iMac Upgrade

Giving New Life to a mid-2007 24" iMac

Dec. 2007 - I've just completed my Capstone Project for Grad School using my "pre-graduation present" to myself–a refurbished 24" iMac. What an exciting time it was...

So, fast-forward 5 years and my faithful companion is starting to show signs of age. Despite maxing out the RAM to 4GB early on, things are running a little slowly and the 320GB hard drive is down to about 16GB of space. Complicating the issue are 3 things:

  • I just added a fantastic scanner to my tech mix
  • My love for good music means my iTunes Library continues to grow
  • My lovely wife gifts me an SLR which means iPhoto (which is already taking more than its fair share of real estate) will expand exponentially

I need space a solution.

Turning to my Mac buddies and the internet, I check to see who has successfully replaced their boot drive with an SSD and added a high-capacity internal HDD in place of the (nearly useless) optical SuperDrive in an iMac like mine.

Turns out, there are LOTS of resources for breaking down this process. Here are a few I found*:

With cash flow being kinda tight during the holiday season, the plan was to research this while saving up to do the whole process at once. But with the aforementioned convergence of circumstances, I decided to press on. The plan was to do a secondary backup of all 300+GB to one of my two 1TB external drives (I also have a TimeCapsule (500GB) backup but didn't want to rely on that), Clone the OS to a new 256GB SSD from Crucial and install it into the optical bay, wipe the old 320GB HHD and use it as the new Home folder for media until I could save a few more dollars to get a 1TB internal for the home folder and a 2TB replacement drive for the TimeCapsule.

Easy, right?

WRONG! Lol.

I go to start the data transfer and discover that 1TB drive #1 is dead....like DEAD. Whatever data I had on there (I think there were secondary Timecapsule backups from my old computers) are gone. 1TB drive #2 has space, but guess what? It's NTFS formatted so therefore Read-only! TRUST me, I tried everything in the book to get my comp to be able to read NTFS-formatted disks, but in the end, all I could do was wipe the drive...but not before backing up THAT data.

I had 2 OOOOOoooooold Maxtors with files I had long ago offloaded from my old college computer and some from this iMac. I was able to split and SQUUEEEEeeeeeeze the data from the TB drive onto them. Once backed up, I wiped the TB drive and offloaded/cloned the iMac drive to it.

I used a SATA-usb cable to then clone the OS (Snow Leopard, btw) to the SSD. I'm not quite ready to upgrade to the bigger cat yet. I did an [option] boot to test that the computer would boot the SSD (externally connected still) and then mapped the home folder to my external, firewire-connected 1TB drive. Everything worked like a charm!

So NOW, I felt comfortable wiping the internal, original 320GB drive and re-cloning it with just the Home folder. Done.

Now here comes the fun part...replacing the optical drive with the SSD.

So, I'm set. I've cracked open the case, I've got the recommended caddy, the SSD, and all the tools and I've only spent about $200. It's taken some days to get the data issues sorted, but this should be quick and easy, right?

WRONG! Again! :-)

Everything was going smoothly down to the 2ND-TO-LAST STEP! And then I notice THIS...

SATA-PATA!!!!!

The SuperDrive on my model iMac uses an older PATA connector cable and there is only one SATA input on the motherboard. :-/

All is not lost, though. I keep researching and find that a caddy exists with a SATA/PATA adaptor. Trouble is, I went through all of this struggle expecting to get a performance boost from going SSD. Connecting it to a PATA cable would kinda defeat the purpose. So now I had to decide. Do I...

a) close everything back up in frustration and go with an external solution?
b) close everything back up, save up the money to go full-tilt internal everything (that's ≥3 more TB worth of drives) come tax refund season?
c) bite the bullet on the performance, buy a new $10 SATA/PATA caddy, install, and call it a day?
Or d) extend this project (which has overtaken the dining room) for another week, shell out another $100 for parts (slim 1TB internal HDD to fit in the optical bay, SATA/PATA caddy), put the SSD in the original HDD spot, and do the expanded backup solution at tax-refund season?

I went with answer "d"

What you probably can't tell from the pics is that the new SATA/PATA caddy was made of MUCH crappier material than the SATA caddy. In fact, the plastic casing made it virtually impossible to install using the Torx wrenches I had. There just wasn't enough clearance to get the right pressure to press through the too-small holes of the plastic shell (I tried. Believe me, I tried).

I ended up creating a hybrid caddy from the two shells. It took a long time and some serious, um...shall we say, engineering...but I finally got it into the optical bay space!

So everything is working like a charm now! Although the adaptor kit that Crucial sent with their SSD didn't fit at all, I did some more engineering on that using some spare sheet metal from the SATA caddy and got the SSD stabilized. I've got the Samsung external DVD+RW drive I can pull out in case I ever need to use it.

Best of all the performance of my machine now is blazing! My boot-ups take about 15 seconds. Waking from sleep is instant. (Multiple) Programs launch and run with speed that shames the previous HDD (which BTW is no longer working when tested in the case of the dead 1TB drive. Come to think of it, maybe it is the shell and not the drives...hmm...something to test later).

Anywho, that's my story. *I wish I had found these two links before I started:

Thanks for Reading!

It was a fun challenge and I look forward to another 5+ years with my friend!