Apple Further Restricts Upgrade Options on New iMacs

Since Late 2009, there’s been a well-documented issue with the iMac line. If you upgrade the hard drive, the fans can start spinning like crazy. The fans at high speed are loud, mainly unnecessary, and have caused a lot of headaches for DIYers everywhere.

The reason the fans spin this way has to do with the iMac’s method of hard drive temperature sensing. Prior to 2009, sensors were placed outside the hard drive to gauge how warm the drives were – if they got too hot, the fans turned on to keep everything nice and cool. This method was simple, effective and made changing, exchanging, or upgrading the main hard drive a relatively simple task.

With the release of the Late 2009 iMac, Apple changed the way the iMac communicates with the drive for that heat-sensing information. Each brand of hard drive Apple used had its own specific thermal sensor cable which connected to certain drives that featured internal temperature sensing. We found that you could still change the drive, albeit with a limited selection. Seagate drives could be swapped with larger capacity Seagate drives; Western Digital could be swapped with other Western Digital Drives; and so forth. There were also reports of other workarounds which included replacing the internal sensor with an external sensor (like the one from the optical drive bay), controlling the fans with software, or purchasing a replacement cable that matched your brand of new hard drive. In any event, there were perhaps a few convoluted ways to upgrade your iMac’s main drive outside of Apple’s offerings for greater speed, more capacity or to quickly restore a machine from a drive failure yourself.

This time around, Apple has changed the game again.

For the main 3.5″ SATA hard drive bay in the new 2011 machines, Apple has altered the SATA power connector itself from a standard 4-wire power configuration to a 7-wire configuration. Hard drive temperature control is regulated by a combination of this cable and Apple proprietary firmware on the hard drive itself. From our testing, we’ve found that removing this drive from the system, or even from that bay itself, causes the machine’s hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test (AHT).

In examining the 2011 27″ iMac’s viability for our Turnkey Upgrade Service, every workaround we’ve tried thus far to allow us to upgrade the main bay factory hard drive still resulted in spinning fans and an Apple Hardware Test failure. We swapped the main drive out (in this case a Western Digital Black WD1001FALS) with the exact same model drive from our inventory which resulted in a failure. We’ve installed our Mercury Pro 6G SSD in that bay, it too results in ludicrous speed engaged fans and an AHT failure. In short, the Apple-branded main hard drive cannot be moved, removed or replaced.

To add insult to injury, the latest iMac EFI Update 1.6 unleashed 6Gb/s speeds on two internal ports – and naturally, one of them is the proprietary, firmware-limited, 7200RPM main drive that can’t take advantage of those speeds anyway.

Now this isn’t to say that our Turnkey Upgrade Program isn’t going to include the new model iMacs. The external eSATA port, or adding hard drives or SSDs in addition to the main hard drive are still perfectly viable and working options in our testing so far. But it isn’t looking good at the moment to have the option to upgrade or even replace the main 3.5″ hard drive as shipped from Apple.

It really begins to raise questions: Is this planned obsolescence at work, or is the freedom promised in 1984 being revoked?

Hard drives fail. It is not a matter of “if” but rather a matter of “when” your hard drive is going to fail. We preach this all the time in regards to having a proper backup strategy in place to prepare from when that failure happens. But it seems now, that when that happens to the main drive on your iMac, you’re left with two options – buy a new drive from Apple and have them install it via one of their Authorized Service Centers, or enjoy the rather large Apple logoed paperweight on your desk. Want a 3.5″ drive larger than 2TB? Too bad – Apple doesn’t offer them.

As die-hard Apple users, we tout all the time that its OK that Apple machines cost more initially, since they’re built better and last so much longer than their PC counterparts. Besides, there’s places like Other World Computing that help keep those aging Macs still powering along as viable machines with upgrades and accessories designed to give you the most out of your Mac investment.

I actually purchased a 27″ 2010 iMac Core i5 earlier this year. I was a bit nervous about Apple’s apparent push toward making OS X more iOS like and wanted the option to upgrade or opt to stay with Snow Leopard for my home machine. I was feeling the buyer’s remorse, just a little bit, when Apple added, not one, but two Thunderbolt ports to the back of the latest model. That kind of speed down the line would certainly allow for plenty of future storage expansion. Once Thunderbolt equipped enclosures finally come to market and all the bugs are worked out, of course. I’m just not the “early adopter” type.

I gotta be honest, I’m not feeling one bit of that remorse anymore. I have a machine that I’m certain I can keep maintained myself with products from OWC for many years to come. If my main hard drive does fail, I know I have options available to replace it. If I need an overall speed boost, I know I can get an OWC Mercury Extreme SSD and install that as my boot drive. If I find I need a faster connection than FireWire 800, I can always add a high-performance eSATA port through the TurnKey Upgrade Program. In short, I have multiple options available to me to configure my iMac to my particular needs.

New iMac envy? Nah…I’ll take the freedom of choice over limitations any day of the week.

The Story Continues… Further Explained: Apple’s iMac 2011 Model Hard Drive ‘Restrictions’

UPDATE 8-23-11:

We’ve developed a workable hardware solution to the fan sensor problems and are now offering it as part of our Turnkey Program for 2011 iMac.

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  • OK I’m someone who lives with an apple employee. I WAS going to buy a 27″ imac or a mac pro for graphical work, due to available discounts (25% off). I Was until I read this article. the one comment which says that this article is false holds some weight if you follow the link.

    “I believe this rumor about the different SATA interface is rubbish. I removed the harddisk from my brand new iMac and put a OCZ Vertex 3 MI SSD back in (as shown at”

    But I took stock today of what i actually wanted to do and what would give me the best outcome and came to this conclusion.

    iMac – as far as i’m concerned is best suited to people who want a computer that they can take out of the box plug in and use, yes HDD failure is going to happen even with SSD (eventually — and replacment is going to be needed, but i take this on the chin. I know that my iphone battery only has so many charge cycles, and this (unreplacable) element means that i am buying a consumable device, which i plan to replace within two years.
    surely those of us buying iMacs should look at this move to an apple only HDD replacment, and accept that what apple are doing is creating a consumable desktop computer. One which they are hoping we will replace (or upgrade via them) every so often.

    so iMac for me……NO, not even Mac Pro, with apples move to ATI graphics, i’m giving up on macs all together, my g4 quicksilver has lasted me ages but, for me at least its time for a reality check, I want a new computer for graphics, i would like to get the most bang for buck, and no cuda acceleration in adobe products running ATI cards on macs equals me having to buy a new graphics card on top, even further ruling out the iMac.

    Right now the internal difference between a pc and a mac is minimal, I feel this move to proprietary HDD, is more about apple creating profit margins on initial purchase upgrades. If you know your not going to be able to buy the smallest drive for the cheapest price (off apple) and then just replace it with a better drive bought for a fraction of the cost. I imagine you would buy the larger drive to start.

  • ” New iMac envy? Nah…I’ll take the freedom of choice over limitations any day of the week. ”
    Let me correct it for you:
    ” I buy parts and build my own PC’s. Mac envy? Nah…I’ll take the freedom of choice over limitations any day of the week. ”

    As simple as that…cheaper, customizeable, and if you buy good parts lasts as long as any mac or any other machine.

  • Guess I’ll be sticking with 2nd hand G4 and G5 machines then.

    Oh the irony of ‘that’ superbowl ad.. – Apple have been far worse than IBM ever has.

  • This sucks big time! I would have hoped that the HDD could be as easily changed as the RAM – THAT would be nice! What are you up to Apple?

    Someone should create a petition.

    At this moment we will not recommend the new iMac to any of our customers.

  • I’ll say w/out hestiation I’m an apple fan boy- and proud of it!

    However, if it turns out that when you order a 2011 iMac and choose the SSD option for the main bay, which basically no one with even a bit of tech knowledge would ever do because of the absurd prices and relativly poor performing SSD’s, that by choosing this you can now replace the main hard drive w. whatever you like is very shady.

    In other words, it would be forcing people to buy an obscenly priced SSD of a brand that you’re not even aware of, just to have the capablity to do something so necessary as replace/update your main hard drive.

    Furthmore, who really buys the max RAM from Apple?!?!?!? I mean, they must realize this as well.

    Maybe this is a step in trying to make the stock options less appealing and “forcing” the consumer to buy something way overpriced- only to have the ability to replace that very overpiced item.

    This issue is very weird and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s seems totally unnecessary and greedy.

    O-Dub Scott

    • For what it is worth, the Apple factory SSD option is installed into a separate SSD bay whether you select the hard drive + SSD or HDD alone. Apple doesn’t currently offer an option for installing an SSD into the main bay. Hard Mac has reported that Apple disables the thermal bit with a line close/short, like mentioned in our technical followup piece:, when the SSD only option selected. We are not aware of these shipping yet and await the SSD only unit we have on order to first hand verify and review.

      Bottom line, there isn’t any issue (other than the general difficulty with opening up an iMac, which isn’t new) to adding an SSD to the SSD bay. There are thermal sensor connection/firmware complications with this one… unlike changing drives in the main HDD bay.

  • Thanks for the great article.

    In truth this isn’t really a problem; as stereotypically Mac users compulsively keep up to date with the latest Apple hardware – which gives the laptop itself (and hence the hard drive you can’t change) a very small usage lifetime. With the advent of large amount of online storage space (DropBox etc.) you can also back your laptop up to the cloud – especially when you work at the Apple headquaters where internet access is probably quite speedy.

    In all seriousness though, please grab yourself an external hard drive. If it’s speed you are worried about get a powered chassis that supports eSATA. Laptop hard drives (Mac or not) are notoriously slow. Use the internal hard drive for apps; which only need to be read from the disk ‘once’ (bar paging etc.).

  • Everyone has the freedom of choice. The pro and cons of Apple stuff versus others and whether one researches these issues is everyone’s own choice.

    I personally prefer PC’s ( not Dell) some of which have been running well for over 12 years with no problems, and some which last a year before there is some problems. I have no experience with Apple PC’s but without doubt, my iPhone with its battery issues really irritates me a lot. But I LIKE my iPhone, that is my choice.

    All the comments above are in general the users own opinions are in general subjective, and its really amusing to see people getting worked up about stupid things like computers, cars or whatever. Buy a Merc or BMW, and then try putting in Toyota or no name brand name parts …

    • And therein lies the problem. The Mac is not the Mercedes or the BMW, but rather the Geo Prism with a Lamborghini shell.

      The Mac used to be known for it’s superior graphics systems, but what about the last 10 years? Look at their current line of graphics card offerings, they are pathetic at best compared to the PC market offerings. And why did this all happen? Because they chose to do this proprietary crap which means they are limited to substandard equipment that is not frequently updated for this niche market of users. They continue to further do this with all their components and are being obsoleted 6 months after release of a new product.

      They have some impressive hardware from a processor standpoint, but no better than what you could find in the PC market. So what exactly are you getting with a Mac? A pretty shell, an fancy pants interface (arguable), and a logo?

      The Mac only appeals (or should only appeal) to the individual who would otherwise not be able to turn a PC on. Don’t believe me? I’m a software engineer that has to support Mac users. Of all the people in the world, this community is the most likely to break a software product because they can’t follow or understand the simplest of directions if it has even the slightest hint of tech speak in it.

      Does that make them stupid? No, just technologically inept, and that’s OK, we all have our weaknesses, and we can’t all be computer scientists, but this is the only true market for the Mac anymore, and they are making their proprietary products sub-par while raking in 100%-200% sheer profit margins. Brilliant, I guess, if you can find the followers that will pay the premium (which they do).

    • Heh…., BMW, builder of the mini cooper, uses a Toyota built diesel for their Mini One D which is built in the UK, and is very popular. : )

  • I just gut my new iMac 2011 i7 max upgraded on all but Harddisk, since I did not have the extra 1000$ (yes its more expensive in Europe) atm, but was planing on getting that upgrade from OWC later on…… this make me SERIOUSLY considering returning it under my 14 days right to return.

    This seems like a deliberate attempt, (with Evil intent) to limit me as a consumer

  • To OWC,

    You should be ashamed that you are posting information like this. I have no idea why OWC would post this article with so many technical errors in it. I am not about to go into the technical detail about this. Simply cause my technical knowledge if far inferior to the OWC team’s. But why I can say the majority of this article is BS is for the following reasons:

    1.Many people have swapped their hard drives in the new imacs with no issues at all.
    2. The ifixit tear down of the imac would have noticed this. But strangely they do not mention it. And they are not ones to miss any detail no matter now tiny.
    3. The extra wires are just grounding wires or something else. But not to do with the thermal sensors or the like.

    I have emailed Apple and asked them to release an official statement about this. Just so everyone knows the truth.

    And the only reason I am writing this message is cause I do think OWC are a nice bunch and know a lot about computers. But anyone can have a bad day. And this is OWC’s bad day.

    *fingers crossed Apple release a statement soon on this to set the record straight”.

    Even if this article is not approved the OWC team will see what I have to say.

    • Sorry Jim…but that is not our experience. And we’re not ones to create FUD. No matter what drive we try in that main bay…if not that factory drive, fans ramp up and AHT fails.

      The bad day to us is like what OWC Michael and me, since I edit many of the posts, is all about….if and when the drive fails, you have no choice but to go to Apple service if you wish to keep using your iMac.

      And even with that service, you may be limited to what size drive you can get from them.

      Bad day for iMac users wanting choices.

      See OWC Larry’s reply in this thread for more insight as well as new blog posts on topic here on the OWC blog.

  • This is a pretty poor article and is badly researched. The reason that “normal” power is provided via 4 lines is because most power supplies leave the 3.3V line disconnected (+, – so 2 additional lines). It seems in this case Apple has just decided to connect the 3.3V line and perhaps support lower power consumption. There is also the possibility of an extra line used to do staggered startup of the drive.

    I hope you revise this article based on this info.

    • Hi Joel….sorry you don’t see the value in telling people their choices are limited…either Apple or no way. I should clarify one point….the connector cable ends…the drive end is standard 15 pin…but the logic board end…that is a proprietary 7 pin connection.

      • I see that the drives you have tried so far don’t work not that all drives don’t work. You say proprietary 7-pin connection simply because you are use to having a 4 pin connector 12V, 5V, 2 X Ground. SATA’s full voltage support is 12V, 5V, 3.3V, a Staggered Start line and 3 X Ground which is 7 pins/lines/wires required. Please brush up on what is supported by SATA before you begin calling this proprietary.

        Could it be that drive manufactures are now supporting a lower operating voltage? Doesn’t that make more sense than Apple apparently some how creating proprietary drives that doesn’t fit the SATA STANDARD…

  • This is really disturbing. I have 2 2009 and 2 2010 27s, and they would not be worth using in my situation without changing the hard drives. i ordered a 2011 fully loaded with just a 1TB drive, because I knew it would be changed out and turn key upgraded. Is there enough room to stuff a velociraptor and an ssd and still leave the stock drive? I would be willing to sacrifice the optical drive or SD card slot.

  • Have you tried replacing the drive with a pull from other Apple machines? ie a 2010 iMac HD, an 2011 MBP HD or an 2011 MBP SSD? Do they have nice compatible firmware? (Or even TRIM support for the latter)?

  • hahha Buyers remorse! you got played! I got the new iMac 27″ if i was worried about customizing id buy a mac pro tower! hahahahahah

    • I’m not sure what you mean; 4 pin power connectors went away long ago, with the PATA driver; 7-pin SATA power connectors have been the standard for many years. Just look at any 3 year old iMac and you’ll find… the exact same thing reported in this blog.

    • – I have no problem with Apple’s hardware configuration.
      – All that I ask is that they make their hardware restrictions apparent in their marketing!

      Then I and many others could pass on their more restrictive products before purchasing them.

  • Im an owner of both Macs and Windows machines.. By far the most problems I have with hard drives are on the Macs. Losing the ability to change the disc for one of my choosing is a complete deterrent to purchasing another Mac in the future.

    • (off topic/shamelss plug:) switch to Kubuntu. You’ll get the all the desktop niceties a Mac has to offer and then some, access to a repository of several tens of thousands of free apps, the ability to run many Windows apps without a hitch inside Linux (the latest Photoshop being one of them), and complete freedom from any hardware or software restriction. (I did it almost two years ago – had a desktop with unsupported hardware until then – and never looked back. I must state, however, that I am not a gamer.)

  • I got a new 21.5 imac, I had thought all the Hard Drives were WD drives, mine says its a Seagate (ST3500418AS) drive. is that norm.????

    • Yes, out of the machines we’ve received and tested so far, most had Western Digital drives while some had Seagate.

      • Thanks for the quick response. any thoughts on which drive(s) are better, I’ve never had good luck with either drives in the past (5+ years ago)….

        • also, is there anyway to tell where your computer is/was shipped from, I heard from the apple store the other day that they have plants/warehouses in penn. tex. cal. kansas etc….. I had hoped from the serial number but so far no luck….. once again thanks…..

        • I’ve owned both. In my experience, they’re both good drive companies. I’ve had some of each last well over 10 years (not that I use many IDE drives anymore – but when I need to access them they’ve been available.) Usually if I lose a drive it ends up being due to an accidental drop in a portable enclosure.

          • My experience with HD’s from both companies is it is the line of drives that matters, not the company. Both have had some real klunkers and both have had some real winners. When I’m looking at a drive I don’t know much about I head over to the comment section on – that user community seems to really give the drives a good thrashing and is willing to come back and post.

          • Yeah, well I have never had a Seagate drive last more thah 14 months. They are garbage; i won’t buy one. The last device I bought was a USB powered external drive, and it started throeing disk errors within minutes of being plugged in. Internal drives are not much better. I only buy WD.

  • Just a heads up, the current wait time for a SSD on a iMac 2011 is

    2-3 weeks for 21 inch

    4-6 weeks for 27inch

    some food for thought.

  • Great work OWC.

    Just a quick question. Is the SSD Apple are installing a 3Gb/s or 6Gb/sec

    Like some of the other posters have stated, Thunderbolt offerings will make a lot of the drive upgrade points moot, but although I initially was going to but a fully tricked out 27″ iMac for the business, now I will wait and see what offerings are made in the Thinderbolt arena.


      • No way those SSD drives will be 6G. If the RPM drives they’re shipping are 3G, Apple will never spring for the high premium on cutting-edge 6G SSD drives.

        I can respect the fact that they want to keep their price points low, the masses are where they make their money… What I can’t get down with is when they slap in proprietary doohickeys (which I assume had to cost money to plan, develop, and produce) for the sole purpose of forcing us down a path of their choosing.

  • I believe this rumor about the different SATA interface is rubbish. I removed the harddisk from my brand new iMac and put a OCZ Vertex 3 MI SSD back in (as shown at No excessive fan activity, no failures, it just works fine. Even if the fans would blow crazily, there is software for Macs to control that. But even without any tweaks, the Macs runs fine. And the Vertex 3 MI is faaaaaassttt :)

      • Now I have. It fails and it reports error “4SNS/1/40000000:TH00-9.592”. This doesn’t prove there is a proprietary SATA connector though. I guess the machine test fails because the harddisk temperature is bogus (128C).

  • Rather than worrying about messing inside the new 27″ imacs it would be great for OWC to put together a 2 or 4 SSD RAID with Thuderbolt and just use the internal drive for backup or media storage.

  • Well, this is the second time I have had to put off ordering the 27″ iMac 3.4Ghz. The first being the mention of no 6G SSD support. As I’ve said before, Apple’s premium price tag is starting to lose its’ luster. We are already restricted to what we can do in the Mac OS and IOS environments, now it appears that Apple is determined to restrict typical user upgrade components.

    Really Apple, it’s not enough to have record profits during an unstable economy, you’re now taking away our limited choices. Good luck with that. If what is happening to Sony and there PS3 isn’t enough to curb this behavior, waiting until the Apple user community decide to have a mutiny!

    I have a 2011 MacBook Pro 17″ (March). If my OWC 240GB 6G SSD doesn’t work, I’m giving this laptop back to apple and demanding my money back. $3000+ (with Apple Care) is too much to be make compromises!

  • I work at a university and do support for students and faculty. The perception has always seemed to be that Mac’s outlast/perform better/don’t break as much as PCs. This isn’t an “official” study. But by observation, we have more Mac’s being worked on that we do PCs at ANY given time. We do know that on campus the number of Macs has increased from 5% to between 10-13% of the computers used. So there has been a significant increase of the number of Mac’s, but they failure rate is way higher than PC’s.

    This past week we have seen 4 staff computers (Macbook pro’s) infected with Malware, and at least 4 or five students. The semester has ended so it will be interesting to watch how this trends.

    I have a Macbook, as well as PC’s so I am not a Mac hater, just an observer.

    • this is total bs. your case is totally, completely unscientific. anecdotal. has no basis in fact. i sys admin a facility w over 200 Macs & a few random PCs. the PCs are constantly dying from all sorts of causes: HD failure, power supply, MLB, etc. the only Macs i work on are ones that are 5 or 6 years old & that have been in constant service.

      i am not going to try & use my anecdotal evidence to say that all PCs are shit & Macs never break, they way you have tried to use yours. I am going to say that your experience does not make your weak claims factual reality.

      • LOL. I know you are full of S&%t because you just said you sys admined 200 macs. Macs are banned from the enterprise.

        • Please pay this dillhole no mind…

          …he thinks that the uber-rich buy Hyundais as their toy automobiles and that the first two mods you do to make something a “track toy” are tinted windows and a new stereo.

    • “This past week we have seen 4 staff computers (Macbook pro’s) infected with Malware, and at least 4 or five students. The semester has ended so it will be interesting to watch how this trends.”

      “Malware” really? Like what?

      And 4 of them were “infected”? How? A rogue student installing stuff on unsuspecting fellow-students, or a virus of which noone has ever head about but you somehow got 4 instances of it?

    • Guess they should stop downloading from torrent sites.
      Go looking for bin laden…, you find bin laden….

  • “New iMac envy? Nah…I’ll take the freedom of choice over limitations any day of the week.”

    Funny, that’s exactly how I feel using Linux instead of OS X.

  • I am no engineer, but how does Apple’s system work better than the built in heat sensors the HD manufacturers install?

    • Hi Bob….don’t need to be an engineer to realize Apple firmware is reading and interacting with the HD built in sensor….and that’s the crux here….it’s not about being better…it’s about being a ‘closed’ system…

  • OK, OWC, you tried substituting a same-brand/model hard drive for the Apple-branded hard drive, and it didn’t work. Why not simply swap the interface boards? I seriously doubt there’s a firmware chip *inside* the hard drive case, so give this a try and let us know if it works. I’m betting it will.

    Also, how much do you want to bet Apple will start using proprietary interface board screws to stop just this sort of experiment from happening, a la the iPhone “special” screws?

  • Michael,

    iFixit did a tear-down on the 21.5″ iMac and made the assumption that the secondary SSD that is an available option on the 27″ model would be mounted behind the DVD drive. Is that the case? And, in the same line of questioning, are the mounting holes available for adding an SSD drive or will a bracket of some kind need to be purchased along with an SSD if one were to add an SSD in their 2011 iMac in the secondary SATA position?


  • This has been the case since late 2009 models where apple firmware is required for temperature reading, to solve the problem I wrote software that reads the temperature from the drives S.M.A.R.T data and sets fan speed from this.

    Its available at



  • Is this only on the 27″ machines? iFixit took apart the 21″ and didn’t make mention of any changes to the SATA power – of course they weren’t trying to run it without/with a different drive

  • OWC: Here’s something to try: Remove the interface board from an Apple-branded iMac hard drive and swap it with the one from an otherwise identical-model non-Apple-branded hard drive. I’ll bet that will work. I can’t imagine there would be a proprietary firmware chip *inside* the hard drive itself.

    Now, the next thing I suspect we’ll see will be Apple-proprietary screws used to secure the interface board to Apple-branded hard drives, a la the special screws Apple uses with iPhones to keep inquiring hands out of the innards.

    • Replacing the circuit board does not help. Each hard drive batch can have different firmware specs and just replacing the board can make the drive inoperable. Learnt that when I’ve tried to recover data from dead circuit board drives. You have to get the same firmware version etc circuit board that matches the one in there. So in essence you’ll be replacing it with another apple hybrid board.

  • “last so much longer”

    Are you (expletive deleted by editor) kidding me? I bought a Dell Dimension in 2000. I installed XP on the thing a couple years later and the computer lasted me EIGHT YEARS. It didn’t break, it was just too slow. Beat that, Apple (expletive deleted by editor).

    Second, Apple doesn’t WANT you to think that their computers last at all. They want you buying a new iPad, new iPhone, new iMac, new Macbook EVERY YEAR.

    Furthermore, please give up worshiping at the altar of the 1984 ad. That cliche has grown so, so tiresome over the years of Apple Fanboyism.

    • Only 8 years? My nephew’s still running my old PowerMac G4 from 1999 – that’s 50% longer than your Dell, and it’s still going strong.

      He’s planning to replace it though as he wants to play StarCraft 2, which requires an Intel CPU. When that happens, it’ll be handed down to his younger brother.

      • My 2 household macs are currently an Oct ’05 dual core G5 and a G4 with an accellerator running 1.5 gHz and both are working and stable with no hardware-related problems worth speaking of. I will say this, though, I have upgraded the hard drives in my G5 tower a couple of times. Once to increase capacity (160 to 500 GB) and the 2nd time to be safe, as I was not thrilled with the pre-fail SMART warnings (which turned out to be bogus) on the 1st 500 GB Seagate drive I had added. (I still use it as in internal storage drive for less critical items).
        Thing is, I really appreciated the ability to change by own drives when I felt I needed to. I am not thrilled to read that the new iMac will prevent this. I was about to pull the trigger on a 27″ 3.4 gHz iMac. Now I’m not sure I want to put in the money for a top end machine, as the longevity is now in question, past the 3 year Applecare.

    • First of all, if you love your Dull Dementia so much why are you trolling Mac-relevant comments???

      Next, I’m sure you have no idea that your individual experience has NOTHING WHATEVER to do with averages. Macs last longer **on average** not every single time. Macs have higher resale values, better reliability and higher customer service satisfaction ratings, beating Dull by at least 20 points in the last survey I read.
      There are some Ford Escorts still on the road but that doesn’t make it a good car.

      My old G4 iMac STILL looks better than the latest designed-by-the-blind Dull and unlike a Dementia it has never needed anti-virus software.
      Beat that.

      • Actually I would say that’s exactly what makes it a good car. 10k for a car that lasts well over 10years with only basic maintenance? It may not get you there the fastest or with the best leather seat, but it defiantly will do its job the longest for the least $$. My BMW 335 is in the shop so much that I’m glad I kept my Escort just so I can still get to work. It’s served me well for over 12years and it cost me only 10k.

        Also your Dell faming based on appearance is totally just your OPINION. Personally I find any Mac before the G5/intel MacBooks to look like utter junk. I have a Mac, this is actually my *thinks* 6th Mac and I was just down stairs looking at a partners Dell desktop and thinking that it looked rather nice an sleek. I may own Apple hardware, but I don’t fool myself into thinking they are better than they really are.

        Also as for reliability there was a chart in 2009 released and Apple was only average on the reliability chart. Between Sony and Dell I believe. Asus, Toshiba, and Sony beat Apple, and the difference from Apple and Dell was only 1%.

      • You are just bashing about aesthetics here and unfortunately you are barking up the wrong tree here with most users. Most users want their computer hardware to behave how they want it to and reliably. Who gives a crap that its got smooth lines and looks like some wanky designer handcrafted the case? BORING!

        From my experience of Apple products over the years is that they are determined to dumb it down to the masses which doesn’t help them understand how the freakin’ thing works and that’s a terrible shame. They are just making us into a society of drones who uses products blindly and with no real understanding and when something does go wrong, we have to send it in for repair and pay some ungodly price for what is probably a simple fix.

        Now back on topic…

        What is up for debate here is how Apple is making products which completely lock you into their gear and any replacement parts to said gear. Considering how far the computer industry has come with standards and interoperability you would think Apple would go the same line considering how they moved to Intel processors a while ago rather than PowerPC processors. This decision opened up a world of choices for Apple which now seems to be going in the other direction for choice for users.

        It’s a terrible shame to see such things go on.

    • “””It didn’t break, it was just too slow. Beat that, Apple (expletive deleted by editor).”””

      Well, quite easy. Almost every version of OS X has been faster than the previous one. Snow Leopard has even been leaner (less gigabytes of installation).

      So, you kept it running but “it was just too slow”? What use it that?

    • i can’t believe the pathetic Apple envy on this thread. so you had a Dell that lasted for 8 years? wow! you’re amazing! if i could get Dell to make their website easy to use, get their customer service staff to speak English, send their stuff on time, not screw up every single order or constantly send me the wrong parts i might be impressed…

    • Disco

      I have a Mac 128k built in 1984. It still runs just fine. Since you will run out of fingers and toes, I’ll just tell you that’s 27 years. Beat that!

  • I was thinking of buying a new imac and installing an a 128 gb ssd in the second drive slot and using it as the boot drive. Will this work, or will it need the 7 pin sata pin also?

    • The secondary bay utilizes a standard SATA connection for both data and power. We’ve seen no issues in adding an additional 2.5″ hard drive or SSD to the iMac.

      • So than you can adress this extra SSD as the boot-drive and use the standard HDD as ‘media storage’ or something, no?

          • just to confirm, if i purchase a 27′ with the 1TB drive, i can buy a 128 SSD from OWC and install with no issues? (i really don’t want to get the SSD from apple to save on $$)

            • I just yesterday put an SSD in place of the hard drives in both new iMac models and didn’t notice any fan issues.

              To install the SSD as an additional drive in the 27″ would require a different power cable, an additional data cable, and a bracket, as well as partial removal if the motherboard. All 3 are service parts available online. There’s an ifixit article that enumerates which parts you’d need. The process of installing the necessary supporting hardware is tricky.

              On the 21.5 it looked like there was space and screw holes for some sort if bracket underneath the optical drive. Unfortunately Apple isnt providing the parts needed to anyone, the bracket is not there. It looks like you could order another optical drive power/data cable and with slight modification route the cable to a position under the optical drive and use double sided tape or similar to affix the SSD to the optical drive. That is pure speculation however.

              • Not sure how you put any drive in that main drive bay and do not have fans ramp up. Regardless of the drive we put in…and just leave idle, the fans ramped up to 5600RPM after 1 hour. And even found we were locked out of System Profiler.
                Let your system run for awhile and see what happens perhaps….

              • thanks for sharing good information. so the lowest 21.5 model requires more effort and part.

                data cable/power cable/bracket + some works to plug cables to logic board..

                I hope this will be available soon from 3rd party..

                so the remaining question is, whether it connected as 6GB and apple care.

                it looks void warranty (or not. if I remove them before I go to apple center for service.. )

            • same question here. now we know that we can add SSD at secondary bay and make it as primary. is there any performance issue? does it connected as 6GB? how about applecare? installing 3rd party will void warrenty? coz I have to open front glass?

      • can I add a sata 6gpbs owc ssd drive to the 2nd bay in my new 2011 imac, and use it as a boot drive? My imac has a 1 tb drive stock from apple.

  • “is the freedom promised in 1984 being revoked?”

    The truth of 1984 is that “freedom is slavery”.

    • The freedom in the “1984” ad from Apple, which “opposed” the “1984” book future by promising freedom.

      Everything has to be explained.

  • I remember working for Apple when Scully arrived to replace Jobs. Apple became Pepsi Corp. and that was not a good thing. Back then they did every trick they could to prevent upgrades of the Mac with non-Apple product and invention was replaced with profit pursuit. The question at Apple became how many more quarters will the faithful keep buying this product? History has a nasty way of repeating itself.

  • boot drive, is this a viable solution? and if yes, what else is needed (cables,adapters…)?

    ps. hopefully you can find a workaround for the main 3.5″ drive too.

  • i’ve never posted to a message board before this however, i feel as if this news warrants my entry into the fray that is internet message boards.

    dear apple, (expletive deleted by editor) you.

    (and i am/was a huge fanboy)

  • I should explain the nomenclature here. The power connector uses 4 active pins for electricity out of the 15 pin connection. The remaining pins are either grounds or unused (till now). The seven pin cable connection is for data transfer. So when I mention the 4 pin power, I’m referring to the 15 pin cable.

    • Thats interesting, it was my understanding that there were 3 pins for each voltage: 3.3V (not generally used), 5V and 12V, as each pin on it’s own could only handle 1.5A due to their size thus three are needed to supply sufficient current, then the other 6 are for ground.

  • There’s two separate issues you’ve brought up.
    (1) what this means to upgrade DIY style
    Thunderbolt will allow fast peripherals (though likely expensive at first) to supplement any space needs. Other than adding an SSD, I’m not sure why one would choose to open the box and go through the internal hassle instead of getting a fast external raid enclosure or something of the like. The big disadvantage comes if you want an internal boot drive of significant size down the line.
    (2) what this means if your drive fails
    To me it means you should’ve had Applecare. Three years is a solid bit of time for a computer to last. With apple care, you’re guaranteed three years of no hassle and then you can ride out the computer after that until it dies, and hopefully replace the hardware in it more easily at that point. Maybe these seven pin drives will be in the discount bins in 2014.

    Just a couple thoughts.

    • agreed. but the issue is, someone prefer specific hard disk brand or SSD. and apple took the freedom of the basic modification. RAM/HDD should be free to replace.

      even I want to do CTO for SSD, the entry 21.5 model doesn’t have SSD CTO option. upper 21.5 model has it but only offer 256GB SSD which is expensive than 120GB and no choice of brand.

      as per my calculation, i have to spend 700$ more to have CTO SSD model..

  • As long as we’ll be able to select Thunderbolt attached storage as a boot drive it won’t matter to me. How’s that coming along anyway ;)

  • I have had this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that Apple was going to do this. There are other examples of having to live with the “Apple Way”. No matte screen options, only 27″ monitors, etc. I am sure folks can think of others. While OSX is my OS of choice, it is getting to the point where I may have to go back to Windows because I can afford the hardware and as far as I know, all the manufacturers adhere to the standards. This choice by Apple ensures I will not buy an iMac. It also ensures I will not recommend Apple computer products to other folks. Proprietary does not ensure that Apple products are the best. This hard drive issue is an excellent case in point.

  • So….it appears my dream of a 2011 iMac sporting a Raid 0 set up across two Mercury Pro 6G SSDs is dead. Needless to say, this is beyond upsetting news from Apple. First and foremost, where is the best place to start posting comments and calling to complain about this “strategy” to keep us from upgrading our machines? I’m no PC, I don’t have to build the latest and greatest every time it comes out, but when I buy my machines (every 5 or 6 years) I like to make sure its the top of the line, or at least has the ability to be easily upgraded, so it will last me that 5 or 6 years. Since I’m rockin’ the early 2006 iMac, I’ve been patiently waiting for these new machines for some time now. I’m crushed that Apple is obviously and actively trying to make the end user experience less than it could be. I don’t understand why they are doing it, or what sense it makes. Did they get their mega billion dollar glut of cash by selling people after market hard drives? Of course not…whether or not I slap some new hard drives in my new iMac should mean nothing to them. After all, I am springing for the iMac to start! How long before I can only use the massively over priced Apple RAM?

    My rant over, I do actually have some questions about the 2011 iMacs. 1) The main hard drive, is it a 6G drive? I know a 7200 RPM drive won’t be able to keep up with that bus, but I’m just curious if Apple gave us a 6G bus and then a 3G drive that can’t be replaced. 2) If I get one of these new iMacs, will OWC be able to put a 6G SSD in the ONE drive bay thats left, and then boot off that drive? Its no Raid 0, but it would be worlds better than a 7200 RPM drive. 3) I know you guys are hard at work, trying to make a Mac firmware updater… if you are successful (and I have faith that you will be), will this fix the issue of the fans? 4) Finally, are you currently working on adding Thunderbolt to your external RAID setups? Are you able to give any kind of broad based time frame on when we might see these come to market? I know this questions seems off the wall, but IF we can boot from an external Thunderbolt SSD, then this whole 3G/6G SATA conversation becomes moot. Apple can take their internal drives and shove ’em, while I crank out at 10G speeds.

    Lastly, I just want to thank you OWC guys. As a pseudo tech geek that is in the market to buy one of these shiny new paper weights (no need to flame me later, I’m just being sarcastic), I like to know everything I can before I make a purchase that will be with me for at least half of the next decade, and you guys are the ones breaking all the news. I read more tech blogs than I should and I have to wonder, do they all just watch your blog and wait for you to tell them whats in the newest machines? Keep up the hard work so I can send you my money!!

    And for Apple…. If I want to rip open my $2400 machine and turn it into a fish tank, that is my business. You have my money, what do you care? Think different, Apple, think different….

    • To answer your questions….
      1) The WD1001FALS is a 3Gb/s 7200RPM hard drive. The two hard drive bays are 6Gb/s after the firmware update and the optical drive is a 3Gb/s SATA bus.
      2) We’re still working on what we’ll be able to offer for our Turnkey Upgrade Service – and I should mention, we’re not giving up on this not being able to replace the main hard drive thing. There are still avenues to go down, but we need time to design and test alternate solutions. As far as setting up an SSD as the boot drive and using the existing hard drive for storage, that is definitely going to work. We found the original drive just needs to be present, not necessarily as the boot drive.
      3) Once the firmware updater is ready, we can test to see if it does. More likely thought is that the absence of the Apple drive firmware is still going to cause the AHT failure. But as I said before, we’re not giving up.
      4) We are still working on Thunderbolt, there’s no ETA at this time as it really is an emerging technology and, as you can see from this post, we try to cover every aspect of a product before we bring it to market. We’re not the type of company that is going to beta-test with our early adopter’s purchases.

  • It is sad that there is no way to add more than 2TB inside the new iMacs and at $150 it is an insult in their price anyway up from the 1TB stock size on most models but lets try and look on the bright side here. There is still room for a second super fast 6Gbps SSD drive to boot from and the new iMacs are even easier to open and upgrade than before; we are simply swapping our putty knives for suction cups as tools to get the job done. While that stock HD will die eventually, hopefully Apple doesn’t charge an arm and leg to fix their failed drive and restrictive upgrade path.

    Now while an ESATA port is nice on the 2010 models it still requires you to use a big external box to benefit for the extra storage but there is no daisy chaining that ESATA port for another monitor or video I/O card. Now throw in two thunderbolt ports on the new iMacs and not only do you have more display options but far more expandability for storage and I/O. So now I can run that same 4 drive external box as I would with an OWC 4 bay using ESATA but instead of just getting over 200MBps and still not maxing out the RAID throughput of the 4 drives ], I can get over 800MBps and not even the fastest 4 drive RAID 0 SATA drives can sustain that as the drives fill up.

    So having a port that can transfer at least 4x of eSATA and having a boot drive with 500MBps read/write times seems like a sweet machine.

    • No doubt, Thunderbolt is going to be great once it is available in the market. Hopefully, the first external Thunderbolt storage solutions will be available in the upcoming months and render the internal storage speed moot in these machines. Or better yet, we’ll see Apple adopt a Thunderbolt speed data bus internally on future models of iMac. The future looks promising indeed.

  • So, where does Apple installs the SSD when configuring the iMac with it? In the main bay? What about replacing the SSD in the main bay? It shouldn’t have any heat control, right?

    • That’s my question as well. In iMacs with only the 256GB SSD, there is no HDD in the bay. How are the fans controlled and how does the hardware test pass in this situation?

    • This is the question I have as well. If the iMac fans spin up and it fails the hardware test when the Apple-supplied drive is so much as out of the bay, how do the SSD only machines get around this?

    • That’s the question on everyone’s mind. I wish OWC would chime in with an answer. At this point it feels like this post may be premature without details on the factory SSD only setup.

      • I should reiterate a comment I made earlier… We’re still working on what we’ll be able to offer for our Turnkey Upgrade Service – and I should mention, we’re not giving up on this not being able to replace the main hard drive thing. There are still avenues to go down, but we need time to design and test alternate solutions – including getting our iMac with the SSD option.

        No testing can be completed yet as, to date, Apple hasn’t started shipping the factory SSD only setup.

        • Hi Michael,
          first of all sorry for my bad English.
          If I have misunderstood the problem occurs when I want to replace the primary disk 1TB 3,5″ with another HDD not Apple certified.
          But if I want to to combine the main drive with a secondary SSD OCW Mercury drive I would the same problems?
          Many thanks in advance for a kindly reply since I would like to place an order for SSD as soon as possible.

          • Hi Andrea:

            No…if you keep the Apple factory stock hard drive where it’s connected (SATA 0 bus connector on logic board) and just connect the SSD to the SATA 1 bus connection (which is the other 6Gb/s SATA connection on the new iMacs btw) then you’ll not experience any of the reported problems.

    • I too would like to know the answer to this. OWC… Have you considered getting your hands on an SSD only” iMac and figuring out whether what they’ve done in that machine contains a solution that you can emulate as part of your turnkey solutions? Hell, if I had known this was going to be a problem, i would have ordered the thing with the factory SSD. I was really counting on OWC being able to mod this new Core i7 3.4 for me.