Reader's report: Installation of a 1 terabyte SSD in an Apple iMac 2013

iMac SSD installation featured image

My reader Jürgen provided me with a tinkering report from a weekend project in which he and his son equip an older iMac with a pure SSD and dissolve the Fusion Drive that was still active in the iMac.

Is an SSD noticeably faster than a Fusion Drive?

He recently asked me whether it makes sense to convert an iMac from 2013 that is already running with a Fusion Drive to a pure SSD. My answer was what I would not expect any major speed improvements from this, since the Fusion Drive stores the data that is used most often on the SSD part of the Fusion Drive anyway.

From my point of view, a conversion of Fusion Drive on pure SSD only the advantage that the risk of failure is lower, since you do not bear the risk of two hard drives but only one. The problem with the Fusion Drive is that the failure of one of the two hard drives means that all data can no longer be read - even if they are on the still intact hard drive.

Jürgen decided that he should give his iMac a try and install a SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD with 1 TB of storage. According to him, the speed has noticeably improved again compared to the Fusion Drive.

Is it worth installing a pure SSD if the Mac already has a Fusion Drive? According to Jürgen's opinion, one can clearly answer "yes" here.

Is it worth installing a pure SSD if the Mac already has a Fusion Drive? According to Jürgen's opinion, one can clearly answer "yes" here.

SSD via USB 3 port does not make sense

Just as a brief note: connecting the hard drive via the USB 3 port, as used by some Mac users who do not want to convert the hardware in their Mac themselves, is not a good idea compared to a built-in Fusion Drive.

The USB 3 port offers a data rate of max. 120 MB / s, which is unfortunately significantly lower than the maximum possible 500 MB / s that a Fusion Drive can offer when it accesses data on the SSD part. The connection via an external hard drive can only make sense with older iMacs that still have a FireWire connection. These usually do not have a Fusion Drive and are significantly faster even with an SSD that is connected externally via the FireWire port.

The "ingredients" for the renovation

So that you know what you need for the conversion, I have linked the corresponding equipment and parts here, some of which were also used by Jürgen or which are similar to his. With the adhesive strips for the iMac display, however, you have to make sure that you use those that fit your model or your display size.

SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD (1 terabyte)
The SSDs from SanDisk offer approx. 560 MB / s for reading and 530 MB / s for writing.
4,93 EUR
Prym rotary cutter Maxi with 45 mm
A large blade is important here so that you can cut through the adhesive around the iMac display.
Suction lifter (double pack)
With these suction cups, the display glass of the iMac is lifted after the adhesive has been removed to expose the innards of the Mac.

iMac display replacement adhesive tape sets

Jürgen bought the adhesive strips from iFixit, but with postage to Germany they are around 20 EUR. The BisLinks sets, which you can get from Amazon Prime without shipping costs, are cheaper. They are also made to measure and fit perfectly. Which set you need depends on the screen size of your Mac. I have listed both sets for you here with the corresponding iMac model numbers:

Set for iMac 21,5 inch - model A1418

These stickers are for the iMacs with the model number A1418 (21,5 inch):

  • iMac13,1 Late 2012: MD093LL / A (2.7 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac13,1 Late 2012: MD094LL / A (2.9 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac13,1 Late 2012: MD094LL / A (3.1 GHz Core i7)
  • iMac13,1 Early 2013: ME699LL / A (3.3 GHz Core i3)
  • iMac14,3 Late 2013: ME086LL / A (2.7 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac14,3 Late 2013: ME087LL / A (2.9 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac14,3 Late 2013: ME087LL / A (3.1 GHz Core i7)
  • iMac14,4 Mid 2014: MF883LL / A (1.4 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac16,1 Late 2015: MK142LL / A (1.6 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac16,2 Late 2015: MK442LL / A (2.8 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac16,2 Retina 4K Late 2015: MK542LL / A (3.1 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac16,2 Retina 4K Late 2015: MK542LL / A (3.3 GHz Core i7)
BisLeft adhesive strip for 21,5-inch iMacs
This set of adhesive strips is for iMacs with the model name A1418. These are iMacs from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the small 21,5 inch display.

Set for iMac 27 inch - model A1419

These stickers are for the iMacs with the model number A1419 (27 inch):

  • iMac13,2 Late 2012: MD095LL / A (2.9 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac13,2 Late 2012: MD096LL / A (3.2 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac13,2 Late 2012: MD096LL / A (3.4 GHz Core i7)
  • iMac14,2 Late 2013: MD088LL / A (3.2 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac14,2 Late 2013: MD089LL / A (3.4 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac14,2 Late 2013: MD089LL / A (3.5 GHz Core i7)
  • iMac15,1 Retina 5K Late 2014: MF886LL / A (3.5 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac15,1 Retina 5K Late 2014: MF886LL / A (4.0 GHz Core i7)
  • iMac15,1 Retina 5K Mid 2015: MF885LL / A (3.3 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac17,1 Retina 5K Late 2015: MK462LL / A (3.2 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac17,1 Retina 5K Late 2015: MK482LL / A (3.3 GHz Core i5)
  • iMac17,1 Retina 5K Late 2015: MK482LL / A (4.0 GHz Core i7)
BisLeft adhesive strip for 27-inch iMacs
This set of adhesive strips is for iMacs with the model name A1419. These are iMacs from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the large 27 inch display.

Otherwise you only need a little manual skill, a table with enough space, a soft surface on which you can place the display after it has been removed and a bit of rest.

Before the conversion: Backup of the Fusion Drive

Before you start the conversion, you should make a 1: 1 backup of the internal Fusion Drive on an external hard drive. I will explain how it works in detail in a separate article (which I will then link here), but for now the reference to a backup should suffice.

Here we go!

Jürgen kindly sent me a lot of photos and also commented on them. I have edited it a bit and am now including it here as instructions and documentation so that you can see how opening the iMac, installing the SSD, reattaching the display and transferring data to the new hard drive works.

The iMac 2013 waits patiently on the operating kitchen table for the campaign to start (photos: Jürgen).

The iMac 2013 waits patiently on the operating kitchen table for the campaign to start (photos: Jürgen).

 

The picture shows Jürgen's son cutting open the iMac with the help of a circular knife. The cuts separate the bonds that connect the display to the rest of the iMac.

The picture shows Jürgen's son cutting open the iMac with the help of a circular knife. The cuts separate the bonds that connect the display to the rest of the iMac.

 

The open patient. It's amazing how little electronics there are in an iMac.

The open patient. It's amazing how little electronics there are in an iMac.

 

Here you can see all the tools and spare parts that were required for installing the SSD.

Here you can see all the tools and spare parts that were required for installing the SSD.

 

Here you can see the suction cups with which the display was lifted and the replacement adhesive strips (white) with which the display will be attached again later.

Here you can see the suction cups with which the display was lifted and the replacement adhesive strips (white) with which the display will be attached again later.

 

The opened iMac with Apple logo and already installed SanDisk SSD.

The opened iMac with Apple logo and already installed SanDisk SSD.

 

Before you can attach the new adhesive strips, you have to peel off the remains of the old ones with alcohol, a knife and a little dexterity.

Before you can attach the new adhesive strips, you have to peel off the remains of the old ones with alcohol, a knife and a little dexterity.

 

Here you can see the adhesive strips with which the display is stuck to the iMac case. These are precisely tailored and unfortunately you cannot do without them during the renovation. (Note: these are from iFixit, but the ones linked above from BisLinks are just as good and significantly cheaper.)

Here you can see the adhesive strips with which the display is stuck to the iMac case. These are precisely tailored and unfortunately you cannot do without them during the renovation. (Note: these are from iFixit, but the ones linked above from BisLinks are just as good and significantly cheaper.)

 

This is where the iFixit adhesive strips are attached to the housing.

This is where the (extremely) adhesive strips from iFixit are attached to the housing. And every now and then one wonders how much money Apple charges for that little bit of "content" in the iMac. ;-)

 

The patient is saved, a fresh macOS 10.13 is installed and the data is transferred from the Time Machine backup.

The patient is saved, a fresh macOS 10.13 is installed and the data is transferred from the Time Machine backup using the "Migration Assistant" utility.

Jürgen's conclusion

The Mac survived the intrusion well and is now much smoother. The costs are around 300 euros with a 1 TB SSD from SanDisk. An investment that is significantly cheaper than a new iMac, but which still brings noticeable improvements in practice.

I thank Jürgen for the many photos and the report! It's great when readers participate in the blog and support me with photos and information. If you have an exciting renovation in mind, just document it and send me the report. Maybe it is interesting for the other readers.

 

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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

8 comments

  1. Thomas says:

    Are all data backed up on the new Mac OS with the migration assistant including all codes of the programs and Outlook files?

    • sir appleot says:

      Yes, as a rule all license codes and all e-mail data entered, too, of course. You usually only have to re-enter the license code if the program notices a change in the Mac. But if you just change the hard drive, nothing happens.

      • Thomas stops says:

        I would like to finally update my Mac Mini to SSD. The question is simply mirror with CCC and then install or, as described here, reload the system on the SSD and import all data from the time machine backup? They say that every now and then it is good to set up the Mac again, right? Beautiful holiday!!!

        • sir appleot says:

          Hello Thomas! I always clone the disks using the Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC). When importing the data from the Time Machine backup, all of the start-up objects and the like are also adopted, so that it is not a real "complete restart". If you want to do that, you really have to install macOS and then manually install the necessary programs and not use a migration assistant. This actually makes the Mac faster again, but I always refuse. This is so much work that I haven't done it since five or six major MacOS updates. And I have to say: the Mac isn't really slow or anything. Everything works fine. But what I do every now and then: I watch Clean My Mac through everything that is in the logon objects and services in the system and throw out what is no longer needed.

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the informative article! A friend of mine owns a Mac device and she didn't want to buy a new one. I think you will be interested in the 300 Euro investment (and a little help from me, of course.;))

  3. chris says:

    Hi, thanks for the info :-) Do I see correctly that he didn't need the temperature sensor? Thanks and Greetings,
    chris

    • sir appleot says:

      Hi Chris! As a rule, the temperature sensor is not needed. So that it doesn't dangle around in the iMac, it should be reattached somewhere. And if the fans go crazy because they get strange values ​​from the sensor, you can use the app SSD fan control use to "normalize" the speed. Does that solve your question?

      • chris says:

        Hi, thanks for your quick reply. Yeah I think that solves my question. One hears different statements: One's fans are going crazy, the other's not. One needs a TemSensor, the other doesn't :-) That is a bit confusing. But, i'll try :-) VG; Chris

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