Upgrading my iMac 27" 5K

When I bought this iMac in 2018 I "broke" the Fusion drive and replaced the internal HDD with a Samsung 860 EVO SSD. The prices that Apple charges for SSD upgrades are really something. Way too much in my opinion.  Anyway after 4 years of use I did notice some slowness and was no longer fully convinced that the SSD was good enough to drive the iMac. 

Time for an upgrade. Thanks to OWC a very nice upgrade is possible. Replacing the Blade SSD with a faster, much faster SSD.  Slight challenge: the SSD is located at the backside of the mainboard. A near complete teardown needed.

Parts and Ordering

First order of business is defining the parts. And since I would have to open the iMac anyway to get to the SSD, this is thus the perfect moment to replace the Samsung SSD as well.

Parts list:

A short one this time. Next where to get the parts. The second one is simple. Readily available in the Netherlands. The first one, slightly more complicated. Not that many resellers carry the brand OWC. And those that do carry the brand ask for a premium. 

In the end I ordered it directly at OWC. Fast delivery and for around € 250 I got the kit. 

Sadly the SSD was DOA, or I did not even try. When I opened the box of the SSD I noticed that a component was loose in the box. 

Seeing this, nope, not going to try. Very good customer support from OWC. A simple chat online and I was able to send the complete package back to them and they send a new package. This time the SSD was complete. 

Upgrading

Now the hard part, in order to open this iMac, you would have to cut the double-sided tape that bonds the screen to the case. Thanks to iFixit, a nice manual is present online

Having the manual and tools is not enough, I have never opened these types of iMac. Luckily a close friend of mine is an Authorised Apple Hardware Engineer and has the needed experience. Until recently she was working for an Apple Authorised Service Provider. And was willing to help me out with the tearing down of the iMac. 

Ever since I was a certified HW engineer I made sure to have the needed tools. This makes these upgrades a breeze. 

Before

Making sure that I have a backup is second nature.  So I made a clone to the MX500 SSD of the current boot SSD, hoping to be able to boot from it.  Also I wanted to know if the speeds are indeed beter.

Samsung SSD

Not a bad speed. 

Apple SSD

Not a bad speed either, but the limited size of 32 GB makes it useless. 

Upgrading

On a Sunday she came over and we started. Inside a little over an hour we had the Mac back together.  Sadly no luck. Kernel panics came flying in. What was the problem? 

After some intensive analysis we came to the conclusion it had to be software related. No other solution then to re-install a working MacOS onto the MX500 SSD. Due to the release of MacOS Ventura I had to resort to first install MacOS 10.13.6, followed by upgrading to MacOS 12.6.1. Online there are some pages that help you with finding the correct installer in the Apple Store. 

When I had a running MacOS I was able to "clone" the Samsung SSD into the OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD. After some rebooting and lots of patience, it all worked out!

The SSD is installed, recognised and the iMac is just way more speedy then before. 

After

Off course I had to speed test the "improved" setup

Really a lot faster!!

Conclusion

Going this route is extending the lifespan of a 4-year old iMac. The rest of the Mac is fine. And the insides are also cleaned up. No more culminated heaps of dust and such in the iMac.  I expect this upgrade to give another two years of "life".

When Apple decides that the current MacOS is no longer supporting this set of HW, that is the time for me to get a new Mac. The iMac I had before I bought in 2011 and replaced in 2018. A respectable 7 years.  In two years this iMac will be 6 years old. A nice Mac for my son to continue with.