27-inch iMac flash storage cannot be replaced or upgraded

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2020
While a 27-inch iMac with 4TB or 8TB of flash storage has that storage in a slot, the entire line does not support user storage upgrades.

iMac internal storage may be fixed at purchase
iMac internal storage may be fixed at purchase


The latest update to the 27-inch iMac included the T2 chip, which handles encryption and security on the computer. Because the SSD is fixed to the logic board for hardware encryption, changing the logic board will erase all data on the drive, and changing the drive is impossible for the same reason.

The document obtained by MacRumors says that the 4TB and 8TB configurations have a flash storage expansion board connected to the logic board via a connector. The expansion board is not present in the 2TB and lower configurations, nor are there third-party modules compatible with it. It also appears that the SATA port internal to the 2018 iMac 5K for Fusion Drives has been omitted in the new model.

The non-upgradeability of the flash storage isn't a big surprise. Apple uses the T2 to secure similar storage on the MacBook Pro, the iMac Pro, and the Mac Pro. Upgrading the Mac Pro requires a firmware update process that has to be executed from a different Mac, which isn't available for any other model, despite using the same storage slots.

The 27-inch iMac is available for purchase (find the best 27-inch iMac prices in our Price Guide) and can be configured with up to 8TB of internal storage, 128GB of RAM, and AMD 5000 series graphics. Customers can also opt for nano-texture glass for an additional $500, similar to the Pro Display XDR.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    kent909kent909 Posts: 731member
    It probably would have been newsworthy if they were upgradable. Why does this surprise you?
    muthuk_vanalingamomasoutwokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 34
    XedXed Posts: 1,177member
    It's too bad, but not expected with the T-series chip. I wish there was a way Apple could resolve this so it could be removable without it being a security issue.
    mike54caladaniandysamoriahippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 34
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,854member
    The vague issues regarding upgradability of the SSD in the new iMacs is the reason why I ordered it yesterday with the 8TB option.  It will be my last Intel-based iMac and I decided to bite my lower lip and max it out so I never have to deal with it ever on that machine.

    That being said, with Thunderbolt3, it's really not that much an issue.  There are excellent external TB3 enclosures (like from OWC) that will let you install regular NVMe drives to your heart's content.  I get that it would be nicer to upgrade the internal drive, but it is what it is.
    raulcristianlordjohnwhorfinhippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 34
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,344administrator
    kent909 said:
    It probably would have been newsworthy if they were upgradable. Why does this surprise you?
    Its good that you're familiar with these things historically, but as a reminder, AI is for everybody, and not everybody has the same knowledge that you do.
    edited August 2020 elijahgmike1muthuk_vanalingammike54caladaniandysamoriahippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 34
    For SSD expansion, consider the two thunderbolt/USB 3.1 gen 2 ports. Samsung T7 drives are a great expansion option with around 1GB/s transfer rates and you don't have to open your iMac to upgrade them over time.
    hippo
  • Reply 6 of 34
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,516member
    sflocal said:
    The vague issues regarding upgradability of the SSD in the new iMacs is the reason why I ordered it yesterday with the 8TB option.  It will be my last Intel-based iMac and I decided to bite my lower lip and max it out so I never have to deal with it ever on that machine.

    That being said, with Thunderbolt3, it's really not that much an issue.  There are excellent external TB3 enclosures (like from OWC) that will let you install regular NVMe drives to your heart's content.  I get that it would be nicer to upgrade the internal drive, but it is what it is.
    I agree regarding the external enclosure and so I'm curious -- why did you decide to go for the 8TB option? T2 security? Or maybe just the aesthetic of no external box? 


    hippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 34
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,555member
    That's real smart. It can only be to ensure people don't upgrade after purchase, space isn't a constraint at all - increasing Apple's margins. So if there's an issue with the logic board you have to waste a day or so reinstalling everything now, whereas the 2019 model you don't. I experienced exactly that with a failed CPU on my 2019 iMac, but Apple swapped the SSD to the new logic board and I was up and running again right away.
    mike54dysamoriahippo
  • Reply 8 of 34
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,854member
    blastdoor said:
    sflocal said:
    The vague issues regarding upgradability of the SSD in the new iMacs is the reason why I ordered it yesterday with the 8TB option.  It will be my last Intel-based iMac and I decided to bite my lower lip and max it out so I never have to deal with it ever on that machine.

    That being said, with Thunderbolt3, it's really not that much an issue.  There are excellent external TB3 enclosures (like from OWC) that will let you install regular NVMe drives to your heart's content.  I get that it would be nicer to upgrade the internal drive, but it is what it is.
    I agree regarding the external enclosure and so I'm curious -- why did you decide to go for the 8TB option? T2 security? Or maybe just the aesthetic of no external box? 


    I wish I could give you a clear-cut answer.  Hell, the 8TB SSD is a $2,400 upgrade which is essentially the cost of another iMac and I really thought long and hard yesterday on that one option.  The reasons really are a combination of what you mentioned.

    There isn't really an elegant/clean 8TB external SSD option that would suffice for me, so perhaps there was a bit of vanity involved in having it all in one enclosure.  If there were an 8TB SSD that I could tack on to the back of my iMac, then I would consider it but most NVMe's max out at 2TB, and others uses multiple NVMe's in a RAID-0 configuration... again, not elegant.  It would not surprise me if Apple is doing exactly that on the 8TB model (2x4TB, 4x2TB, ??) but at least I have Apple's stamp-of-approval, it will work flawlessly, and avoid the potential headaches of 3rd-party vendors (and their drivers) and future MacOS compatibility. 

    If it were a 1-2TB single SSD, I probably wouldn't care, but going to 8TB given the current NVMe options, it's limited imho.

    In the end, I'm essentially future-proofing this machine as I plan on using this machine (to run x86-64 virtual machines) even after I buy the next ARM-only iMac.  

    Perhaps if/when that time comes where I don't need it, maybe the resale value will be that much better if I decide to sell it.  8TB, 128GB RAM, 10-core i9 and 5700XT might still have enough muscle even down the road I hope.
    edited August 2020 muthuk_vanalingamroundaboutnowmariowincorundhvidcaladaniandysamoriahippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 34
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,764member
    sflocal said:
    blastdoor said:
    sflocal said:
    The vague issues regarding upgradability of the SSD in the new iMacs is the reason why I ordered it yesterday with the 8TB option.  It will be my last Intel-based iMac and I decided to bite my lower lip and max it out so I never have to deal with it ever on that machine.

    That being said, with Thunderbolt3, it's really not that much an issue.  There are excellent external TB3 enclosures (like from OWC) that will let you install regular NVMe drives to your heart's content.  I get that it would be nicer to upgrade the internal drive, but it is what it is.
    I agree regarding the external enclosure and so I'm curious -- why did you decide to go for the 8TB option? T2 security? Or maybe just the aesthetic of no external box? 


    I wish I could give you a clear-cut answer.  Hell, the 8TB SSD is a $2,400 upgrade which is essentially the cost of another iMac and I really thought long and hard yesterday on that one option.  The reasons really are a combination of what you mentioned.

    There isn't really an elegant/clean 8TB external SSD option that would suffice for me, so perhaps there was a bit of vanity involved in having it all in one enclosure.  If there were an 8TB SSD that I could tack on to the back of my iMac, then I would consider it but most NVMe's max out at 2TB, and others uses multiple NVMe's in a RAID-0 configuration... again, not elegant.  It would not surprise me if Apple is doing exactly that on the 8TB model (2x4TB, 4x2TB, ??) but at least I have Apple's stamp-of-approval, it will work flawlessly, and avoid the potential headaches of 3rd-party vendors (and their drivers) and future MacOS compatibility. 

    If it were a 1-2TB single SSD, I probably wouldn't care, but going to 8TB given the current NVMe options, it's limited imho.

    In the end, I'm essentially future-proofing this machine as I plan on using this machine (to run x86-64 virtual machines) even after I buy the next ARM-only iMac.  

    Perhaps if/when that time comes where I don't need it, maybe the resale value will be that much better if I decide to sell it.  8TB, 128GB RAM, 10-core i9 and 5700XT might still have enough muscle even down the road I hope.
    Since you brought up OWC their ThunderBlade comes with four slots so the 16TB configuration includes 4x4TB for $4100. When you get your 8TB model, you can tell everyone whether it's a single blade or two. 

    I have two questions:

    1) Does the T2 chip provide encryption for external drives or is all you have using APFS encryption? If the latter, does APFS encryption work on RAID 0? I know OWC uses SoftRAID for their RAID but there are SSD hardware RAIDs available. 

    2) Have your seen any AJA disk speed test results on any of the new iMacs yet? It will be interesting to see the results on each storage size. A two blade RAID using ThunderBlade is supposed to reach 3800MB/s (might be two full RAID 0 ThunderBlades running as RAID 0, OWC's documentation isn't clear). 

    As for me, I'm waiting for the Apple Silicon Macs to be released and I might go with a laptop with external monitor this time although I haven't really taken a laptop on travel for a long time. Have fun with your iMac!
    hippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 34
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,233member
    People would be less upset about the soldering if the upgrades to storage was competitively priced with market SSDs. As it is I feel ripped off. 
    raulcristianmike54muthuk_vanalingamcaladaniandysamoriapulseimageschemengin1
  • Reply 11 of 34
    TomETomE Posts: 168member
    It is quite an Interesting Set of Questions ... I would pose this question to be pondered :  How else would you provide a Very Elegant Solution to the Data Security Problem.  Apple's combination of Solutions will work across their entire OS spectrum.  Now & in the future.  I do realize that not everyone wants or needs secure data . . .  or do we ?  This is pretty secure at an inexpensive price.  They have thought out the future beyond several iterations of hardware & software.  

    What we buy today & drool over is not what will be here in 2-3 years, but it will work.

    hippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 34
    kent909 said:
    It probably would have been newsworthy if they were upgradable. Why does this surprise you?
    Its good that you're familiar with these things historically, but as a reminder, AI is for everybody, and not everybody has the same knowledge that you do.
    He does have a valid point.  The T2 chip has been in Macs for 2 years now, and it has been common knowledge that the SSD cannot be upgraded or replaced because of that T2 chip.  So once the iMac got the T2 chip, people would know that the SSD would not be upgradable, and that is also why they dropped spinning hard drives from the 27" model (not compatible with the T2).

    The T2 chip also has another dirty dark secret.  You can brick your Mac as a result of the T2 chip.  Let's say you are in a location with no internet access and the Mac with the T2 chip won't boot into macOS.  So you are thinking of your regular troubleshooting technique to restore the Mac.  Boot into recovery mode and erase the drive and re-install from your bootable USB flash drive with macOS and restore from backup, or if a company-owned Mac, just erase and re-image using a USB boot disk.  Most people are unaware that Apple's default T2 chip setting is set to disable booting from any external device and restrict OS installations to only validated copies from Apple.  So after you erase the internal drive, and try to boot from an external drive, you have just bricked the Mac because the T2 chip blocks booting from an external drive.  Now that the drive is erased, there is no more recovery mode and you cannot change the T2 chip settings to allow booting from an external drive.  The only way to restore the Mac is through Internet recovery mode.  So if you don't have internet at the moment, the Mac is bricked.  You need to boot into recovery mode before you erase the drive and change the T2 settings first by allowing booting from external devices, and disable all security for the OS so it will allow the USB flash drive to install macOS.  It is a big hassle if you get stuck in that situation.
    dysamoriahippo
  • Reply 13 of 34

    entropys said:
    People would be less upset about the soldering if the upgrades to storage was competitively priced with market SSDs. As it is I feel ripped off. 
    Exactly!  No reason why Apple should charge such excessive prices for both RAM and SSD upgrades.  Here is where it gets even more absurd...Apple charges different prices for the same exact SSD upgrade based on different models of Macs and different tiers.  The same 1TB upgrade can vary in hundreds of dollars between different Mac models and different tiers (base model -> top model).  Charge more for lower models and less for higher models...yet it is the same 1TB SSD upgrade.  That makes no sense.
    raulcristianentropysmuthuk_vanalingamcaladaniandysamoriapulseimageschemengin1
  • Reply 14 of 34

    Xed said:
    It's too bad, but not expected with the T-series chip. I wish there was a way Apple could resolve this so it could be removable without it being a security issue.
    Unfortunately, Apple engineered it that way on purpose with the T2 chip.  Yes it provides security and other features, but it also makes it so restrictive, it cannot be replaced or upgraded later.  So after AppleCare expires...how much is that 8TB SSD going to be if it goes belly up?
    hippo
  • Reply 15 of 34

    sflocal said:
    The vague issues regarding upgradability of the SSD in the new iMacs is the reason why I ordered it yesterday with the 8TB option.  It will be my last Intel-based iMac and I decided to bite my lower lip and max it out so I never have to deal with it ever on that machine.

    That being said, with Thunderbolt3, it's really not that much an issue.  There are excellent external TB3 enclosures (like from OWC) that will let you install regular NVMe drives to your heart's content.  I get that it would be nicer to upgrade the internal drive, but it is what it is.
    I totally get your reasons for the 8TB option, as I would do the same, but not with an Intel Mac when they are out the door in Apple's mind.  Sure you will likely get about 4-5 years of use out of that Mac, but in past Apple history, they did not support the OS for very long when they switched processors.  When they switched from 680x0 to PowerPC, the 680x0 Macs only had support for System 7 and early versions of System 8 (7.5, 7.6, 8.0, and 8.1.  The original Power Mac shipped with 7.1.2).  Apple cut off 680x0 Macs with System 8.1, and System 8.5 and later were PowerPC only.  With Intel, the last iMac G5 only had support for Mac OS X Tiger and Mac OS X Leopard (10.4 and 10.5), and they originally shipped with 10.4.  So they only received one OS upgrade.  The PowerPC Macs were cut off when Snow Leopard shipped (10.6).  As Apple moves forward with Apple Silicon, they probably are not going to put that much effort into supporting the Intel Macs except for maybe one or two versions past Big Sur.  Maybe you should have done the 2TB SSD upgrade for the Intel Mac, and then do an 8TB option for the Apple Silicon Mac which will have a much longer future.  $2,400 is pretty steep.
    hippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 34
    YP101YP101 Posts: 134member
    It more likely Mac Pro SSD style. Which I think user can not upgrade due to T2 chip.
    it does not make sense replace entire motherboard for simple repair and give back either newer or older on board soldered SSD.
    Laptop maybe space issue die to battery size but on iMac?
    I wonder mother board has another SSD slot which end user can add more SSD or not.

    Soon someone will open this up and verify the layout of new iMac mother board.
    I guess this will be last update for Intel iMac. As long as end user can additional SSD on mother board will be great.
    Other wise wait for Apple APU iMac next year or so..

    hippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 34
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,047member
    elijahg said:
    That's real smart. It can only be to ensure people don't upgrade after purchase, space isn't a constraint at all - increasing Apple's margins. So if there's an issue with the logic board you have to waste a day or so reinstalling everything now, whereas the 2019 model you don't. I experienced exactly that with a failed CPU on my 2019 iMac, but Apple swapped the SSD to the new logic board and I was up and running again right away.
    How about reading the article and learning why the SSD is soldered. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 34
    omasouomasou Posts: 273member
    Minimum required internal and rest external.

    I have two BarraCuda Fast SSD attached to the back of my LG 5K using Scotch Indoor Mounting Squares and configured as a RAID 1. When I plug-in my MacBook Pro using one Thunderbolt cable to the monitor I get charging, monitor and RAID. Only issue, is to remembering to unmount them before disconnecting the MacBook Pro. 

    BarraCuda Fast SSD - Up to 540MB/s
    https://www.seagate.com/consumer/backup/barracuda-fast-ssd/

    When the price of FireCuda Gaming SSD come down to earth, I plan to swap out the Barracuda SSDs to FireCuda SSDs. Just doesn't make sense now being that the limiting factor is the LG 5K hub they way I have it set up.

    FireCuda Gaming SSD - Up to 2000MB/s
    https://www.seagate.com/consumer/play/firecuda-gaming-ssd/
    edited August 2020 hippowatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 34
    entropys said:
    People would be less upset about the soldering if the upgrades to storage was competitively priced with market SSDs. As it is I feel ripped off. 
    That’s not the reason they soldered. Why comment on something you clearly did not read?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 34
    omasouomasou Posts: 273member
    entropys said:
    People would be less upset about the soldering if the upgrades to storage was competitively priced with market SSDs. As it is I feel ripped off. 
    If you compare the internal SSD to similar quality SSDs, I think you will not feel so ripped off.

    If you run Blackmagic on the on the internal SSD and compare it to what is a relatively good external SSD like the BarraCuda Fast SSD that I referenced previously, you will see the SSD internal trounces the external SSD. To get faster you need to step up to a Thunderbolt enclosure and matching SSD, which is what you would need to install internally or better. That level of SSD is not inexpensive.
    edited August 2020 razorpitGG1hippowatto_cobra
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