Late 2009 iMac storage upgrade question

Discussion in 'iMac' started by chemistocrat, Mar 13, 2014.

  1. chemistocrat macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2014
    Hello all,

    I've been scouring the internet and cannot seem to find a specific answer to my question anywhere, so I figured I would come here and hopefully get an answer, or at least a nudge in the right direction.

    I have recently purchased a 21.5" late-2009 iMac with the 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. I have always been a PC guy, but decided for whatever reason that I wanted to blow some money and get an iMac. I got a solid deal on it, and I really do like it - it's not a bad computer at all for being 5 years old. Thing is, my laptop, which is only 1.5 years old, runs circles around's got a SSD and double the memory, so I decided that it's time to basically max out the performance on the iMac.

    I've got 8GB of memory coming to add to the 4GB that's in it, which obviously I can handle without a sweat. The issue I'm having is how to approach upgrading my internal storage.

    Of course, I'm looking at solid state drives, and it doesn't need to be the biggest or baddest, so I'm going for something that's a good balance of price, performance, and capacity. That too I can handle on my own. The issue I'm having is this...

    The computer came with a 1TB internal HDD. That's nice, because I have enough music, pictures, and videos to basically fill it, but it's obviously not giving me the performance I'm looking for. What I would like to do is use both of them internally at the same time. I don't even want to start talking about Fusion drives; keeping them separate would work perfectly fine for my intents and purposes.

    To accomplish this, I would need to remove the optical drive (not an issue, don't use it) and have one of the drives use that SATA connection. Trouble is, I've heard conflicting information on this: I've seen someone say that this SATA connection won't recognize a storage device, and others that say it will, but it will only run at SATA2 speeds, which would mean the 3.5" HDD would need to be the one connected to it.

    Ideally, I would like to use OWC's Data Double to put an SSD drive in the optical drive bay, but I'm almost positive that I've read about someone who did this and the SATA connection only negotiated as SATA2.

    I'm not overly familiar with the internal layout of my computer (I've looked at the iFixIt teardown a time or two), and forgive me if this is a stupid question, but would it be feasible to install the SSD using a Data Double in the optical bay, use the cable from the existing HDD to connect that SSD, and use the optical drive cable for the existing HDD in its current location? This would allow me to use the hard drive's SATA3 connection for the faster SSD and the slower-but-still-faster-than-neccessary SATA2 connection for the existing HDD (assuming I'm correct on it being SATA2)?

    Sorry if that's hard to follow, doesn't make sense, or I'm just flat out wrong about some of these things. I've been brainstorming this and attempting to research it for months now, and this is apparently as far as I've gotten.

    Any help is always appreciated. Thanks!
  2. eduardrw macrumors 6502

    May 20, 2013
    I did the OWC data doubler with a 240GB SSD on a late 2009 27" iMac.
    Kept the SSD on the Optical drive port because replacing the spinning HDD with something else would cause the Fans to spin up. This is because starting with late 2009 iMac's apple uses HDD with integrated temperature sensor and special firmware.

    As to SATA speeds, iMac's before 2011 only support SATA 2 (3Gbit throughput) on any port.

    My suggestion to you:
    1. Verify that you really have a late 2009 model.
    2. put the SSD in the optical Bay
    3. leave the hardisk were it is or
    4. call OWC if you want to upgrade the spinning hardisk (can be replaced with the same name brand HDD - OWC has compatible 1-3TB disks which won't give you a fan problem. )

    Remember that spinning HDD typically start failing after ~4 years - so might be a good time to replace while you crack the iMac open.

    I get Sata 2 speed and that gives me plenty of additional speed and 15 sec boot times with my setup!
    I am very happy with my mod and the OWC Datadoubler and OWC SSD.
  3. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012

    If your computer is indeed a 2009 model, it's using SATA II (3 GPS). iMacs didn't have SATA III (6 GPS) until the Sandy Bridge models in 2011. I've got a 2010 21.5"; it's got SATA II.

    The one thing nice about replacing the HDD with the SSD: the computer runs a lot cooler and quieter. I put my 1 TB drive in an external enclosure that sits in a cabinet under the desk; it's used for Time Machine backups.
  4. chemistocrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2014
    Thank you both for the replies.

    I'm not too incredibly worried about the fans spinning up if I remove a temperature sensor; I have actually already downloaded and tested smcFanControl on my iMac and it works great - so no worries there.

    I know for sure that my computer is a Late 2009 and only has SATA2 (3Gbps), so what I'm going to do is buy a 256GB Samsung 840 Pro, put that in my laptop (which is a Sandy Bridge Core i7, and uses Sata3 @ 6Gbps), then take its 300GB Intel Series 320 and pop that in the iMac since its a 3Gbps drive anyways. Seems like the perfect solution.

    For the life of me, I cannot seem to find the source any longer, but I remember reading that the 21.5" Late 2009 iMac only negotiated a 1.5Gbps link speed when a SSD was placed in the SuperDrive bay, or it did not negotiate any link at all. It doesn't seem that the 27" Late 2009 iMac had this problem, as I can find plenty of postings around the web about them.

    So in the end, what I'll probably do is first try to pop the SSD into the SATA connection used for the optical drive to make sure that connection works, and negotiates at 3Gbps. If it does, I'll spring for the Data Doubler and make it official. It would be really nice to keep my 1TB HDD for my media files.

    If the optical drive connection doesn't work, I'll get a 2.5" to 3.5" bracket so I can securely mount the SSD where the HDD is currently mounted.

    I'd still be open to anyone who has anything anecdotal that they might be able to share that specifically pertains to the Late 2009 21.5".

    Thank you both for your input!
  5. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Maybe try sending an email to OWC and/or iFixit and ask them about the 21.5" optical connection specifically? Either of them would certainly know the answer.
  6. ToroidalZeus macrumors 68020


    Dec 8, 2009
  7. chemistocrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2014
    I'm glad you let me know the speeds, because I was curious what kind of numbers the 840 Pro would get in a computer that only supports 3Gpbs connection speeds. Those numbers are actually really good to know because I'll be putting my laptop's old SSD (Intel Series 320) into the iMac, and it's max read/write speeds are 270/205, which will be perfect given that ~250MB/s appears to be the max for 3Gbps connections. The new 840 Pro I'm buying will be going into my HP Envy 15, which supports Sata3 at 6Gbps, so it will be better suited there.

    @toddzrx, I'm going to do exactly that. From what I can gather, OWC has a helpful support staff, so I'll see if they can help me out.

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