Best SSD For iMac? : Apple Compatible Solid-State Drive Upgrades

'Razor-Thin' Intel Aluminum iMac SSD

The current version of Apple's iMac desktop computer introduced a razor thin design as a suprisingly small logic board and other component size reductions made an ultra-slim iMac possible. The drives changed form-factor from the thick, bulky 3.5" standard SATA III hard drive sizes down to laptop size 2.5" drives. The transition to a smaller drive also became feasible as laptop drive capacities progressed to 1 Terabyte, 1.5TB and 2TB capacities as well. Any modern 7mm-9mm modern 2.5 inch Mac compatible solid-state drive makes a simple drop-in replacement or drive upgrade in these latest Macs. No drive converter / adapter is required. However, disassembly is delcate and tricky and requires the right tools and techniques to remove and replace the front display glass correctly.

Higher end and built-to-order Apple iMacs may already incorporate an onboard SSD module (512 Gigabyte or 1 Terabyte) pre-configured as a Fusion Drive for optimal performance in tandem with Apple's internal hard drive.

'Thick' Intel Aluminum iMac SSD Upgrade

As Apple transitioned to slimmer iMac designs and moved to an all metal enclosure, the drive interface switched to 6GBps SATA III able to fully leverage even the most current and very fast off-the-shelf SSD drives drives currently on the market. Access to the iMac's 3.5 inch drive bay now involved removing the front LCD display glass ideally done gingerly and armed with special suction-cups to properly lift the glass away without undue stress or pressure on any one side or corner.

OWC iMac Take-Apart Toolkit

For 2008 Or Later Aluminum iMacs

OWC Technologies provides a range of all-in-one upgrade toolkits for all aluminum and glass-front iMacs made after 2008. A 3.5" to 2.5" SATA converter / adapter bracket is needed, but adds only $15-$25 to a solid-state iMac drive upgrade purchase.

Newer Tech SSD Adapter

Convert 2.5” to 3.5” SATA

White G5 iMac SSD Upgrade

The original G5 iMac - the thick, white plastic model was the first iMac to support (initially) a SATA I hard drive and can benefit greatly from a readily available, low-cost value SSD drive when paired with a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter or drive converter. Though limited to running OSX 10.5.x there's still a fair amount of them in use. With just 3 screws to loosen along the bottom of the iMac, removing the back panel is a very easy task, and the drive itself is then readily accessible and removable in just a few minutes. Since the Read/Write speeds of any modern SSD can vastly outperform the SATA I or SATA II interface, there's no point in purchasing a state-of-the-art SSD who's performance would be limited by the slower (but backward compatible anyways) interface.

Mac Pro SSD Converter

2.5 to 3.5 Form Factor

White Intel iMac SSD Upgrades

Later incarnations of the white iMacs incorporated Intel CPU processors and Apple iSight web camera. Changes to the interior included metal shielding that was plastered-down with foil tape making upgrades of the SATA II 3.5 mechanical drive still possible but added more time-consuming, pain-in-the-ass dissassembly steps to get at it.

iMac IDE - PATA SSD Model Upgrades


The swivel-necked LCD display model of G4 iMac computers (like all earlier iMac models) used an IDE-Parallel ATA hard drive. Those still in use would benefit significantly from a solid-state drive upgrade. Since there's no 3.5" PATA-IDE SSD's on the market, conversion of a 2.5" IDE SSD to 3.5” is needed with a special pinout adapter and mounting bracket. Transcend, SiliconPower and KingSpec currently sell 2.5" IDE solid-state drives.

2.5 Inch IDE SSD

For Apple G3/G4 iMacs

2.5 to 3.5 PATA Adaptor

Convert Drive To Full Size

There is also the prospect of using an external FireWire 400 drive enlosure with an SSD mechanism inside used as a faster startup disk for a LCD G4 iMac. On the last generation of G4 iMac's of 1Ghz or higher - Apple transitioned to USB 2.0 ports. Perhaps a very-fast, top-performing USB flash drive could be used as a boot drive that would outperform the internal Ultra ATA/100 hard drives.

Original & Slot-Load iMac IDE SSD Upgrades

The very first iMac computer was certainly a game-changer in the personal computer industry and a critical linchpin in Apple's turnaround to save the Macintosh from obscurity. There's not much demand for IDE/Parallel ATA solid-state drives, but they're available. A Slot-Load DV iMac SSD external FireWire boot drive is a possibility on those systems that have a FireWire 400 port. Might be something an antique iMac collector hobbyist might want to try.

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