How-To: Replace Your iMac’s Hard Drive

20 Comments

The iMac is a great machine that can last you a very long time. In its life, there are two things that you may find yourself wishing to upgrade, the memory and hard drive. Memory is easy enough to get to but the hard drive can seem a little daunting to some.

I’ll go through how to open the iMac up, just enough to replace the hard drive. There is risk involved with this but if you take your time, you should be just fine. If you want to transfer your data to the new drive before you begin, I recommend using a USB drive adapter such as this one by Apricorn and Carbon Copy Cloner.

Parts Needed

Suction cups: I am using suction cups from our server room floating floor but you can use any kind of suction cups you find at your local store.

Phillips Screwdriver: This is to remove the memory door on the bottom.

T8 Torx Screwdriver: The internal screws require this bit.

Canned Air: This is to remove any dust that may settle on the screen before you reassemble it.

Disassembly

  1. The glass is held in by magnets so use your suction cups to pull the glass off the iMac.

  2. Remove the memory door on the bottom of the iMac.
  3. Remove the Torx screws that are holding the metal case on.
  4. Pull the metal case off by starting at the top. You will see a connection by the iSight that you need to disconnect. After that, the case will slide right off.
  5. Now the remove the screws on the sides of the actual LCD screen.
  6. Gently rock the LCD screen forward from the top and you will see the hard drive behind it. You may need to disconnect the two wires running to the LCD.
  7. Pull on the back plastic bar  on the left side and it will swing out.
  8. Remove the heat sensor by pulling off the foam and sensor carefully. Set the foam aside so we can use it to re-attach the sensor to the new drive.
  9. The drive is ready to be come out by rocking the top out of the frame and then pulling it up.
  10. Once out, we need to transfer the Torx screws to the new drive.

To reassemble, just follow the same steps in reverse. Go slowly and don’t force anything. All the pieces should slide back together without much effort. Some people like to take the LCD screen all the way off and that’s fine. You will need a T7 bit to disconnect the LCD screen from the board and just remember where each connector goes. Before you put the glass back on, use some canned air to blow off any dusk that may have settled on the LCD screen.

20 Comments

Luis Flores

I bought some suction cups from Lowe’s, the type you use to hang things on glass. They cost about $2 a piece.

Mitchel

Thanks for the great instructions. I just replaced my meager little 320GB HD with a Western Digital 2 TB Caviar Green SATA and saved myself a lot of money. It cost me $150 and an hour of my time to do. My quote from MacAuthority was $350. A new iMac would have run me $2K.

Sburger

Too easy! Now I have 2TB instead of a measly 160GB. Thanks for the instructions.

Jan

Great instruction! Makes me want to attempt to replace my 24″ HD for a bigger one.

Constable Odo

I have a 24″ iMac and this sure makes the process seem a lot easier than I thought it was. I would also use two suction cup method since that’s how it’s been recommended to do.

I found this disassembly to reach a hard drive to be the only fear of owning an iMac, but mainly due to the fact that Apple won’t give you back the original hard drive with your data on it. If you have lots of your personal data on the drive and your iMac fails, then you might not be able to even wipe the drive by using FW Target method with another FW connector Mac. I’m just so accustomed to being able to wipe my drives before they get in anyone else’s hands. My fears may be overblown so it may not be all that bad.

I know the innards are tight in there so there probably was no way Apple could have easily built an iMac with a user-removable drive. I’ve got AppleCare on my iMac and if it lasts three years from now I won’t worry about voiding the warranty. It’s almost one year old already and I’ve not had a single problem with the iMac so far and the hard drive runs very cool so I don’t foresee any premature drive failure problems. I’ll likely attempt the drive change myself if it does fail. I love pulling Macs apart.

Psy

Well, you can include a back cover for easy service, but Apple is pushing the unibody design on places that there is not really useful or convenient, but sexy as hell.

Benh

Not so sure about that. I don’t believe the HD in an iMac is considered a customer-serviceable part, hence the complicated operation involved.

EDIT: Replied to wrong comment first time.

sandifop

@twist Having replaced drives in 12″ powerbooks, iMacs (G3) and PowerMac 9500, I can readily attest that replacing the drive on my 24″ iMac was EASY in comparison. The ONLY problem I found is dust between the LCD and the glass. Oh, and finding the suction cups.

Considering Apple NEVER intended these machines as user serviceable (other than the RAM); I found the 24″ iMac design ingenious and elegant.

Easy. Really.

Benh

Not so sure about that. I don’t believe the HD in an iMac is considered a customer-serviceable part, hence the complicated operation involved.

Twist

Wow and people wonder why I don’t like iMac’s. Worst design ever from a user repair/upgrade perspective (and this coming from someone who owned/repaired/upgraded a PowerMac 8500, a Revision C iMac, and an iBook G4). Got to love the design of my early 2009 MacBook though: remove the battery and a small cover and you have access to the RAM and HD.

Gazoobee

@ Will: The glass pops off really easily, although what the author fails to mention is that it also flexes so if you are using two separate suction cups (as recommended by Apple) you have to put one in each corner. Putting them in the middle like that can be a problem sometimes.

Will

Wow I had no idea you had to pull the screen off of the new iMac to replace a hard drive, seems a little intense doesn’t it? This definitely takes the upgrade process far out of reach for many Mac users, I’m pretty comfortable digging around in the guts of a machine but I don’t know how I’d feel about pulling off a 27″ piece of glass. And I thought replacing a drive on a unibody MB was a pain!

Tom

Wouldn’t it be safer to put the imac face down, then remove stand, then put on its back whilst removing the glass?

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