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27” Mid 2010 iMac Disassembled.

Well, we have good news and bad news for you.

The good news is that the SSD bay available in the new iMacs holds a standard 2.5″ form factor drive, which means you can install a high-performance OWC Mercury Extreme SSD for the speed advantage over Apple’s SSDs.

The bad news is that, unless your Mid 2010 iMac originally came with an Apple SSD, there’s no graceful way to install an OWC one. The appropriate mounting bracket and connector cables are nowhere to be found on the non-SSD models.

This unfortunate development continues Apple’s proclivity toward making the iMac’s inner workings less “accessible” than they could (or some may say “should”) be.

In case you were curious, here’s what the new 27″ iMacs look like on the inside. We’ve outlined the area where the SSD should go in red.

Click for Larger Image

The SSD would go underneath that metal lattice and circuit board, and would sit in its carrier against the back wall of the iMac. Connections would be made with a special power cable that would power both, and the data cable would run to the third SATA channel on the logic board.

Of course, you can still install that second drive on a non-SSD iMac if you:

  1. Connect a data cable to the empty SATA port on the back of the logic board (a process requiring the removal of several screws and partial removal of the logic board.
  2. Get a Y-cable that goes from 1 SATA male power connector to 2 SATA female power connectors. (This step is actually pretty easy.)
  3. Find a way to secure your 2.5″ drive in the space that the carrier would normally hold it.

While these steps aren’t particularly egregious, they’re not elegant, either. At one point we half-jokingly suggested that we just dremel a hole in the back for an eSATA port, instead, as it’d probably be easier.

As rough as it may seem, though, initial tests seem to indicate that this methodology actually does work. We’ll fill you in as more develops.

OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • Would it make sense to install a blade format ssd? (With an adaptor.) These are becoming the same price as an SSD take up less space, remaining more for cabling and mounting.

    • It’s not something we’ve tested, but certainly should open some space. You wouldn’t get the full speed of the blade since the host speed is far slower.

  • I know this thread is old but im looking to do the same on mine now. I was going to order the OWC sata cable for the fan issue and a SATA Y power cable and then order one of these 2.5 to 3.5 bay adapters. The one im looking at in particular houses up to 2 laptop drives. Doing this way I can install 2 drives in the 3.5″ drive bay.

  • I have been thinking about updating my 2010 iMac 27″ to stretch it out another few years. I saw a bracket that is supposed to house 2 x2.5″ drives in the 3.5″ bay. Could two SSD drives be mounted as such with the addition of the cables that you recommend? Are you familiar with this bracket?
    “BYTECC Bracket-35225 2.5 Inch HDD/SSD Mounting Kit For 3.5″ Drive Bay or Enclosure”.
    Thank you!

  • In case you were curious, here’s what the new 27″ iMacs look like on the inside. We’ve outlined the area where the SSD should go in red.

    I am curious and have an original, Apple-installed 256GB SSD in my mid-2010 iMac. But I’d like to replace it with a larger SSD; right now, however, I haven’t been able to find anyone else who has done so. Have you replaced an SSD in a 2010 iMac with two hard drives? If so, can you speak to the experience?

    • You can replace your existing Apple SSD with a new 2.5″ drive and reuse the Apple cabling in the computer. Apple put the SSD behind the logic board, making it a very difficult and time consuming installation.

  • I have a mid 2010 27″ iMac with factory installed SSD, and I would like to add an internal HDD. Did research online but find no instructions suit my case. Could you help? Really appreciate!

    • We have looked into this as well and unfortunately have not found any conclusive information on the matter.

  • You talk about upgrade the iMac middle 2010 model with an OWC Mercury Extreme SSD, but the iMac controller is a SATA Rev 2.0, not 3.0, The speed is the same with Extreme or Electra because of that, right?

  • Hello there,
    Your solutions are awesome…
    However, is there an extra SSD bay in late 2009 iMac 27″?

  • Hi, is there an extra SSD bay in mid 2011 iMac 21.5″? I am planning to install one or have it installed. Another option that I consider if there is no extra SSD bay is to replace the optical drive with a SSD bracket mimicking the optical bay.


    • Yes, there is the main hard drive bay and an SSD bay in the 21.5″ Apple iMac 2011.

  • Hi, how it looks with iMac 27″ 2011 its possible install sdd non from apple? Thank for your answer.

    • The architecture is very similar to the 2010 iMac 27″ and we’re currently working on adding that model to our Turnkey Upgrade Program for aftermarket installation of our SSDs.

  • Hello,I have a 20 inch imac from 2008 and i have already replaced the standard hd with an ssd.Everthinhg’s working fine but i have one question.In this 20 inch imac is it possible to put a second hard drive or a second ssd?? my concerns are regarding cables and connections! nice work, from Greece.

    • No, the 2008 iMac is a different architecture inside and does not have the additional SATA port available for adding more than one SATA hard drive internally. For additional hard drive space, your best bet would be an external solution.

  • This is fantastic. I have a free External SATA connection option!

    I’ll just run one of my $2 SATA cables from the back of the logic board and out through the Memory cover on the bottom. Then I’ll use one of my $5 SATA power supplies and connect a $139 3TB External HD that’s already sitting next to my iMac. (It’s a GoFlex drive, so there’s already the SATA connections on the bottom) Then I’ll have 3TB external HD connected at internal HD speeds! Then I can use my FireWire 800 for my other 2TB drive with TimeMachine. I suppose it’s not the prettiest solution, but I won’t see the missing memory cover (it’s not necessary) or the cable hanging out.

    I do have one question, I’ve replaced the HD on my 24″ iMac and there wasn’t anything to void the Warranty. Does the same hold true for the 27″ iMac?

    (If I want to use my 3 year AppleCare Protection Plan, I can always take the cable out and put the SODIMM Memory cover back on.)

    Is there any problem with this proposed solution?

    Thanks for any feedback!

  • Hi Micheal, thanks

    I will review that to see if it shows me WHERE the eSata plughole is. Thanks!

    As I said we are IN EUROPE, and unfortunately you have not opened here yet. So I have to DYI.

    EVERYONE in the USA should send their machine to you to have an eSATA socket added. It costs almost nothing and with an SSD (or any good drive) it’s a stupendous speed upgrade over the garbage drives apple supplies.

    Anyway like I say we’re in europe so it’s DIY fun. Cheers Fat Johnnie

  • Hi ChrisS,

    Thanks so much for answering all the questions here. We’ve bought a great many OWC products over the years and thanks for that too.

    “If somebody does this on their own, however, we’d love to hear about it…” In fact, I am about to do this!

    We’re just gonna simply take one of our 27″ iMacs, CUT A BIG HOLE IN THE BACK, and feed out an eSATA cable. Will send video.


    (*) So it’s a 2010 27″ iMac
    (*) It was bought from Apple with one (1) only conventional HD.
    (*) It is presently unmodified, ie that is the current condition.

    My question .. on that device, WHERE IS the eSata plughole inside the machine? Thanks!

    I am already comfortable with popping off the glass etc, no big deal. And we have a can opener on stand by.

    I realise you now sensibly offer a proper engineered solution — which is great.

    However we’re in Europe, so not near you. so I will simply take a can-opener to the middle of the rear of the machine, cut a big hole, and let the cable out that way.

    (I love the new iMac as much as anyone can love a machine. But the hard drives supplied are non-starters – they are hilarious. If you work with any sort of 3D or video, you simply can’t work without eSATA, and then an SSD. There’s no point having a stunning, blazing computer, with IO from the stone age. And as you know, the SSDs sold included by Apple, are comic. So, you just have to have an external eSata plug.)

    I’m surprised lots of other people haven’t just cut a hole in the back, already. (Perhaps they have.) Why not?!

    Anyway I appreciate truly a clarification or confirmation from you on WHERE exactly that damn plughole is, on the machine as described above. Thank you so much in advance, really!! Fat Johnnie

    • I believe most of your questions will be answered by reading this post and watching the accompanying video.

      However, while we are big proponents of people upgrading their Macs themselves, due to the complexity of this upgrade, we highly recommend sending your iMac through the OWC 27″ iMac Turnkey Upgrade Program over attempting yourself.

  • OWC,
    I currently have the 2010 27″ i3 imac and i am experienced with taking apart computers etc, so I am willing to take the screen out of the imac, remove the logic board, run a third SATA cable from the logic board up to the side of the main HDD and attach an SSD to the casing of the imac with some sort double sided adhesive tape, meaning I have both the stock and SSD installed together. My only worry is that I am planning on installing a 60gb OWC SSD which is enough to store mac os x and its applications, but nowhere near enough for my documents and media. How would I be able to utilize the 1tb stock hard drive as part of the main ‘user’ or ‘home’ folder with the ssd as only the boot drive? I basically do not want to navigate to another disk each time I wish to read my documents. Is there any way to tell mac OSX where to store the user data?

  • Hi, I have two short questions:
    if I lose my superDrive, I am able to install software that came on DVD with an external drive?
    I live in Europe. is that an office in EU that I can use to order my new SSD?

    • Hello Stefano,
      Yes, software can still be installed using an external CD/DVD drive if you decide to replace the optical drive with a SSD.
      We are located in Woodstock, IL, USA. While we do not have any additional locations, international or domestic, we do ship world-wide.

      • Important: be aware that you’ll NOT be able to install Windows on your SSD, if it’s located where the optical drive used to be. Unlike Mac OS X, Windows does NOT support installation from an external drive. I’ve tried every imaginable fix for this, to no avail. This includes Refit. Apple firmware makes this impossible as well (its even mentioned in the Boot Camp documentation).

  • I would like to replace my HD in my iMac 2.8GH i7 2009 model, built in March 2010 for the 480GB SSD you have for sale at OWC. Is it possible for you guys to do this for me.


    • We do offer a variety of installation services – contact our Sales department at 1 (800) 275-4576 for pricing.

  • HI…I have a imac 27 i5 come without ssd i want to add ssd without remove cd and the stock 1tb drive want do i need?


  • Hi!

    I’m from Germany…I have an iMac 27” standing here, Quad i7, 8 GB Ram. Apple SSD 256 GB, 1 TB HD…

    I am a music producer and I really want to have an eSata Port. How to do it? I have an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro here, and want to swap it with the internal Aplle SSD…but I’m not experienced enough to remove the glass and the display myself!
    Can you find out who in Germany can do both things for me? eSata port and swapping the SSDs?? I don’t need the optical drive…but would I have to remove the logic board to be able to access the eSata connector?

    • Hi Ben…unfortunately, due to the complexity of the procedure, we are the only ones offering the iMac eSATA upgrade at this time. We are looking into creating a training and certification program for our authorized resellers but do not have any kind of timeframe for that. Additionallly, we do not offer a DIY kit so you can do this yourself. It’s just not something that even a good tech should attempt. Our techs are all trained and certified. Still all this said, we have done iMacs from international customers…so no issues you sending it us. See for shipping details as well as a video that shows just how complicated this procedure is.

  • That’s too bad. Another idea – would there be any performance gain using the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini via firewire versus the internal drive? I would be interested in using the ssd as the boot drive and also running apps from it. I saw the read/write times of the drive using firewire – what are typical read write times for an internal hard disk?

    • You may be interested in our benchmark suite comparing the eSATA transfer rates versus the existing FW800 and USB 2.0 utilizing various Storage solutions here:

      There is also a section on that page that compares the stock 7200RPM drive to our Mercury Extreme Pro SSD as a boot drive. Long and the short of it is that the stock 7200 RPM drive achieves read speeds of 123MB/sec and Write of 122MB/sec versus the SSD boot drive achieving 272MB/sec reads and 265MB/sec write speeds.

  • Haven’t read all 112 replies but haven’t seen this option in those I did. Would it be possible to connect the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini to the esata cable from the optical drive in a late 2009 27″ imac? I certainly would not miss that drive as it could easily be replace with an external option. How difficult would it be to open up the machine, disconnect the cable from the optical drive and have it extend somehow out the back (dremel a hole there)?

    • While it is technically possible, we are not offering the eSATA upgrade for any models other than the 27″ 2010 iMacs at this time. Due to the permanent and advanced nature of this upgrade, we are also unable to offer a kit/instructions for this procedure on any model.

  • I decided I wanted the best of all worlds so installed an intel ssd for operating system, 2tb 3.5inch for storage, a USB adaptor onto my optical drive and an esata port off the optical drive sata connector. Wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and iMac retains full functionality and looks. Love it :)

  • What do you folks think of the following additional option to eSata turnkey service…?

    Remove the optical drive and use its sata connector to provide a second eSata port?

    Given the option to use an external optical drive it seems to me that using its sata port for external drives may be more valuable.

    OWC Chris – is this practical?

    • Though we don’t offer that option in our turnkey service, it was something we looked into. Ultimately, though, it was decided that the options that we’re now offering would offer the best flexibility for the 27″ Mid-2010 iMacs. I believe it had something to do with the size of the eSATA ports’ brackets and how they would fit along the underside of the iMac.

      I won’t say this will never become an option somewhere down the line but, at this point in time, I wouldn’t count on it.

  • Do you happen to know, or could you tell from the 27″ model you opened up, whether the quad-core i5 processor is Intel’s i5-750 or the i5-750s? Apple doesn’t publish that info and I’ve grown to suspect the worst.

    • Our installation process doesn’t dig that deep into the computer so, unfortunately, we don’t have that information.

  • Point taken!
    Decided on a Momentus® XT Solid State Hybrid Drive in the HDD location so the HDD temp. sensor still plugs/works and a SSD in a caddy instead of an optical drive to boot from. Then render to an ext FW800.
    work in a mid 2010 imac 2.93 i7QUAD

    • It is unlikely that the case will fit nicely in the iMac, simply due to it a) being designed to hang in a Mac Pro’s drive bay, which does not mount from the same points as a the drive in the iMac and b) being thicker than a standard 3.5″ drive.

    • That drive does have same physical footprint as a 3.5″ HD so it will work…however at 10K speed it will be warm. Note it is not a drive we offer with the upgrade program nor do we install any other components than those listed in the upgrade program. Also…the 256GB SSD…not one of our sizes…you must be referring to the Apple factory SSD…which in independent testing shows it to be up to 40% slower than our SSD…so might not offer as much the “ultimate” system you are seeking. For that system, I’d say have our program do the eSATA port, add the 2TB HD, and either the 120 or 240GB OWC SSD. Then you have a hot-rodded workstation iMac.

  • Ps
    When we bought it we assumed that we could fit 3 RAID sets for info. in, out, and 1 for the OS. Cause with out that the i7 is just not taxed and why would apple risk their rep by selling over spec, under usable???
    So we could do this on an i3 or less and get the same through put.

    Also the i7’s are built for 3 sets of ram but I get the feeling that when we try taking out 4 gig of ram and try 12 gig (3×4) we will hit a wall. but I’ll pick my battles and that wont be one of them.

    mac,mac,mac y

  • Thanks Chris.

    You are right it is a file size issue. It takes 30 to 150 minutes to open the 2 files we are using. My drives are almost empty. This is a single purpose machine for modeling. OSX/WIN7/Excel64bit only. The i7 2.8 imac appears quicker than our MacPro 2×2.66 using internal raid. We just cant read the drives fast enough. Tried OWC Merc’ firewire, love it, but love is not enough.

    My Uncle, now retired, built PCB’s, have access to CNC rework bench, my old man split and rejoined atoms in a lab as an undergraduate, then built a Field Iron Microscope.

    So we are happy to risk it (read break it and buy an mid 2010) as a family project.

    As I say it’s the parts list we need so we can break it and prove you right. We want speed not a warranty. I figured if you don’t know then I’m stuffed. Cause Steve J probably won’t take my call.
    Thanks again

  • Cause I’m using 25% of the RAM, less than 30% if the CPU, and 110% of 1 SSD. Which I can’t stripe.
    Think ‘White Zombi” no battery.

    Kjartan, you can keep the old tech Farrari..

  • I want to add a 3rd SATA port to a late 2009 27′ imac i7 2.8.

    Can anyone give me a list of the 4 capacitors for C4530,1,2,3 that I need to add and are there any other tiny, tiny, tiny, parts that I have to add apart from the SATA socket its self.
    I can see 6 possibles.

    Murphy was an optimist…

    • You would have to add a lot more than just capacitors, a port and some other components; you would have to somehow tie all that into the system I/O bus, which would likely result in ruining your iMac.

      If your SSD is getting full, you may want to consider relocating your home folder to an external FireWire 800 drive, such as an OWC Mercury Elite-AL.

      I have a very similar setup on my MacBook Pro at home – you may lose a little on the read/write of large data files, but you’ll still keep the SSD speed for your OS and applications, where most “average” users will notice the pinch.

  • Spending 600$ or just any amount of monay on SSD in computer that has OS that doesn’t suport TRIM is just waist of money in a big way!!!!

    It is like buying a Ferrari with tirres that you can’t change, it works perfectly first but then it starts to wear out and the cars get slower and slower and end by almost stopping and the Toyota passes you by.

    • Actually, that’s not quite true.

      While that has been the case with many SSDs, the Mercury Extreme’s over-provisioning results in incredibly consistent performance. I would like to refer you to this article on real-world SSD performance by Lloyd Chambers of Mac Performance Guide. It clearly shows how the OWC Mercury Extreme performs consistently, while other SSD models showed degradation of performance over time.

      Another thing to consider is that while 10.6 and earlier do not have TRIM support, with the increased use of SSDs in the market place, there is a very real possibility that TRIM support will make its way into 10.7. Between that and the over-provisioning on of the Mercury Extreme SSD, it makes this upgrade a very viable option as a performance upgrade for the 2010 iMac 27″.

  • All,
    Current machine a Mac pro 1,1 running hardware raid setup.
    Looking to move into a 27 iMac ordered with bare minimum Drives from Apple. (AKA: 1 – 1 TB drive) While apple does offer
    a good solution 1 ssd drive with 2 Tb spinner. not a bad setup.
    they charge a hefty amount for it and if thats not enough, its not a OWC drive. So that way i see it . Order it bare bones as possible
    then order up some SSD’s install them and the end result.
    A screaming fast machine for less $$.
    After reading the post above. I can see challenges.
    1: How to enable the temp sensors that did not ship as a result of no drive in the bay.
    2: Mounting of the secondary drive “the bracketry”
    3: Necessary cables to power up and communicate with the secondary drive.
    4: Or install a E-Sata cable to allow for External mounting.
    Either way. one chooses. its just a matter of time before pics get posted up as well as the parts and instructions.

    Great job OWC!!!

  • |And while the shipping costs might add up, you still can have us |upgrade your iMac despite living in the UK.

    I’m in a similar position – living in continental Europe and no Apple Service Provider wants do install the additional SSD for me in my (hopefully soon to be delivered) iMac 27. I have checked the shipping costs to you guys and it would add up to about 150€/200US$ – I’ll rather try upgrading it on my own, although I’m a bit afraid… :-)

  • Has anyone done a tear-down of a 27″ 2010 iMac that was ordered with only the SSD? Does Apple exclude anything that prevent installation of a conventional HDD after the fact? Are they still using the proprietary temp sensor?

    Also, do we know what made/model of SSD they’re shipping with the iMacs?


    • Hello Jason,

      When an SSD-only configuration is put together from Apple, they use the SSD bay and leave the 3.5″ bay empty. Since there is no hard drive there, they would not include the appropriate temperature sensor (yes, they are still using), but instead, Apple installs a jumper to keep the fans from spinning full speed.

      The iMacs with SSD that we’ve received in our test lab have the APPLE SSD TS256B Solid State Drive installed, which would be a Toshiba drive.

      • Hey, I would like to develop this question from Jason two years later (it’s my turn for ‘open surgery’ of iMac now).
        I have iMac with only SSD and wanted to add HDD and a second SSD. This setup would make perfect video editing station with three drives.
        My questions are:
        What cables I need for such setup?
        Is it possible to make Y cables for having second SSD and optical drive in?

      • Sorry, forgot my third question:
        Is it possible to replace original video card from my iMac 27″ mid 2010 to Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M?

  • Guys

    I live in the UK and desperately want an Imac but am being put off by the difficulty of me fitting an SSD Drive to this machine. At moment I have a 13″ MBP with a 120g SSD located in the Superdrive slot and it works like a dream.

    I would not mind losing the Superdrive slot on the Imac if the install was the easier option although it would mean still removing the screen.

    Would I need any special parts to accomplish this, I currently have a optibay housing that I will take out of my MBP……thanks for your advise and just a shame your not UK based as I would have used you in a jiffy.

    • Mike…we’re not offering a kit at this time because despite the tech prowess some might have, we feel it’s best these upgrades are performed by our Apple Certified Technicians. And while the shipping costs might add up, you still can have us upgrade your iMac despite living in the UK.

  • How much space does the current OS take? And, like a hard drive, do I need to keep an extra 10% or so of free space for optimal performance?

    • Mac OS X 10.6 requires 1GB of memory and 5GB of free disk space. With the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD some of the drive space is allocated for RAISE – which provides real time data redundancy, ECC Error Correction, and reserve cell space. This means that you can completely fill the user-accessible data portion and still keep Read/Write performance at peak.

  • If I add a SSD to my new i7, what size do I need, and what goes on it for maximum performance?

    Thanks for all the great info on these latest iMacs!

  • Thanks Grant, appreciate it! And if I wanted to get an eSATA port installed AND an SSD installed, is that possible? I noticed that they are grouped in the same field, is this because of the limited number of SATA connectors on the iMac’s logic board?

  • So I’m still a bit confused… I see now that I can send my new 27″ iMac in and have an SSD installed in its designated bay. Is this true even if the iMac was not shipped with an SSD (and therefore does not have the proprietary mounting bracket)??

    Or would the only options available to me in this case be replacing the HDD or optical drive with the SSD (which I don’t want to do) or finding my own solution to tether the SSD securely in place and install it myself?

  • How much slower would the 1 TB mechanical drive be in an external FW 800 enclosure compared to being on an internal SATA port? Would it be noticeable?

    Would like to use a spare 128 GB OCZ Extreme SSD as the primary drive in a new 27″ iMac but the difficult install is putting me off.

    • in a FireWire 800 enclosure, you’re going to be limited by FireWire 800’s maximum bis speed of 786.432 Mbit/s. Whether the drive itself is capable of delivering that kind of speed varies by model of drive, etc. Your best bet is to bench the drive with it installed internally, and if the drive performs any faster than FireWire’s maximum bus speed, then you’re better off leaving it internal.

      However, in the 2010 27″ iMacs, there is a third SATA port for the SSD, so you don’t need to remove the 1TB drive at all. You can use both internally at the same time.

  • That 3 x 30″ setup must be pretty sweet to say the least. The current iMac offers a single mini-Displaylink port allowing for a 2nd display up to 2560×1600 resolution – but no means to support a third display via built-in video capability.

    DisplayLink Products like these:

    Allow for up to 4 additional displays via USB2 on any Intel Mac – but max resolution tops at 2048×1152 and have other performance limitations which I’d suspect would be a deal breaker for what you have in mind.

  • I currently use a 2006 Mac Pro Tower with three 30″ Samsung 305T LCDs. My Mac Pro tower is getting old, one of my 30″ screens is acting up, and I am overall just looking to replace the whole setup with something more modern and elegant. I am highly considering getting one of these new 27″ iMacs. However, I would like to know, is there any way at all to connect two of the new 27″ Cinema Displays to the iMac at the same time, to have a tri-monitor setup? I have become adapted to a tri-monitor setup from my currant setup I have had since 2006.

  • Stay tuned – we are reviewing possibilities. We fully understand just not going to be practical shipping from Australia, Asia, Europe in terms of freight costs and possible import/customs expenses.

    And – great – glad you’re enjoying the benefits of our Mercury Pro Extreme SSD. You get used to the speed real quick… and then working anything else that is without – ouch. Thanks! :)

  • My new i7 iMac is winging it’s way to me from Shanghai as I write this. I have an OWC SSD (240GB) in my i7 MBP that I am writing this from. After using an OWC SSD, I cant imagine how I’ll cope with the “slowness” of my new iMac. I feel more than happy replacing my MBP drive, but fear that taking apart my new iMac to replace the superdrive with an OWC SSD & data doubler is well beyond my capabilities. As much as I would love to ship my iMac to you, I live in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, and shipping costs are too much. Can you give me any recommendations of who could help me closer to home? Thanks.
    PS, I highly recommend the OWC SSD for your MBP. It eats my work MacPro for breakfast!

  • Hey Chris,

    Do I need an angled SATA connector to bring the optical drive connection out of my late2009 iMac? It’s hard to tell from the various breakdown photos out there what the clearances are and I haven’t opened mine up yet. Most of the SATA – eSATA cables seem to have straight connectors, and I just don’t want to pick one up if it’s not going to fit in there.

    Thanks for all of your help and guidance with this…looking forward to seeing your external enclosure developments later!

    • Not having the tech breakdown of that particular model in front of me, I really can’t say for sure. Even if I did have one, our Blog comments are not really an effective place to develop a custom solution.

      Unfortunately, as there are no “kits” for this sort of this mod, especially on the 2009 iMacs, this is pretty much one of those instances where it may be more beneficial to open your iMac up, trace wires as necessary, and determine your needs from there.

  • Am I missing something, wouldn’t it just be easier if you got the 1TB iMac model to just stick it’s HDD in an enclosure via FW 800 and use it’s SATA spot for the SSD? If you’re gonna use SSD as primary drive and the 1TB just for back up purposes this seems like it’d save the big trouble. I’m no hardware expert tho so please correct me!

    • The main focus here is this third SATA channel that’s available on the non-SSD 2010 27″ iMacs.

      With this channel, you can add an SSD internally, thus allowing both the SSD and the HDD to run at full speed, rather than via the FireWire 800 or USB bottleneck. While what you describe is certainly possible, it is kind of a “waste” of a perfectly good internal port.

      The other thing you can do with this port is attach an extender cable to make an eSATA port, a high-speed connection that many people desire on their Macs, especially when they have to do a lot of data transfer.

  • Did you notice the data display cable is not as robust? I have a 2010 21.5″ iMac, and I noticed the metal contacts seemed really easy to bend compared to the 2009 model. Just a warning. I would assume the 27″ uses a similar cable.

    • We didn’t notice anything unusually fragile about the display cables, but a change to a different quality part over time is not unheard of. It’s all about keeping the prices down, you know – or at least as “down” as Apple’s prices ever get. :-P

  • Re: Data Doubler –
    The Data Doubler is offered for all MacBook Unibody and MacBook Pro Unibody models. The iMac optical bays are a little different and we will have a new kit very soon for various iMac models.

  • What about the 21″ iMac? Any chance of making a SSD work there? Could I replace the optical drive using the OWC Data Doubler, and would that still require a lot of messing around with the glass and everything?

    • The extra SATA port is only on the 27″ Mid 2010 iMacs. The Data Doubler would allow you to add a Solid State Drive to the 21″ iMac, but it, too would involve removing the glass and LCD.

  • The details I was looking for in the video cards was what model or equivalent model they actually are. Apple has a tendency of renaming their graphics cards or having custom ones made. For example, the desktop 5670 uses GDDR5 ram while the one in this iMac apparently uses GDDR3.

    So are these renamed mobile cards, modified desktop cards, or some custom thing and how would we compare them to established (benchmarked) cards?

    • Sorry, since the iMac’s video is non-upgradable, we haven’t looked into them at all. You may want to check out the guys at Bare Feats, as that sort of study would likely be right up their alley.

  • OWC Chris,

    Thanks for answering my question. I’m thinking of just buying the i7 iMac with the 1TB drive and just purchase an OWC SSD drive and put that in the extra slot. That should be easy right? Thanks for answering the majority of the questions here. I can see that you are repeating a lot of answers but keeping you cool.

    • “Easy” is a relative term. For me, yeah, it’d be easy enough with the right parts, but I’ve taken apart probably hundreds of different Macs, and not just for our Instructional Series of videos. For others, it would be extremely difficult, as getting inside can be tricky – and reassembling the iMac without trapping dust or other floaters between the glass and the LCD is an adventure in and of itself!

      Can one do it themselves? Yes, but I don’t recommend it unless you have experience taking iMacs apart.

      That’s why we believe the Turnkey Service we’ll be offering soon will be a benefit to many.

  • Anyone has successfully installed a SSD in the late core i7 27″ imac?

    I have been meaning to do this, but haven’t been able to find any info and instructions.


    • As the article and the comments above have mentioned, there is a third SATA channel in the latest iMacs (Mid 2010), which would allow for a SSD to be installed, provided you can get it to stay in place. The previous model (Mid 2009) had no third SATA channel, so installing a solid state drive would require replacing either the optical drive or the hard drive. Unfortunately, to replace the hard drive, you would have to deal with the temperature sensor cable issue that exists on 2009 and later iMac models.

      Putting the SSD in the Optical bay, however, should be possible with the OWC Data Doubler. While the main focus for that item is on MacBooks and MacBook Pros, it should work in any instance where you want to replace a SATA slimline optical drive with a 2.5″ SATA hard drive or SSD.

  • I found the Optical Bay kit for the iMac and MacBook/MacBook Pro at maxupgrades and it looks the right part to me.

  • OWC Chris,

    Will OWC sell iMacs configured with your Extreme SSD in place of Apple’s? In other words, I would like to buy an iMac preconfigured from OWC. Will this be possible?

    • As my Magic 8-Ball said to me: Reply Hazy, Try Again Later.

      Although not an option today, doesn’t mean it won’t be tomorrow. Keep an eye on the OWC Blog, as you’ll probably hear it here first.

  • One last update: apparently the Macbook air external drive takes quite a lot of power to run and users have recommended other less expensive (in terms of cost and power consumption) solutions such as the Samsung USB 2.0 DVD Writer External Optical Drive SE-S084B and similar solutions.

    If anyone else finds out a method of adding a second drive to the 2009 iMacs feel free to contact me.

    • We will soon have a ‘DIY’ Mount kit for iMacs similar to the OWC Data Doubler available now for select Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro modes. This future solution will offer 2.5″ SSD support in 2009 and 2010 iMacs.

      As for an external optical drive (which would, of course, then be necessary), since this is a desktop machine, you may also want to consider just an all-in-one external solution, which have the benefits of generally being a bit faster and having more capabilities than their slimline cousins.

  • I thought of one possibility for the 2009 iMacs and adding extra drives/external storage:

    (1) connect a second or SSD drive to the SATA connector used for the superdrive.

    (2) Remove the superdrive from the computer and have the drive be an external unit in a case connected to the Firewire 800 port or one of the USB2 ports.

    Or use one of those fancy “Superdrives in a case” that you can get for the Macbook Air. Don’t they connect via FW800?

    (3) if the second drive you wish to add is physically too large for the case you could snake a ribbon cable out the slot for the superdrive and have that drive in an external case too. Not elegant but..

    (4) another thought is you could connect to another mac running firewire target disc mode via Firewire 800 to utilize external storage.

    (5) OR if you don’t mind contending for network bandwidth a little you could go gigabit ethernet (a little faster than FW800) to some type of SAN hanging off the network or to another Mac also on gigabit running on the same subnet and share out its drives.

    None of these solutions are “super elegant” but they’re what I can think of for the iMac 2009 models.

  • Hey all, Chewy was wondering….


    Hold on chewy I’m asking, I’m asking…

    Is there a heat sensor like the previous iMac that makes updating the original hard drive more involved. In other words… if it’s not an apple hard drive will the fans kick up to high without the right heat sensor data coming through.

    “whahahamee” (Chewy says thanks in advance)

    • Yep… Apple’s still got that darn sensor cable, making upgrading that internal drive a big ol’ pain.

  • If you pull the 3.5″ drive out, it looks like it wouldn’t be too difficult to slide the 2.5″ drive into its dedicated slot “behind” the logic board, connect the cables, and then reinsert the 3.5″ drive.

    Maybe there is something preventing that action which isn’t showing up in the picture, but if not, that seems like a perfectly reasonable and easy method of adding the drive.

  • Pure conjecture, but how about 2 x OWC SSD in a 3.5″ raid enclosure (e.g. Patriot PCXL25SR Convoy XL) in the 3.5″ bay, another SSD in the 2.5″ bay and use the 3rd SATA port to connect 4th SSD internally or for the “roll your own” external connection to a OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro?

    MPG Mac Pro might be less hassle :-)

    • Would work great, except for one small oversight. The three SATA channels on the 2010 iMacs go to: 1.) the 3.5″ Bay, 2.) the 2.5″ “SSD” bay and 3.) the optical drive. If we replace the optical drive bay with an SSD in a Data Doubler, then yeah, it’ll work. Otherwise, either the 2.5″ bay or the eSATA connection wouldn’t have a channel. :-)

      But I think you’re right – for all the hassle you’d be going through, you’d probably be better off with the MPG Mac Pro.

  • Nice work guys.

    Make the cable and the instructions to show where to drill the hole to make that SSD port go external eSATA.

    You will sell heaps of them.

    The 27″ iMac really needs eSATA since it hasn’t got USB 3 or whatever.

    • While I’n not going to say “never,” I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a kit that requires drilling through the iMacs case, though running one out through the RAM bay or through the top vents is not completely outside the realm of possibility.

  • Hi OWC,

    It would be great if you could post a picture or two on the step where you attach the secondary SATA cable. To get a grip on if actually is hard or just “not recommended”. :)



    • Right now, the machines are in benchmark testing, so it may be a bit before any further photos could be taken. As for the process itself, it’s tricky but not exceedingly difficult. The port is near the top of the rear side of the logic board, and is right next to the other SATA ports, so it should be simple enough to locate. As long as you’re patient, careful and don’t try to rush through things, it’s certainly doable by someone who is comfortable taking apart their computer.

  • I think I’d rather try to route any eSATA cable out through the top vent than the memory door, there is much less stuff on the way.

  • Attaching an SSD via FW800 does NOT “negate” the benefits. Is it as good as having an internal drive? Of course not. Is it overall much, much faster than running the system off of a mechanical drive? Absolutely. I am doing this on an iMac, and the SSD speeds up system operations considerably. It’s not as instant as the SSD in my MacBookPro, but it’s far superior to booting off the internal 500GB drive…

    • Perhaps “negate” was a bit too strong a word, but not by a whole heck of a lot. Our OWC Mercury Extreme SSDs are capable of a 285MB/s sustained data rate. FireWire 800 tops out right around 80MB/s. Right out of the gate, it’s being bottlenecked to less than a third of its transfer capabilities. While you may not notice it with smaller files, larger files (such as video, large photos, etc.) will illustrate this quite clearly. With the relatively higher cost per gigabyte of an SSD, I know I would want to make sure I was getting the most our of it.

  • Wouldn’t it be easier to just replace the optical drive w/ an SSD ? I did this in my MBP 17″ and for the few times I need a DVD or CD I can still connect it via USB. Also, this would work in all iMacs.

    Still, Apple should offer the missing parts at a reasonable price or, even better, offer a good SSD option at market price.


    I’m looking forward to the first CPU comparisons, how the new i3 and i5 options are powerwise especially compared to the i5 and i7s offered in the last model.

    • This is certainly possible, and the only way you can get a second drive in earlier model iMacs. However, that’s what makes this third SATA channel so exciting; you can add an SSD without losing your internal optical drive.

  • So would it be easier to swap the 2TB primary drive for an SSD and just velcro it in place? Or have Apple managed a way to make that difficult too?

  • Why not replacing the internal HDD with an SSD module, and have a decent external HDD connected via FireWire 800 (such as a Lacie Quadra D2)? While FW800 would be a true bottleneck for an SSD drive, its still quite acceptable for a HDD. And the HDD speed will not be so critical anymore since all the speed-critical stuff would reside on the internal SSD.

    This option would prevent you from having to remove part of the motherboard, and/or add an external SATA connector, etc.

    • That’s certainly a possibility; however it all depends on the use/functionality you want. If you want to connect a drive that can be used in multiple locations (such as a Mercury Elite-AL “Quad”), then an eSATA port is actually useful for fast data transfer.

      If you want to boot to an SSD, but, to save drive space, have your home folder(s) relocated to another drive (like the standard drive already installed), having both drives installed internally without losing use of other components is now possible with the third SATA channel on these iMacs.

      While the way you describe can also work, you just need to be extra careful that the drive is always attached and powered on before booting your computer.

  • The prices Apple charges for this option are outrageous… I also wish Apple put an eSata port – the motherboard can handle it! but Apple, as petty as always… hope OWC comes with an option for this. Thanks!

  • So did you guys get any details on the graphics cards while poking around in there?

    • Our primary interest was in the third SATA channel, so no, we really didn’t pay much attention to video. What info were you looking for?

  • @ Alexis Rosen & Leonard:

    I soooo agree with you guys! It’s a crying shame Apple did not include eSATA. I was really looking forward to this. I also thought that the new iMac would ship with USB3… :(

    Hence, I’m stuck with USB2 as my fastest port…

  • Does anyone know what CPU model the i7 2.93 GHz exactly is?

    I’m looking on and there is the i7-870 and the i7-875K, I’m hoping it’s the the older 870 as it has one extra feature for virtualization (VT-D) that might give me a performance boost with my VMs.

    I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough when I get mine…just ordered yesterday…but if anyone knows now that would be great.

  • How difficult was it to get into the mid-2010 iMac’s internals? How difficult is it to replace the factory installed HDD? One reason I’ve never looked at buying an iMac is the relative lack of user-replaceable parts, especially those like hard drives which will fail at some point.

    • Aside from memory, the iMac is certainly not designed to be end-user upgradable. Swapping out anything else is not exactly a simple process. You still need to remove the front glass (requiring suction cups) and screen (being extremely careful not to rip out the wires). Once those are out of the way, the hard drive itself is easy enough to remove, but replacement isn’t a simple swap out, as there’s also the proprietary temperature sensor cable they added last year.

      If you plan on frequently updating or replacing the components of your machine, the iMacs are probably not your best bet.

  • Gotcha…makes sense. Definitely would like to see the enclosure options (nobody really seems to have them for slot loaders).

    BTW, how is that 2.5in RAID enclosure coming along that you guys had at MacWorld? I’ve been wanting to find something like that for ages. Most of the other ones are eSata/USB only…would love to buy yours as soon as you’ve got it!

    • The 2.5-inch RAID we showed at Macworld and other great solutions are coming very soon.

      I’d recommend keeping an eye on the Web site and this Blog during Q3 and Q4 – there’s some nifty stuff coming out you may find interesting. ;-)

  • Thanks for the info Chris, I’m definitely okay with rolling my own if need be…although you guys would have a lot of happy customers when you provide a purchasable solution). There are numerous forum threads all over of people trying to do this.

    two followups:

    Is it possible to split out the SATA power and data connections for either of the two internal drive bays? I think the optical bay is a no-go due to a different type of physical connection (they use a drive cage with port adapters, or something like that, yes?) But maybe it’s possible with the 3.5 HD connections? Not sure if a port multiplier is needed or such a thing can fit inside the crowded space. Sure would be great to not disable any of the working components inside if I didn’t have to.

    but if I do:

    Do you sell external enclosures that will work for the internal superdrive? (I didn’t see any on your site).

    Thanks again!

    • You can’t split the SATA data connections in the iMac (or any Mac, really) – that’s the whole thing with SATA: one drive per channel. The exception is with a port multiplier, which would have to be part of the SATA controller itself. Since, that’s part of the logic board in the iMac, that option is kind of out.

      As for the external enclosure for slimline SATA optical drives, you’re right; they’re not on the site…yet. We’re actually working on those as we speak, and they should be available Really Soon Now.

  • So…OWC Chris, let’s say you’ve got a late2009 iMac (the one with only 2 on board SATA ports, unfortunately)

    Do you guys have a solution where:

    – I keep the internal 3.5 HD hooked up as is
    – I pop the superdrive out and mount it in an external enclosure (freeing up the other SATA port)
    – I take the available port and bring it outside the iMac for eSATA connections
    (probably would involve squeezing the cable out through the memory door?)

    It’s breaking my heart to be stuck with FW800 as the fastest external connection. Searching around, nobody really has a great solution for this. External eSata is important for me, because I want to be able to shuttle the drive (like your SSD external) between the iMac and a MBP (with an expresscard eSATA adapter)

    Any ideas?

    • Unfortunately, we do not currently carry any all-in-one kit solutions for what you describe.

  • Very interesting.

    Compare this photo to the 2009 iMac teardown at iFixIt, and it almost looks like the suspected SSD location looks *more* cramped on the newer model than on the previous one. What is that little board toward the bottom of the area in question?

    Could this mean that there is also room for a 2.5″ drive in the 2009 iMac?

    • There may be physical room, but the 2009 iMacs lack the extra SATA port that the 2010 model does, so even if you DO mount a drive in there, you won’t be able to actually attach the drive to the computer.

  • OWC Chris S., do you sell a cable to connect a SSD to the optical drive SATA port? Does it take a standard cable or do you recommend the OWC Data Doubler?

    • Only one device can be connected to any particular SATA port at a time. If you’re going to use the Optical Drive’s Data port, you may as well use the Data Doubler and have a built-in bracket and power connection as well.

      The reason everyone is so excited is that the extra SATA port on the 2010 iMac means you don’t have to give up your optical drive in order to have 2 hard drives or SSDs internally.

  • Any idea roughly how long the left angle data cable needs to be?

    Im thinking of taking the 3.5 drive out and dropping 2x 2.5 SSD in a mount in there instead. Saves building a bracket.

    Is the logic board fairly easy (and safe) to remove to access the 3rd sata slot?

    • I don’t have an exact length of the cable needed, but since the default layout has the power/data cables facing the top of the iMac, I’d guess somewhere between 8-10 inches long. If you arrange it differently, then you may be able to get away with a shorter cable.

      In our testing here, we never removed the board completely – we just removed the screws (about 8 of them, IIRC) and gently moved the board forward enough to access the SATA connector.

  • Great stuff as always, OWC! :)

    I’m still new to the Mac platform, and I just swapped my 3 wk old iMac for a new one and I *really* really want to get this accomplished somehow. I had been using SSD’s for almost 2 years before I ditched my ThinkPad for the iMac.

    To anyone who has never run an SSD before: It’s a total game changer. You can’t hear it, it doesn’t get hot, and you’ll boot into OS X just for the fun of watching it come up almost instantaneously. lol…

    Btw, can I run an SSD externally and boot OS X from it? I know it wouldn’t be pretty, but I’d do it. Finally, would I be able to RAID two SSD’s externally, or is that wishful thinking?

    • The only way to attach SSD drives to the imac externally would be via FireWire or USB, which would pretty much negate any potential speed increases.

      As for making a RAID pair of drives (HDD or SSD) externally, A RAID 0 (striped) or RAID 1 (mirrored) can be done via Apple’s Disk Utility. However, this is a software RAID which, though functional, doesn’t have as good of performance as a hardware RAID unit (such as the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2) can offload the RAID handling to dedicated hardware, which can enhance performance, give you more options, and increase stability.

      However, no matter whether you go with a software or hardware RAID, you’d need to attach it via FireWire or USB, which will be your bottleneck.

  • To connect to the empty 3rd SATA channel port on the back of the logic board would you need a flat or a left/right angled cable? Definitely going to get one of these new iMacs, but no way am I going to pay Apple’s prices for their SSD!

  • I have a prev-gen iMac 27 and have been wondering if I can take out the 1T drive and stick in 2 notebook drives, one SSD and probably a big 7200 drive.

    there should be enough space and the only question is if the prev gen iMacs had 2 sata ports available. I’m aware that I can hang a ssd off the firewire port but an internal solution would be nice.

    I have a ssd on my macbook pro and it’s just amazing.

    • The third SATA channel only appears to be on this latest model iMac, so that sort of setup is unfortunately not an option. Additionally, there’s that annoying proprietary cable issue that also needs to be dealt with on the 09 iMacs. No fun.

      As for the whole “sell an iMac with a custom eSATA port” thing, it’s not very likely we’ll ever offer such an option, for a myriad of reasons. If somebody does this on their own, however, we’d love to hear about it.

  • Second the comment above about external eSATA port. This would make the iMac a much more appealing machine as the lack of a really fast external connection is a real liability – with the speed of drives today FW800 is just not good enough. Same with the Mac Pro Tower – I know the kit is available but it blocks a slot which is one of the reasons you bought a Mac Pro in the first place. This is one of the really bad Apple design flaws and why they continue to not correct it is really disappointing – particularly on machines which cannot support multiple internal drives like the iMac. One of the truly wonderful thing about the Mac OS is the ability to easily boot off of many drives with different OS versions, setting, etc. and to not fully exploit that is criminal – again FW800 is just not an acceptable solution when eSATA can be done so easily.

  • Great news, thanks for the take-apart.

    Back wall of the iMac might just need some industrial strength sticky back velcro.

    One could fashion a bracket that came around and ultimately attached to the front metal lattice.

    Either way, I’m looking to buy, and this news gives me confidence, I’ve stuffed SSDs into cases that weren’t even designed for them at all – SSDs are so light, and dont’ have moving parts – it’s not that huge a challenge to keep in place in some fashion.

    The main thing is, all the necessary electrical connectors are there – well it would be nice as a selling point to have a truly elegant solution – but I’m a pragmatist, this means the 27inch iMac is going to work for me.

    I just couldnt go with a stock SSD from Apple, because they picked a drive, that is abysmal in performance on the performance metrics that are important to me – as measured by IOMeter. (I’m assuming they still are using Toshiba drives – has that been confirmed?)

  • Seriously, you should *absoutely* resell dremelled iMacs with eSATA ports. It’d probably be worth $75-100 to me (if I were in the market) and many others. It’s disgusting that Apple doesn’t offer eSATA ports, especially since they still haven’t bothered to spend the $2 to put in a USB 3 chip from NEC.