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Apple Restricts Hard Drive Replacements on New iMacs

Hard drive from Early 2011 iMac (Source: iFixit)

As noted by Other World Computing, Apple has implemented a new temperature sensor system on its latest iMac models that significantly hampers the ability of users to replace their original hard drives in the case of failure or a desire to upgrade. Without the custom 7-pin hard drive cable and proprietary firmware included on stock hard drives in the new machines, the new iMacs' fans spin to full speed and the machines fail to pass the Apple Hardware Test.
For the main 3.5" SATA hard drive bay in the new 2011 machines, Apple has altered the SATA power connector itself from a standard 4-pin power configuration to a 7-pin configuration. Hard drive temperature control is regulated by a combination of this cable and Apple proprietary firmware on the hard drive itself. From our testing, we've found that removing this drive from the system, or even from that bay itself, causes the machine's hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test (AHT).
As the report notes, the change does mean that anyone seeking to replace the hard drive in a new iMac will have to go through Apple, limiting options and increasing costs.
It is not a matter of "if" but rather a matter of "when" your hard drive is going to fail. We preach this all the time in regards to having a proper backup strategy in place to prepare from when that failure happens. But it seems now, that when that happens to the main drive on your iMac, you're left with two options - buy a new drive from Apple and have them install it via one of their Authorized Service Centers, or enjoy the rather large Apple logoed paperweight on your desk. Want a 3.5" drive larger than 2TB? Too bad - Apple doesn't offer them.
Apple has not officially supported do-it-yourself hard drive replacements on the iMac for many years, but many users have still elected to take on the task themselves or have others not specifically authorized by Apple perform the swap for them.

Related roundup: iMac

Top Rated Comments

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42 months ago
That's some bull. Just an unnecessary Apple hurdle. Don't they realize this is the kind of thing that really pisses off with regards to their company?

Sometimes I appreciate the closed ecosystem/"walled garden" but I don't need to wear a helmet and straight-jacket in my private garden.
Rating: 67 Votes
42 months ago
WTF? Seriously? :mad:

Honestly, I was very close to jumping on board with a new i7 - but this tanks my ambition. Even when someone invariably makes a workaround, I'm not sure about it.
Rating: 41 Votes
42 months ago


You've got to be kidding me. :mad:

No, seriously, this is a joke or a misstatement, right? Apple makes dick moves every now and then, but this can't be for real. If so, well, looks like I'm never buying an iMac again (at least until this crap stops). Because **** all if I'm ever going to pay the Apple tax on crap like HDDs and RAM.
Rating: 32 Votes
42 months ago
This is the reason I switched on Windows 7. It's very hard to be a power user on Mac. Great OS, but the hurdles Apple makes you go through sometimes, are flat out annoying. 99% of the people using an iMac, however, would never know this is an issue.
Rating: 26 Votes
42 months ago
UGh! Seriously! I've updated the hard drives in every Mac I own just to extend the useful life of each of the machines. If I have to pay a Mac tax on adding hard drives now, Hacintosh may be next on the list instead of a shiny new i7 iMAC. That said I hope they reverse this horrible decision and don't decide to extend it to the laptop side of the business.
Rating: 21 Votes
42 months ago
Bad idea.
Rating: 21 Votes
42 months ago
I think thermal is an excuse to create a very closed system, as just modifying the connectors for the hell of it is an excuse. I don't get it, they are huge, people love them, and then they slowly start a bait and switch system on us. Same ***** google did with android. Open platform everyone. Now that we have you all under contracts, guess what. No longer an open system.

Starting to dislike Apple, I won't lie.
Rating: 15 Votes
42 months ago
**** Apple for this.
Rating: 15 Votes
42 months ago
I feel like hugging my Mac Pro right now. :D
Rating: 14 Votes
42 months ago

So Apple is in essence giving their computers a life span of 3-5 years... Major fail! Any tech person will tell you, it's not a matter of "if" a hard drive will fail, but a matter of "when." It's bad enough you have to go through the screen, all that metal tape and tiny non-standard screws to get at the hard drives on the new machines, now they are making them proprietary too? WTF. Apple should make the iMacs with swappable drive bays on the side like many manufacturers do with laptops. CPU, GPU, etc. don't need to be user replaceable, but RAM and Hard Drive absolutely do. Either that or they need to make a tower that costs less than a used car.


I'm sure Apple will be happy to supply you with a replacement proprietary hard drive when it fails.

Of course it will come at a suitably inflated price.
Rating: 13 Votes

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