|Upgrade your iMac 20", 24", 21.5", 27" aluminum 2007-2011 to 1.5, 2.0, 3TB Hard Drive - DIY Guide|
~ iMac Optical, CPU, GPU upgrade guides coming soon! ~
You WILL need some basic technical knowledge to upgrade your iMac hard drive by yourself - upgrading hard drive is not user serviceable part and it might void your Apple warranty. Therefore, I cannot be responsible for any damages or losses you'll potentially incur from following this guide - proceed at your own risk!
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What You'll Need
1) Apple iMac 20" or iMac 24" Aluminum
(2007 models - MA876LL, MA877LL or MA878LL or 2008 models - MB323LL, MB324LL, MB325LL, as well as 2009 models MB417LL/A, MB418LL/A, MB419LL/A, MB420LL/A): If you purchase your iMac online you can save additionally on the sales tax, and most of the retailers offer some sort of rebate as well. The configuration you're looking for is with 250 GB hard drive for 20" model or 320 GB hard drive for 24" model (the lowest drive capacity available, because you'll anyhow upgrade the hard drive to 1 TB, 1.5 TB, 2.0 TB or 3.0 TB.
You might choose from one of the following iMac 20" and iMac 24" aluminum 2008 and 2009 models you'd like to upgrade with 1 TB, 1.5 TB or 2 TB hard drive:
Also make sure to check out Apple's refurbished deals, from time to time (you just need to keep looking as offers change weekly) they'll have iMac AL 20" and 24" at bargain prices (e.g. iMac AL 20" for about US $850 and iMac AL 24" for about US $1200 - info spring 2009):
2) 1 TB, 1.5 TB, 2 TB or 3 TB (terabyte) SATA II or III, 3.5" hard drive
In my original iMac 2007 upgrade in Nov-2007 I've purchased a Hitachi 1 TB drive A7K1000, primarily because of 32 MB cache memory, SATA II interface having 3 Gbit/sec. throughput, and also due to its long-lasting life and reliability - Hitachi extending 5 year warranty and advertising 1.2 million hours average time before failure (choose a good drive - don't you just hate when the drive dies on you and you lose all your data!). I've owned this hard drive for more than a year and I was really happy with it. The average running temperature was about 57C (135F), which is within Hitachi's standard operating parameters - up to 60C - 140F.
Hard drives Apple installs in iMacs are Western Digital, you are also well set purchasing one of WD's 1 TB drives.
Update 1: Some of our readers have reported that their 1 TB WD Black and 1 TB Seagate hard drives are not as quiet as they've hoped for.
Update 2: Since my original upgrade, I've replaced my machine with iMac 2008 and I have upgraded my new machine with Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB drive (64 MB cache). I'm very satisfied with this drive as well (owning it for several months now) - it has a great performance, it is very quiet and the average running temperature is about 58C (136F).
Update 3: Some of our readers have reported that Seagate 1.5 TB is very quiet in their machines as well.
Update 5: It is now possible to upgrade your iMac to 3 TB hard drive with Western Digital 3TB (64Mb cache) (April 2011).
The appropriate 1 TB, 1.5 TB, 2 TB and 3 TB SATA hard drives going into your iMac are the following:
Your choice of recommended 3 TB drives is as follows:
Your choice of recommended 2 TB drives is as follows:
Your choice of recommended 1 TB drives is as follows:
Although 1.5 TB and 2.0 TB drives provide a better value for the money, here are some 1 TB hard drive recommendations just in case you have a really old machine (e.g. iMac white):
3) Torx screwdrivers: You'll need several specialized TORX screwdrivers, size T6 and T8 (these screwdrivers are the same type used to work with mobile phones).
4) Kitchen \ bathroom hook suction cups: In order to open your iMac AL, you'll need to take the glass cover off the display. The glass cover is held in place only by several magnets -- in order to remove it you'll need a specialized suction cup handle:
However if you don't own such a fancy tool, several kitchen \ bathroom hook suction cups will do the trick instead (as in my case :) Just make sure they're larger cups - at least 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
Upgrade Guide - Step-by-Step Instructions with Photos
Applicable to iMac 2007, 2008 and 2009 models (both 20 and 24 inch):
Once you lift up the glass, put it aside on a soft cloth. Finally we can see some screws in the frame! Use your Torx screwdrivers to take out all screws within the frame. Once you're done, lift up the upper side of the frame only, but carefully, as in the upper mid section (behind the integrated iSight camera), there will be a wire you need to disconnect (as shown in photos).
Update 2: One of our readers reminds there are various length screws you will be taking out - what he suggests is using a piece of 8.5 x 11 (or A4) paper and taping the screws with scotch tape on the paper in the proper location such that it would remind you as where do they go back (thank you Doug)!
Update 3: Some readers have reported they've managed to make the upgrade without disconnecting the iSight cable - leave it plugged in and just flip over the front panel at your desk (thank you Claudio).
Now make sure you take off the bracket from the memory slot at the bottom of the frame. If you don't do this, you won't be able to take off the frame.
Once you've put the memory slot bracket away, you may lift up the display frame entirely and set it aside.
At this point we've unleashed the inside of your iMac AL - I truly admire Apple's compact design :) The next thing we need to do is to detach iMac's gorgeous display. Make sure you do this with utmost patience as you don't want to be responsible for any dead pixels in the process!
The display is attached with three connectors. The first two you can find on the left and the right hand side of the bottom of the motherboard. Let's start with the right-hand side connector first -- this connector is locked in with a screw - thus you need to take it off and pull out the connector. Now we move to the left-hand side connector - just unplug it carefully. You might want to use a precision screwdriver to help you out in the process.
Update: One of our readers managed to upgrade the hard drive without removing the display - althought I've found it to be a lot easier to swap the hard drive with the display off.
The third connector attaching the display is located underneath the display, in the upper left corner of it. The next step is to lift up the display VERY carefully from its right hand side and up (as shown in the picture), and you need to detach the third cable - which is a power connector connecting it to the power board (smaller blue board shown in photos).
In my case, I had to take off the screw holding the power board in place first in order to be able to take off the connector. You might want a second pair of hands helping you with this step (holding the display in the air while you pull out the power connector beneath it)!
Update: One of our readers reminds there are two screws on the side of LCD you need to remove in this step in order to lift the screen (please read the comments section at the end of this page).
Once you detach display power connector, you are ready to entirely lift off the display and place it aside. Make sure you put the display on a soft and safe place, away from the tools and work area (you don't want to damage it)!
Finally, we can see the hard drive placed in the middle upper section of iMac's aluminum back frame. In order to take out the hard drive, you must first take off the temperature sensor from the drive (as shown in photos). The temperature sensor looks like an ordinary transistor component. Make sure not to bend its pins as it may damage it!
Next, pull out the SATA and power connector from the hard drive (left hand side of the drive in my photos).
For this step you will need to apply a bit of force - you need to push down the plastic handle attached to the upper part of the hard drive - push down until it unlocks and lift up the drive. Alternatively, the handle is held up with two screws, so you might want to take these off and slide out the handle easily out of its place.
You can see at the photo that Apple has used Western Digital WD3200AAJS - 320 GB hard disk in its iMac aluminum.
The hard drive side opposite to the plastic handle has two metal pins screwed in - holding the hard drive's bottom side within the frame. Take (unscrew) these pins from the original hard drive and put them onto the new hard drive. Also, move the plastic handle from the old hard drive onto the new one (held up by two screws only).
Use the backward logic to put back the new hard disk in place, bottom side with pins going into the frame first, then you snap it into the place by pushing the upper side handle into the frame (as show in photos)
Attach the hard disk temperature sensor at approximately the same place where it was on the old hard drive. Use some glue if necessary (in my case there was enough adhesive left on the sensor, so I've just pushed it onto the drive and it stuck). Make sure you put the protective sponge on the top (as it was on the original hard drive).
Plug in the SATA and power connector to the drive (left-hand side of the drive in my photos).
It's time to put back the display -- we'll use the reverse logic - you need to plug in the power connector first (left hand side of the display) into the blue power board). Then place back the display firmly in its place - as shown in the photo. You might want a second pair of hands helping you with this step.
Then attach the two remaining display connectors at the left and right hand side at the bottom of the system motherboard.
Put the aluminum front panel back into its place (starting with the bottom side first), making sure you connect the integrated iSight camera wire at the top before entirely closing up the frame.
Then put all the screws you've taken out back into their places within the frame.
Update: Make sure the silver piece (the protective foam) around the RAM slot is tucked back in as putting back the front panel will be much smoother (thank you Vincent).
Before putting the protective glass back onto the display, you might want to wipe it off and the display itself with a soft cloth (e.g. such are cloths used to clean reading glasses) in order to get rid of the dust particles that have fallen at the display in the mean time. Please take care of what kind of cloth you use - you don't want to unnecessarily scratch your display!
You are ready to put back the protective glass on top of your display. Use suction cups to handle the glass. Make sure you put it back carefully, as magnets will snap it into the place.
Put back the protective bracket onto the bottom memory slot (upgrading your RAM is as easy as plugging in the new memory modules into the slots).
* Pleae note: if you are not going to be upgrading RAM memory on your iMac, please scroll down to the last Step #14 of this guide - installation of OS X (on a blank hard drive).
Your iMac (2007, 2008 and early 2009) has two memory bays (slots) available. Newer iMacs with wide screens (late 2009, 2010 and 2010) have four memory bays (slots) available.
First, you need to determine how much memory you already have installed and if one or both memory bays are being used. You can identify this by clicking on the Apple logo (upper left corner), then by clicking on About This Mac.
in About This Mac window you can find out how much memory do you have installed in total, however we also need to know if only one or both memory bays have been used. In order to find this out, clik on More Info button at the bottom of the window.
Selection of more info will display System Profiler window - in there click on the Memory menu option on the left hand side and you'll be able to see the capacity of individual memory sticks installed in your machine and if one or both memory bays are occupied.
iMac 2007 screenshot shows 667Mhz memory modules installed:
iMac 2009 screenshot shows 1066Mhz memory modules installed:
Usually Apple has shipped 2GB and 4GB configurations with both memory bays used (2 x 1GB memory sticks or 2 x 2GB memory sticks - one in each slot).
Please note that:
(for late 2009, 2010 and 2011 models 21.5" and 27", please scroll down)
Depending on how much memory do you already have and which memory bays are used provides you with a number of upgrade options. For easy communication we've made the following table for your reference:
If only one of your memory bays is used, you can choose an option to add another module in there, or completely discard the existing module installed and install two new ones. Several examples on how this can work out in your case:
If you need to discard your old memory module in order to free up a memory bay, you can always consider giving it to a friend, or selling on eBay.
(for choice of recommended memory modules, please scroll down)
Newer Mac models (late 2009, 2010 and 2011) have four (4) memory bays (slots) available (unlike their predecessor having only 2 memory bays). Depending on how many memory slots you have used, there are quite a few combinations in terms of possible upgrades. Please reference the table above in order to determine your upgrade options and memory modules you need to add, or to replace. The highest capacity these machines can be upgraded to is 16GB of RAM - all four (4) memory bays (slots) populated with 4GB 1333Mhz PC-10600 SODIMM memory modules.
(for choice of recommended memory modules, please scroll down)
Did you know that all iMac models use laptop (and not desktop) type of memory modules (they're called SO-DIMM memory modules)? That same memory does not have to be Apple branded, and it is also used in PCs as well - the same exact memory chips, the same exact components. Having said that, there are quite of few inexpensive options for upgrading your iMac memory on the market.Compared to Apple's branded memory, the memory modules recommended in this section are only a fraction of the cost and they work 100% guaranteed (also confirmed by many readers of this article).
The appropriate memory modules going into iMac 20" and iMac 24" aluminum 2007 models are the following PC2-5300 modules (1 GB or 2 GB modules, DDR2, 667 MHz, SO-DIMM 200 pin, unbuffered):
RAM for iMac 20in, 24in 2007 models
|For 6 GB upgrade use one 2GB 667 Mhz module and one 4GB 667 Mhz module.|
Althoug offical Apple specifications say that this model can be upgraded to 4 GB RAM in total, it is a well known fact in the Mac community that iMac 2007 can be upgraded to 6GB RAM in total (because it has the same Santa Rosa chipset used in iMacs supporting 8GB of RAM). Some Mac users have tried upgrading this model to 8 GB RAM, however it proved to be very unstable and the hardware just couldn't handle it. Upgrading to 6 GB is stable and works very well in these models.
In order to max out your iMac 2007 memory to 6 GB you will need one 2GB 667Mhz unbuffered so-dimm and one 4GB 667Mhz unbuffered so-dimm memory module complying to PC2-5300 specification (choose from the above).
iMac models from the early 2008 use faster 800 Mhz memory PC2-6400 (compared to 667 Mhz modules used in 2007 iMacs). Although the above suggested 667 Mhz modules for iMac 2007 will work in your iMac 2008 (provided both memory modules are 667Mhz) you should really look into getting the faster 800 Mhz memory - therefore the appropriate memory modules going into iMac 20" and iMac 24" aluminum 2008 models are the following (1 GB or 2 GB modules, DDR2, 800 MHz, SO-DIMM 200 pin, unbuffered):
RAM for iMac 20in, 24in 2008 models
|For 6 GB upgrade use one 2GB 800 Mhz module and one 4GB 800 Mhz module.|
This model as well can be upgradd to 6 GB RAM in total.
In order to max out your iMac 2008 memory to 6 GB you will need one 2GB 800Mhz unbuffered so-dimm and one 4GB 800Mhz unbuffered so-dimm memory module complying to PC2-6400 specification (choose from the above).
iMac models from the early 2009 use newer DDR3 memory running at 1066 Mhz memory PC3-8500. Memory modules for iMac 2009 are not compatible with iMac 2007 or iMac 2008 models. iMac early 2009 (20" and 24" inch - non-wide screens) can be maxed out to 8GB RAM memory in total.
RAM for iMac 20in, 24in early 2009 models
iMac 2009 can be maxed out to 8 GB of RAM memory -- for which you will need two (2) 4GB memory modules 2x4GB 1066Mhz unbuffered so-dimm complying to PC3-8500 specification (choose from the above).
iMac models from the late 2009, 2010 and 2011, use even faster DDR3 memory running at 1333 Mhz memory PC3-10600. Unlike their predecessor, these iMac models have four (4) memory bays available and can be maxed out to 16GB of RAM memory.
Therefore the appropriate memory modules going into iMac 21.5" and iMac 27" wide-screen aluminum late 2009, 2010 and 2011 models are the following (2 GB or 4 GB modules, DDR3, 1333 MHz, SO-DIMM 204 pin, unbuffered):
RAM for iMac 21.5in, 27in late 2009, 2010, 2011 models
|For 16 GB upgrade use four (4) x 4GB 1333 Mhz modules .|
iMac late 2009, 2010 and 2011 can be maxed out to 16 GB of RAM memory -- for which you will need four (4) memory modules 4GB 1333Mhz unbuffered so-dimm complying to PC3-10600 specification (choose from the above).
Please note that for iMacs 2007 and 2008 models you should not mix 667 Mhz and 800 Mhz modules - either your both memory modules should be 667 Mhz, or they should both be 800 Mhz, but do not combine 667 Mhz and 800 Mhz modules at the same time as you cannot have two memory modules working at different speeds simultaneously - your machine is likely to crash often or not boot at all!
iMac early 2009 uses only 1066 Mhz (DDR3) memory modules - these are not compatible with previous models (2007, 2008).
iMac late 2009, 2010 and 2011 uses 1333Mhz (DDR3) memory modules - these are not compatible with previous models (2007, 2008, early 2009)
|You also want both modules from the same manufacturer with exactly the same specifications (specifically CAS - CL latency) - even if you install two memory modules from the same manufacturer with the correct Mhz speed, if they differ in CAS - CL latency your machine is likely act up! This is important to take into consideration if you already have an existing module and would like to add an additional module - make sure you get exactly the same module as the one you already have OR throw out the existing module (i.e. sell on eBay) and install both new modules of the same manufacturer and specification - in such case your iMac memory upgrade will be a 100% success!!!|
Apple Welcomes you Back to School
Finally, as you've just installed a blank hard drive, you need to install OS X operating system on your iMac. Please note that if you have Leopard upgrade DVD, you will need to install Tiger first, and then upgrade the system to Leopard.
Update: One of our readers mentions that you can install OS X from the upgrade DVD version without previously installing Tiger if you select Time Machine Backup, and then cancel it by going back - at that point the upgrade DVD will allow you to install OS X on a blank hard drive without prior OS installed.
On the other hand, if you have the full version of Leopard OS X, just go ahead and pop in the DVD, turn on your iMac and it will boot from the DVD - just follow the instructions on the screen to install the operating system.
Please note that once you are booted to OS X Leopard installation you will need to start the Disk Utility in order to partition and format your new 1TB, 1.5TB or 2TB hard drive.
You might also want to consult Leopard OS X installation guide from Apple.
Update: In order to transfer data from your old hard drive, you can place your old hard drive into USB external case, connect it to your iMac and start Utilitie, Migration Assistant. If you've used Time Machine for backups, you can also recover you data from Time Machine utilizing the Migration Assistant.
Once you install the OS X, in order to verify the hard disk installation you need to click on the Apple logo (upper left corner), About This Mac, More Info, then Serial-ATA (or simply start System Profiler application from the Utilities folder).
In order to verify the amount of memory (RAM) installed, click on the Apple logo and select About This Mac.
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