How big a HDD can go in a new iMac?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by stokerino, Sep 3, 2016.

  1. stokerino macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008
    Not sure where to ask this question but here goes....

    I've got a 2013 27" iMac which has a 4 TB hard drive in it, which is the size I need. I'd like to buy a new iMac but Apple says they won't install a 4 TB drive in it. The biggest drive they offer is a 3 TB Fusion Drive but I'd like a simple HDD that's 4 TB in size. Question: Is there any technical reason why an authorized Apple service provider couldn't install a 4 TB HDD into a new iMac to replace the 1 TB HDD that normally comes with a new iMac?
  2. tubeexperience, Sep 3, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016

    tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    You can install a 10TB hard drive in your iMac if you want.

    There's no reason that you can't.
  3. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    I'd recommend buying a 2Tb Fusion Drive (so you get the larger SSD size), then going into a service provider who'll replace the internal hard drive with whatever you like. At least you'll then get reasonable speed. Don't whatever you do try to run an iMac with a hard drive alone, it's as slow as a dog.

    A better solution, though, is likely to be to run a larger SSD-only Mac and put more of your data on an external Thunderbolt drive or RAID array. I run a 1Tb SSD iMac with a 2 x 4Tb LaCie drive externally (configured as a single 4Tb volume). Apps and high speed data on the SSD, less commonly used stuff such as videos, music etc on the external drive.
  4. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    In that case, why wouldn't he just buy the SSD only model and then add a hard drive?
  5. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Because he needs more than 3Tb internally as a single drive is the only possible reason for taking the thing apart (with the resulting worry about reliability and saleability). To make this a hard drive alone would also be very slow indeed.

    So either replace the hard drive of a Fusion Drive (for maximum capacity with a single volume internally for the iMac) or use a SSD iMac and an external drive (for greater capacity cheaply, with the advantage of being able to on-sell the unmolested iMac in the future and transfer the external drive to another computer, but with the disadvantage of having to deal with two volumes).
  6. tubeexperience, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016

    tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    That's not my question.

    My question is this: If he's going to put in a new hard drive anyway (and also want an SSD), why not buy the SSD only iMac instead of the one with the Fusion Drive ?

    If he doesn't care that much about SSD, he can just buy a hard drive only model.
  7. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008
    Boy, you guys - and this macrumors web site - are just great! I started not knowing what a Fusion Drive actually is and now I'm about to know lots. So a Fusion Drive is composed of separate physical parts - a hard drive and a SSD - which work in tandem through the Mac OS software? Even if one orders just a SSD is there still the space to insert a hard drive - in which case I could have my local Apple service provider put in any capacity hard drive? I don't get the part of what to order in a new iMac which gives me the biggest SSD (is that 512GB?) and at the same time doesn't require me paying for a hard drive that I'm not going to need? Not expecting an answer tonight as you're probably all asleep now. but hope to talk to y'all in due course.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 4, 2016 ---
    And you say never run an iMac (presumably referring to newer or new iMacs) with a hard drive alone. No wonder my 2013 iMac has always seemed slow....
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    stokerino -

    I wouldn't risk opening up a new iMac to install a larger HDD.
    It could mess with the warranty.

    Cheapest, easiest, fastest way to add platter-based storage is to plug in a USB3 HDD.
    It will run as fast as if it were installed internally.
  9. tubeexperience, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016

    tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    Yes. One regular hard drive and one "blade" SSD that looks like this:



    Any of the SSD only model doesn't come with the hard drive.

    Well, I never said that, but an SSD would give you a nice speed boost.
  10. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    Is there a technical reason the drive needs to be internal? Or just something you'd prefer? What type of data are you storing?

    Personally I use a NAS for safer data storage and its upgradability for the future. If you are using 4tb now you'll probably eventually need more right? The beauty of a NAS is you can cheaply and easily install another HDD. And when the time comes to upgrade my iMac I don't have to pay worry about storage capacities vs speed.
  11. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008
    More questions...maybe nothing more than curiosity but still I'd like to know:

    "Any of the SSD only model doesn't come with the hard drive" but one can still put a hard drive in if one wishes, right?

    Is it worthwhile to get a 1TB SSD right from the start? Can I upgrade the SSD anytime later? If I can buy a 1TB SSD from my local memory specialist for much less (what specs do I ask for?) than what Apple charges that would be appealing. Can an Apple service provider install SSD that I have bought elsewhere without problem? Is any brand of SSD better than the others?

    If one has a hard drive and a SSD and one backs up using Time Machine (TM), does TM backup separately or all together so that the backup can be used on a new computer in the future with different storage configurations?
    --- Post Merged, Sep 4, 2016 ---
    Oops, one more question:

    I'm thinking of keeping my 2013 iMac and taking it to our soon-to-be office for business use. Can I have the Apple service provider install an SSD into this older iMac without problem? Is there a max SSD size for this older iMac? Where do I go to find out the specs for an SSD going into a 2013 iMac (presumably different specs than for a 2016 iMac)?
  12. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Whoops, sorry I forgot to answer that part. I understand that the SSD-only iMac models, although they have a space, don't have the cabling and brackets installed to take a secondary drive. I am not sure how easy it is to get those components and install them successfully, but it's certainly more involved that just swapping the drive that's already there.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 4, 2016 ---
    iMacs don't just take any old SSD (at least not in their primary drive space, although you could replace the second part of a Fusion drive with SSD). They take very specific and much faster cards that are not compatible with anything else, even across years of the same model. That's part of the reason that a 1Tb SSD iMac is a way bigger jump than the price of a normal off-the-shelf SSD drive.

    The "specs you ask for" are a specific Apple SSD card for that particular machine. They can be bought, but you are unlikely to find that the price of one of these plus professional installation is going to save you anything. And, of course, you open yourself up to warranty issues in the future.

    The SSD in an iMac is not intended to be upgraded. You should ideally buy the one you're going to need, and use Thunderbolt to connect additional storage as you require it.

    Time Machine can back up multiple volumes, and you can restore them to your new machine as required, as long as each new volume is as least as big as it needs to be to take whatever you're putting there.

    Yes, an Apple service provider will be able to provide you with a price to put an SSD into your 2013 iMac.
  13. tubeexperience, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016

    tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    Well, here you go:

    Brackets are already installed.

    For the OP:

    SSD that comes with the iMac is proprietary. You can find buy one, but it's going to be expensive because it's proprietary.

    What a lot of people do is that they buy a standard SSD and put it into the hard drive slot.

    Oh, and the OP don't need to go to an Apple authorized service provider: plenty of third parties can do the upgrade.

    Heck, I can do it for him if he lives anywhere near me.

    The SSD that Apple uses in the iMac is proprietary and while you can buy one, it is really expensive. Anyway, I recommend just getting the 256GB SSD with the iMac. You can store most of your data on the hard drive (that you are going to install afterward).

    What a lot of people do is that they order the hard drive only iMac model and then replace the hard drive with a standard SSD, but that won't work for you since you also need a hard drive.

    Absolutely! You can install as big an SSD as you like, assuming you can afford it. (4TB Samsung 850 EVO is $1450 :eek:) It's going to take place of your hard drive, though.

    You can also install Apple's proprietary SSD, but it's going to be expensive.

    Also, you don't need to go to an Apple Authorized Service Provider. Plenty of third parties can do the upgrades for you.
  14. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008
    I've just come back from the Apple service provider. The tech there says he can't (won't??) separately put both a hard drive and an SSD into a new iMac that I would order either with only an SSD or a hard drive (which I would replace with a 4 TB hard drive of my choosing). He says the new iMacs are too thin to accomplish that and that's why Apple offers the Fusion drive that are actually fused together at the factory and presumably can't/won't be done elsewhere. the sounds of it I'm left with the choice of either having an internal SSD or an internal hard drive but not both unless it's a Fusion Drive. What sayeth you now?
  15. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    How about a 4TB hybrid drive?
  16. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    You need a new Apple Service Provider.

    The Fusion drive is the inbuilt SSD blade card plus a standard (separate) hard disk. They are "fused" by the operating system. You can make a fusion drive yourself out of any two drives, even the internal SSD and an external drive should you so wish (this will be a bad idea, of course). Similarly it can be done on the Mac Mini with an SSD and hard drive in the two slots.

    If there's a fusion drive, you can "unfuse" it, replace the hard disk, and re-fuse the drives together and reinstall OSX. Obviously it's easiest to do this right at the start when you have no data on the machine.
  17. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008

    You two especially - tillsbury and tubeexperience - are giving me lots of info, lots to think about and lots of followup questions to ask. For example: aside from the two Apple Stores in my city and the one Apple Service Provider that tillsbury said to find an alternative for, there's one other service provider listed by Apple as being qualified. It's a chain of drug stores that have computer sections but I never thought they had qualified techies. Guess I will soon find out... but suspect that it will be no different from the other one where I have always gone to. i.e. the techie won't want to do anything different from what Apple recommends. In other words, unfusing the fusion drive and replacing the hard drive with a bigger one will probably be too much to ask any Apple Service Provider to do. I will ask tomorrow anyway.

    In the meantime, at the start of this post I knew practically nothing about fusion drives and now you're suggesting a (Seagate) Hybrid drive. This too looks interesting but what are the chances that an Apple Service Provider will install one of these if they won't do the hard drive-fusion drive upgrade? I've never seen a hybrid drive mentioned by Apple and question if it'll even work on a new iMac???

    Still wrestling but appreciate all your suggestions and comments.
  18. tubeexperience, Sep 13, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016

    tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers are like car dealers: they (sometimes) won't install aftermarket parts.

    If you want something custom, you need to bring it to a third party repair shop.

    When I was in high school (currently in college), I used to operate such a repair shop in the back of a hair salon.

    I am from a rural town and was basically the only one repairing Macs locally. Obviously, it was quite profitable being a local monopoly.

    It definitely beats being a part-time waitress: I can tell you that.

    Want a custom an iMac with 8 TB hard drive and a 256 GB SSD? I would do that.


    ...but if you want both an SSD and a hard drive, you have to buy an iMac with an SSD (because the SSD Apple uses is proprietary and not easily obtained: see image above) and then you can add a hard drive afterward.
  19. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008
    Wow! this is so great! I did a quick search for "Apple Service Providers Calgary" and out popped two seemingly excellent "third party repair shops" that would appear to be able and willing to do the install of a 4 TB hard drive to a new iMac with SSD only. I can't wait to tell you the results. Thanks so much. (If only you happened to live in the same city as I....)
  20. tubeexperience, Sep 13, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016

    tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    Make sure that he/she install the in-line digital thermal sensor or the fan would spin out of control.

    The SSD only iMac does not come with a SATA cable, so you'll also need this (Apple Part #: 923-00092):
  21. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Why are you making things so difficult?

    Buy the largest "internal configuration" that you can.
    The 3tb fusion drive sounds about right.

    Then add additional EXTERNAL storage as needed.

    If you want FAST performance, "de-fuse" the 3tb fusion drive into 128gb SSD and 3tb HDD "standalone" drives.
    Doing this will guarantee that the internal SSD -always runs at its best-.

    Be mindful of what you put on the SSD: OS, apps, and "slimmed down" home folder.
    Keep large libraries elsewhere.
    This will maintain a good area of "free space" at the back end of the SSD, and keep it running fast.

    Again, why are you making things so difficult?

    The LAST THING I would do with a new, expensive iMac is open it up and start re-configuring the innards.
    I would wait until the warranty was done, at least.
  22. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008

    How to "de-fuse" the 3TB fusion drive? Can that be done using software alone? Guessing that your suggestion of not opening up a new iMac includes not increasing the size of the SSD? I typically get a new iMac when the warranty is over so would have preferred to have a 4TB hard drive in there from the beginning - now with an SSD in there too if possible - but will probably go along with your suggestion of a 3TB fusion drive with an external hard drive (which is a big pain compared to having it all internal).
  23. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014
    The fusion drive is only created in software from the onboard discrete hardware components as has been explained. The Service Provider stating they are "fused at the factory" is misleading, the hardware stays seperate, the fusion drive is created in software, (but it is done at the factory ;-) ).
  24. danielwsmithee macrumors 65816

    Mar 12, 2005
    If your going external anyways. I'd simplify the whole thing and go SSD only internally and use HDs externally. Say a 1TB or 512GB internal SSD, with a 4 TB external drive. I believe very strongly in keeping the failure prone hard disks out of a difficult to access machine like the iMac. I came to this conclusion after dealing with 3 hard drive failure in 7 years on my iMac, and that one was easier to open and service than the current design.

    If it were me I'd buy a 512GB SSD only iMac. Than get an OWC Thunderbay 4 to put whatever HDDs you want externally.
  25. stokerino thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2008
    I've currently got a 4TB hard drive in a 2013 27" iMac and it's only got about 750GB left on it unused. Never had a SSD before so don't know how to use it (i.e. assign certain files to it and other files to an internal let alone external hard drive.) Haven't seen a website or video explaining how to do that, so thinking of just using a good old fashioned internal hard drive (easy to upgrade to a 4TB from the 1TB that comes with a new iMac) and sacrifice some speed for simplicity and reliability. Since I am regularly backing up with Time Machine, in the unlikely event the internal hard drive gives up in less than 3 years (when I will likely get a new iMac) I can easily have a new drive installed and restored from the backup.

    For the SSD size you (and others in this thread) mention 1TB but the biggest that Apple offers is 512GB so how would I upgrade to 1TB and at what cost? Someone mentioned that I should get Apple to upgrade (they have a proprietary SSD) but doubt that they would upgrade to 1TB since it's not even mentioned as a possibility. With a hard drive I don't have to think about what goes where, it all happens automatically which is one of the main advantages of a Mac IMO. On the one hand I'm a bit scared of using a SSD in combination with an internal (de-fused) or external hard drive, but on the other hand I was a bit scared to use the OS X system at first only to find that the change was quickly understood. If I get my Apple third party repair person to de-fuse a fusion drive to make the computer super fast, how does it work to allocate files to the SSD vs. the now-defused hard drive?

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