Gadgets Technology

SSD upgrade for iMac mid 2011

It was exactly three years back I purchased an Apple iMac 21.5″ Mid 2011 computer for my home usage.  I have grown comfortable with Mac OS X over the years, enjoy the media management & sync capabilities with iTunes, the ease of backup/restore with Time Machine with the accompanying Time Capsule device. I consider Windows PC is powerful and productive for work, that’s why I got recently a HP Envy Windows workstation for my office, but iMac is the best PC for home if you can afford it.

In iMac, I use Parallels virtualisation software to use Windows 7 and Ubuntu for testing purposes and when I plugin USB drives from outside. While I am satisfied with performance of my iMac, over last few months it was becoming slower and slower. Apps took long time to launch and switch. I tried moving my data (iTunes media, iPhotos, Documents) from my user folder to a new folder “data” in root, then deleting my user profile, recreating a new user profile. While this gave temporary relief, it was few days before the sluggishness came back.

Discussing with my vendor, he suggested I get the 7200 RPM, 1 TB Hard disk replaced with a Solid State Drive (SSD). Unfortunately SSD are commonly available in India  for a maximum capacity of 256GB only. To manage the storage needs, he suggested to connect the Apple 1TB Hard disk as an external drive using an external USB hard disk enclosure. After much thought I went with the option.

The 256GB SSD costed Rs.10,500 (USD 170). Apple authorised service centre charged a replacement fee of Rs.1500 (USD 25), they were nice to do a fresh clean install of OS X Yosemite in the “new” SSD. With the SSD, the machine feels better than it was when new, Mac boots within seconds (still slower than my Windows 8.1 Surface Pro) and app launches and performance are great. I highly recommend SSD for anyone with ageing iMacs.

iMac-mid-2011 iMac-SSD

One issue was the old 1TB hard disk connected through USB (USB 2.0 port as the Apple 1TB hard disk was a 3.5″ drive and there were no USB 3.0 enclosures for that) was slow. Accessing iTunes media from the external hard disk was slow (better than before, but still slow). After some experimentation, I connected a WD My Passport Studio 1TB drive through Firewire800 interface, copied the data from Apple 1TB, disconnected and stored away the Apple drive. WD drive through Firewire was fast, iTunes media were now available instantly.

WD-My-Passport-Firewire800-iMac

I recommend this combination for anyone with an old iMac with sufficient RAM – replace the iMac internal Hard drive with a 256GB or more SSD, connect an external drive for 1TB or more storage through Firewire 800 or Thunderbolt interface.

2 Comments

  • Hi Venkatarangan … I plan on doing the same upgrade … can you tell me which Ssd you used to replace the hdd? Cause from what I understand the dimensions of say a 500gb hdd isn’t the same as that of an 256 gb ssd . Spoke to i planet , bangalore They have agreed to do the needful as long as the dimensions of the new hardware march .

    • You are correct, the dimensions of the HDD in iMac 2011 and SSD are different. My vendor who did it for me, told that the SSD was of laptop drive size and so smaller. He purchased from electronics market, a convertor drive bay and gave it to Apple Service centre who actually did the replacement.