First Day with an Apple Silicon Mac

My Mac mini with Apple Silicon arrived. I went with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD configuration. I am excited about this transition not just because of the massive jump is performance, but because it feels like the Mac platform is taking center stage again.

I did hit a few snags with the hardware and operating system on my first day. It wasn’t a simple drop-in replacement for my 2018 Mac mini on my desk, and one of the first things I wanted to understand was how to reinstall or factory erase macOS on Apple Silicon.

Monitors

My 2018 Mac mini was hooked up to two monitors with thunderbolt (USB-C style) cables. The M1 Mac mini doesn’t support this. You can only connect one monitor with thunderbolt and the other monitor must be connected via HDMI, and the max number of monitors you can have connected is two. So I need to re-wire my desk.

My two 4K monitors are no problem for this Mac mini. I could feel my 2018 Mac mini struggle at times pushing all those pixels.

One thing that is super impressive is just how fast it performs resolution / scaling changes. There is no fade to black. Just instant resizing of the all the visible UI elements.

Recovery

To get to recovery mode, it’s no longer Command+R. You just hold the power button down while it boots up.

When in recovery you can’t format the entire internal drive to do a fresh installation of macOS. You can only format the APFS containers. Though, I think you can format the entire drive when you are booted via USB.

External booting of a USB device is currently enabled by default on M1 Macs, but I wasn’t able to boot from the Big Sur USB installer I made for my MacBook Pro. I think there was a version issue as I had created the installer the day Big Sur was released, and the Mac mini shipped with a different version than was released to Intel machines.

Another option is reviving a Mac with Apple Silicon with Apple Configurator 2.

  • Revive will replace the recovery OS, but not the computer’s containers
  • Restore will wipe and replace everything

I was trying to “restore” the Mac mini, but I kept running in to issues when restoring from my MacBook Pro.

There is a particular port you need to use on the Mac mini to put it in a restore mode–it’s the one closest to the HDMI connection. I thought the “connection problem with the USB host” error I was getting was because of the Mac mini. However, it was with my MacBook Pro.

In the picture above, I have the Mac mini connected on the right-side of the MacBook Pro. After I connected the Mac mini to a port on the left-side of my laptop, the restore operation was successful.

Performance

I’m blown away at how fast apps launch, even apps compiled for Intel. And it’s been years since I’ve had a machine that doesn’t get hot when I do anything complex in Final Cut Pro or Xcode.

I’m even thinking of trying to play some games on the Mac again. I think this machine can handle it, and it just so happens World of Warcraft supports Apple silicon on day one. I haven’t played WoW in over a decade.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the new system architecture of Apple Silicon Macs and just enjoying the speed of everything.