iMac Drive Upgrade

The old drive covered in 12 years worth of dust.

I belong to a cult. In my cult we have different levels achieved at great expense. The leadership is authoritarian and opaque. We use technology to mediate our experiences. The headquarters is in California.

The cult is called Apple and I’m in deep and have been for a long time. Since 2010, most of the thousands of posts on this blog have their origins on the dusty drive you see above.

I always think of the way Umberto Eco described the Apple cult and its main competitor,

Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist and has been influenced by the “ratio studiorum” of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the Kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

Over the last year I’ve set out on a project to demystify Apple’s closed system by popping open its sleek minimalist objects to peer inside, to fix and prolong the life of a motley set of Apple junk I’ve come into possession of. I repaired an iPod and a iPad. Last week I revived my 2010 iMac.

In order to upgrade that iMac with a new solid state drive, I had to find an identification number. The i.d. number I needed was printed on the bottom of the “foot” that holds the heavy screen in a microscopic type printed gray on a gray background. Apple has a fetishistic design aesthetic that I’ve come to see as getting in the way of the functioning of the machine. The USB ports, for instance are placed in an awkward to access rear portion of the screen so as not to interfere with the sleek look of the damned thing.

To peak under the foot of the iMac I had to lean it back and use my iPhone camera to magnify the type. As I leaned the heavy iMac I inadvertently tipped over a small statue of the Egyptian god Anubis that had been banished to the windowsill of the walk in closet above my computer. Anubis fell and struck my iPhone, shattering the screen. So I had to add a new iPhone screen to my computer parts order (!).

In a technological realm designed for easy repair, which is not the capitalist world we live in, you’ be able to easily access all the interior parts of your computer. Such is not the case, of course, with an iMac. It’s not the worst repair project I’ve ever tackled but I wouldn’t call it easy either. You have to carefully lift the heavy screen out of the case and detach a bunch of delicate cables in order to access the old drive.

Once you put the iMac back together you have to install new system software. I’ll spare you the details but just say that Apple makes it difficult to install legacy software on old machines. In order to do it I needed another old machine and some arcane commands in the terminal application to get the iMac working again.

The end result is a remarkably fast and new seeming computer. The old drive in my circa 2010 iMac could not keep up with system and program demands and became so slow as to be unusable. The new solid state drive I installed makes for a new computer good enough for most of the tasks I use it for. You can do this same upgrade with old mac laptops.

Still, the arduous process of ugrading this machine made me want to deprogram myself from the Apple cult and join up with the Linux folks and some more user-configurable machine.

If you want to try this iMac upgrade for yourself here’s how to do it.

Leave a comment


  1. Hi Erik,
    I’m part of the cult, too. How do know if you’re computer is a good candidate to upgrade vs. buying a new/used one? At some point I’ll have to decide what to do with mine. I have a 2010 iMac desktop, that using the tip you gave above, have identified as needing the following kit –

    I’ve never had my desktop apart; the only electronics repairs I’ve done were to my Huawei phone, replacing the battery and cracked screen. I think I’m able to install a new drive in my computer, though I’m leery of having to install new software on the drive, not having another old machine to use as you did and not having much programming experience. Do you have any advice for me?

    Thanks for the timely topic!

    • If all you’re using your machine for is email, web surfing and word processing it’s totally worth it but if you’re doing video editing you may want to consider a new machine. It’s probably easier than the screen and battery replacement you did. That said, the hardware part of it was easier than the software part. If you do decide to tackle this back up everything first and also prepare a flash drive system installer with the old system you’ll need–for a 2010 machine it would be High Sierra.

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