Removing and Replacing Apple iMac 8, (aluminum) hard drive.

November 03, 2010

First and foremost this tutorial covers from personal experience how to remove the outer shell of your iMac safely to get down to your main board.

Yesterday my hard drive in my iMac decided to fail on me for some beknown reason.

My symptoms and the apple support help page

Tried holding c during boot as suggested it might try and relocate the boot drive if it has lost track of its start up disc.
Secondly tried inserting the mac os x install disc and finding the hard drive in disk utitlity to repair.

If either of the above work for you, then you really don't need to keep reading.

However in my case both of the above failed! My hard drive wasn't even visible in the selectable list of drives recognized. (Bummer I thought).

My first thoughts were that if it were a normal computer i'd just open it up and see if it were some loose cabling or something visibly wrong with the hard drive. However as you should by now know, imacs are a all in one unit, meaning they are complexly put together and compact. Upon googling gaining access to the main board on an iMac, I immediately thought to myself do "woah this looks a bit complicated" and "maybe I shouldn't do this". Having now come out the other side i'm glad I didn't let face complexity phase me.

I found this youtube video particuarly helpful, when looking into taking apart my iMac

In written format these are the steps that I took to gaining access to my main board and replacing the hard drive with a new Samsung f1 1tb 7200rpm drive (which was a bargain at only £43 from ebuyer) :-) In replacing it, I traded it for a Western Digital 500gig drive that came with the iMac from new just over 18 months ago.

  1. First of all remove the ram slot at the bottom of the unit, turn it on its back and lay it flat on the desk, its only one screw and its pretty simply just a case of taking it out and removing the fascia it holds in.
  2. At this point you might also want to remove the ram modules for safe keeping, you can do this by first removing the black protective tape, then using two small flat head screw drivers and just wedging them either side of the module and levering it out gently.
  3. Next find a suction style pad, if you have dent pullers they will work, but we found the best size and most effective suction pad was actually for a car sat nav (my suggestion here is just get creative - any decent suction pad will do)
  4. Put the pad to the screen in the middle at either the left or right hand side it doesn't matter, or if you wish you can use two, one on each side and do both at the same time.
  5. You will find the plastic screen comes off really easily, take it off gently and place it to one side.
  6. This will reveal the fascia screws, which are 8 torx screw size 8.
  7. Un-screw all of these, this will make the fascia loose and removeable, so go ahead and remove it, at the top you will find that the webcam lead will need disconnecting before removing.
  8. Next you'll be wondering, do i really have to take the TFT out to get to the main board? The answer to this is yes you will!
  9. Its simple though so don't worry too much. Another 8 screws and you will release the tft monitor, be careful when lifting this up though as there are 3 leads connected to it, it will help you to have someone else hold the TFT screen whilst you unplug it for care reasons here.
  10. Once you have un-screwed the TFT and un-plugged any cabling to it and made a mental note of what came from where, simply lift it up and put it somewhere safe.
  11. Now you will have access to the whole main board :-) it should be fairly self explanatory as to whats what.

Removing the Hard Drive

  1. Identify the hard drive and remove the SATA cables and the thermometer.
  2. Handily apple have installed a nice easy to remove little catch, which you just pull down to release the drive, simply do that, remove the casing when detached from the mainboard and attach it to the new hard drive and simply replace it.

I've now attached some screenshots of the whole event.

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About me

Hello! I'm David Heward, how are you going? I'm a Senior Devops/Build Engineer, specialising in AWS & Cloud Automation. Based in London. Strong 10+ year background in Software development. Have a read of my blog. Have a look at some of my working projects. Contact me at @davehewy or on Linkedin.