USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
Hello folks,
I have been following the thread about graphics card upgrade 2011 iMac Graphics Card Upgrade for some time, and someone mentioned that he has upgraded to USB3.

So I started my own USB3 project, and succeeded, at a cost of around US$ 20, plus around 3 hours work.

I replaced the WLAN card (mini PCI-E) with a mini-PCIE to PCI-E adapter card, plus a 2-port USB3 PCI-E card (small enough). This is located in the DVD drive bay, together with a SSD.
For the SSD upgrade, you need to remove the logic board. This also gives you more options to prepare the power for the USB3 card.
If you only upgrade to USB3 card, you can use a SATA power splitter from your HDD drive to your USB3 card. There is no need to remove the logic board.

The biggest difficulty is to cut the holes for the USB3 ports. This cost me 1.5 hours alone, mainly using Dremel and lots of patience. You can also use a Swiss army knife! I have created an instruction with links to the items I purchased (Aliexpress, Taobao).

The result is fantastic.
The USB3 card supports 5 Gbit/s speed, so you have full USB3.0 speeds with SSDs, USB3 thumb drives, etc. Finally a fast way to make backups and copy data for on the go.

See details in the attached file.
USB3foriMac.png


If you need help with getting the parts, let me know. I am enthusiast same as you, willing to help out.
UPDATE 14.Sept. 2020: The USB card is sold out at my Taobao supplier. Try to get your own card.

You can also bring down the ports to the bottom of your iMac using a USB extender:
1600089816103.png

If you use this extender and don't want the ports at the DVD bay, you can use a card without ports, like this:
USB3_Card.png

Note that the one shown is with the NEC chip, which will need some driver mod. I do not know whether you can get such card with FRESCO FL1100 chip. Check this thread for info on above NEC card:
USB3 to 2009 iMac
Note that for 2011 model, you would need a mini-PCIE to mini-PCIE extender card, as this card is mini-PCIE like the original wifi, and you can't put this card at the location of the original wifi card due to space limits. The 2009 model has the socket at a different location.

Issues that you need to work around:
- No more wifi card (can use copper ethernet, or wifi dongle. I bought this item and it works with the driver from here)
- iMac can't boot from these added USB3 ports (maybe due to bootrom?)
- When iMac goes to sleep, the ports become unpowered, no matter your source of the 5V (I also tried the original 5V USB2 source). The consequence of this is: when iMac wakes up, it complains that the USB stick was improperly removed, and the stick is no longer present. So you need to remove it and plug it back to be detected again.
 

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vertical smile

macrumors 603
Sep 23, 2014
5,885
6,687
That is really cool.

I love the Mid-2011 iMac, there is so much that you can do with it.

A side note though, you can get USB3 externally via the TB port with a hub. It would most likely cost more that $20 though.
 

USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
A side note though, you can get USB3 externally via the TB port with a hub. It would most likely cost more that $20 though.

Thanks, I forgot about those. When I did my research some months back, I was not able to find a suitable, reasonably priced product. Some products mentioned by others long ago were no longer available.

So for completeness, do you have some links to products that others can use as a starting point?
Price certainly matters, as not many are willing to invest significant amounts into a 10 year old machine. So most (as I did before) simply live without USB3, until it becomes absolutely unbearable...
 

Berenod

macrumors member
Apr 15, 2020
42
10
Cool!
Might have a go at that myself.

In the 27" it is even a bit easier I guess as the mini-pcie slot is not on the logic board directly (on the 2010 anyway, not sure on the 27" 2011), but placed just under the top of the housing and connected to the logic board with a small flatcable.
If the harddrive has been replaced by an SSD (which many of us already have done I assume), there is actually a lot of space in that area to install that USB3 card.

imac inards.jpg

[automerge]1587034734[/automerge]
Thanks, I forgot about those. When I did my research some months back, I was not able to find a suitable, reasonably priced product. Some products mentioned by others long ago were no longer available.

So for completeness, do you have some links to products that others can use as a starting point?
Price certainly matters, as not many are willing to invest significant amounts into a 10 year old machine. So most (as I did before) simply live without USB3, until it becomes absolutely unbearable...
Is there a TB port on the 2009 - 2011 imacs? Not on mine (2010)! There is a port which fits the same cable, but it's only for display!
 
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USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
Yes, iMac mid 2011 has Thunderbolt 1. For display, it uses Mini DisplayPort connector (M-DP).
Some discussion here:

Thunderbolt was introduced in 2011, so earlier Macs definitely do not have it.

Tech info here:

There are adapters Thunderbolt (1/2/3) to USB3, e.g. this one:
 

RRPC

macrumors member
Mar 15, 2020
80
48
Cool, but i don't want to cut hols in my Imac.
the thunderbolt seems the best way, not cheap but not as destructive. but its nice you find this way.
 

USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
I can't say for sure how it will work with a 2010 iMac. The pictures I found on ifixit show the mini PCIE WiFi card simply in a different location, towards the top of the housing.Physically, this should work the same way as with my 2011.
Now the question is: what system are you running? Early 2013 MacBook Pro Retina USB3 came with 10.8.2, Mountain Lion. If yours is same or newer, it should work.
https://d3nevzfk7ii3be.cloudfront.net/igi/qwnragCSy3xNxZtP.huge
 

ZenSurfeur

macrumors 6502
Feb 25, 2020
255
98
hi
great project but I need bluetooth 4.0 to use handoff, the card is both doing BT and wifi.
usb3 using thunderbolt may be a good solution too :) (in my case)
 

USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
The Bluetooth card seems separate from WiFi. Bluetooth is apparently located top left inside the unit, a small PCB. The mini PCIE card is WiFi only. After removing it, my Bluetooth keyboard still works.
 

Berenod

macrumors member
Apr 15, 2020
42
10
hi
great project but I need bluetooth 4.0 to use handoff, the card is both doing BT and wifi.
usb3 using thunderbolt may be a good solution too :) (in my case)
If you are talking a mid 2011 27" you only have Bluetooth 2.1, and it's a seperate card from the wifi anyway.

When you remove your display you'll find the bluetooth card in the top left corner.
On the picture in post 4, you"ll see it with the blue antenna cable plugged into it.
 

ZenSurfeur

macrumors 6502
Feb 25, 2020
255
98
I know this, before installing the card (both wifi and bluetooth) and its support instead of the wifi card, I need to delete the bluetooth 2.1 one
 

PozziePAW

macrumors newbie
Apr 29, 2020
9
2
Scratching my head here, I have all the components, but the power connector that came with the pcie adaptor is incompatible with the ODD drive "sata" connection. The existing ODD cable has two sets of pins separated by the moulding in the female end terminal (similar to first image). The male terminal supplied with the pcie adaptor, has no such moulding (image 2). Can someone point me to a suitable cable. Images attached show similar connectors as the female end is in the mac so just screen shot off the web of similar connector. The third image shows my pcie adaptor connected to the usb card, the white molex connector is on the other end of the supplied cable (other end is image 2). There is a sata connection on the usb card (lower left of image 3) but this is the same pin lineup as the cable supplied. It would seem to me that I could use either power connector (usb card or pcie adapter card) but can't find a cable to suit. Excuse the waffle!!
 

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USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
Indeed the existing ODD connector is not suitable. You can tap from the HDD connector though, that one is standard.
If you want to use the ODD connector, cut it into two pieces (SATA data and power part), cut off the power connector, and use the individual wires to connect to your adapter. I can provide a photo of which wire is what, if needed.
Tapping from the HDD is easier.
 

PozziePAW

macrumors newbie
Apr 29, 2020
9
2
A photo would be appreciated I already have two ssd’s plugged in so he’d cable has been used.
 

USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
Easiest is to get a Slimline SATA to SATAadpter. Looks like this one:
Slimline SATA.png

So you can simply connect this in between the ODD connector and your power splitter. You can get this on the usual online shopping sites.


Preparing the ODD connector takes a bit patience.
The pin numbers are as such (source: wikipedia):
1598101169263.png

1598101212418.png


My cable has 5 wires coming out:
Screenshot at 2020-08-22 21-31-01.png


So from the notch (in this picture on the left side of the power connector), let's number them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

1 = 5V (pin 2 of power SATA)
2 = 5V (pin 3 of power SATA)
3 = not needed (pin 4 of power SATA)
4 = 0V (pin 5 of power SATA)
5 = 0V (pin 6 of power SATA)

Connect the first two (1, 2) together and connect to black of your SATA power cable.
Connect the last two (4, 5) together and connect to red of the SATA power cable.
If you don't intend to draw more than ~1A from USB3, you can use a singlee wire for 5V and 0V instead of two.
 

KennyW

macrumors 6502
Sep 5, 2007
360
293
I have a question.

I can find many different types of USB (male) to SATA (female) cable that allow reading a SATA drive from the USB port.

Is there any hardware that can convert the internal SATA connector for the DVD drive into a female USB 3 socket for reading USB drive or thumb drive the other way round?

Moreover, I notice that you can convert an internal SATA to eSATA with just a simple cable adapter:
OR this:

From that, there is an eSATA to eSATA plus USB adapter to get the USB port for connecting to USB devices:

I don't know whether anyone has tried that. If feasible and functional, it seems to be a cleaner solution to obtain USB 3 connection from the internal SATA connector for the DVD drive.
 
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rc3105

macrumors member
Oct 30, 2019
65
18
That would be a neat trick, but I've never heard of one in 30+ years of building & maintaing pcs.
 

Nguyen Duc Hieu

macrumors 65816
Jul 5, 2020
1,151
284
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I have a question.

I can find many different types of USB (male) to SATA (female) cable that allow reading a SATA drive from the USB port.

Is there any hardware that can convert the internal SATA connector for the DVD drive into a female USB 3 socket for reading USB drive or thumb drive the other way round?

I don't know whether anyone has tried that. If feasible and functional, it seems to be a cleaner solution to obtain USB 3 connection from the internal SATA connector for the DVD drive.

I do have an old AMD mainboard that has eSATA port.
Finding an external HDD/SSD that use eSATA port is not difficult.
The problem here is that eSATA is not hot-swapable with many devices, while USB 3.0 enclosure can.
That's why eSATA has been fading out, giving way to USB standard.
 

USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
Is there any hardware that can convert the internal SATA connector for the DVD drive into a female USB 3
No.
Moreover, I notice that you can convert an internal SATA to eSATA with just a simple cable adapter
Yes. This can be done and works. E-sata includes power, so you typically have a connection inside the computer to include a power feed to the outside e-sata connection.
From that, there is an eSATA to eSATA plus USG adapter to get the USB port for connecting to USB devices:
No. You are reading too much into this. Read the instruction on that piece: the USB connection only feeds power (!) for an external SATA drive. The USB connector does not have data signal.
I find a MiniPCIe slot splitter:
That won't work. the internal connection in iMac 2011 does not have the required USB pins fed to the mini-PCIE connector. In addition, that connection would not be USB3, which this splitter requires. So this won't work.
 

passatgt

macrumors 6502a
Jun 16, 2011
505
386
I think it would make sense to route the pcie connector outside(i think the flex cable could fit through the HDD fan vent without modification, or even the dvd driver slot) and maybe one could use multiple pcie accessories with quick swapping?
 

USB3foriMac

macrumors regular
Original poster
Apr 15, 2020
242
87
Singapore
I think it would make sense to route the pcie connector outside(i think the flex cable could fit through the HDD fan vent without modification, or even the dvd driver slot) and maybe one could use multiple pcie accessories with quick swapping?
That would be possible I guess, but maybe the included strips are too short. The longer flex strip is 24cm (shorter is 15cm). I have not measured the distance (all iMacs closed now and operating), but even if too short, it should be possible to get a longer strip.
The flat flexible cable (FFC) has 36 pins.The pitch is 0.5mm distance. "Reverse direction". Something like this (30cm), but longer: Aliexpress item (couldn't find a 36P 'reverse' longer version, only normal. So maybe use long 40pin and cut? Here is 10pcs 40pin 40cm)
I would just not find it so nice having a card hang out below or beside the iMac. Not sure what flexibility would be needed; what cards are you thinking of?
 

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KennyW

macrumors 6502
Sep 5, 2007
360
293
Finally succeeded in installing a USB 3 PCIe card in my iMac 2010 with preservation of the wifi/BT card function.

With the mPCIe adapter:

connecting to the PCIe 4x riser:

I can get two PCIe 4x slots from the mPCIe slot.

One of the PCIe 4x slot is then connected to the USB 3 PCIe card.

The other PCIe 4x slot, with a PCIe extension cable, is connected to a PCIe to mPCIe adapter to re-hold the wifi/BT module close to the original site for its full function.

I'll post the photos and speed testing benchmark later.
Everything is packed inside the iMac without cabling outside.
The DVD drive slit is enlarged at a few spots to mount the USB ports.

However, I discovered that perhaps this PCIe 4x to mPCIe adapter cable may simplify the connection. I will test it later.

Alternatively, I found the mPCIe slot splitter:
But it would be too expensive to use for the USB project.
 
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