How to install an SSD in an iMAC


Background

I have a 24″, 2008, 2.8 GHz, Core 2 Duo iMac (8,1) running Leopard. This machine, while maxed out on RAM at 4GB, is just barely inching along.  I’d like to upgrade the computer, but since there should be a fairly significant iMac update in the near future, I want to hold off for the time being.  For the sake of my sanity, I decided to swap the internal hard drive with a solid state disk and upgrade the computer with a copy of Lion I have laying around the house to see if using the machine will become tolerable to use again. Below is an account of my experience installing the SSD.

Tools

The first thing you’re going to need is the proper tools for disassembling your iMac. There are a few iMac kits out there, but they are really overpriced at around $45.  What you really need is a suction cup, a can of compressed air and a few drivers (Philips and Torx).  If you don’t have this stuff lying around the house, you can get it all on Amazon for about $15: Driver Set, Suction Cup and Canned Air.

*Word of warning, the exact tools you need may vary depending on the specific model of iMac you have, but the collection of items above should cover most cases.

Computer Components

As far as computer components go, you need your SSD, I got a Crucial 256 GB m4.  The other thing you’ll need is an adapter to make the 2.5″ SSD equivalent in physical size to the 3.5″ drive you’re replacing inside the iMac, something like this should work nicely.  Finally, totally optional, but recommended is an external hard drive enclosure for the drive you’ll be pulling out of your iMac.  This will let you repurpose your old drive for time machine backups, etc.

Disassembly

The iMac comes apart relatively easy.  Below you’ll find a video followed by text instructions.  I recommend watching the video and then following the text instructions as you perform the upgrade on your machine.

 

The steps are as follows:

  1. Remove the RAM cover on the bottom of the iMac with a Philips head screwdriver (single screw in the bottom center)
  2. Pop the glass off with your suction cup
  3. Remove the torx fasteners around the perimeter that were previously covered by the glass – noting the two at the bottom center are longer than the rest
  4. Now the bezel should slide off the iMac.  Be wary of the cable at the top, be sure to disconnect it.
  5. Remove the connectors that attach the LCD to the iMac
    1. Temperature Sensor near the fan at the bottom left
    2. Connector on bottom right attached with 2 Torx screws
  6. Remove the Torx screws along the perimeter of the the LCD
  7. Gently pull the LCD toward you, there is still one cable remaining on the back of the LCD attaching it to the iMac, and removing it is the trickiest part.  Peel back the black tape on the back of the LCD covering the ribbon cable until you expose the connector.  Gently demate this connector and now the LCD should be free.  Set the LCD aside.
  8. Now the that the hard drive is exposed, remove the foam and temperature sensor that is taped to it.
  9. Remove the two connectors from the hard drive in the bottom left corner.
  10. Finally, remove the hard drive.  It is simply held in place with a large plastic clip.  Release the clip at the top and the drive will pop right out.

Install

  1. Install the SSD into the 2.5 to 3.5″ adapter referenced at the top of this article.
  2. Remove the plastic clip from the old hard drive and install it onto the adapter from step 1 above.  Also remove the two pins on the other side of the old hard drive and also install them into the adapter.
  3. Pop the new SSD/adapter assembly into the iMac just as the previous drive was installed.
  4. Mate the two cables in the bottom left corner.
  5. Tape down the temperature sensor you removed from the other hard drive.

Reassembly

Reassembly now involves starting at step 7 in the disassembly section and working your way backwards.  Be sure to use your can of compressed air to blow clean the LCD before reinstalling the glass on top of it.

OS Setup

With the SSD installed, you’re ready to boot up your computer.  Turn your iMac on, insert your Lion install disk and hold down the option key.  You should be presented with an icon that says Lion Install Disk or something of that nature.  Press enter and you’ll be on your way.  Before actually installing the OS, you’ll need to run Disk Utility which will be an option when you boot off the install CD.  Launch Disk Utility, format your new SSD with the Mac filesystem and then quit Disk Utility.  Now you’re ready to install the OS.  Just follow the on screen menus.

To TRIM or Not to TRIM

One final note.  You may have read that you should enable TRIM to extend the life of your SSD.  After doing some research online, at least as it pertains to my particular configuration this turns out to be unnecessary.  This is largely due to the controller that is used on the Crucial M4 disk and built-in features in Mac OS (Lion and above).  If you used a different SSD than me, do a bit of googling to find out if you should enable TRIM.

Good luck!

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