2011 HDD replacement: How hard is it?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by AcesHigh87, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    New Brunswick, Canada
    #1
    The HDD in my 2011 21.5" iMac is dying (SMART status failing, can't upgrade the OS) and I need to get it replaced. I'm out of warranty coverage (obviously) and have an appointment at the apple store to get a quote on the price of a replacement drive.

    However, since they are likely to tell me that they can't install an SSD (I'm going to ask but I'm doubtful) I did go and check on OWC for replacement parts. I can buy a full kit with a 480GB SSD for $250 which is likely a lot less than apple will charge (if anyone has an approximate price I'd be curious to know).

    I do want the speed increase and if it saves my money then that's just a bonus. I have some experience with internal parts via both Mac Pro Towers (not much work there) and PC towers (a bit more obviously) but I'm worried about my ability to take apart the iMac, mainly in regards to the LCD and it's cables. So, my main question, how hard is it to remove the screen and how fragile are the cables? From what I've gathered it looks like the Display cable is a ribbon cable which are usually pretty easy to break so that one is worrying me a lot.

    Has anyone done an upgrade to an iMac that could give me some tips or at least let me know if the process is really hard? I'd hate ti destroy my iMac in an attempt to save $100 and get some extra speed.
     
  2. briloronmacrumo, Feb 11, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2016

    briloronmacrumo macrumors 6502

    briloronmacrumo

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    #2
  3. AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #3
    I've watched the OWC guide and looked at the iFixIt Page for it. Realistically my only concern is the Display Ribbon cable as I don't have a great history with ribbon cables so I'm mostly concerned about how fragile it is.

    If that were any other kind of cable, honestly, I wouldn't be worrying at all.
     
  4. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #4
    With that amount of expertize, I wouldnt be scared.

    Remember to read up on the temperature sensor for that model.
     
  5. AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #5
    The OWC kit comes with the sensor cable to control the fans which should be fine for temperature control. If all else fails I can use a Fan control application since SSD's don't really get too hot.

    I go hope you're right on the expertise. I probably make it sound like I've done more than I have since it's been mostly limited to replacing RAM and PCI parts, a GPU on occasion. Most connectors don't bother me since I know they are more durable than they look but ribbon cables can be tricky.
     
  6. BrettApple macrumors 65816

    BrettApple

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    #6
    So far I have put SSDs in at least 10 2011 iMacs (mostly 27", some 21.5") on campus and for individuals.

    The OWC thermal sensor is a must, and their guide is great. The ribbon cables aren't that bad and getting the LCD out is pretty easy. The annoying part more than anything are the magnets around the screen that like to steal your screws as you are putting them back in :)

    Just go slow and pry on the tabs for the connectors and all should go well. Don't yank on the cable itself of course. Though I may have done that a couple times and it came out fine, I wouldn't chance it. Usually that's the smaller display power cable that's only a few pins and loves to get stuck. Also be careful around the PSU, it takes some good alignment to get the cable to go back in since it's at an awkward angle.

    The only real ribbon cable on there is the display data ZIF cable, and it's pretty easy since it has a latch. That's probably the easiest cable in it to remove other than the SATA cables.

    Best of luck to you!
     
  7. AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #7
    Thanks for all the info, that puts my mind at ease a lot more.

    A question since you've clearly done this a lot. Should I try to do it when someone else is around so they can hold the display while I remove / insert cables? I've read people saying it's kinda a pain to hold the display up / out (that's the other thing, is it better to have the iMac standing as OWC shows or laying flat as iFixIt shows?) while getting your hand in behind to do the cables.
     
  8. BrettApple macrumors 65816

    BrettApple

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    #8
    Hmm, I've done it both ways. It would be much easier with someone holding the LCD. I typically lay it down on it's back when working on it, though the weight of the LCD can smash your fingers during removal if you aren't careful and it's easier to get out when it's standing up.

    The last one I did I had it laying down while removing the glass and screws, then stood it up to help remove the LCD, just kept it held in place with my body and used both hands on the cables, removed the LCD and put it back on it's back for the rest. If you have someone to help I'd go the stand up method. Otherwise at least when it is laying down nothing is going to fall out.

    It is amazing how meticulously balanced the iMac is with the weight of it's LCD, you'll know what I mean once it's removed and standing up.

    Also, try and keep the glass cover away from dust and have the outside facing up in case any does land on it. Same with the LCD, avoid fingerprints at all costs. It is not easy to clean and once it's back together you'll notice any blemishes on it and have to take the glass back off. That's the one thing I don't like about the design on the older models. But the 2012 and up ones are practically non user serviceable. So I'll take the tradeoff for a larger design without a fused display.
     
  9. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #9

    I have just about the same amount of expertise, and I added a secondary SSD to my 2011 iMac without problems. It did take more than an hour, but I was also carefull and took my time. I didn't need an extra set of hands, but I did make sure I had plenty of free space on the table I was working on, and a good spot to put down the screen safely!

    The only thing to be really carefull about, apart from connectors of course which can be a bit tricky, is the cable that is attached just when you detach the screen from the machine.
     
  10. AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #10
    I've still got the original box and packaging so my plan was to do as OWC has suggested before and put the LCD in the sleeve that originally covered the iMac and then put it upright in the box with the glass in there as well to keep the dust away. I'm also planning to give it all a good clean right before I stick the glass back in to make sure that I won't have to take it apart again. On the plus side, if something does get dirty and need to be cleaned, at least it's just removing the glass instead of the entire panel again.

    I still have my appointment with apple and if their price is cheap enough I'll probably just get them to swap the drive out but I am a little less weary about taking it apart now so if their price is above OWC's I'm excited to get my hands on an SSD.

    What would you suggest as a process for installing the OS? When I upgraded my macbook I just cloned the drive and popped it in which worked well but not sure if it's a better solution than clean installing the OS and restoring from time machine.
     
  11. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a

    Sirmausalot

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    Sep 1, 2007
    #11
    Although it is difficult, the SSD is the far superior upgrade. Yes a second pair of hands (and someone who is technical) is a must IMHO. I would go that route.
    Alternatively, an external SSD will still be much better than an internal HDD and save you money and hassle.
     
  12. Gjwilly, Feb 12, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016

    Gjwilly macrumors 68030

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    #12
    I've repaired PC desktops and laptops, MacBooks, and iPhones but I'd be hesitant about this job only because of concerns over the exposed LCD.
    No performance increase would be worth my frustration over any dirt, dust, or fingerprints that I got under the glass.
     
  13. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #13
    Apple will not install an SSD in your 2011. They will repair the system to get it to where it was when originally purchased, but will not upgrade the hard drive. They would rather you throw away that otherwise perfectly good system and buy another.
     
  14. AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #14
    That's my hunch. On the phone they said they'll put SSD's in some but not all so they'd have to see it. My guess is if SSD is an option when you buy they'll install one (at God knows what cost) but otherwise they won't. I'm mostly keeping the appointment in case, somehow, their cost is lower than buying the OWC kit will run me. The performance increase wouldn't be there but money is a bit tight so if they can save me $50 it couldn't hurt.
     
  15. r6mile macrumors 6502

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    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    London, UK
    #15
    About the ribbon cable

    I have done this procedure on both a 2010 (first) and a 2011 (second) 21.5 iMac). It's not a difficult procedure, you just have to be careful, particularly with the ribbon cable. On the 2010 I struggled with the ribbon cable but managed in the end, while on the 2011 I ended damaging it and having to replace it. Not a massive issue as you can buy a new cable for about £15, but ideally you don't want to damage it. This is how I recommend avoiding any damage. The OWC video is misleading because it makes this seem easy as pie but it's harder than it looks.

    The ribbon cable is easy to take out but quite hard to put back in, particularly when you have to hold the screen with the other hand and you can't really see what's going on under there. As you are closing up the iMac, instead of keeping the ribbon cable attached to the display, and then attaching it back to the motherboard (as he does in the video), do it the other way around. Detach the ribbon cable from the display (the connector will be under some black tape at the top of the screen), put the screen away, and then, with both of your hands free and nothing preventing you from seeing clearly, take your time and re-attach the connector to the motherboard. And then you can reattach the cable back to the display which is very easy because it will be near you. Doing it this way makes it about 10x easier and less frustrating.

    Let me know if this is unclear or you have any questions.
     

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