Introduction

I was nervous buying the the late 2015 iMac 27" because I could fine 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.

  • 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...

jayman16 - 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.

jayman16 -

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

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 - 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.

jayman16 - 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.

jayman16 - 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.

jayman16 -

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...

jayman16 - 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.

jayman16 - 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.

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15 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.

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 -

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.

jayman16 -

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