iMac 27" hard drive finally died

bulldoze

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
210
50
The family 27" 2009 iMac finally died this afternoon, it was one of the Seagate hard drive models that we never got Apple to fix in 2012 as my wife was doing a university course at the time so we never got it sorted.

Well it finally died today after a year of being horribly slow and unreliable, my wife is always doing university courses so she cannot afford for it to be away for days let alone weeks. She has rushed out this afternoon to buy a cheap Chromebook but we really need to address the issue with the iMac now.

I suggested sending it away to one of the many independent Apple upgrade sites that could install a SSD instead of the hard drive but the ones I have looked at do not advertise cost and I am afraid that it could escalate into silly numbers and that we might as well bin it and buy new instead! I have heard that Yosemite would not recognise a third party SSD anyway?

What are our options? we have a 27" screen and a quad core processor surely this still has some value somehow?
 

bulldoze

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
210
50
Thanks for the detailed reply!

Tempted to put an SSD in it now - We are in the UK so I am looking at costs now, if we are going to open it up then we might as well put something decent under the hood.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
8,987
2,399
Seattle
Thanks for the detailed reply!

Tempted to put an SSD in it now - We are in the UK so I am looking at costs now, if we are going to open it up then we might as well put something decent under the hood.
It's really not that hard to take apart the 27" 2009 iMac. It is certainly easier if you have a second pair of hands, though. You really only need one special tool as I recall when I opened mine - a suction cup, as the glass is only held on with magnets. You will need to short the hard drive sensor/temperature sensor to prevent the fans spinning up, though. That was pretty simple, though. Just take a twisty-tie, strip the plastic off it so you're left with the metal, and jam it into the sensor to short it. :)

If you're not up to messing with the internals, a Thunderbolt SSD is an easy way to get you back up and running. I ran my 2012 iMac for 2 years straight off a Thunderbolt SSD, and the tradition has continued with my new 2014 iMac.
 

pdmpolishing

macrumors member
Sep 18, 2007
77
17
I would suggest putting an SSD in the iMac, it will be like having a new computer with the increased speed of the SSD. I did this to my 2009 iMac, probable the best upgrade to the machine you can do. When I installed the SSD I replaced the internal disk drive with a caddy for the 2.5" SSD and left the old Hard Drive in place.
 

SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,079
470
Takamatsu, Japan
If you're not up to messing with the internals, a Thunderbolt SSD is an easy way to get you back up and running. I ran my 2012 iMac for 2 years straight off a Thunderbolt SSD, and the tradition has continued with my new 2014 iMac.
The Late 2009 iMac doesn't have Thunderbolt ports.

As mentioned, servicing that iMac is relatively easy with the iFixit guide, suction cups and a few Torx screwdrivers. SSD is the way to go.
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
8,987
2,399
Seattle
The Late 2009 iMac doesn't have Thunderbolt ports.

As mentioned, servicing that iMac is relatively easy with the iFixit guide, suction cups and a few Torx screwdrivers. SSD is the way to go.
Oh lord. It's such a long time ago now I forgot the 2009 has no Thunderbolt, just mini DisplayPort *embarrassed*.

But yes, it's not too hard to replace a hard drive with an SSD, but don't forget to deal with the temperature sensor on the hard drive.
 

bulldoze

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
210
50
I might have a go at doing it myself as people have suggested. I am tempted to get a 1TB SSD and then just do a time machine restore.

Thanks for the replies, anyone recommend a suitable SSD for this machine?
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,152
5,515
OP:

The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to get the iMac functional again is to use an EXTERNAL drive to boot it and run it.

You have firewire 800, so I would use that.
You might find a 240gb SSD (these can be had for around $100 US) and put it into a firewire800 enclosure. Use the startup disk pref pane and set that to be your "booter".

Yes, I realize that the firewire connection can't take advantage of the high transfer speeds of an SSD, but booting times will still be tolerable, and once you're up-and-running I predict things will move along quite well, and that you and your wife will be pleased with the results.

At some point, you could "move the SSD inside" if you wished, but I think you'll be satisfied enough with the above arrangement to just leave it outside.

Aside:
Folks who know my postings on this board will say that I repeat the following so much that it gets tiring, but I'll say it again:
If you had had a "cloned backup drive" (created with either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper), when the iMac "died", you could have been back up and running in 3 minutes, by simply plugging in your cloned backup and booting from that.
...Instead of posting here, looking around for solutions.

I see folks who literally "flop around like a fish" because their Mac dies and they don't have an easy means of "getting back to where they once belonged".
A cloned backup would make this child's play.
 

JayInNJ

macrumors regular
Nov 10, 2009
124
11
I have the same model and practically the same thing happened 2 weeks ago. I never had them replace the hard drive when I could have for free. My hard drive did not fail completely, just the SMART warning came on so I figured time to fix it. I decided I needed to upgrade my drive anyway since the 1TB was close to full.

I bought the tools ,a 2TB HDD and a 480GB SSD. I figured since I was cracking it open, I should also stick the SSD in the optical bay and make a fusion drive out of it. The install went really well, it took about 35 minutes. The hardest part is a couple of cables that connect the LCD are little tough to pull out.

I created the fusion drive and re-installed everything from an install USB stick, then transferred my applications and data via Time Machine. Again all worked well. This took about 14 hours because of the slow USB 2.0 interface.

Then I started having problems. My login keychain kept corrupting and using Disk Utility showed some problems on Fusion Drive. It would repair it but a few days later the exact same problems would occur. So I had to back out the fusion drive by splitting it up, booted from the recovery drive and found that the SSD was the problem. I re-installed everything on the 2TB HDD and everything has been running smoothly for a few days. I am returning the SSD and getting another and will try the whole process over again tomorrow.

A few things to point out is that 1) everything is recoverable if you have a good backup. Just in case, I also had a clone of my hard drive, but I never had to use that, just the Time Machine backup. 2) Just running now with my new hard drive has improved the speed immensely (partly because I have a fresh install of the OS). I may not even really need the SSD now, but I did notice my VM operated much quicker with it.
3) Cracking open the iMac is not that bad. Once you get in there, there is a lot of room to operate. Much more accessible than many desktops even.
4) It would have been great to have a Firewire enclosure to speed up the data migration. So I just purchased a 5-bay RAID system with Firewire 800, eSATA, and USB 3.0 (for future proofing, Thunderbolt still too expensive and doesn't typically have Firewire 800 as an option). This will take care of my Time Machine and non-critical data (not backed up regularly data). Leaving my old backup drives as less frequent offsite storage (manually bringing offsite once a month).
 

SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,079
470
Takamatsu, Japan
I might have a go at doing it myself as people have suggested. I am tempted to get a 1TB SSD and then just do a time machine restore.
It's really much easier than you would think to service the Late 2009 iMac. Just be particularly careful when initially lifting up the LCD panel so as not to yank out/damage the vertical sync cable.

I replaced a broken Superdrive on my Late 2009 iMac before selling it and was really surprised to see how simple it was. The whole job took about 10 minutes.

Thanks for the replies, anyone recommend a suitable SSD for this machine?
I recommend either the Crucial M550 or the Samsung 850 EVO. You can't go wrong with either.

OP:

The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to get the iMac functional again is to use an EXTERNAL drive to boot it and run it.

At some point, you could "move the SSD inside" if you wished, but I think you'll be satisfied enough with the above arrangement to just leave it outside.
I couldn't disagree more with this. Firewire 800 would not even be able to give him the HDD-only speeds he had before his drive failed. Plus, he'd end up wasting money on a Firewire 800 enclosure.

Like you, I keep (and recommend for others as well) a CCC backup of my Macintosh HD on a USB 3 external HDD. My UASP USB 3 enclosure allows me to boot from it and run at full HDD speeds (unlike FW800) when necessary but it is still painfully slow. It's fine for emergencies, but I'd hate to use it on a regular basis.

Once you go SSD there's no looking back.
 
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SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,079
470
Takamatsu, Japan
In the OP, it's stated that the drive was running very slow for some time, as to be expected from a drive that is suffering read/write errors. A properly working drive in a FW enclosure certainly would have outperformed a failing drive.
The question is why spend money on a Firewire 800 enclosure when the end result is going to be a system that may or may not run faster than a failing drive but absolutely will not even approach the normal speed of his HDD-based machine with a functioning drive?

For the price of the SSD alone, some suction cups, a few Torx screwdrivers and perhaps 15-30 minutes of labor the SSD can be installed internally, require no enclosure and run at solid state speeds.

Then, of course, are the additional benefits that come with running an SSD on the SATA bus such as being able to run TRIM commands and apply SSD firmware updates, etc.

iFixit has very clear, easy to follow step by step instructions including photos. There are also any number of guides on Youtube of the Late 2009 iMac being serviced. It is really quite simple with the proper tools. The more recent iMacs with the adhesive-attached LCD panel assemblies are a different story but the Late 2009 is a piece of cake.

One other thing you should have is a 3.5" to 2.5" drive bay converter like this one if you're replacing the failed HDD and a caddy like this one if you decide to replace the Superdrive with an SSD instead as is commonly done. Both can be purchased for around $10 or less.
 
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Dopeyman

macrumors 6502a
Sep 5, 2005
597
28
Los Angeles!
....... You will need to short the hard drive sensor/temperature sensor to prevent the fans spinning up, though. That was pretty simple, though. Just take a twisty-tie, strip the plastic off it so you're left with the metal, and jam it into the sensor to short it. :)
Shorting out the sensor IS an option to prevent the fans from going crazy, but then leaves the computer vulnerable to accurately reading the temp and quite possibly overheating if the OP decides to install a new HD.

This is the perfect solution for the temp sensor...
I installed one of these into my 2011 27" iMac when I replaced my HD and the fans behave normally.


Bulldoze: I would recommend going with an SSD and not another HD... You won't regret it ;)
 

WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
8,987
2,399
Seattle
Shorting out the sensor IS an option to prevent the fans from going crazy, but then leaves the computer vulnerable to accurately reading the temp and quite possibly overheating if the OP decides to install a new HD.

This is the perfect solution for the temp sensor...
I installed one of these into my 2011 27" iMac when I replaced my HD and the fans behave normally.


Bulldoze: I would recommend going with an SSD and not another HD... You won't regret it ;)
I just don't think that sensor worth the money. An SSD is not going to overheat, for example, and all other sensors continue to work 100% (CPU, GPU etc). I actually think it's odd these days to even have hard drive temp sensors in modern computers.

I do second your opinion of getting an SSD, though. It's the best choice for any computer!
 

orindabiker1

macrumors newbie
Feb 9, 2015
6
0
What about a memory upgrade as well as the SSD?

Hi - I wandered across this thread just in time. I too have a late-2009 27" iMac, 2.8 GHz i7, that has been running slower and slower (particularly since Yosemite upgrade) over the past few months. I am fully backed-up on Time Machine on an external drive. I would like to upgrade to a 1TB SSD drive, but have some questions:

1) Is there a particular brand/model of 1 TB SSD that you recommend? Aside from cost, is there a significant difference between the Samsung 850 Pro and Evo? Is this a drive that you recommend?

2) While I've got the computer open, would it be worthwhile to switch from 8 GB of RAM (4x2GB chips) to 16GB RAM? If so, which brands/models do you recommend?

3) Seems like I'll need a 3.5 to 2.5" drive adaptor to install the SSD drive in place of the HDD. Is this correct?

4) Would you recommend that I also back-up using CCC and use that to restore the SSD once I have it installed.....or is Time Machine sufficient? Just don't understand the difference between these two programs....

5) Is putting around $800 in this machine worth it?

6) Just out of idle curiosity, is it possible to do a processor upgrade....I know it used to be in much older Macs?

Thanks in advance for the communities help!
 

JayInNJ

macrumors regular
Nov 10, 2009
124
11
Hi - I wandered across this thread just in time. I too have a late-2009 27" iMac, 2.8 GHz i7, that has been running slower and slower (particularly since Yosemite upgrade) over the past few months. I am fully backed-up on Time Machine on an external drive. I would like to upgrade to a 1TB SSD drive, but have some questions:

1) Is there a particular brand/model of 1 TB SSD that you recommend? Aside from cost, is there a significant difference between the Samsung 850 Pro and Evo? Is this a drive that you recommend?

2) While I've got the computer open, would it be worthwhile to switch from 8 GB of RAM (4x2GB chips) to 16GB RAM? If so, which brands/models do you recommend?

3) Seems like I'll need a 3.5 to 2.5" drive adaptor to install the SSD drive in place of the HDD. Is this correct?

4) Would you recommend that I also back-up using CCC and use that to restore the SSD once I have it installed.....or is Time Machine sufficient? Just don't understand the difference between these two programs....

5) Is putting around $800 in this machine worth it?

6) Just out of idle curiosity, is it possible to do a processor upgrade....I know it used to be in much older Macs?

Thanks in advance for the communities help!
1) Make sure it is a SATA II 3Gb/s drive (not SATA I or SATA III) for maximum performance. A SATA III is compatible but will default to SATA 1 speeds.

2) yes but you don't open up the glass to install memory. There is a slot underneath you open with a screw driver. That is the only user accessible upgrade intended by Apple.

3) not sure on this but most likely, since I replaced my dvd instead with ssd.

4) personally I would say no because you will still run slower due to years of crap accumulated by the OS. Instead I reinstalled the os on the new drive then used my time machine to move all the data and applications over. This is an option when you first boot. This worked perfectly for me. Only office required me to re-enter by key.

5) I just did similar, but instead put a 480G Ssd and a new 2 tb hdd. With the new ram that is about $450. I think that is worth it. Plus more storage than you are talking about. Only thing missing from new iMacs would be the high speed ports.

6) no
 
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orindabiker1

macrumors newbie
Feb 9, 2015
6
0
1) Make sure it is a SATA 3G drive (not 1 or 6) for maximum performance. A SATA 6 is compatible but will default to SATA 1 speeds.

Interesting and important detail to know about....glad I asked this question. Do you happen to know anything about particular brands/models? Samsung in particular....

2) yes but you don't open up the glass to install memory. There is a slot underneath you open with a screw driver. That is the only user accessible upgrade intended by Apple.

Yep, figured that out after I wrote this post :)

3) not sure on this but most likely, since I replaced my dvd instead with ssd.

4) personally I would say no because you will still run slower due to years of crap accumulated by the OS. Instead I reinstalled the os on the new drive then used my time machine to move all the data and applications over. This is an option when you first boot. This worked perfectly for me. Only office required me to re-enter by key.

I also have an older version of some Adobe apps that I'm a bit concerned about having to re-enter the key.

5) I just did similar, but instead put a 480G Ssd and a new 2 tb hdd. With the new ram that is about $450. I think that is worth it. Plus more storage than you are talking about. Only thing missing from new iMacs would be the high speed ports.

So, did you set up your Mac with a fusion drive?

6) no
Thanks a lot!
 

JayInNJ

macrumors regular
Nov 10, 2009
124
11
Thanks a lot!
Doing this on my phone so hard to quote properly.

To answer your questions together, I don't have a recommendation on drives. I am using an OWC drive, however it was having problems and corrupting frequently. So I returned it for a replacement. A lot people use it successfully so I am not giving up yet. But can't recommend it either. I see a lot also using Samsung EVO successfully as well.

Yes I did set it up as a fusion drive,which is really easy. Just two commands at the terminal. However since I was having the corruption problem, I split it apart again. Temporarily I am just running with the hard drive. I will be swapping SSD drives tonight. After confirming it is stable and not corrupting, I will do the fusion drive again.

One interesting thing is that just doing the reinstall with the new hard drive is really a huge improvement.
 

orindabiker1

macrumors newbie
Feb 9, 2015
6
0
Doing this on my phone so hard to quote properly.

To answer your questions together, I don't have a recommendation on drives. I am using an OWC drive, however it was having problems and corrupting frequently. So I returned it for a replacement. A lot people use it successfully so I am not giving up yet. But can't recommend it either. I see a lot also using Samsung EVO successfully as well.

Yes I did set it up as a fusion drive,which is really easy. Just two commands at the terminal. However since I was having the corruption problem, I split it apart again. Temporarily I am just running with the hard drive. I will be swapping SSD drives tonight. After confirming it is stable and not corrupting, I will do the fusion drive again.

One interesting thing is that just doing the reinstall with the new hard drive is really a huge improvement.
I personally only use my phone for shorter responses....and then use Siri a lot :)

I'd be very curious if you'd repost after you reset up the fusion drive and report back on its success.

Thanks again for all the info.
 

orindabiker1

macrumors newbie
Feb 9, 2015
6
0
getting confused about what adaptor to use

Hi -

Can somebody give me a specific product recommendation about which drive adaptor I need, and whether I need any cables, to successfully install the SSD internal drive as a replacement for my HDD?

thanks
 

torana355

macrumors 68040
Dec 8, 2009
3,390
2,270
Sydney, Australia
The family 27" 2009 iMac finally died this afternoon, it was one of the Seagate hard drive models that we never got Apple to fix in 2012 as my wife was doing a university course at the time so we never got it sorted.

Well it finally died today after a year of being horribly slow and unreliable, my wife is always doing university courses so she cannot afford for it to be away for days let alone weeks. She has rushed out this afternoon to buy a cheap Chromebook but we really need to address the issue with the iMac now.

I suggested sending it away to one of the many independent Apple upgrade sites that could install a SSD instead of the hard drive but the ones I have looked at do not advertise cost and I am afraid that it could escalate into silly numbers and that we might as well bin it and buy new instead! I have heard that Yosemite would not recognise a third party SSD anyway?

What are our options? we have a 27" screen and a quad core processor surely this still has some value somehow?
Its very easy to replace the HDD with an SSD yourself, there is a great writeup on ifix it. I replaced the HDD on my 2008 iMac that i gave to my parents and its still running strong.

----------

Hi -

Can somebody give me a specific product recommendation about which drive adaptor I need, and whether I need any cables, to successfully install the SSD internal drive as a replacement for my HDD?

thanks
No need for a drive adapter, just get some Velcro tape it works beautifully for mounting an SSD.
 

JayInNJ

macrumors regular
Nov 10, 2009
124
11
I personally only use my phone for shorter responses....and then use Siri a lot :)

I'd be very curious if you'd repost after you reset up the fusion drive and report back on its success.

Thanks again for all the info.
Let me correct one thing I said. You want SATA II 3 Gb/s drive according OWC for optimal performance (not SATA III that I said above). They say the SATA III 6Gb/s is compatible but falls back to SATA I.

I spent a few hours struggling installing the new drive. Once again I am having corruption problem. So either a) I keep getting bad drives, which I doubt, b) there is a problem with the data doubler that plugs into the optical SATA interface (which then plugs into the drive), or c) my SATA connection to the optical bay is flaky. I never had any problems with optical drive so I am at a loss. I have call into OWC see what they think.

Both SSD drives are toast when I then plugged them into an external enclosure. I can format them, but then get disk errors using disk utility, which it can't repair. If I try again with another SSD I will probably switch brands and will try it in the external enclosure first to make sure it works. Then see if plugging it into the data doubler is killing it.
 

orindabiker1

macrumors newbie
Feb 9, 2015
6
0
Let me correct one thing I said. You want SATA II 3 Gb/s drive according OWC for optimal performance (not SATA III that I said above). They say the SATA III 6Gb/s is compatible but falls back to SATA I.

I spent a few hours struggling installing the new drive. Once again I am having corruption problem. So either a) I keep getting bad drives, which I doubt, b) there is a problem with the data doubler that plugs into the optical SATA interface (which then plugs into the drive), or c) my SATA connection to the optical bay is flaky. I never had any problems with optical drive so I am at a loss. I have call into OWC see what they think.

Both SSD drives are toast when I then plugged them into an external enclosure. I can format them, but then get disk errors using disk utility, which it can't repair. If I try again with another SSD I will probably switch brands and will try it in the external enclosure first to make sure it works. Then see if plugging it into the data doubler is killing it.
That's a real bummer to hear about your second toasted SSD. Keep updating this group as you figure this out.