN How to use and troubleshoot FireWire target disk mode.

From the second Mac use Disk Utility to setup your target mode mini >>CAUTION<< make sure you select the correct drive here! Once the drive is setup run the OS installer App and again make sure you select the correct drive.

As reference:Startup key combinations for Intel-based Macs

Once the OS is installed shutdown both systems disconnect the cable and restart your mini. It should at that point come up.

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When you start up the new hard drive for the first time, that has been formatted and system installed, it will ask if you want to transfer data, select the "restore from backup", no need to launch Time Machine.

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Your right Mayer, the installer asks and you could do that. If I was not upgrading the OS I would do that. In this case it's likely he will be going to a newer OS-X release (Mountain Lion or Mavericks from Snow Leopard) in which case its better to finish the OS installation (with the upgrades) before the restoring of the TM files.

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Just to be clear here your mini's HD died and you what to replace it. Luckily, you do have a good external HD backup using TimeMachine.

OK, First you'll need to find your gray recovery CD/DVD that came with your system. Then using it see if you can boot up under it. If you can see if you can repair your internal HD. Often I've raised the dead this way.

OK, no soap. The HD is beyond help. Review your options on HD or SSHD (hybrid) drives. Take care here as your system can only support a SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) drive. Make sure its not any faster or can be set (manually or automatically) to SATA II. The drive also can not be any higher than 9.5mm. Personally I would recommend a SSHD (hybrid) drive, these drives offer a SSD for caching which improves performance.

OK, you got a new drive and you have followed the IFIXIT guide Mac mini Model A1283 Hard Drive Replacement. When the guide was created 500MB drives were the largest you could get. Today you can get 2 TB drives! If you really want to make a media server you can even swap out the optical drive and put a second drive in.

Moving on...

OK you have the drive installed, now using the grey DVD boot up your mini. setup and format your drive by selecting off of the menu Utilities > Disk Utility. Then go though the OS installer. Once your done you should check your firmware level EFI and SMC firmware updates for Intel-based Macs and get all of the updates. If you want to upgrade to Mavericks this is the time to do it.

OK, systems up and running what about my backup?

Well now's the time to restore! plug in your TM back up and launch TimeMachine. Make sure you remember you want to recover not backup. Once you have your stuff back don't forget to check for updates in both the Apps store and the given app's web sites. - Good Luck!

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my optical drive doesn't work. And the ? mark folder keeps coming up. Does this mean the new drive is bad?

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No, only that the drive does not have the OS installed.

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