Apple Restricts Hard Drive Upgrades in Thunderbolt iMacs

Apple has seemingly gone to great lengths to make replacing the main 3.5” hard drive in your iMac all but impossible unless you do it through Apple. According to analysis by Other World Computing — a company that offers hard drive and other upgrades for Apple’s Mac product line — Apple is now using a proprietary cable and a proprietary temperature and fan control system that results in the iMac failing a hardware test if replaced.

There are two components to these changes. The first is a proprietary 7-pin connector that Apple used to replace the industry-standard 4-pin connector. The additional pins are apparently used to connect a proprietary sensor — the second component — in Apple-branded hard drives to the logic board.

“From our testing,” OWC wrote in a blog post, “we’ve found that removing this drive from the system, or even from that bay itself, causes the machine’s hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test (AHT).”

In other words, users can no longer replace the Apple-branded hard drive in their Mac without doing it through Apple, though owners can install install a second drive in their system.

“It really begins to raise questions,” OWC asked rhetorically. “Is this planned obsolescence at work, or is the freedom promised in 1984 being revoked?”

Apple has long made a practice of making it difficult for users to replace some components on their Macs, particularly on consumer models like the iMac, and in its MacBook and MacBook Pro products. This is the first time, however, that Apple has made it so that your Mac becomes unusable if you replace a hard drive.