Had to buy 2017 27" 5K iMac from Best Buy - swap Fusion Drive for SSD

amac4me

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Apr 26, 2005
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It wasn't ideal but I had to buy my new 2017 27" iMac from Best Buy because I had a $900 store credit that I've been sitting on for a while.

My ideal scenario would have been to get a BTO with SSD from Apple but then I'd have to pay more out of pocket. Clearly, that wasn't something I was willing to do.

I opted for the mid 3.5GHz i5 with the stock 1TB fusion drive configuration. The machine outside of the Fusion Drive will serve me well. I want to swap out the 1TB Fusion Drive with either a 1TB or 2TB Samsung 850 PRO but will do so later this year as I expect better pricing during the holiday season.

So I wanted to ask what's the best approach to swapping out the Fusion Drive as I haven't had a Mac with a Fusion Drive.

  1. I know that I'll have to open up the iMac in order to swap the Fusion Drive with an SSD but is this even recommended?
  2. What's the overall process to do the swap? My understanding is that I have to "split / break" the fusion drive before attempting the swap.
  3. What to do with the SSD part of the fusion drive that ships with the iMac? I won't need this after I swap in the 1TB or 2TB SSD.
Any other considerations that I'm not thinking about?

Thanks!
 
Last edited:

Taz Mangus

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Mar 10, 2011
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The SSD for the 1TB fusion is 32GB. Not sure if there is a enclosure that will support its interface.
 

mpe

macrumors 6502
Sep 3, 2010
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I would stay away from the 1TB fusion and pay extra for the top-tier stock configuration.

For the extra $300 you'll get faster CPU, the good fusion (the one with 2TB HDD and 128GB SSD) and noticeably better graphics (faster with twice as much RAM)

I think it is a good deal. You usually don't get that much for $300 from Apple.

The 2TB fusion is great and if you later decide to upgrade the HDD for an extra SATA SSD, it will be much better than dealing with tiny 32GB internal SSD. It would be way to small to use as a system drive and replacements are hard to find. The 128GB on the other hand is ultra fast (x4 lane pci-e 3.0) and would make a great fast system drive.
 
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Taz Mangus

macrumors 68040
Mar 10, 2011
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I would stay away from the 1TB fusion and pay extra for the top-tier stock configuration.

For the extra $300 you'll get faster CPU, the good fusion (the one with 2TB HDD and 128GB SSD) and noticeably better graphics (faster with twice as much RAM)

I think it is a good deal. You usually don't get that much for $300 from Apple.

The 2TB fusion is great and if you later decide to upgrade the HDD for an extra SATA SSD, it will be much better than dealing with tiny 32GB internal. It would be way to small to use as a system drive and replacements are hard to find. The 128GB is ultra fast (x4 lane pci-e 3.0) and will make a great fast system drive.
This is what I would do as well.

EDIT: I have a question to anyone. Will BestBuy let you special order a BTO iMac?
 
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btrach144

macrumors 68000
Aug 28, 2015
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Opening the iMac to swap the SSD is tricky and would void your warranty. I'd suggest you look into getting an external SSD (USB/Thunderbolt).
 

arrash

macrumors member
Nov 3, 2006
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5
Marlborough, MA
Another option is to return the iMac to Best Buy and to sell your gift card to gift card granny. They pay 88% so your $900 would net you nearly $800 in return. They even can send it to your PayPal right away. I sold one to them and got paid same day, hours later. Sure, you lose $100 but you gain the ability to go anywhere, not have to rip open the iMac and get what you really want.
 

nambuccaheadsau

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Oct 19, 2007
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Nambucca Heads Australia
I suggest following the above advice. There is no easy solution to upgrading the iMac. How hard are the glued iMacs to crack open? I have a friend who is a major Apple Reseller in Sydney, Australia, and he does not allow his technicians to do it after breaking/chipping five screens at $500 per pop. Sends them over by van to Apple HQ here for them to work on.
 

mpe

macrumors 6502
Sep 3, 2010
314
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Although not as easy as a PC, upgrading iMac (at least 2014/2015 models) is actually not that hard. iMacs are not "hard glued", there is just a double sided paper tape holding the display which you need to remove and then replace, which is probably the only complication in the process.

Yes, the display is a big piece of glass and one need to be careful when manipulating with it, but it is certainly possible to take it out and back without breaking it. Your major reseller friend has possibly a staff issue and they could as well break them by loading them on a van when sending to Apple HQ :)

If you have at lease modest technical skills, there is nothing to be worried about. There are much harder computers to repair.

Actually, it is moderate repair on ifixit.com
 

Chupa Chupa

macrumors G5
Jul 16, 2002
14,830
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FYI if you crack the case you void your warranty. I'd just get an ext SSD to hold your apps and key files and use the internal drive as a safe deposit box you hardly go into.
 

amac4me

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Apr 26, 2005
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Another option is to return the iMac to Best Buy and to sell your gift card to gift card granny. They pay 88% so your $900 would net you nearly $800 in return. They even can send it to your PayPal right away. I sold one to them and got paid same day, hours later. Sure, you lose $100 but you gain the ability to go anywhere, not have to rip open the iMac and get what you really want.
I wasn't aware of Gift Card Granny. Thanks for the recommendation.
[doublepost=1498604250][/doublepost]
I thought Best Buy could order BTO?

Did you ask them?
My impression was that they don't but I will call them to confirm.
[doublepost=1498604707][/doublepost]
I would stay away from the 1TB fusion and pay extra for the top-tier stock configuration.

For the extra $300 you'll get faster CPU, the good fusion (the one with 2TB HDD and 128GB SSD) and noticeably better graphics (faster with twice as much RAM)

I think it is a good deal. You usually don't get that much for $300 from Apple.

The 2TB fusion is great and if you later decide to upgrade the HDD for an extra SATA SSD, it will be much better than dealing with tiny 32GB internal SSD. It would be way to small to use as a system drive and replacements are hard to find. The 128GB on the other hand is ultra fast (x4 lane pci-e 3.0) and would make a great fast system drive.
I was going back and forth between the mid model and the top-tier config. I was aware of the 32GB SSD vs the 128GB SSD but are there real differences between them other than the size? Based on what you call out there are. I wasn't able to locate any spec differences prior to purchasing. I don't game or do any demanding work to justify the 580 8GB graphics card so I leaned toward the mid-level thinking that I could do HDD-SSD swap. Based on what I'm reading from all the great input is that it's not advisable to do so.
[doublepost=1498606177][/doublepost]
I wasn't aware of Gift Card Granny. Thanks for the recommendation.
[doublepost=1498604250][/doublepost]
My impression was that they don't but I will call them to confirm.
[doublepost=1498604707][/doublepost]

I was going back and forth between the mid model and the top-tier config. I was aware of the 32GB SSD vs the 128GB SSD but are there real differences between them other than the size? Based on what you call out there are. I wasn't able to locate any spec differences prior to purchasing. I don't game or do any demanding work to justify the 580 8GB graphics card so I leaned toward the mid-level thinking that I could do HDD-SSD swap. Based on what I'm reading from all the great input is that it's not advisable to do so.
Confirmed with Best Buy that they do not sell BTO Macs.
 
Last edited:

curmudgeonette

macrumors 6502a
Jan 28, 2016
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California
Not sure if there is a enclosure that will support its interface.
No enclosure needed. Once the internal drives are unfused, you could just leave it inside the iMac as a very small and very fast scratch drive.

I'd suggest using the fusion drive to hold the OS and apps; and getting an external SSD for documents.
 

jclardy

macrumors 68040
Oct 6, 2008
3,394
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I was going back and forth between the mid model and the top-tier config. I was aware of the 32GB SSD vs the 128GB SSD but are there real differences between them other than the size? Based on what you call out there are. I wasn't able to locate any spec differences prior to purchasing. I don't game or do any demanding work to justify the 580 8GB graphics card so I leaned toward the mid-level thinking that I could do HDD-SSD swap. Based on what I'm reading from all the great input is that it's not advisable to do so.
I don't know any specifics, but the way SSDs work is usually with a few flash memory banks and a controller. With more flash banks on a board the controller can write/read from each simultaneously, meaning dramatically faster speeds. My guess is the 32GB is just either 1 32GB flash chip or two 16GB, versus likely 4 or 8 flash banks on the 128GB.

Plus the actual size will make a difference, the 32GB will store most apps and system files, but looking at stored files in finder or scrolling through photos is going to be pinging the spinning disk.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,170
5,529
My opinion only, but it's not wise to buy a new iMac and then break it open for any reason.
You'll void the warranty and if you break something inside, well... that's your problem, not theirs.

Why don't you just sit back for a little while, and use the 1tb fusion drive "as it is"?

In the meantime, wait for the new USB3.1 g2 drives to come onto the market. They'll offer roughly 9gbps speeds, and you won't risk the warranty when you attach one.

I don't expect to see many thunderbolt 3 external (single) drives any time soon.
USB rules the roost now, insofar as external (single) drive enclosures go.
 

theitsage

Suspended
Aug 28, 2005
795
840
Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with NVMe is the fastest external solution. I've tried pairing a Samsung 960 EVO 500GB + AKiTiO Node with a 2017 iMac 4K. It's also bootable. Cost is about $500 total.

The write speed is much lower than specs because the Thunderbolt 3 enclosure I was using has eGPU firmware. If you get one with PCIe firmware, both write and read should be closer to 2,2XX MB/s.



 
Last edited:

amac4me

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Apr 26, 2005
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0
My opinion only, but it's not wise to buy a new iMac and then break it open for any reason.
You'll void the warranty and if you break something inside, well... that's your problem, not theirs.

Why don't you just sit back for a little while, and use the 1tb fusion drive "as it is"?

In the meantime, wait for the new USB3.1 g2 drives to come onto the market. They'll offer roughly 9gbps speeds, and you won't risk the warranty when you attach one.

I don't expect to see many thunderbolt 3 external (single) drives any time soon.
USB rules the roost now, insofar as external (single) drive enclosures go.
Surely an option to do this. I'm leaning towards returning the unit to Best Buy, selling the Best Buy store credit and using the funds towards a BTO with a 512GB SSD. I'm going to think this over for one more day.