How To Upgrade Your iMac with an SSD (2021 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.
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

Macbook 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

Check if your existing drive is 3.5 inch or 2.5 inch. If it is 3.5 inch, the new SSD needs to be screwed into a bracket.
Why do you need this bracket? The SSD is 2.5", if the old iMac drive is 3.5" the holes to fasten it to the iMac will not line up, you need a 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 Command and R keys (this is Recovery Mode). The Mac will use the Time Machine to build the OS Utilities page.

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. On the OS Utilities page open Disk Utility. You need to choose format type (must use APFS for Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave or High Sierra, earlier versions use Mac Extended Journaled) and a name, you can use Macintosh SSD or get creative. Click apply and this will format the SSD.

4

RESTORE

After formatting 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.

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 2021 model iMacs.
Adhesive strips and opener for 21.5in iMac (2012-2021)
Adhesive strips and opener for 27in iMac (2012-2021)
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 two solutions. 1. Cable replacement with OWC Thermal Sensor Cable. 2. Connect S.M.A.R.T. data within the SSD to control the fan with 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 a USB to SATA cloning cable (sold separately).
Check if the SSD needs a bracket for your iMac. The SSD is 2.5", some older iMac drives are 3.5" so the holes to fasten it to the iMac will not line up, you need a bracket.

2

RESTART

Restart your Mac

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

3

RESTORE

Download and Install Carbon Copy Cloner software (30 day free trial 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. Clone your hard drive using Carbon Copy Cloner.

4

REPLACE

When cloning is complete, power off your Mac and replace the hard drive with the newly cloned SSD. 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 2021 model iMacs.
NewerTech AdaptaDrive Drive Bracket converts 2.5" drive to 3.5" size
Adhesive strips and opener for 21.5in iMac (2012-2021)
Adhesive strips and opener for 27in iMac (2012-2021)
• On some iMacs installing an SSD removes the smart temperature sensor and causes the fan to run constantly. There are two solutions. 1. Cable replacement with OWC Thermal Sensor Cable. 2. Connect S.M.A.R.T. data within the SSD to control the fan with SSD Fan Control
SuperDuper! software by Shirt Pocket (free download).
Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich (30 day trial).
Choose an SSD drive here






Four R method: Fresh macOS

iMac -intro

Sometimes a Mac needs a fresh start. Apple makes it easy to reinstall macOS.

MacOS can be installed via Recovery Mode or via a macOS USB. We have previously recommended USB installers but Apple has updated and improved Recovery install. Restarting the Mac holding down Command - R will give you the OS previously installed. More detailed info is in our How to install macOS section




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 Recovery Mode or installing off media such as a USB. If you are installing from USB, you need to make that macOS USB before you start. Recovery Mode is installing the macOS from a Time Machine or a Mac drive recovery partition or Internet Recovery.

2

RESTART

Shut down your Mac.

3

REPLACE

Replace the hard drive (HDD) with the new SSD (in a bracket if required). 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

If you are installing macOS from USB, then insert macOS USB, hold down option key and restart Mac. If you are using Recovery mode, plug in your Time Machine or Mac drive (you dont need them if you have internet), restart the Mac holding down the Command + R keys. The Mac will create the macOS Utilities page that has options such as Disk Utility and install a new macOS. Whichever method you choose, the new SSD first has to be initialised (erased) first via Disk Utility. See How to install a macOS for detailed information

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 2021 model iMacs.
NewerTech AdaptaDrive Drive Bracket converts 2.5" drive to 3.5" size
Adhesive strips and opener for 21.5in iMac (2012-2021)
Adhesive strips and opener for 27in iMac (2012-2021)
• On some iMacs installing an SSD removes the smart temperature sensor and causes the fan to run constantly. There are two solutions. 1. Cable replacement with OWC Thermal Sensor Cable. 2. Connect S.M.A.R.T. data within the SSD to control the fan with 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.






Four R method: Installing a PCIe SSD

iMac pcie ssd

Most tapered edge iMacs from 2013-2019 had a PCIe connector on the motherboard for a proprietary NVMe SSD. The OWC Aura X2 and the Transcend Jetdrive 850 are both compatible. There is no easy way to determine if your iMac has a PCIe slot. If you have a fusion drive, there is a PCIe connector.
The advantages of a NVMe SSD is speed, they can be up to 5x faster than a 2.5 inch SATA SSD. Disadvantage is the iMac has to be disassembled, we classify this installation as extremely technical. We recommend the Transcend Jetdrive 855, as you can clone your drive before installation.

Warning: a fusion drive must be cloned before it is removed, data can NOT be accessed once removed.

Upgradeable offers an installation service for customers that do not want to do their own installation.




1

READY

Connect the Jetdrive 855 case into the Thunderbolt 2 port
(straight out of the box).

2

RESTART

Restart your Mac.

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

3

RESTORE

Download and Install Carbon Copy Cloner software (30 day free trial 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 Carbon Copy Cloner.

4

REPLACE

When cloning is complete, power off your Mac and replace the SSD with the newly cloned Jetdrive SSD. Please read instructions or watch a video before deciding to do this installation. Upgradeable offers an installation service for customers that do not want to do their own installation.

Software and tools you need

This is a hard upgrade upgrade please do your own research before attempting this upgrade.

• Compatible SSDs are OWC Aura X2 and the Transcend 850 (blade only) or 855 (with clone case). Please note that OWC Envoy Pro (clone case) only uses the Apple SSD, you can not put the Aura X2 in this external case. Therefore it can not be used to clone the SSD before you disassemble the iMac. To do this you would have to do a Double Clone. The Transcend 855 can be cloned first, it is our recommended SSD for this installation.
Warning: a fusion drive must be cloned before it is removed, data can NOT be accessed once removed.

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.

2TB Crucial MX500 SSD for iMac - the biggest and the best

 

11 in Stock
1TB Crucial MX500 SSD for iMac - professional grade SSD

 

22 in Stock
250GB Crucial MX500 SSD for iMac - awesome value

 

16 in Stock

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.

Instore Menu


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.



iMac clone kit - everything you need at a discount

 

19 in Stock
iMac 2nd drive kit - save on a bundle

 

22 in Stock
iMac Fresh or Time Machine restore SSD kit

 

18 in Stock

Choose items individually


If you only need one or two items, you can add them to your cart here.



  14-Piece Toolkit for SSD upgrade Apple compatible

 

13 in Stock
iMac 27in (2012-2017) Adhesive strips for SSD upgrade

 

8 in Stock
USB to SSD SATA cable
USB to SSD SATA cable
Part No: UA1326

 

38 in Stock
NewerTech screen sucker  Suction Cup kit for SSD upgrade

 

10 in Stock
NewerTech AdaptaDrive for 2.5in SSD

 

19 in Stock
OWC Thermal Sensor for iMac
OWC Thermal Sensor for iMac
Part No: UA1019

 

5 in Stock
OWC Thermal Sensor for iMac
OWC Thermal Sensor for iMac
Part No: UA1018

 

9 in Stock
OWC Thermal Sensor for iMac
OWC Thermal Sensor for iMac
Part No: UA1017

 

6 in Stock
Portable USB 3.0 Enclosure
Portable USB 3.0 Enclosure
Part No: UA1352

 

Ships in 3-4 days
MacOS Mojave USB installer drive

 

< 5 in Stock
MacOS High Sierra USB installer drive

 

< 5 in Stock
MacOS Catalina USB installer drive

 

5 in Stock
Mac OSX El Capitan USB installer drive

 

< 5 in Stock


How to install macOS

Note: Updated August 2020: We had previously stated in this section issues with re-installing macOS. All those issues have now been fixed by Apple, we are recommending OS Recovery (restart holding down Command + R keys) to install macOS on a new SSD.
The only exception are Macs earlier than mid 2010-2011. These Macs we believe require a macOS USB installer.

What format to initialise the new SSD?
From High Sierra, Apple has a new drive format structure. When you upgrade to High Sierra, Apple changes your drive format structure to APFS. High Sierra will only reliably work on a drive formatted as APFS.
If you are installing High Sierra the SSD needs to be in Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for the installer to recognise the SSD. The installer will change the SSD to APFS during the install.

To install Mojave, Catalina and Big Sur: initialise the SSD as APFS.

To install High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite and earlier: initialise the drive as Mac OS Extended (Journaled)

How to get the latest macOS on a new SSD?
To reinstall using OS Recovery you need an internet connection, either wireless or ethernet cable. To start up using OS Recovery, start up your Mac and immediately hold down one of these combinations of keys.

Command-⌘-R

Reinstall the latest macOS that was installed on your Mac (recommended).  

Option-⌘-R

This will upgrade to the latest OS compatible with your Mac. If you were on Mojave, it will install Catalina.

Shift-Option-⌘-R

Reinstall the macOS that came with your Mac, or the closest version that's still available.  
Instructions if running an OS older than Sierra 10.12.4
Sierra is an important OS, some of the updates in this OS are essential for future OS updates. Apple advises that if your Mac is on Yosemite or El Capitan or earlier and you want to upgrade to High Sierra, then Sierra must be installed first. You can not skip Sierra.
Using your old drive to get a new macOS
Your current hard drive will most likely have a recovery partition. Plug your new SSD into the Mac using a USB-SATA cloning cable. Reboot the Mac holding down keys Command (⌘)-R. This should make the Mac boot from the recovery partition. What should happen is the Mac will build The "macOS Utilities" page giving you the option of installing a new macOS (there are also options to restore from Time Machine and Disk Utility).

Using your Time Machine to get a new macOS
Plug the Time Machine directly into your Mac. Hold down the option key and reboot the Mac. Reboot the Mac holding down keys Command (⌘)-R. This should make the Mac boot from the recovery partition. What should happen is the Mac will build The "macOS Utilities" page giving you the option of installing a new macOS (there are also options to restore from Time Machine and Disk Utility). 
I have an old Mac, can I install the latest macOS? 
Apple does limit upgrading older Macs to the latest OS. Everymac has a good guide where you can see which OS you can install on your Mac.
Maximum Supported macOS
We do not support hacking your Mac to install the latest OS. Apple limit the OS for a reason. Generally the newer OS will run slower on older Macs.   

Options for older Macs
You can install MacOS 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.
Most of the older OS are available but you need to google search for an Apple page with a link, generally searching in the Appstore will not show older versions of macOS. Upgradea ble does have USB installers for most version of macOS
If you are using Leopard, you need to first buy Snow Leopard OSX 10.6 media from Apple to upgrade the MacOS digitally. You can buy from an Apple Store or calling Apple Support.

Common problems installing a new macOS

The Recovery Server Could Not Be Contacted This issue is nearly always caused by an incorrect date on your Mac. If you have disconnected the battery, the date could have reset. Part of macOS Utilities is Terminal. It is found as an option in the top menu. Select Terminal. If you are connected to the internet then type:
ntpdate -u time.apple.com
This should update the time. If not, then use this manual method:
date 0201200019
which is February 1st 20:00 (or 8pm) 2019.
So mmddhhmiyy
all two digits.

macOS High Sierra or Mojave is not available If you can not see the latest operating system in macOS Utilities then you have booted off the wrong partition. Either there is an old partition on Time Machine or on the Mac drive. Try restarting using one of the three Recovery Mode key combinations:

Command-⌘-R

Reinstall the latest macOS that was installed on your Mac (recommended).  

Option-⌘-R

This will upgrade to the latest OS compatible with your Mac. If you were on Mojave, it will install Catalina.

Shift-Option-⌘-R

Reinstall the macOS that came with your Mac, or the closest version that's still available.  

Can not boot from Time Machine
From OS X Lion v10.7.3 or later, you can start up from your Time Machine disk. This is normally done via Recovery Mode (Command (⌘)-R). Another way to do this is to hold down the Option key as your Mac starts up. This will load boot manager and show you call the drives the Mac can boot from. The Time Machine icon show show on screen, selecting this will load the OS Utilities page. If no Time Machine icon is displayed then the best option is to allow the Mac to use Recovery Mode, a spinning globe will show and the OS Utilities page will load shortly.

USB Installer is corrupted
The error message when installing OS X is "This copy of the install OS X El Capitan application can't be verified. It may have been corrupted or tampered with during downloading". This is a check Apple has introduced with system installation. There is a simple work around. Reset your system date to OS release date or close to OS release date and you can now install the OS.
If you are in OS Utilities, the top menu should have a drop down that has Terminal. Run terminal and then type this in:
For El Capitan install use: date 1001200015 [enter]
You can check the date is now 2015 by typing: date [enter], it should now display: October 1st 20:00 (or 8pm) 2015. The date after El Capitan's release. You can now install El Capitan without an error.
Dates for other systems are:
Yosemite: date 1017200014
Mavericks: date 1023200013
High Sierra: date 1023200017



How to use Migration Assistant

Apple includes an awesome app called Migration Assistant that we have used to help customers start over with a fresh macOS but keep all their data and applications. Apple allows a lot of different installation and migration options. We will discuss the main ones here, but if this does not answer your migration question, please contact us for more specific information about the upgrade you are planning.

What is Migration Assistant...why should I use it?
Migration Assistant allows you to transfer applications, settings and data from another Mac. macOS can see "another Mac" as your old hard drive or a Time Machine back up. A mac can boot from an external drive, for example, if you put your old hard drive into an external enclosure, you can boot from it, and run that hard drive and it would be exactly the same as your old mac...because it is!

If you just want a new macOS, start fresh with no legacy upgrade data, then you can use Migration Assistant to reinstall all your data and apps, and you will have the benefit of a new macOS with all the apps and data from your old drive.

How to use Migration Assistant
After you have installed the new macOS, the system starts and asks for generic information: country, keyboard type etc. The next part of the installation setup is Migration Assistant.
Apple Migration Assistant
If you have installed a new SSD, you can use either your old hard drive in an external enclosure or a Time Machine back up as a source for Migration Assistant.
The example in the image below, a Time Machine disk is connected and to be used
Select Time machine in Apple Migration Assistant
Select the machine you want to restore from in Time Machine
Select the machine in Apple Migration Assistant
Then select the type of data you want to migrate
Select the items to migrate in Apple Migration Assistant
That is it! You should have a new macOS with all your applications and data restored back on the system.

Limitations of Migration Assistant
The new Mac can not be on Lion (v10.8) or earlier. If you are migrating to an old version of OSX such as Lion, then you need to use another method.
This method is not recommended if the macOS are too far apart in release. It is ok if you are moving from Sierra to High Sierra. But if your computer is on Lion, your application and core system files will not be compatible with High Sierra.



Time Machine: why you should use it

Time Machine has many features that can make your life easier when upgrading to an SSD.

You should be backing up on a regular basis and Time Machine is Apple's built in back up software that is easy to use.

To create backups with Time Machine, all you need is an external storage device. After you connect the device and select it as your backup disk, Time Machine automatically makes hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups are deleted when your backup disk is full.

If you connect a new external drive to your mac you should see this window pop on the screen

If you dont get the pop up you can go to Time Machine app and select disk or add Disk.

The software will set up automated back ups. If you periodically connect the Time Machine, if it does not automatically start you can start a backup manually, choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine. 
 
First the most asked question we get: Does Time Machine back up the operating system or macOS?
If your Time Machine is backing up your whole drive, yes the macOS is backed up. You have a complete back up of your Mac. You do not have to download macOS to use your Time Machine. In Sierra and High Sierra we have seen Time Machine go off to the Apple website to verify or update core files. It is not totally understood what is happening, but it is not uncommon for Time Machine to get additional files from the Apple website before restoring a Time Machine back up. Usually these files are to do with the recovery partition on the Time Machine or the Disk Utilities page.

Restore on a new SSD and the Double Clone 
One of the best features of Time Machine is you can you it to restore to a new SSD. We have outlined the process in our Four R Restore from Time Machine. What if you dont have a Time Machine and/or you have not been backing up your data? No judgement here, but here is a way to fix all that. We call it the Double Clone. 

The Double Clone
Instead of ordering a clone cable or an external clone case, you buy an external drive. A 1tb or 2tb drive is a good size, the major brands are Toshiba, Seagate, Verbatim or Western Digital. You dont need the SSD version, just a standard external drive. 
Format the external drive. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your Mac onto the new drive. Install the new SSD. Restart the Mac holding down the Option key. Select the new cloned external drive. You are now running your Mac off the external drive. Use Disk Utilities to initialise the new SSD. Open Carbon Copy Cloner and do a second clone, this time from the external drive to the new SSD. When the clone if finished, shut down the Mac, remove the external clone and restart the Mac. Go to System Preferences and set the start up disk to the new SSD. Open Time Machine, plug in the external drive, if you don't get the pop up window asking to turn teh drive into a Time Machine, then select disk or add Disk and start a new Time Machine. Please note it will erase all the clone data, be sure your new SSD is working as expected before erasing the clone. That is the Double Clone: get a new SSD and a new backup system with Time Machine!!


Rebooting off Time Machine
Time Machine does not have a recovery partition, however you can use it to restore your Mac or install a new macOS. If you want to use Time Machine in this way, plug the Time Machine into the Mac, then restart the Mac holding down the Option key. This loads the boot manager and you can see all drives attached to the Mac. The Time Machine should display as an external drive. Select it and the Mac will build a macOS Utilities page that will have Disk Utility (to initialise a new drive or erase a current drive) and install a new macOS.





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 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 Big Sur

Go to the App Store, search for macOS Big Sur and download. After it has downloaded it should appear in your Applications as "Installer MacOS". If you have already downloaded and upgraded, you will need to download the MacOS again (Apple deletes installer once it has been used).

2

16GB USB

You need at least an 16GB USB drive. For best results use a USB 3.0. 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

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/upgradeable
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. 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 Utility, Erase and name. Proceed to install macOS. 

Other macOS codes
Catalina
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/upgradeable
Mojave
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Mojave.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/upgradeable
High Sierra
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/upgradeable



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 Utility is a tool included in many places. It is found in the Utilities directory in Applications. It is included in any macOS install app. It is found in the recovery partition on a drive when a Mac is restarted 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.

New APFS format in High Sierra and Mojave
Starting from macOS High Sierra, Apple have a new format called APFS. It is recommended to format your new SSD in APFS if you will be using High Sierra or above. APFS is optimised for SSD drives. If you are using macOS Sierra or below, the recommended format is still Mac OS Extended (Journaled).



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 APFS (for High Sierra/Mojave) or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for earlier macOS like El Capitan
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 affiliated 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.





Revision log (what has changed)


If you have read or downloaded this guide in the past, you might want to know what has changed, how have we updated this guide.

December 2020 
Updated macOS USB installer instructions to Big Sur

September 2020 
Big update: we changed our recommendation to use Recovery Mode to install macOS. Add Transcend SSDs. New external clone instructions. New Double Clone technique. Rewrote macOS install and Time Machine section.  

August 2020 
Replaced SuperDuper! software with Carbon Copy Cloner.  

May 2019
Brought back the old cloning method, it is now called the External Clone Method. The reason is a lot of customers like to use third party software to clone.

April 2019
Updated the Aura Pro X to the Aura Pro X2 SSD

February 2019
Updated dates for server download error. Updated how to make a MacOS installer USB details to Mojave. Added work around for the El Capitan corrupt error: "This copy of the install OS X El Capitan application can't be verified. Added MacOS installer USB to accessories.
Superduper! now have a secure website we can link to, changed link from a Google search to a direct link to their website.

January 2019
Fixed wording that sounded like we give you a free cloning cable. Cables must be bought separate. They are part of SSD kits, but not included in standard SSD drives.

August 2018
Why you can not restore from Time Machine if your Mac has High Sierra on a drive formatted with macOS Extended Journal (part of Time Machine: the good, the bad and the ugly)

July 2018
We now do not recommend using Time Machine to restore on to your new SSD if you have a mechanical hard drive formatted with macOS Extended Journal. You can only clone.

April 2018
Updating How to Install macOS page. We are troubleshooting installs everyday, and updating information on these pages. It appears a lot of issues revolve around updated EFI. Please check your EFI before doing too much troubleshooting. Booting off Time Machine with an out of date EFI now seems to be problematic

March 2018
In Four R method Time Machine: Replaced default format of extended journal to APFS must be used for High Sierra)
Updated the High Sierra create a USB installer script: we had it wrong.
Added two new topics: Using Migration Assistant and Unknown Time Machine features.

February and March 2018
New APFS format structure. We added the Apple recommendation to use APFS for High Sierra. Updated the How to Initialise an SSD and updated the Disk Utilities image to show all the new format options.

January 2018
We added information about Time Machine recovery partition. If you have a Mac that can not use Internet Recovery, then the recovery partition on Time Machine can be used to restore an macOS. Areas updated were Fresh macOS and How to Install macOS.

December 2017
Updated scripts to High Sierra.



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