Installing Windows 8.1 on 2009 Mac mini

Today I was busy with refurbishing an old 2009 Mac mini, software wise. It’s such a nice device and it’s still running well, apart from the dead dvd rom. Until now, it was running Windows XP, which is no longer supported by MS, so it was time to upgrade. I bought a fresh copy of Windows 8.1 and did a native install, without Bootcamp. It took quite a few times to figure out which combination of disk formatting and architecture (x86/x64) this old Mac mini can handle.

I followed this guide, but figured out through trial and error what works for this particular machine. The biggest difference is that I ended up installing the x86 (32 bit) version of Windows on a MBR type disk partition scheme. The other combinations mentioned in the article resulted in the machine not being able to boot.

My guide

  1. Power on the Mac, hold down Alt to be able to select the startup disk.
  2. The Windows installation DVD should be in your Mac’s drive or an external DVD drive (both will work).
  3. Select this DVD to boot from, do not select any UEFI options.
  4. Once the installer starts, fire up the command line (Shift+F10) and issue the following commands:
select disk 0
convert mbr

This is where we diverge from the above linked guide: we’re converting the disk to use the older MBR partition scheme as this is what our 32 bit Windows needs to work on this Mac. Once this is done, you can exit the command line and continue with the installer as normal.

The only thing that did not work for me after the Windows is installed, is the build in sound card. I ended up using an external one that was lying around.

Windows 8.1 is surprisingly snappy on just 2GB of RAM that this Mac mini has and overall the machine is a joy to use for some office work, which is its purpose.

Disclaimer: follow this guide on your own risk.