My new Mac mini is coming this week. This will be my first new computer in almost 5 years, so I’m pretty excited. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I have decided I will not use Migration Assistant. This will be the first time in at least 5 Macs that I’m going fresh. This will also be the longest I’ve gone without a new Mac 1.

Taking stock of software is going to be hard, but my first step to prepare for this new computer is actually related to I/O. I currently have a 2016 retina MacBook Pro with Four Thunderbolt ports. Every port, including the headphone port, is in use. The new Mac mini has only two Thunderbolt ports, but also comes with some additional ports.

Laptop bang-on, showing all ports in use.

On the left side, I have an Ethernet to Thunderbolt adapter, my microphone (Audio-Technica ATR2100 mini USB-A to USB-C), and a 3.5mm to RCA cable that goes into my powered speakers (Kanto YU-5s). On the right side, I have a Thunderbolt cable that goes into the LG 5K Ultrafine monitor, providing power, display, and acting as a USB-C hub, and a USB-C cable going to a Samsung SSD I mount under my desk which is my primary Time Machine drive.

I am also using all of the ports on the back of my display. There, I have the connection to my laptop, a USB-C cable to a 4-port USB-A hub (where I keep my Logitech mouse universal reciever thing plugged in and otherwise just have it available for hot swaps), a USB-C to USB-A micro cable (which I use to plug in a Blu-ray drive or my Fujitsu Scansnap scanner when needed, but often is just “danging”, and my keyboard.

Back of my LG 5K Ultrafine Display

I truly went all in on the USB-C lifestyle, primarily though the use of new cables.

The Mac mini, however, has one ethernet port, one headphone jack, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and two USB-A ports.

Here’s how I think I’ll re-arrange my cables. The monitor and SSD will remain directly plugged in via Thunderbolt 4/USB-C. The ethernet adapter can go away for direct use of the ethernet port. The microphone will move to being plugged into the monitor by using the slot vacated by my keyboard which I will plug directly into one of the USB-A ports on the Mac mini. I will also move the mouse to being directly plugged in via USB-A rather than using the four port USB-A adapter. At that point, I think I could actually remove the USB-A hub entirely– I use it very rarely, I already have one USB-A micro cable dangling and ready, and I’d have an additional USB-C port freed up behind my monitor. I keep several USB-something to USB-C cables on a pegboard above my desk and have 3 USB-A to C adapters there as well (of which I only really need to keep one).

Was I originally nervous about moving from four, versatile, fast Thunderbolt ports to two? Absolutely. But once I went through how I actually use all cables attached to my computer, I quickly realized that I would be in great shape. One thing this setup will not allow for is easy hot swapping back to my laptop at my desk. If I had kept the keyboard and mouse attached to the monitor, then I could move one cable and reasonably be back at work on my other computer. I decided that this is a non-goal. In truth, it’ll probably just delay me from doing a good job of fully migrating from my laptop to my new desktop.

  1. I truly think we’re in a new age where Macs are finally exciting and worth buying again. I frequently traded in my Mac after 2-3 years before because there was a reason to. I didn’t keep this Mac for five years because I wanted to, I kept it because I had no reason to upgrade. I think this is equal parts the longevity of my 2016 rMBP, which I wisely upgraded to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and better processor and the lack of new compelling products. No more. ↩︎