The main house computer that we have is our 21.5″ iMac. Since I have a MacBook Air, I have been using it for most of my computer work over the last few years which mainly consisted of photo editing, surfing the internet, and creating/updating this blog. However, the screen on the iMac being 21.5″ is much bigger than my Air’s 13″ as well as having a 1920×1080 resolution vs. the Air’s 1440×900. So it dawned on me that it would make more sense for me to use the iMac to do most of my computer work and have the Air for when I travel.
The iMac still had all its stock components other than having upgraded the RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB. However, I am used to a solid state drive (SSD) on my Air which is around 6-10 times faster than your standard hard drive and so trying to do anything on the iMac in comparison was painfully slow!! Therein begins our story and the reason for Operation iMac Upgrade.
For one of my previous Apple laptops, I had removed the SuperDrive (CD/DVD drive) and bought a special mount in the same shape but it had room for a laptop hard drive or a SSD. I successfully got 2 hard drives in there and installed the operating system on the SSD and got a speedy-fast computer. So my concept for this upgrade was the same, to replace the SuperDrive with an SSD as well as upgrade the internal hard drive to a larger capacity while I was in there.
Off I went to the wonderful world of the internet to do some research and came up with the following items and tutorials that I would need to make this operation a success:
- Tutorial #1
- Tutorial #2
- SuperDrive Mount
- A Solid State Drive; I chose the OWC 120GB Mercury Electra 3G
- An Upgraded Secondary Drive; I chose the Western Digital 2 TB Black
- An 8 GB USB stick so I can install MacOS Mavericks; tutorial here
I ordered all the components I needed, got my USB stick set-up with the MacOS install files, and got started on the upgrade. From everything I read, it seems the trickiest part was removing the glass covering the LCD and then replacing it afterwards without getting any dust particles stuck behind it. It was really easy to remove with suction cups since it’s only held on with magnets. I actually thought the trickiest part was removing the LCD display because after you unscrew it, you have to gently lift it so you can get to 4 separate connectors on the motherboard and remove those before you can take the whole thing off. Regardless, it all came apart pretty easily.
Removing the hard drive was a matter of 2 screws and a few more to swap over the mounts to the new drive after which it went back in place pretty swiftly. Removing the SuperDrive was also a matter of 4 screws.
I had to make a slight modification to the new “SuperDrive” mount that I bought because it had some plastic nubs in the wrong places but a quick tweak here, some scotch tape over there, and it was all ready to be closed up looking like the photo above.
Once I had the LCD screen physically back in place, I just replaced 2 screws to hold it in place and stood up the iMac to turn it on and make sure I had made all the connections properly. Lo and behold the 2 new hard drives showed up when I booted from my OSX installer USB stick and I got the process started to install the operating system. It was a little frustrating to make sure all the dust was off the LCD and the back of the glass cover before I placed it on, but after 3 attempts I got most of it removed to the point where what was left was no longer annoying me. 🙂
All in all the tutorials worked really well. My only modification over the tutorial I used was that I was not able to install the temperature sensor onto the 2 TB hard drive because it wasn’t from the same manufacturer as the stock one. However after doing a quick Google search, I found a nifty little software called HDD Fan Control that uses the hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) protocol built into the drive rather than the actual temperature sensor to control the iMac’s internal fan speed.
So far everything has been running at the wonderful superspeed that I was expecting. The SSD allows for the computer to go from being turned off to fully logged in and ready to go in 15 seconds which is fantastic! The applications run blazingly fast so now I can actually consider this iMac usable as opposed to a computer that needs to be replaced soon. I figure with these fairly minor upgrades, this computer can last another 2 years or so before needing to be replaced!