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How To Upgrade Your iMac with an SSD (2017 updated)

The definitive guide

The iMac is an iconic piece of hardware that everyone loves to use. What to do when it slows down with age? You want to extend it's life, but how?

Increasing the ram gets you part of the way, but for a new iMac for the cost of an upgrade you need an iMac SSD upgrade. Replacing the hard drive on any iMac means removing the screen. This is not for the faint hearted, but with the right instructions, it can be done. Upgradeable also provides a installation service where we do all the work.

We created this guide to help you make sense of the right way to prepare and get a new SSD in your imac. Read it now, save it for later or just work out how much it will cost compared to a new iMac.

Keep scrolling, everything you need is contained here, provided free, no catches. If you think that is worth a like or a share, that would be awesome...buying one of our SSDs would be even better :-)

Macbbok pro -intro



Introduction

After you have upgraded the RAM the only other speed bottleneck is the mechanical hard drive. Upgrade to an SSD and you can make your Mac run like new. Applications will open quicker, starting up is snappy, and the overall result is extending the life of your Mac.

Replacing your mechanical hard drive with an SSD, and you will experience an incredible increase in speed. That is what this guide is all about. A RAM upgrade is easy, a iMac SSD upgrade is a bit harder, but after reading this guide you'll be an expert with all the knowledge to make an SSD upgrade simple.

For general use, most iMacs have enough CPU power. We have a 2006 iMac in the Upgradeable office and we decide to upgrade the hard drive to an SSD to see the effect. How fast can it perform? The results even surprised us. The start time went from 2 minutes to 15 seconds. It can perform moderate tasks with ease, browser, mail, word processing. It is stuck on an older OSX, so it can not run Sierra or be used for any power applications, but it does show what an SSD can do to make an iMac more usable.

Why does an SSD improve performance?

It is not the raw speed of the SSD, it is how it works. A traditional hard drive is like a record player, when you send data from the HDD to the CPU the computer has to find it, it hunts around the platters/disc looking for all the data. With an SSD, there is no waiting, this is because your data is effectively in a spreadsheet. The SSD knows where all your data is instantaneously. No waiting. No spinning beach ball.

The SSD is also made from flash chips that are almost as fast as the RAM. So when your Mac runs out of ram and pages to the SSD (uses the SSD as RAM) then it does not slow down, because an SSD is really like a big RAM drive!

Start using your Mac the way it was designed to be used...fast and no waiting. There is a reason most new Macs only come with SSDs.

This guide is just an example of how we try to over deliver our customer service. When you buy from Upgradeable, local tech support is just a phone call away. We have helped thousands of people with Apple computers upgrade their Macs. All that experience is distilled in this guide. We have tried to show exactly what you need to do in simple steps. We call this our "Four R method", because each step starts with the letter R. REPLACE, RESTART, READY and RESTORE. Choose the method that suits you best, and we'll show you how to do it, tell you the hardware you need and back you up with awesome customer technical support.



Table of Contents









Four R method: Time Machine

Macbbok pro -intro

The easiest way to upgrade to a new SSD is to use Time Machine. All you need are tools, bracket and the SSD! You can either restore a whole back up, which includes macOS or you can migrate using the Time Machine after installing a new macOS.

Our Four R method is a proven easy way to upgrade to an SSD.




1

REPLACE

The new SSD needs to be screwed into an Adaptadrive bracket.
Why do you need this bracket? The SSD is 2.5", the old iMac drive is 3.5" so the holes to fasten it to the iMac will not line up, you need an Adaptadrive bracket. Remove old hard drive, and install SSD. We provide detailed printed instructions when you order an SSD (tell us your iMac model in customer notes at checkout). This will involve removing the front screen.

2

RESTART

Plug Time Machine into the USB port. If you have a wifi time capsule make sure it is turned on. Restart your Mac holding down the Option key. This tells the Mac to find all disks attached that it can boot from. It will recognise the Time Machine and display the icon on screen.


3

READY

As the drive is shipped to you unformatted, you need to initialise the SSD to get it ready for the transfer of data. There is an option after you click into Time Machine called Disk Utility. You need to choose format type (use Mac OS Extended journaled) and a name, you can use Macintosh SSD or get creative. Click apply and this will format the SSD.

4

RESTORE

After formating the drive your Time Machine back ups should be onscreen. Choose the latest, and the Mac will ask if you want to restore back up? Yes. Done. Time Machine will now start restoring onto the new SSD. It will take a while, approximately 100gb per hour.


Software and tools you need

A Time Machine restore is preferred as you can check your back ups are working, and this is the reason Apple created Time Machine.

iMac toolkit (includes long-stem Torx T8 and T10 screwdrivers)
Heavy-Duty Suction Cups to remove the screen on 2009 to 2017 model iMacs.
Adhesive strips and opener for 21.5in iMac (2012-2017)
Adhesive strips and opener for 27in iMac (2012-2017)
NewerTech AdaptaDrive Drive Bracket converts 2.5" drive to 3.5" size
• On some iMacs installing an SSD removes the smart temperature sensor and causes the fan to run constantly. There are DIY hacks to disable the sensor with a paperclip and plugs to override the sensor (expensive) however we recommend controlling the fan with software such as SSD Fan Control
Choose an SSD drive here
• Don't have a Time Machine backup? Read the Apple guide on Time Machine backups






Four R method: Cloning

Cloning allows you to make an exact copy of your current hard drive to the new the SSD. The benefit is software does not have to be reinstalled.

The process is largely automatic and the cloning takes 2-5 hours depending on the size of your drive.

iMac -cloning




1

READY

Connect the SSD to a spare USB port using the USB to SATA cable we provide.
The new SSD needs to be screwed into an Adaptadrive bracket. Why do you need this bracket?
The SSD is 2.5", the old iMac drive is 3.5" so the holes to fasten it to the iMac will not line up, you need an Adaptadrive bracket.

2

RESTART

Restart your Mac

Do not allow macOS to turn it into a Time Machine drive.


3

RESTORE

Download and Install SuperDuper! software (free software link is below in the green box). As the drive is shipped to you unformatted, you need to initialise the SSD to get it ready for the cloning by initialising the SSD. Clone your hard drive using SuperDuper!.

4

REPLACE

When cloning is complete, power off your Mac and replace the hard drive with the newly cloned SSD. This will involve removing the front screen. We ship detailed printed instructions with your SSD order. We offer an installation service for customers who are not comfortable disassembling their iMac.


Software and tools you need

There are many reasons you may want to clone your drive to a new SSD. Even if you do have a Time Machine back up, cloning is a simple way of putting all your data on a new drive.

iMac toolkit (includes long-stem Torx T8 and T10 screwdrivers)
USB to SATA cable (needed to connect the new SSD to your iMac's USB)
Heavy-Duty Suction Cups to remove the screen on 2009 to 2017 model iMacs.
NewerTech AdaptaDrive Drive Bracket converts 2.5" drive to 3.5" size
Adhesive strips and opener for 21.5in iMac (2012-2017)
Adhesive strips and opener for 27in iMac (2012-2017)
• On some iMacs installing an SSD removes the smart temperature sensor and causes the fan to run constantly. There are DIY hacks to disable the sensor with a paperclip and plugs to override the sensor (expensive) however we recommend controlling the fan with software such as SSD Fan Control
SuperDuper! software by Shirt Pocket (free download).
Choose an SSD drive here






Four R method: Fresh macOS

Macbbok pro -intro

Sometimes a Mac needs a fresh start. Either you feel your Mac is compromised with malware, or multiple OS upgrades have taken it's toll. Whatever the reason, Apple makes it easy to reinstall macOS.

MacOS can be installed via Internet Recovery or via a macOS USB.




1

READY

This method takes a little bit of planning. OSX or macOS (as it is now called) can be installed on an empty SSD via Internet Recovery (mid 2010 onward) or installing from media such as a USB (pre 2010). If you are installing from USB, you need to make that macOS USB before you start.
The new SSD needs to be screwed into an Adaptadrive bracket. Why do you need this bracket?
The SSD is 2.5", the old iMac drive is 3.5" so the holes to fasten it to the iMac will not line up, you need an Adaptadrive bracket.

2

RESTART

Shut down your Mac.


3

REPLACE

Replace the hard drive (HDD) with the new SSD (in adaptabracket). This will involve removing the front screen. We ship detailed printed instructions with your SSD order. We offer a installation service for customers who are not comfortable disassembling their iMac.

4

RESTORE

Which ever method you choose, the new SSD first has to be initialised (erased) first via Disk Utilities. If you are installing macOS from USB, then insert macOS USB, hold down option key and restart Mac. If you are using Internet Recovery, restart the Mac holding down the three keys Option + Command + R. This will put the latest macOS on your Mac. Caution: If you use standard Recovery (Command + R) the macOS installed will be the version your Mac shipped with not the latest version!


Software and tools you need

There are many options when starting fresh. You can install the current version of macOS or a later version that is more compatible with your apps and programs. You can put the latest macOS on your new SSD then use the Apple Migration tool to copy over data and programs. You do not have to connect to another Mac, you can connect to a Time Machine or external startup disk to transfer files!

• Familar with how to Internet Recovery macOS or have an macOS USB drive.
iMac toolkit (includes long-stem Torx T8 and T10 screwdrivers)
Heavy-Duty Suction Cups to remove the screen on 2009 to 2017 model iMacs.
NewerTech AdaptaDrive Drive Bracket converts 2.5" drive to 3.5" size
Adhesive strips and opener for 21.5in iMac (2012-2017)
Adhesive strips and opener for 27in iMac (2012-2017)
• On some iMacs installing an SSD removes the smart temperature sensor and causes the fan to run constantly. There are DIY hacks to disable the sensor with a paperclip and plugs to override the sensor (expensive) however we recommend controlling the fan with software such as SSD Fan Control
Choose an SSD drive here

The Upgradeable Team is here to help. If you want advice or check with an expert, please call, chat or email.






Use SSD as a second drive

iMac 2nd drive

If your iMac has a DVD drive (2009 to 2011), a second drive can be installed, allowing the current hard drive to remain as extra storage. This is done by removing the optical/DVD drive and replacing it with a Datadoubler.




1

Physical installations

The SSD can only be installed in the optical bay slot as the 3.5 inch current drive is too big for the datadoubler. Fit the new SSD onto the Datadoubler. Remove optical drive (DVD) and replace with the Datadoubler. (full printed instructions are included with order).

2

Restart your Mac

Power on your iMac holding down the option key (this starts the boot manager and shows all the drives you can boot from). Your old hard drive should appear onscreen as a device to boot from. Select and start up macOS.
When the Mac starts up, do not allow the system to use the new SSD as a Time Machine.


3

Initialise the new SSD

The new SSD needs to be initialised (formatted). Open Disk Utilities (in applications), select the new SSD. Click on Erase. Give the new drive a name such as "Macintosh SSD", Format type is Mac OS Extended (journaled), Scheme (if available): Choose GUID Partition Map. Click Erase. Wait. The drive is now ready to be used.

4

How are you restoring macOS?

Will you be cloning your old drive onto the new SSD? Or using internet recovery or a macOS USB to install a fresh install of macOS. If you are cloning, install SuperDuper! software and clone your hard drive to new SSD. If you are putting a fresh version of macOS on the new SSD, use one of teh methods listed in the How to install macOS

5

Two bootable drives

There are now two bootable drives, you need to make sure macOS uses the right one! When you restart, hold down the option key and choose the new SSD to boot from. In StartUp Disk (in system preferences) choose the new SSD as the drive the system uses to restart the Mac. Now whenever the iMac restarts it will boot from the SSD first.
It is a good idea to use the new SSD for a while. Make sure everything is ok If everything is ok. If you do not need the 2nd drive as a backup and the new SSD is working perfectly you can erase the drive in Disk Utilities. The 2nd drive can be use as a Time Machine for back ups or use as internal storage.


Software and tools you need

This upgrade looks hard, but it is not, just a few more details, and we always provide printed illustrated guides and free phone tech support if you need help.

iMac toolkit (includes long-stem Torx T8 and T10 screwdrivers)
Heavy-Duty Suction Cups to remove the screen on 2009 to 2017 model iMacs.
• Optical bay adapter bracket NewerTech Datadoubler
• On some iMacs installing an SSD removes the smart temperature sensor and causes the fan to run constantly. There are DIY hacks to disable the sensor with a paperclip and plugs to override the sensor (expensive) however we recommend controlling the fan with software such as SSD Fan Control
• Familiar with how to Internet Recovery macOS or have a macOS USB drive.

Choose an SSD drive here

The Upgradeable Team is here to help. If you want advice or check with an expert, please call, chat or email.









Choose an SSD compatible with your iMac


From 2006 to 2017 all iMac's used a standard SATA drive for the primary storage. This drive was usually a 3.5 inch size (ssd requires an Adaptadrive bracket). From late 2012 all 21.5" iMacs used a 2.5" drive and don't require a bracket. From 2017 all 27" iMacs use a 2.5" drive, so all 27" iMacs from 2009 to 2015 have a 3.5" drive and require an Adaptadrive bracket for the replacement SSD.

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Let us do all the work!


Not everyone wants to do their own installation. An iMac SSD installation We offer an installation service at our Sydney Pymble office. An Apple qualified technician does all our hardware and software work. We match Crucial's warranty, so our labour warranty is also 3 years. This means if you have to claim your Crucial warranty, we will not charge a second installation fee!
How can I get my new SSD installed?
Below we have a full range of SSD drives with installation included. Just choose the size you want, there are no hidden extras. The price you see is the price you pay.

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Get a 1TB installed in your iMac at our Pymble office - pay no more, no hidden extras!
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$698.00
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Accessories you need for a DIY installation


These are the kits or parts you need for a successful installation of your SSD. Add to your cart what you need with the SSD you have chosen. When checking out, don't forget to tell us in the customer notes which iMac you have, and we will include full printed instructions.



Screwdrivers + USB to SATA cable + NewerTech Suction kit + NewerTech AdaptaDrive bracket
10 in stock
More Information...
$119.00
Screwdrivers + NewerTech Suction kit + NewerTech Datadoubler
99 in stock
More Information...
$122.00
Screwdrivers + NewerTech Suction kit + NewerTech AdaptaDrive bracket
Ships in 2-3 days
More Information...
$98.00


Choose items individually


If you only need one or two items, you can buy them here.


These are the longer screwdrivers that make working on an iMac easier Part No: UA1297
6 in stock
More Information...
$38.00
Part No: UA1326
Ships in 2-3 days
More Information...
$19.00
Part No: UA2292
Ships in 2-3 days
More Information...
$25.00
Part No: UA1295
Ships in 2-3 days
More Information...
$38.00
Part No: UA1631
Ships in 2-3 days
More Information...
$64.00

How to install macOS

There are various ways to install macOS on your Mac, Apple has made it very easy. This quick guide is designed to answer questions you have and provide a bit of clarity on the different processes. This is based on our experience and is always being revised. If you can add to these guides, please contact us accordingly.

Standard Recovery versus Internet Recovery
Standard recovery is commonly referred to as Recovery Mode. It can be used by restarting the Mac and holding down the keys Command + R. It uses the recovery partition on the drive to restore the last version of macOS installed on the drive. Using this method to install macOS on a new SSD is not the best option, as there is no recovery partition, the mac will use the internet to install the macOS version that originally shipped with the Mac. In our experience using Recovery Mode is the same as Shift-Option-Command-R which reinstalls the macOS that came with your Mac, or the version closest to it that is still available.
Internet Recovery is when your Mac uses the internet to restore macOS to the drive. When a spinning earth globe appears on screen, this indicates you are in Internet Recovery mode. If there is an apple symbol, then the Mac is using the recovery partition.

If you want to put install the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac then restart the Mac and hold down this key combination: Option-Command-R

Restrictions on Internet Recovery
Not all iMacs can use Internet Recovery. The feature was built into iMacs from Mid 2010. You can not use Internet recovery if you iMac is older than these models:
iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011)
iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011)
iMac (21.5-inch and 27-inch, Mid 2010)

Options other than Internet Recovery
You can install MacOS via a USB or via original Apple disks. Apple no longer makes MacOS disks, DVD, CD or physical media. All MacOS software is delivered digitally. If you have original software media for an macOS like Snow Leopard you can install that software and then upgrade via the App Store to the current version. Use the current MacOS upgrade guide for more information.
If you are using Leopard, you need to first buy Snow Leopard OSX 10.6 media from Apple to upgrade the MacOS digitally.




How to create a macOS USB

There are a lot of options to create bootable USB to install macOS. We have recommended Diskmaker X in the past but the method we outline here is the recommended method from Apple.
This is our summary of how to make a Sierra macOS USB drive. With this drive you can install macOS on a blank SSD or boot from this USB and use the tools and utilities to check or format a Mac drive.




1

Download Sierra

Go to the App Store, search for macOS Sierra and download. After it has downloaded it should appear in your Applications as "Installer MacOS Sierra. If you have already downloaded and upgraded to Sierra you will need to download Sierra again.

2

8GB USB

You need at least an 8GB USB drive. It does not have to be a super fast USB 3.0 version, and older one can be repurposed. It does not have to be a USB. You can use an external hard drive (note: any data on the drive will be lost as it gets formatted). Go into Disk Utilities and rename the USB to "upgradeable". You can erase and rename. The MacOS creation method will reformat the drive, so it does not need to be any specific format type like Fat32 or Mac Journaled. What is important is the name of the drive, as it is used in the code below.


3

Using Terminal

We are going to use the command line app called Terminal to create the MacOS drive. Don't worry if you have never used it, it is very easy, not that scary. Open Terminal, it is found in the Utilities folder in Applications.

4

Copy this code

Copy this code:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/upgradeable --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app


5

Paste the code

Paste the code you copied into Terminal and hit enter. It will ask for your system password (usually the one you log on with at start up). Type Y and return when it asks if you want to erase this drive. When it is finished creating it will display "Copy complete". You can close Terminal.

6

How to use the USB

When the USB or external drive is plugged in, restart the Mac holding down the Option key. The USB will appear on screen as Install MacOS Sierra. Select and hit return. You do not need to select a network. If you are installing the macOS on a new SSD it will need to be initialised. Go into Disk Utilities, Erase and name. Proceed to install macOS Sierra.



How to initialise an SSD

When you get your new SSD it is uninitialised. This means it can be used in a Mac or PC. It needs to be initialised before use. In the PC world they call this formatting the drive. In the Mac World it is called Erase and it is a function of Disk Utilities

Disk Utilities is a tool included in many places. It is found in the Utilities directory in Applications. It is included in any macOS install drive. It is found in the recovery partition on a drive when a Mac is restart holding down the keys Command + R. It is also a part of the Internet Recovery boot up. There are many reasons why you would want to erase a drive, this guide is focused on initialising a new SSD, however for readers who are looking at general information we have added the following warning...
Warning: Erasing a disk will delete all data on the disk. Never initialise/erase a drive that has data on it that you want to keep. I know that sounds obvious but you would be surprised with the support calls we get :-). Four steps to initialise a new SSD.



1

Open Disk Utility

When you start Disk Utility, in the sidebar are the drives attached to the Mac. Select the disk name, not the indented volume name.

2

Erase button

Click on the Erase button. If there is no erase button select the drive again.


3

Options

There are two to three fields that need to be selected.
Name: Enter a name for your disk, such as "Macintosh SSD"
Format: Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
Scheme (if available): Choose GUID Partition Map
Erase options in Sierra

4

ERASE

Click the Erase button and the SSD will be ready to use.


How to clone with SuperSuper!

Please note: this process cannot be used to clone a Windows partition created by Boot Camp. We recommend WinClone by Twocanoes Software. It is commercial software requiring a license to use, however it is not affiliate with our company and that is not an affiliate link.

Before cloning, the SSD needs to be initialised, if that has not been done, please follow our instructions above.

The process is really only two steps...download and run. Superduper! is very simple but powerful piece of software.



1

Download and install

SuperDuper! software by Shirt Pocket (free download).

When the download is complete, install in your Applications folder.

Double click on the SuperDuper! icon to run

2

Clone

Choose your source (Macintosh HDD) and destination (Macintosh SSD) drives. Click Copy Now to begin. You will be notified when it is complete.
Erase options in Sierra


Simple Questions answered


Is the SSD the same physical size as my current hard drive?
Up until the 2012 iMacs, Apple has used a 3.5 inch hard drive, and the standard SSD drive is 2.5". To secure the SSD into the 3.5" space in the iMac you need a bracket. From 2012 the 21.5" iMacs came with a 2.5" drive. From 2017 the 27" iMacs shipped with a 2.5" hard drive.

Can I use any SSD here to upgrade my iMac?
Every iMac (including PCIe SSD iMacs )have a SATA port for a standard SATA hard drive.

Do the PCIe SSD iMacs use a standard M.2 SSD?
No. It is only standard in it's physical size. A standard M.2 drive will not work. Apple has made their drives proprietary.

Are the 2.5" SSD drives faster or better the larger the size?
All our current SSDs are the same speed and quality. The 275GB is as fast as the 2TB.

Do I need a bracket to install the SSD?
Yes. If you are replacing a 3.5 inch hard with a 2.5" SSD you will need an adaptabracket.

Do I need any special tools?
For the pre 2013 models you need a small phillips screwdriver and a Torx 6 screwdriver. These are standard tools, found in many kits and available at hardware stores like Bunnings. Everything you need is in our screwdriver tool kit. The Aura SSD kits include all the tools you require.

Can I clone a bigger drive onto a smaller SSD?
No. If you have 900gb of data on a 1TB hard drive, you can not clone this onto a 525GB SSD. The cloning software we recommend does not selectively clone. It is all or nothing.

Does the hard drive and the SSD have to be the same size?
No. As long as the source (current hard drive) has less data than size of the new SSD. So 300GB on a 1TB hard drive will clone onto a 525GB SSD.

What size SSD should I buy?
We recommend you look at how much data is on your hard drive and then get an SSD at least 20% bigger than the data you have. We have found the optimal free space for an SSD to work with virtual and swap files is 20%. Aim for 30 to 40%. It all depends on your work flow and how much data you store and delete.

Can SuperDuper! clone a windows parition?
No. We recommend Winclone for this type of clone.