Introduction

I was nervous buying the the late 2015 iMac 27" because there was such little information about it. I could only find a few videos specific to the tear down and very little info about adding or upgrading to an SSD. There was tons of info about the 2014 and early 2015 model, but noting on the late 2015. So here we go.

I'm disconnecting the SATA & power cable from the HDD, adding a 2.5" SSD (leaving the HDD in place).

  • Opening the Retina iMac's can be tricky and you need the right tools. And you're going to need a few things to open the case and to install the SSD correctly.

  • Here's the current iFixit tear down that shows you what you're getting into. iMac Intel 27" Retina 5K Display Teardown

  • And from our friends at OWC, they have a great video on taking the HDD complete out and replacing it with an SSD, but this guide will show how to simply leave the HDD and install the SSD. https://vimeo.com/139364064

  • Make sure to grab the essential tools like: Pro Tech Toolkit and Jimmy for opening up the iMac, although I used a medical scalpel, I found that the "guitar pick" was too weak and too thick. The "Jimmy" would be a great substitute for a scalpel.

  • You will also need the OWC In-Line digital thermal sensor, so that the iMac temperature control stays under control. Otherwise you fans will spin at full speed. This OWC kit also includes the needed tape to close you iMac back up. https://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20...

Can you use SSD Fan Control app to keep the fan at the normal speed?

A VIEW - Reply

Why would you want to? Just use the thermal sensor and the fans will stay in check, no need for a piece of software. https://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20...

Justin Winchester - Reply

So this guide basically shows you how to install a regular non Apple SSD in a imac that already has a “fusion drive”?

So now you have the hdd that was not moved and the Apple pcie ssd and now the new non Apple ssd right?

gleeglee217 - Reply

Correct. The big take away is that I didn't have to move or remove anything. I was able to add my own SSD, and use Apple's built-in SSD. However I did lose the 2TB Fusion drive, and I'm not the least bit sad about that.

Justin Winchester -

Thanks for the guide, One question though. Did you find or have experience any issues being the fusion drive still in there? Not sure how the two SSD's would behave and work, but i want to make sure there are no conflicts between them. Also, I am assuming you must have seen lot of improvements in terms of performance, read/write, speed etc after the SSD replacement, right? Mind sharing the before and after if you have recorded something?

Mohit S - Reply

The fusion drive is completely disconnected, so it does nothing but take up space.

Modern computer can handle multiple drives, doesn't matter their type. The SSD are two different drives so the iMac just mounts as such. The iMac (or any computer) can really handle as many drives as you could connect to it, internally, or externally. So no there would be no conflicts between SSDs, HDDs or any mix thereof.

Yes, SSDs are insanely faster and better in every way. I did not run any benchmarks because I never even booted this iMac with the Fusion drive. I installed the SSD before I even booted it up for the first time. But you can look up any benchmarks for my SSD vs a standard WD 7200RPM drives

Justin Winchester -

The current iFixit and OWC guides have you disconnect the display cables, with this guide you don't need to. I kept my iMac horizontal and after opening the display I simply used two standard pencils to prop up the display on both sides.
  • The current iFixit and OWC guides have you disconnect the display cables, with this guide you don't need to. I kept my iMac horizontal and after opening the display I simply used two standard pencils to prop up the display on both sides.

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So here you can see that I've detached the SATA cable from the HDD, attached the OWC thermal sensor cable and have already connected the SSD. The OWC cable is a bit stiff but all I had to do was twist it a bit so the SSD laid flat inside the iMac. This entire pocket where I show the SSD is normally empty and the perfect spot for a tiny SSD.
  • So here you can see that I've detached the SATA cable from the HDD, attached the OWC thermal sensor cable and have already connected the SSD.

  • The OWC cable is a bit stiff but all I had to do was twist it a bit so the SSD laid flat inside the iMac. This entire pocket where I show the SSD is normally empty and the perfect spot for a tiny SSD.

hi

where did you connect the SSD cable? Does this work on late 2015 imacs & do I need the thermal cable on 2015 models?

thanks

Beni - Reply

You have to buy an iMac with the fusion drive option and I took that cable and attached my thermal cable and SSD to it. As stated in the guide, yes you need the thermal cable.

Justin Winchester - Reply

thank you for the response

Beni -

What if I bought an iMac with SSD only. Will I be able to add another SSD to where the HDD is location for the fusion drive models?

Ken Lu - Reply

Ken, no you cannot. As Apple does not ship the SSD only iMacs with the SATA cable in place. But if you buy the fusion drive you still get the 128 on board SSD after detaching the fushion drive.

Justin Winchester - Reply

Thank you for the response, but can I just use my own SATA cable or is there no such plug for another SSD on the logic board?

Ken Lu -

You "can" but it would be a HUGE pain, as you'd have to remove everything out of the case since the plug for the SATA connection is on the backside of the MoBo. And from what I've read it appears to not just be a standard SATA cable.

Justin Winchester - Reply

So you said you detached the sata cable from the hdd and attached it to the new ssd then how would the hdd function communicatting to the mother board? Or do you mean that the hdd will no longer work?

Also is it safe to attach only Apples sata cable and no owc thermal sensor cable? After insatlling the ssd and If the fan is not always on high then there is no need for the owc cable.

gleeglee217 - Reply

In step six you can see that I say that "That's it! I can't use the 2TB HDD, but I was able to install an SSD with minimal effort and risk without removing the display, disconnecting the display cables, or removing the speaker, or HDD."

I didn't want or need the HDD in the first place, so I didn't mind the loss.

No you need the OWC thermal cable as well, or I wouldn't have added it to my guide... You need that whenever you install a non-Apple drive in a machine.

Justin Winchester -

Next I attached the temperature sensor to the SSD, while keeping the cables as organized and compact as possible.
  • Next I attached the temperature sensor to the SSD, while keeping the cables as organized and compact as possible.

  • Here I also secured the SSD down to the iMac with some 3M adhesive squares. Since the iMac is curved right here I needed something that would hold it in place but was also thicker than most adhesives. https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B00O1WFF8U

  • I used four squares total, but I doubled them up. Stacking one on top of another twice; once on the back left and once on the front right.

1. Is the temperature sensor necessary to attache ?

2. Is there a specific place to attach the sensor on the SSD ?

3. Is this temperature sensor fits the iMac 5K - Mid 2015 http://a.co/j9WAyZY ?

Abdullah Algarni - Reply

- Yes you need the sensor.

- Any spot will work.

- That looks to be the wrong sensor. Use the one I've listed above: https://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20...

Justin Winchester - Reply

Is the temperature sensor as pictured right above different than the OWC thermal sensor? If it is diff then was it unplugged from the hdd?

gleeglee217 - Reply

@gleeglee217 The temp cable is the OWC cable. You only buy the cable if you are using an SSD, so it would never have been plugged into the HDD.

Justin Winchester - Reply

For the final step I simply zip tied the thermal sensor cable to the HDD bracket to keep everything in place. I also wanted to pull the OWC cable down away from the display as much as possible. As you can see from the second picture there is still plenty of room as the OWC cable and zip tie are well below the HDD and fan exhaust.
  • For the final step I simply zip tied the thermal sensor cable to the HDD bracket to keep everything in place.

  • I also wanted to pull the OWC cable down away from the display as much as possible. As you can see from the second picture there is still plenty of room as the OWC cable and zip tie are well below the HDD and fan exhaust.

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That's it! I can't use the 2TB HDD, but I was able to install an SSD with minimal effort and risk without removing the display, disconnecting the display cables, or removing the speaker, or HDD.
  • That's it! I can't use the 2TB HDD, but I was able to install an SSD with minimal effort and risk without removing the display, disconnecting the display cables, or removing the speaker, or HDD.

  • As a bonus, the HDD versions of the iMac come as "Fusion Drives" so the have a PCIe SSD attached as well. Mine had a 128GB SSD installed so I do have access to that as an extra drive now. I plan to install Windows on the PCIe drive via Boot Camp.

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  • For the last step you need to remove and replace all the 3M double sided tape found on the iMac outer rim. In step 1 I list buying the thermal sensor that comes with the 3M tape.

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Conclusion

To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order.

8 other people completed this guide.

47 Comments

Hello, in the last part of closing the iMac, what is the adhesive that you use? I bought some on ebay but its not strong enough. thanks.

PCosta - Reply

My link was in the post: https://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20...

It includes the thermal sensor and the tape.

Justin Winchester -

If you are installing an SSD to replace the HDD on iMac 2013 and later, you don't even need the thermal sensor cable from OWC because the heat info will be read through S.M.A.R.T. I think that OWC thermal cable for iMac 2013 and later is a scam. The reason why you need the thermal sensor is that Seagate HDD has a proprietary thermal port back in 2010. The thermal info cannot be read by SMART back then. The new iMac from 2013 (probably 2012 included) will no longer need the thermal sensor cable.

Evan - Reply

Well, unless someone has a definitive answer on if it's needed or not I'd still recommend it. Plus it comes with the tape needed to secure the iMac.

Justin Winchester -

Doesn't the newly installed SSD block the fans natural airflow path being placed there?

chrisrayrobertson - Reply

@chrisray No. The new 5K iMacs have the external fan hole coming out the center of the back of the case. The older iMac's had a thin vent that ran horizontally along the top third of the back case, and that might have been blocked. But on the 5K iMac the plastic fan in the middle pushes air straight out that vent on the back. The SSD does not impede on that at all.

Justin Winchester -

When you set the iMac back upright, do those adhesive squares actually hold the drive in place or does the drive end up resting on the screen slightly? You work seems great just curious if this will impact the screen life.

John - Reply

In fact, I tried to move the SSD a bit and the tape held it so good I couldn't get it off the case with moderate force. I used four adhesive squares, but in only 2 spots (stacked then on each other) and the hold is extremely strong, I'm not worried about that drive going anywhere.

Justin Winchester -

Isn't there an option to have both the Fusion drive AND the SSD connected?

mauricehason - Reply

No. Apple uses a special SATA cable to connect from the logic board to the drive. I'm not sure if there is even another spot to connect a second drive, even if you could get your hands on this Apple cable. However, with the fusion drive option you do get a built-in SSD drive. Mine was 128GB. So basically I now have 2 SSD's connected to the iMac.

Justin Winchester -

Great guide man. Did exactly as you've done and worked great. Took less than 20 minutes start to finish for the swap. I didn't have pencils..lol..used a water bottle.

Ron Ramkirpaul - Reply

I have the late 2015 5k iMac for 2 months now. I really want to add an SSD for my main drive, this Fusion Drive is terribly slow. This is soo scary

Gino Brugman - Reply

If you've never opened a computer before it can seem daunting. But this guide is really pretty easy since you're not removing or even moving an existing parts. The hardest part is attaching the tape strips to secure the display in place. Opening and adding the SSD is the easy part.

Justin Winchester -

Is it possible to fuse the PCIe SSD and the new SSD drive into a “fusion drive”? My fusion drive has only a 24GB SSD so it wouldn’t be useful for much.

BixbyConsequence - Reply

No. A “Fusion Drive” is just a software trick by Apple. They move frequently used programs over the the SSD and off the HDD. Having two SSDs means you don’t have a bad drive.

But I think what you’re really asking is you like the Mac to see them as just one drive, but now there’s not really a good way to do that with how small it is.

Justin Winchester -

Thanks Justin. My understanding is the small internal SSD is NVME storage, which is still much faster than an ordinary SSD. But you’re right, my biggest concern is I just don’t want a 24GB drive hanging around and I’d rather not tear down the machine that far just to remove the NVME card.

BixbyConsequence -

wtf? lol why not just use a 2.5 to 3.5 adaptor and take out the hdd so you can use it as a docked external? seems really shoddy doing it with tape mate

Daniel Browne - Reply

If you read the guide you would know why. The whole point of this guide is to AVOID removing the OEM HDD. It’s a huge pain and requires removing several difficult components. I have plenty of external HDD laying around and don’t need an extra one. If you want to spend the time and risk, removing the screen, speaker, fan, etc. go ahead. But they is a much smaller risk in my method of barely opening the case, not removing anything, and simply placing a small SSD inside and securing it with strong 3M tape. This is a desktop that should never move, so there is little to no risk to it moving. And if it did it would fall straight down on the HDD causing no issues.

I’ve taken dozens of iMacs and MacBooks apart and concerted the HDD to SSD with 2.5-3.5 converting brackets. But with these new thin iMacs this is by far the best, easiest, and safest method to open and upgrade an iMac.

Justin Winchester -

Hi! I've been using an iMac 27 mid 2011 with 2 drivers. I upgraded the original HDD for a new 4TB HD and add an SSD as primary drive. With this configuration I have installed the O.S. on the SSD and the large files (photos, videos, etc…) is stored in the hard drive. I love this configuration because I have speed and great storage space without external devices. I decided to upgrade to an iMac 27 5K Late 2015 A1419 3.2Ghz and I want a similar solution, SSD for the O.S. and a large HDD for files, everything inside the iMac. I saw in this post that is possible to keep both devices inside, but there is a way to use them at the same time? Apparently there is no conector on the logic board for a second drive, but there is any way to make this happen, like an adapter for the logic board fusion drive conector? My iMac came with a 1tb Hard Drive (NO FUSION DRIVE). Can I upgrade this hard drive for a 4TB and buy a SSD similar as Apple uses as Fusion drive and install it? 256 or 500gb will work fine for me. Thanks!

Michel Monteiro - Reply

No, you can’t have two SATA drives running in this system. You need to have a PCIe blade drive and SATA drive. Then you can get this config.

Dan -

Hey Michel, so the 2015 has two connections for drives. If you get a “Fusion Drive” option, they give you two separate drives, an SSD and an HDD, Apple just makes them act as one. So you have a SSD that sits in an mSATA port that is super difficult to get to and then a standard HDD, that you can get to easily as you can see from my guide here.

So to do what you want you’ll need an mSATA SSD (256GB/500GB) and then your 4TB can replace the standard HDD.

Justin Winchester -

Sorry but @dan is wrong here. If you buy the SSD only version you do not get the Apple SATA cable where the HDD would attach, and apparently it is a custom cable and you need the Apple one. So the best ones to buy are the Fusion Drive based models that include a HDD with that cable.

Justin Winchester -

Thanks @danj for the reply. And what types of PCIe blade does the iMac 27 5K Late 2015 A1419 3.2Ghz  supports?

Michel Monteiro - Reply

The best thing is to buy a SSD only system and then add the HD. But keep in mind you’ll void your warranty. So wait awhile until your sure the system is solid before doing this and review the IFIXIT guides on whats needed and how. I must warn you taking the display off is a bear if you don’t user the correct tools and techniques. If you don’t do it correctly you can damage the display and that would be an expensive Oops!

Dan -

@danj I already bought an used iMac 27 5K Late 2015 A1419 3.2Ghz. The screen is already broken, the first owner did a normal SSD upgrade (the iMac originally came with 1TB HDD) and damage the screen in the process. That's why I want to know what blade model is compatible, because the iMac does not have any Blade. (do you know if the mother board has the blade conector?) I'll replace the screen and want to do the storage upgrade after remove the broken LCD. I would like to have SSD 256 or 512 and a 4TB hard drive. Just my Photos library has 1.2TB, Lightroom 1TB, Final Cut 1TB so this library's and my personal files will be stored in the HDD, and the O.S., programs (Final Cut, Pages, Photoshop, etc..) will be stored in the SSD for performance. I already have this configuration on an 2011 iMac 27” and worked great for me. I personally don't like external devices because of my desktop space, so if you have another suggestion I'll appreciate. I also have a QNAP TS453A for Plex, backup and others files. Thanks.

Michel Monteiro - Reply

You should post your question in the https://www.ifixit.com/Answers forum to get more visibility. You might even find other questions like yours there that might give you some ideas.

Dan -

Hi Justin

Great post! I just got a late 2015 and plan on upgrading like you did. My question relates to the remaining SSD on the Logic Board. Does it basically still work as if the new SSD was the old HDD?

When you said you have access to the original SSD as an extra drive, do you mean that you can use it separately from the new SSD?

Thanks!

Rick

Ricardo Blanca - Reply

Once you swap out the HDD included as part of the “Fusion Drive” then yes they act as two separate drives. You can see in my screen shot I have the included SSD a 128GB and the SSD I added that is 750GB. Both function as two separate drives.

https://i.imgur.com/aUXqNmU.jpg

Justin Winchester -

Thnx for the stuff !! I have late 2015 Imac 27” its with normal Sata HDD of 1 TB. I plan to use a 512 GB SSD as primary . Is there any issues or possibility to use both Sata HDD and SSD.

Thanks

Anu

anubhav verma - Reply

There is not a way to use two drives unless you get the fusion drive option and use the built it SSD (like I did) as one of your drives.

Sorry.

Justin Winchester -

@jayman16 , Did you have to remove the adhesive on the bottom part as well? I see that you didn’t open it all the way.

Did you have to install the OS before putting the SSD? Thx

Richard Lung - Reply

I did not remove the bottom adhesive. That’s one of the best parts of my method because you don’t remove the whole display so it stays perfectly lined up. Which is hard to do when the display is all the way off.

Justin Winchester -

@jayman16 that makes sense. How’s the EVO working for you? I asked a tech shop and they said the EVO isn’t compatible with iMac ( The S.M.A.R.T status was not working) so you couldn’t tell the SSD health status. They recommended OWC drive.

Richard Lung - Reply

While they may be true, I’m unsure, it’s never been a concern of mine. With my iMac or any of the countless Mac’s that I’ve upgraded with EVO’s in the past. SMART is more of a Windows thing anyway, I’m not even sure if macOS uses it.

Justin Winchester -

@jayman16 did you have to unlink the fusion drive first or no? Also, did you try to create a fusion drive to merge both SSD after? Thanks!

Richard Lung - Reply

The “Fusion Drive” is all done inside of macOS, there is no user facing setting for it. So no, I never unlinked or linked them together.

Justin Winchester -

Compared to sata , do you feel the performance has increased? i m an editor photo and video hence wanted to know the same

anubhav verma - Reply

Oh my god, yes. An SSD will give you vastly increase speed and performance over any other upgrade you could do. RAM, CPU, GPU, etc. Going from a HDD to a SDD you’ll see 10-20X in speed boost.

Justin Winchester -

Thanks for this guide. I’ve already purchased the SSD and now about to place orders for the existing tools needed.

Is the Pro Tech Toolkit you have listed here at all necessary? It’s rather expensive, and if it’s not needed (which it doesn’t really look like it is), then I’ll just get the jimmy or some other tool used for opening up the iMac.

Also, what is the risk of wrecking the screen when cutting through the adhesive tape? I saw a guide where someone used a) a guitar pick (as you mentioned) and b) a bookmark. I am concerned that if I dig “too far” past the adhesive that I will do some damage to the screen, etc. I’ve never done anything like this before so perhaps I’m just being overly cautious, but I really don’t want to screw anything up.

Thanks in advance.

Michael Kuby - Reply

Thanks for the question.

So no, you really can’t go too far. I mean, you “can” but you won’t. You got almost a 1/2” clearance on left/right/top. And there are no sensitive LCD parts in your way. The only thing to be wary of is the front camera at the top middle.

As as far as tools. You just need the Jimmy and some torx bits. The pro tool set gives you everything you’ll need and more. It’s great to have. But you can get by with a small set or just the torx bits you need. 6 and a 9 IIRC.

Justin Winchester -

I purchased my iMac 5K with a 500GB SSD only. Does that mean that the HDD space is empty (but still with appropriate cables) and I can put a second SSD in it’s place leaving the original in there (which I think is a blade SSD or something).

Andrew Waters - Reply

Yes, the regular SATA HDD space is empty. The issue is the cable, its a special cable that is hard to find/expensive AND the connection port on the logic board is on the front of the board. So you’d have to remove the entire logic board to be able to plug that cable in. When I was researching this model that is why I bought the Fusion Drive so I wouldn’t have this issue. Hope that helps.

Justin Winchester -

Hi Justin, thanks for the great guide.

I will follow you step by step as it seems really easy and straight forward.

I’d like to ask you a question though regarding the cloning of the entire system.

I have an Imac 27 retina 5k late 2014 with 1TB fusion drive. I read somewhere that before cloning the entire system into the new ssd I have to split the fusion drive.

- What does it mean?

- How did you clone the entire system from the HDD to the new SSD? What I want is just to copy everything into the new SSD hoping that the performance of my computer increases.

Thanking you in advance

Matt

Matteo Branca - Reply

You performance will certainly increase 10x or more.

- My iMac was a brand new machine and had never been turned on prior to my “surgery”. I pulled the SSD out of my old iMac and simply installed in and turn the new iMac on.

- I’m not sure what you read about “splitting the drive” I’ve never heard that or ran into any issues. I’m assuming it has to do with the fact that the Fusion drives act (and look) like one drive even though they are two.

- However, you have several options to move from the HDD to an SSD.

1. Use Apple’s Time Machine program to backup your current HDD to an external HDD and then install a clean copy of macOS on the new SSD and the use Migration Assistant to bring everything over.

2. Easier would be to just get an external enclosure and plug in your SSD into your Mac and use a program like SuperDuper! or CarbonCopyCloner to copy your current HDD directly to the SSD. Then swap the HDD for the SSD and it should boot like normal, just WAY faster.

Justin Winchester -

Why did you leave the HDD in the iMac? Take that sucker out and use it as an external drive or sell it on ebay!

Yes, it’s more disassembly, but you’ve already done the hard part by cracking open the screen from the body. It’s not risky unless you’re technically challenged, in which case you shouldn’t open your iMac up anyways.

For those who are comfortable handling CPUs and thermal paste, this is a good opportunity to upgrade the CPU unless it’s already the top option for your generation iMac.

rgiskard - Reply

First, this is guide is explicit on ADDING a SSD not to replace a hard drive.

I left in the HDD because it would turn into A LOT more work. You would have to take to display completely off, which I did not do and makes it a lot more risky of an operation. They move all the other parts like the speaker, fan, etc. All for a $50 hard drive? No thanks. Sell it on eBay? For what $35-$40 and deal with shipping it, don’t need that hassle to make $35 bucks. Keep it maybe, but I’ve got plenty of drives floating around, and I much prefer 2.5” drives that are bus powered and don’t need an extra power source.

But the main reason is, that is the original HDD intact from Apple, never touched or used. So when I go sell this iMac, I just pull out my SSD and hookup the HDD and the buyer has brand new HDD with a clean install of macOS.

The level of users that use these guides range in skill, and I think it’s not fair to say that novice users shouldn’t be opening their Macs, everyone has to start somewhere.

Justin Winchester -

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