“To be or not to be…”
My 10-year-old iMac had slowed considerably. It took a little over a minute and a half just to load and start the OS. I had tried all the usual solutions and maxed out its memory capacity. The iMac was still just plain slow and I quit using it. After several months on non-use, I needed closure. All that was left was either to decide to use it as a rather large door-stop or replace its hard drive. I have other Macs, so my work was not interfered with; however, this iMac was my first Mac, and when it was healthy, I really loved using it. A quandary. Installing a new drive in an iMac is no walk in the park. To begin with, to get to the hard drive, the glass LCD cover on the front of the computer has to be removed (with special suction cups), then the aluminum bezel that surrounds the LCD panel, and finally the LCD itself. I decided to go ahead and try to put some life into the old iMac, and if I was going to tear it apart, I might as well install an SSD (Solid State Drive with no moving parts and blazing read/write times) instead of a hard drive.
I started looking at parts, and decided on getting a “kit”. OWC (Other World Computing) has a 250GB SSD kit for $91. The kit includes the following:
- Phillips PH2 Screwdriver
- T8S Torx Driver
- NewerTech Pry Tool
- T6S Screwdriver
- Microfiber Screen Cleaning Wipe
- Two 2-1/4″ Suction Cups
- NewerTech Adapta Drive
- 250GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD
Good price and quality product. I bought it.
You will need a bootable version of OS X
Though I was installing a new SSD, I also had to format it and install the operating system. Once the old drive is removed, there is no “recovery drive”, and early iMacs can’t phone home to Cupertino for an OS X download. Fortunately, I had an original copy of Snow Leopard on a DVD. Once the SSD was installed and the iMac was reassembled, I inserted the Snow Leopard install disc, and started the iMac while holding down the “C” key until the “Apple” logo appeared on the monitor. After the install disc loaded, I went to Disc Utilities and formatted the SSD. After that, I installed Snow Leopard. When it installed, I was prompted to update it, getting a more current version of the App Store in the process. I again loaded the App Store, went to my “Purchased Items” tab, scrolled down until I found El Capitan (the last available OS X for the early 2008 iMac) and downloaded the OS. Once downloaded, I was prompted to install El Capitan, I clicked yes, and it installed.
Note: For detailed instructions on installing OS X to a new drive, click HERE. In this example’s instructions, a newer Mac was used, and it would and did call “Home” for the latest available OS which was then downloaded and installed. For an early 2008 iMac, you need to have a version of OS X on a thumb drive or a bootable-install-DVD, connect the thumb drive or insert the DVD, and depress the “C” key while starting the Mac, as mentioned in the paragraph above.
Installing An SSD Into An Early 2008 iMac with a 24″ LCD Panel
Note: Both installation videos show a hard drive being installed, not an SSD. Not to worry, follow the kit’s instructions for mounting the SSD into the Adapta Drive carrier, and install the assembly as if it was a hard drive.
To view the OWC/Mac Sales video I used to install the SSD drive, click HERE
It also appears that there are some different ways the LCD connects to the iMac’s motherboard in the early 2008 iMacs. Here is a video (from iRehab Fix on YouTube) showing an SSD install with the alternate connections:
Was it worth it?
In a word: YES!!! The iMac is not going to be a rocket like the newer Mac’s. Among other things, it has less memory, only a single dual-core processor, and much slower bus speeds than new Macs. That being said, it is a long way from being “slow”. Boot times have gone from over 90 seconds to 17 seconds. Programs load seemingly without hesitation. A few hours of work, and $91 to get this kind of performance from a Mac I almost put out to pasture is one of the best computer investments I have made in a long while. My Mac Mini is about to receive the same treatment.