WTF?! Apple's smallest desktop, the Mac mini, is designed to be an affordable device that occupies minimal space. A modder demonstrated an innovative method of reducing the number of wires required for its operation by successfully powering it through Ethernet.
Tinkerer Ivan Kuleshov recently demonstrated a Mac mini he modded to run entirely on Power over Ethernet (PoE). The compact desktop can almost seamlessly switch between AC and Ethernet power, using the latter as a fallback if the main cable is suddenly disconnected.
Kuleshov presented his work in a brief video, first demonstrating the unit's connection through AC. He then proceeded to attach the Ethernet and unplug the AC. On the modder's desk, a screen shows only a brief interruption before the Mac Mini's connection is seamlessly restored, showcasing a smooth changeover.
Ethernet power is typically used to provide juice to small, low-power IoT devices such as cameras, speakers, doorbells, VoIP phones, and LED lights, thereby reducing the need for multiple power outlets. PoE switches can be particularly useful in office settings with a large number of IoT devices, but they are limited in the amount of power they can deliver.
Demo of Mac mini with PoE and power redundancy.– Ivan Kuleshov (@Merocle) July 31, 2023
The project has gotten a serious response, 7 times higher than I expected.
I think it's better to put everything on the site, I'm working on the article, and after that, I'll do the video.
I promised more details, and I'll drop… pic.twitter.com/JSxB71TvF2
Kuleshov hasn't yet revealed which Mac mini model he modified for PoE, but it's likely one of the recent Apple Silicon variants because of their relatively low power consumption. The 2018 Mac mini – the final Intel model – can consume up to 122W under load, which likely exceeds PoE limits. However, this year's M2 and M2 Pro versions reach 50W and 100W, respectively, while the 2020 M1 model requires only about 40W (and possibly even less, as suggested by third-party analysis), which falls well within the established PoE capacity.
The modder shared a few details about his process while promising to eventually release a detailed video explanation. He unsoldered the Mac Mini's Ethernet port and modified it with inductance coils he assembled to imitate a MagJack connector – a necessary component for PoE. This step involved cannibalizing a real MagJack.
Next, Kuleshov used some off-the-shelf parts to manage the signal to the PoE port and convert the power to 12V, including a diode to prevent reverse currents. The entire project took around eight hours.
In addition to the PoE modification, Kuleshov recently revealed another Mac mini-related hack, attempting to fit four M1 units on a rack powered by a single server power supply. However, the modder's most ambitious work is a Raspberry Pi-based server blade designed for home and data center use.