Apple supplies non-replaceable hard drives in 2011 iMacs

What seems to be a trivial task on almost any modern computer, desktop or laptop, all-in-one or standard towers, becomes more than a void warranty on the latest line of Apple's iMacs. Apple can be slightly forgiven to a certain degree for going proprietary on some of the iMac's internal components as they're trying to stuff together a reasonably fast computer with a thickness not much greater than large monitors. Regardless, their reasoning for modifying the hard drive connectors is a bit off. Furthermore, these hard drives are absolutely non-serviceable. If you were thinking of replacing the main hard drive OS X is installed on after buying it - unless you go through Apple, tough luck.

The discovery was made by Other World Computing, a third-party Apple hardware depot and service center. They noted that Apple had a habit of changing the method the iMac used to detect how hot the internal hard drive was. For iMacs prior to late 2009, sensors were taped onto the drive itself. From late 2009 onwards until now, the iMacs had their own special thermal sensor cable that connected only to a small handful of drives that had this feature. A limited selection, but still a selection for aspiring users nevertheless.

This time, Apple completely changed the thermal sensor itself. As OWC explains:

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. 

We are not sure what OWC means by a "standard 4-pin power configuration," as that may imply the old 4-pin molex connectors that have long been phased out of SATA hard drives. Upon closer inspection of the above iMac Western Digital Caviar Blue hard drive from iFixit, it appears to sport the same 7 pins for the SATA cable and 15 pins for the power cable. One may assume in this case the only proprietary modification Apple made was to the drive's firmware.

Due to these modifications, the hard drive fans will spin at maximum speed if the drive is disconnected or even moved from its internal bay. In addition, any replacement hard drive will cause the fans to spin at maximum speed, and will cause a failure in the Apple Hardware Test. Also amusing to report is a recent iMac EFI update that enables SATA 6 Gbps speeds, speeds that are far beyond the reaches for the large capacity mechanical drives that come standard with the iMac.

With these modifications in mind, one has to wonder: what was wrong with using the SMART temperature sensors that come standard on almost all hard drives in the market? Why did Apple find it necessary to use custom firmware for a computer part that is known to fail after a few years of heavy usage? Why are users restricted from using hard drives greater than 2 TB as their main OS X drive?

Thanks Mephistopheles for the tip on the forums!

Image Credit: iFixit

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I've owned two Mac's over the past five years and I've had a great experience. In fact I'm considering the purchase of a MBP very soon.

News like this is disappointing though. There really is no need for a proprietary hdd.

So now when you buy a new imac you are FORCED to pay Apple cost for a larger capacity drive right then, because they have now taken away YOUR option to go an get a hard drive of YOUR choice at hundreds less. Isn't that anti-competitive?

Shouldn't we be suing? HDD's have ALWAYS been a user replacable part since forever. Machanical parts die much faster than any other part will. if an HDD last you a year with failure than you're doing well. With hard drives its not a question of if it will fail, its when. I realize that under warranty this is a non issue as it is covered. But many people dont extend the warranty on their machines for of the cost and many things that normally die, like drives can be replaced easily.

In this case, if your Mac isn't even under warranty anymore, you still can't just replace the drive with one you wont too. You are FORCED to walk into and Apple store and since you arent under warranty they will rape you with hardware and labor cost to fix.

Yet Mac fan calims the Mac is so great. Gosh how stupid do you ahve to be tp accept this as ok?

This is equal to me having a car and all the parts are so propritary that when I am done paying for it, and no longer need or wat the mfr warranty, I can't change out any of the parts bec the parts are all owned by the car maker and the way they are made I can't use any other after market variants.

Bec Apple wants to force you to buy Apple Care to do something you can do yourself. You at all the BS you have to go through to own a Mac. You would literally have to be an iDiot to choose a Mac over an standard PC.

Look how APple is destrying OUR platform. x86 is the greatest platform on the planet and APple put their hands on it and it is hurting it big time.

Once Steve is gone, the Mac won't even be a worry anymore. The pet can't survive with its master.

Don't all hard drives on the market already come with a temperature sensor built in? I have 3 standard 3.5" drives in my desktop PC, and they all give temperature readings which I can see using software like HWmonitor. So I don't understand the need to have some proprietary hard drive and temperature sensor.

I'm thinking that a work-around could be made for this. Provided that the new pins don't use a protocol and just use a voltage level, you could create an intermediate device that would send either spoofed levels to the motherboard, or if the device had its own temp sensor, then it could send real values.

Of course, this is assuming that the motherboard is merely expecting a voltage level, and there is enough room in the case for such antics

Meh.

I mean, come on. You can't upgrade the screen, CPU, GPU, Logic Board, etc anyways so I'm not fretting over the hard drive. It's not like getting to the hard drive is easy to begin with.

If people want more control over their system, then the iMac isn't for them. Having the option to upgrade everything under the Sun is awesome for some, but I do know a lot of people that have that option, but opt to buy a whole new computer instead of messing with all of that.

bogd said,
Meh.

I mean, come on. You can't upgrade the screen, CPU, GPU, Logic Board, etc anyways so I'm not fretting over the hard drive. It's not like getting to the hard drive is easy to begin with.

If people want more control over their system, then the iMac isn't for them. Having the option to upgrade everything under the Sun is awesome for some, but I do know a lot of people that have that option, but opt to buy a whole new computer instead of messing with all of that.

God that was jusy dumb. So let me ask you this. If you bought a car and you wanted better ires that last longer and get more milage, shouldn't you be able to get the ones you want when you want? Why should I be forced to only go to the dealer for replacements?

This has nothing to do with what you said. Why would I want to replace the logic board? Its not a user replaceble part. The CPU is and you should be abl to. Suppose I want MORE ram or better RAM? Why shouldn't I be able to repklace it myself. Apple making the part user replacable isn't making the pc better. Its making it very user unfriendly.

I shouldn't be forced to pick another brand I may not want bec I can replace something as simple as a hard disk.

What you said was just dumb. And can't be justified under any condition.

Wait how about this. Have it your way was how Burger King has always been. McDonald's use to charge for making changes you want to a sandwich. There is no law that says I have to take the food the way you serve it. If I can't eat onion bec I get sick from them, you're sying I just ahve to go get food somewhere else bec thsi one place is unwilling to allow me to have a sandwich without onions? Dude what in the world are you smoking?

If I cared about this I would own a PC... but I guess I don't since I'm posting this from an iMac.

I hate dealing with replacing computer hardware... I do enough of it at work. I just want my **** to work at home... and if it breaks, bring it in for warranty repair and let someone else deal with it.

giantsnyy said,
If I cared about this I would own a PC... but I guess I don't since I'm posting this from an iMac.

I hate dealing with replacing computer hardware... I do enough of it at work. I just want my **** to work at home... and if it breaks, bring it in for warranty repair and let someone else deal with it.

and when it's out of warranty?

giantsnyy said,
If I cared about this I would own a PC... but I guess I don't since I'm posting this from an iMac.

I hate dealing with replacing computer hardware... I do enough of it at work. I just want my **** to work at home... and if it breaks, bring it in for warranty repair and let someone else deal with it.


so your hard drive fails 2 years down the line after your warranty is over and you will throw the computer out and get a new one?

capr said,

so your hard drive fails 2 years down the line after your warranty is over and you will throw the computer out and get a new one?

Yes, people who were gullible enough to overspend for a Mac once aren't very likely to have gotten smarter with their money over the years.

warwagon said,

and when it's out of warranty?

then he will try to sell it, but since is not a secret that this specific imac use non-serviceable harddisk then i doubt about the resale price.

giantsnyy said,
I buy Applecare... and 3 years later it's time for a new machine anyway.

I hate old stuff. Might be why I'm broke.

No, you're buying stuff from Apple, that's why you're broke.

I work in an establishment that uses over 700 iMacs - I've noticed that over the recent years, the HDD's in them have been getting of worse quality. It's not uncommon for there to be a few failures outside the Apple warranty period but within a normal drive warranty period. Normally we would just replace them internally, but now they are basically insisting their products are serviced by only authorised centres, it's a little too much of a pretentious attitude imho.
Considering the 'normal' charges by these centres are astronomical (I would take maybe 3 minutes changing a drive whereby an authorised centre would charge for 2 hours labour + parts), I have to question the validity of using Apple products from now on.

SoupDragon said,
Considering the 'normal' charges by these centres are astronomical (I would take maybe 3 minutes changing a drive whereby an authorised centre would charge for 2 hours labour + parts), I have to question the validity of using Apple products from now on.

you are lucky, in some cities it took weeks.

I can't help but think that this is partly remedied by the presence of Thunderbolt ports. If you want a new hard drive, attach it and suffer no slowdown. The hard drive was difficult enough to replace in the first place.

But there is no need for Apple to get that message across in this way. If someone wants to void their warranty, they can go right ahead - there's no need to make it impossible to do so.

Simon said,
I can't help but think that this is partly remedied by the presence of Thunderbolt ports. If you want a new hard drive, attach it and suffer no slowdown. The hard drive was difficult enough to replace in the first place.

Without hardware, nobody really know how usable or not is Thunderbolt. May be Thunderbolt is all about speed but latency.

Magallanes said,

Without hardware, nobody really know how usable or not is Thunderbolt. May be Thunderbolt is all about speed but latency.


Well my understanding of thunderbolt is that it's just a combination displayport and external PCIe x1 connector. So you should get an excellent connection from external PCIe.

Nagamasa said,
It's new feature that consumers don't understand--it's to prevent thieves from stealing iMac HDDs.

Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
apple believes that if it ain't broke, it's under priced.

What a disscusion LOL
How many of you people own an iMac?
How many of iMac owners would try to replace internal hdd?
So lame...
I'm a Mac user for past 3 years, have been in Microsoft hell since 1993 with some minor trips to Linux (kernel compile world) and i'm never going to even think about switching back. Why? For Mac's just works, and they looking great
Think before you criticize others, maybe they add extra connectors to childown overheating drives in a thin box without enough airflow? Maybe this is a good thing and will make lifetime of hdd a bit longer?
Maybe other manufacturer are going to take after soon ???
It's eazy to clame "Apple is evil" they want to control us! (or maybe sell high quality products ???)

Hate to go all ad hominem about it, but if you've really been using computers for 18+ years and that's the extent of the perspective you've developed regarding hardware, I seriously doubt you ever used one for much more advanced than minesweeper, word processing, and internet access.

manijak said,
What a disscusion LOL
How many of you people own an iMac?
How many of iMac owners would try to replace internal hdd?
So lame...
I'm a Mac user for past 3 years, have been in Microsoft hell since 1993 with some minor trips to Linux (kernel compile world) and i'm never going to even think about switching back. Why? For Mac's just works, and they looking great
Think before you criticize others, maybe they add extra connectors to childown overheating drives in a thin box without enough airflow? Maybe this is a good thing and will make lifetime of hdd a bit longer?
Maybe other manufacturer are going to take after soon ???
It's eazy to clame "Apple is evil" they want to control us! (or maybe sell high quality products ???)

agree, if only there was an existing way to get the temp of a drive... they should add that it would be a SMART thing to do. sigh.

Joshie said,
Hate to go all ad hominem about it, but if you've really been using computers for 18+ years and that's the extent of the perspective you've developed regarding hardware, I seriously doubt you ever used one for much more advanced than minesweeper, word processing, and internet access.

lmao

You are right.

Joshie said,
Hate to go all ad hominem about it, but if you've really been using computers for 18+ years and that's the extent of the perspective you've developed regarding hardware, I seriously doubt you ever used one for much more advanced than minesweeper, word processing, and internet access.

this is exactly why macs sell. and it's working for apple. they cater to the few who don't need their computer for much more than the web...

manijak said,
What a disscusion LOL
How many of you people own an iMac?

Years ago, Apple product enjoyed a good resale value but, right now, they are specially devaluated, or the worst, you wont find a buyer at all.

lt8480 said,
It's not like hard drives are prone to falling over at any time though... oh, wait..... yes they are.

Indeed... And although my iMac '06 has had a Westie Caviar, it failed after 3-4 years.
I'm a heavy user, granted, but any part that is a fail candidate like a HDD in a computer needs to be user-replaceable. In fact, there is probably just the HDD, that needs quick maintenance, but yea!
Apple, QUICKLY move away from that! QUICKLY!

Yes there is also the battery, granted, that should be replaceable on the Laptops at least, too.
(With the battery however you have a little less of a problem though, as you can at least use the AC adaptor... A HDD... No replacement!)

GS:mac

all this is telling me is that Apple is moving away from power users. The average user is never going to open up their computer on their own and install the drive. Apple figures if people are willing to pay a premium for a computer + apple car than they won't want to risk doing it themselves and void the warranty.

The down side is that there are people like us on Neowin who are power users who have done a few HDD swaps before and feel comfortable doing it

wv@gt said,
all this is telling me is that Apple is moving away from power users. The average user is never going to open up their computer on their own and install the drive. Apple figures if people are willing to pay a premium for a computer + apple car than they won't want to risk doing it themselves and void the warranty.

The down side is that there are people like us on Neowin who are power users who have done a few HDD swaps before and feel comfortable doing it


This...
What's next? Non-upgradeable RAM?

GS:mac

Glassed Silver said,

This...
What's next? Non-upgradeable RAM?

GS:mac


probably. I think we are getting to a point with HDDs and RAM that a regular user will never need to upgrade. I think once 8gb ram is standard we might see what your talking about. Heck I think 2gb is still pretty decent for the average user. External HDDs are also pretty cheap now
edit: also the MacPro is still around for the power users. The iMac is becoming a much more novice user computer

Glassed Silver said,

This...
What's next? Non-upgradeable RAM?

GS:mac


few months ago someone opened their imac and saw they were using some off brand crappy RAM sticks. apple charges 100s of dollars for ram upgrade and use crappy ram.

Glassed Silver said,

This...
What's next? Non-upgradeable RAM?

GS:mac

Remember when the iPhone was out with no replaceable batteries ? The cry has been heard from one end of the universe to the other. It seems that even without replaceable batteries the iPhone is doing well.

Anyway ? who needs 2TB on a non-movable iMac ? Just attach a 100TB NAS.

See, this is where apple are starting to over step the mark. Dont get me wrong i love Apple products and have been using them for about 7 years now. But what i'm seeing is Apple's customer retention strategies getting a little to unfair...

mammix2 said,
See, this is where apple are starting to over step the mark. Dont get me wrong i love Apple products and have been using them for about 7 years now. But what i'm seeing is Apple's customer retention strategies getting a little to unfair...

lol a little?

Denis W said,

That's for the older iMacs (not 2011) which did require a temperature sensor cable. The newer 2011 iMacs apparently have this built into the SATA cable (?).


Blast, well thought it was a solution.. Was searching on my phone. Hopefully someone or somehow they can come up with a similar solution to alleviate the problem.

Tho, I honestly wouldn't open that sucka

*******s. Glad I don't own a single Apple product... and no they're not the new Packard Bell, they're the new Dell - also *******s who think it's okay to stick a proprietary notch in all their hardware.

negroplasty said,
*******s. Glad I don't own a single Apple product... and no they're not the new Packard Bell, they're the new Dell - also *******s who think it's okay to stick a proprietary notch in all their hardware.

Rage much? Dell isn't that bad compared to this. They've had their problems but for the most part, only their motherboards are usually extremely limiting.

Xenosion said,

Rage much? Dell isn't that bad compared to this. They've had their problems but for the most part, only their motherboards are usually extremely limiting.

I beg to differ, the crap they pull with their PERC raid cards is a pain in the arse

negroplasty said,
*******s. Glad I don't own a single Apple product... and no they're not the new Packard Bell, they're the new Dell - also *******s who think it's okay to stick a proprietary notch in all their hardware.

the good thing about PC its you dont have to deal with hp, or dell or whatever if you dont wnt... not even with intel if you dont want them, you can build your computer, you can change videocard, you can add a super cooler, a really nice power suply for your crossfire or sli... with apple you got no choice... less with this stuff coming up. but you know... people will still get it, and apple will be happy with their money.

negroplasty said,
*******s. Glad I don't own a single Apple product... and no they're not the new Packard Bell, they're the new Dell - also *******s who think it's okay to stick a proprietary notch in all their hardware.

I don't think I'd compare Apple to Dell. With Apple computers, you might have to deal with stuff like this, but at least they run... LOL

They know with Windows 8 on the horizon, and Windows 7 being as successful as it is, they are going to have to take every dollar that the suckers er customers will give them, because there are better options on the horizon.

That does not include iOS however, which I find to be a great platform for mobile and tablet devices. I do have a WP7 though, as a disclaimer. But I really do like the iPhone, and I want to buy the iPad.

Hercules said,
They know with Windows 8 on the horizon, and Windows 7 being as successful as it is, they are going to have to take every dollar that the suckers er customers will give them, because there are better options on the horizon.

That does not include iOS however, which I find to be a great platform for mobile and tablet devices. I do have a WP7 though, as a disclaimer. But I really do like the iPhone, and I want to buy the iPad.

I have a WP7, too, and it reminds me why Apple's days of dominance in any market are over. They should just go back to making iPods and stay that way. Even iPad looks crummy in the face of Android 3.0.

That's just my opinion, though. I never really liked any of their products with the exception of an iPod...

PlogCF said,
That's just my opinion, though. I never really liked any of their products with the exception of an iPod...

Never liked any Apple product - not even iPods…

Heartripper said,
They just want to rip money from you also after you purchased the computer.

Sheeple need regularly fleecing if you want their wool!

hahaha, funny stuff. After all, Apple knows whats best for their computers. If you run out of space or the HD goes bad...then thats all your fault...haha

As a post-ed note: if anyone does have a slightly older iMac and can have a look at the hard drive connectors, please share what you see. I'm still confused as to what '4-pin' power connector really means.

Denis W said,
As a post-ed note: if anyone does have a slightly older iMac and can have a look at the hard drive connectors, please share what you see. I'm still confused as to what '4-pin' power connector really means.

Don't know myself, and iFixit doesn't shed any light. Here is a link to the HDD removal step from an iMac 2009 model, and it uses a standard SATA power connector

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Re...rd-Drive-Replacement/1634/4

nub said,
I'm guessing molex

I have a hard drive from 2005 that did have the dual molex/SATA power connectors. It's dead now though. But I can't picture Apple inserting bulky molex connectors into a 2009/2010 machine...

Standard SATA power connectors have 15 pins and slimline connectors have 6. The only standard 4-pin power connectors I know of are molex and floppy power connectors.

Edit: rereading it makes it sound like they were originally using 4 pins of the standard sata connector, but now are using 7 pins with the new used pins for non-standard uses?

nub said,
Standard SATA power connectors have 15 pins and slimline connectors have 6. The only standard 4-pin power connectors I know of are molex and floppy power connectors.

Edit: rereading it makes it sound like they were originally using 4 pins of the standard sata connector, but now are using 7 pins with the new used pins for non-standard uses?

I'm reading Wikipedia's article on what the pins do, and it appears that the standard SATA cables have 3 ground pins and 4 data pins. Not sure why 3 ground pins are needed... so perhaps Apple used one or two of the ground pins for their own purposes?

This seems kind of bizarre on their part. Why would they not want people replacing hard drives? Of course, they still reckon that 4 GB of RAM is worth $200, so maybe they're completely out of their minds.

devHead said,
This seems kind of bizarre on their part. Why would they not want people replacing hard drives? Of course, they still reckon that 4 GB of RAM is worth $200, so maybe they're completely out of their minds.

Because they can make more money selling overcharged custom HDs.

tsupersonic said,
So buy the extended warranty through apple. As if this wasn't a cheap computer, it just got more expensive...

Extended warranty does not cover me wanting a larger HDD, or SSD in place of the stock HDDs available

ZenVenT said,
You're supposed to throw away a Mac when it's time for upgrades anyway- learn to apple.

No, you don't throw it away. There are supposedly millions of people on places like ebay that are eager to buy used Macs, and they have a great resale value. At least that is we we are told. When you buy a Mac, apparently you buy it to turn around and sell it in a few months.

tsupersonic said,
So buy the extended warranty through apple. As if this wasn't a cheap computer, it just got more expensive...
Extended warranties will only last for 3 years. 4 from Dell. My MBP is going on 5 years now.

ZenVenT said,
You're supposed to throw away a Mac when it's time for upgrades anyway- learn to apple.

Exactly... apples do not last long unless frozen. so get a mac and after 6 months get a new one. No reason to upgrade anything. Just get a new one.