You may have noticed a few 503 – Unable to establish a database connection errors in the past few days. On top of all that has been going on with our Internet connection, it seems that one of the memory modules in our 2013 Mac mini is failing. When we bought the mini in 2013, it came with 4 GB of memory in two modules. Later that year, I upgraded the memory. I intended to bump it to 16 GB (2 x 8GB modules), but one of the modules I bought was bad, so I returned it. That left me with 10 GB (1 x 8GB and 1 x 2GB) which has been more than enough.
When the memory module returns bad information, it can cause a kernel panic, which forces the Mac to restart. When it restarts, the MySQL database doesn’t start automatically, hence the error message.
It is the 8GB module that is failing, so I need to replace it. How did I figure that out? The Apple Hardware Test tool can be reached by restarting with the D key held down. It found a memory error. Since it could have been either of the modules, I took one out, re-ran the test, then took the other out and re-ran the test.
I can’t make the computer limp along with only 2GB of memory, so it is running with the bad module in it. Hopefully it won’t crash again before I can replace it. Memory Express opens later this morning.
We’ve been to Memory Express, along with dropping off the Golf at Knibbe and coffee at Starbucks. Back home just in time: it’s getting hot out there already.
Put in the memory, and the diagnostic showed no errors. We should be good and reliable again.
While I’m thinking of it, I want to put some thoughts down on the situation with the Mac mini. When these kernel panics started, at first I suspected a software update, but there was no obvious cause. Then I was worried that the Mac was having some type of hardware failure. I hoped that it was a memory issue, because that is the most easily and cheaply resolved possibility.
We have had good success with Mac minis from our first in 2009 to its successor in 2013. If this one were to die, I would consider another to replace it. The problem is that Apple updated the mini lineup in 2014, significantly reducing its potential, and hasn’t touched it since. If I was to try to replace this one (Core i7 chip, 8+ GB RAM, 1 TB SSD)… I couldn’t. The “new” ones don’t have a user-replaceable hard drive, and the SSD option is over $700 from Apple. I’d be looking at an almost $2000 four-year-old computer.
An iMac is definitely an option, but overkill for the amount the mini gets used. It’s the hub of our computing, but no one actually spends tons of time on it. As of today, the low-end 27″ iMac is $2399.
There is a rumor that Apple is refreshing the Mac mini this year, but I will have to wait and see. This is why I am glad the failure was only an $89 memory module, and not a multi-thousand dollar charge.