Installing SSD in iMac

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
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0
I have considered installing an SSD into my 2013 21" iMac, because I went straight from the Macbook Air to the iMac - and I really miss the speed of the SSD sometimes. And I've been told that not all SSD's can be used - and it has to be PCIe. What are your advices, what SSD shall I buy for the iMac? I'm having a hard time sorting all the SSD's on the market, so I could use some help there.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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Delaware
The PCI-e slot used in the late 2013 iMac is unique, so far, to Apple. There's some talk about upgrades from other companies, but not yet, unless you want to try to purchase direct from Apple (and that's really unlikely that Apple will sell those cards to anyone for upgrades). There's some good info, as well as internal layout of your iMac at iFixit.com - http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iMac+Intel+21.5-Inch+EMC+2638+Teardown/17829
I would suggest a Thunderbolt case, with an SSD of your choice, to use externally. Not cheap… but way easier than slicing your iMac open.
The G-tech Thunderbolt drive that Apple sells at their stores is OK, I bet.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
The PCI-e slot used in the late 2013 iMac is unique, so far, to Apple. There's some talk about upgrades from other companies, but not yet, unless you want to try to purchase direct from Apple (and that's really unlikely that Apple will sell those cards to anyone for upgrades). There's some good info, as well as internal layout of your iMac at iFixit.com - http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iMac+Intel+21.5-Inch+EMC+2638+Teardown/17829
I would suggest a Thunderbolt case, with an SSD of your choice, to use externally. Not cheap… but way easier than slicing your iMac open.
The G-tech Thunderbolt drive that Apple sells at their stores is OK, I bet.
Alright. How about simply installing a faster HDD, is that possible?
 

RedReplicant

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2010
693
5
Your best bet is an external thunderbolt SSD. Taking the screen off the 2013 machines is no walk in the park like the earlier models.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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Sure, the hard drive is a 2.5-inch SATA hard drive.
So, yes, you could replace with a 7200 RPM hard drive, (or even a standard SSD!)
BUT there's nothing "simple" about doing that swap out. Check the teardown again, and you'll see that the iMac case literally has to be sliced open, cutting through all the seals.
And, you potentially could have issues with the temp sensor on a replacement hard drive, meaning that you might have to run some fan control software (I don't know that for sure). Not much involved with THAT, but upgrading the hard drive with another spinning drive for some small change in performance, is probably not worth the struggle.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
Sure, the hard drive is a 2.5-inch SATA hard drive.
So, yes, you could replace with a 7200 RPM hard drive, (or even a standard SSD!)
BUT there's nothing "simple" about doing that swap out. Check the teardown again, and you'll see that the iMac case literally has to be sliced open, cutting through all the seals.
And, you potentially could have issues with the temp sensor on a replacement hard drive, meaning that you might have to run some fan control software (I don't know that for sure). Not much involved with THAT, but upgrading the hard drive with another spinning drive for some small change in performance, is probably not worth the struggle.
A standard SSD you say - what exactly do you mean by standard, a SATA SSD?
So I can open it, take the HDD out, and replace it with any SSD, Is that it?

I wouldn't fancy an external SSD. The whole point of it, is to have fast read/write speeds, and that's being done by the internal drive. Correct me if I'm wrong. So I would prefer to just have an external HDD.
 

RedReplicant

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2010
693
5
A standard SSD you say - what exactly do you mean by standard, a SATA SSD?
So I can open it, take the HDD out, and replace it with any SSD, Is that it?

I wouldn't fancy an external SSD. The whole point of it, is to have fast read/write speeds, and that's being done by the internal drive. Correct me if I'm wrong. So I would prefer to just have an external HDD.
Thunderbolt will allow you to do 800-900MB/s, you're not going to have issues with a single SSD bottlenecking that.
 

xraydoc

macrumors demi-god
Oct 9, 2005
7,240
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192.168.1.1
Thunderbolt will allow you to do 800-900MB/s, you're not going to have issues with a single SSD bottlenecking that.
He's right. A fast single SATA SSD in a high quality Thunderbolt case is going to be just as fast as an internal single SSD on an iMac. Add something like the 12South BackPack to the back of your Mac and you'll never even see the external drive. And much easier than slicing your iMac open and voiding it's warranty.

However, you can replace the internal mechanical SATA HD with a SATA SSD and it'll work just fine. As long as you don't break anything getting to it all in the process.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
He's right. A fast single SATA SSD in a high quality Thunderbolt case is going to be just as fast as an internal single SSD on an iMac. Add something like the 12South BackPack to the back of your Mac and you'll never even see the external drive. And much easier than slicing your iMac open and voiding it's warranty.

However, you can replace the internal mechanical SATA HD with a SATA SSD and it'll work just fine. As long as you don't break anything getting to it all in the process.
But when I start up the iMac, it will boot from the internal HDD. And that's gonna be slow. So my thoughts are that a lot of processes will have to go through the slower internal HDD, and then I don't really see the advantage anymore.

Why exactly do you think that an internal HDD and external SSD is better than the other way around? I have a friend who are experienced in opening and upgrading Macs, so the practical part won't be an issue.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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Yes, you clone the internal hard drive to the external (faster) drive - and you would be booting from that external drive. The internal hard drive would just be going along for the ride, or you could use it for occasional storage.

You need to talk to your "talented" friend, to ask about upgrading your iMac. Does your friend understand what is involved when opening up your Mac? It's much more challenging than iMacs that were new only a couple of years ago. I suspect he will try to talk you out of it, too :D
 

robgendreau

macrumors 68040
Jul 13, 2008
3,287
230
I agree; surgery on the 2013 is harder than with earlier iMacs.

The big diff with the newer iMacs is Thunderbolt; that connection is quite fast so you don't really lose anything by booting from an external, speed-wise. Ask your friend; he or she should be aware of that.

It might be that Apple could do it. I'm not sure though, but at least you'd get a guarantee. Keeping that LCD clean is a big PITA if you DIY, especially now with the glue-ons instead of the magnetic attachment.

I don't know if there are SSDs you can buy right now that would fit on the existing PCIe attachment in the iMac. Maybe it's like the nMP, which would be nice. Otherwise you've gotta replace the hard drive...and then you'll end up with an external anyway. So why go to all that hassle to have the SSD inside and HDD outside, when the reverse would work as well?
 

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
29,163
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California
But when I start up the iMac, it will boot from the internal HDD. And that's gonna be slow. So my thoughts are that a lot of processes will have to go through the slower internal HDD, and then I don't really see the advantage anymore. .
No it won't. Once you get the external SSD setup with the OS and all on it, you will option key boot to the SSD the first time, then go to System Preferences and in the Startup Disk pane select the external SSD as the startup (boot) disk. From then on, when you turn the machine on it will boot straight to the external SSD and the internal drive will just be sitting there doing nothing (unless you save data to it).


Why exactly do you think that an internal HDD and external SSD is better than the other way around? I have a friend who are experienced in opening and upgrading Macs, so the practical part won't be an issue.
The TB interface is capable of faster transfers than the SSD can supply, so there will be no bottleneck. So an external TB mounted SSD will be as fast as a conventional, internal SSD.

There are some videos floating around of people taking the new, slim iMacs part. It is not for the feint of heart. One wrong move and you have a paperweight.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
Okay, I got it now. How exactly do I make the iMac boot from the external?

Thanks a lot btw, you guys are a real help! :)
 
Last edited:

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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Delaware
Okay, I got it now. How exactly do I make the iMac boot from the external?
OK (?)
You make the iMac boot from the external by:
Connecting your external to the iMac
Booting to the OS X installer
Installing OS X (or, even simpler restoring the internal hard drive to the external drive through the Restore tab in Disk Utility)
When that completes - Restart your iMac, while holding the Option key.
Choose your external as the boot drive - then press enter.
And, your iMac boots to the external drive. If you prefer not to choose which boot drive you use, go into your System Preferences/Startup Disk, and select your external. Thereafter, your iMac will boot from the external (without any help from you!)
Actually, the steps are easier than they appear here.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
OK (?)
You make the iMac boot from the external by:
Connecting your external to the iMac
Booting to the OS X installer
Installing OS X (or, even simpler restoring the internal hard drive to the external drive through the Restore tab in Disk Utility)
When that completes - Restart your iMac, while holding the Option key.
Choose your external as the boot drive - then press enter.
And, your iMac boots to the external drive. If you prefer not to choose which boot drive you use, go into your System Preferences/Startup Disk, and select your external. Thereafter, your iMac will boot from the external (without any help from you!)
Actually, the steps are easier than they appear here.
Yeah, sorry. Okay = OK... That's how we say it in Danish - just a habit :)

How will it work - what happens to the files from my internal HDD when I boot from the external? How/where will I be able to access them?
 

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
29,163
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California
Yeah, sorry. Okay = OK... That's how we say it in Danish - just a habit :)

How will it work - what happens to the files from my internal HDD when I boot from the external? How/where will I be able to access them?
If you do what Delta said, everything that was on the internal drive will now be on the external. Basically you will attach the external SSD, then format and clone the internal to the external (follow this video). Then hold option key to boot to the external and set it as the boot drive in System Prefs like I mentioned earlier.

Once that is done, your entire OS, apps, and data set from the internal are now on the external. You can then erase the internal and use if for storage or whatever you want.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
If you do what Delta said, everything that was on the internal drive will now be on the external. Basically you will attach the external SSD, then format and clone the internal to the external (follow this video). Then hold option key to boot to the external and set it as the boot drive in System Prefs like I mentioned earlier.

Once that is done, your entire OS, apps, and data set from the internal are now on the external. You can then erase the internal and use if for storage or whatever you want.
That sounds nice. So lets say that I have booted from the external, and want to move a big file over to the internal, and not have it on the external. How do I do that? Will the internal appear as a disc image like an external normally does?
 

bsdbee

macrumors newbie
Jan 8, 2014
20
0
San Francisco, California
This might sound a lil weird. But in my opinion, surgery on these new thin iMacs is far more simpler than any others i have worked in the past. The key here is, you need to have the right tools to do it. If you dont have the right tools, any kind of surgery is going to be a challenge.

I would recommend that you get a 7200 rpm hdd and also a PCIe based blade SSD (get the original apple one from ebay. Example - http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.Xmacbook+retina+blade+ssd&_nkw=macbook+retina+blade+ssd&_sacat=0&_from=R40)

Tear open your machine, install the blade SSD (i would recommend getting a 256gb one) and a 7200rpm 2.5" hdd and you are ready to roll.

I have done the same thing on my 27" imac. Got a blade ssd and fused it with the stock 1tb hdd and i couldnt be happier.

Read through this thread, its long, but it sort of has become a bible for these thin imac teardowns.

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1507713

Gd luck
 

AmtrakRider

macrumors member
Oct 31, 2011
34
0
I'm looking to add an SSD in an thunderbolt enclosure but I am struggling to find an empty enclosure that works with thunderbolt. I already have the SSD. I don't need RAID or anything fancy just the cheapest barebones enclosure.
 

SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,079
470
Takamatsu, Japan
I'm looking to add an SSD in an thunderbolt enclosure but I am struggling to find an empty enclosure that works with thunderbolt. I already have the SSD. I don't need RAID or anything fancy just the cheapest barebones enclosure.
This bus-powered Seagate model is very popular.

I'm also looking to buy an enclosure though and have been leaning towards this self-powered Delock model.
 

macthefork

macrumors 6502
Feb 2, 2013
467
7
This bus-powered Seagate model is very popular.

I'm also looking to buy an enclosure though and have been leaning towards this self-powered Delock model.
Keep in mind that the Seagate adapter above does not have an external power supply so using a SSD with more than about 256GB may cause power problems. The other has a power supply so SSD size doesn't matter. Also, there is a Seagate model that does have an external power supply that I have used to power a 480 GB SSD with no problems. Although the SSD fits loosely in that model and has to be shimmed.
 

seafarm

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 14, 2014
22
0
Is Thunderbolt really necessary? USB 3.0 supports up to 640 mb/s - isn't that enough? The Thunderbolt-SSD's are a little pricy...
 

xraydoc

macrumors demi-god
Oct 9, 2005
7,240
1,516
192.168.1.1
Is Thunderbolt really necessary? USB 3.0 supports up to 640 mb/s - isn't that enough? The Thunderbolt-SSD's are a little pricy...
USB 3.0 would certainly work. A good SSD in a good Thunderbolt enclosure will be faster, but for you, a USB 3.0 drive may be all that you need to get that SSD-zippiness you're looking for.