27″ iMac Hard Drive Replacement

Recently when I purchased a second hand ‘Late 2013 27″ iMac‘ I had a lot of trouble finding information online relating to certain aspects of the Internal Hard Drive Replacement Process. There seemed to be a lot of grey areas that weren’t definitively covered which was frustrating. So I decided to take a punt and go with what I thought might work. Now I’m going to run you through what I learned.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Alternates to the iFixIt ‘iMac Opening Tool‘ and ‘Plastic Cards
  • Do you need an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’?
  • Alternates to the iFixIt ‘iMac Adhesive Strips’

The iMac Model that I will be referencing in this tutorial is the ‘Late 2013 27′ iMac‘. It’s Model Identifier is ‘iMac 14,2’ and it might also be referenced as ‘A1419’ or ‘EMC 2639’. The team at EveryMac give a solid overview of the model here.

While I will be discussing some alternates to the tools that iFixIt recommend, I still 100% support their work. I used the iFixIt Tutorial for this repair and I would have been stuck without it. The points I will be discussing here are more of a DIY approach to what is on offer at iFixIt.

iMac Opening Tool and Plastic Cards

One of the first friction points that I stumbled across is in the very first step, removing the display. On the iFixIt Tutorial it states this warning right from the get go ‘The hub on the iMac Opening Tool will keep you from pushing the wheel in too far. If using a different tool, insert no more than 3/8″ into the display. You risk severing antenna cables and causing serious damage’. What got me curious is the term ‘different tool’, what is a different tool? The only option discussed is the ‘iMac Opening Tool‘. iFixIt doesn’t ship to Australia and their Australian Store didn’t stock the tool, a few cheaper alternates existed on eBay but they were like $20 or required a three week wait for it to be shipped from China, expensive or delayed wasn’t an option.

Basically the tool that iFixIt offers is a pre-cut wheel that is a specific size so that when used like a pizza cutter around the iMac Display will cut just the right amount to remove the adhesive but not damage any internal components. The information that I had was that you couldn’t cut more then ‘3/8 of an Inch’ which equates to ‘9.5mm’, the information that I didn’t have was how thick their cutter was. This could be relatively easily solved by looking at the gap between the iMac Aluminium Chassis and the Display. I decided to put an array of various thickness plastics together and use them instead. I had offcuts from some A4 Laminating that I had done earlier in the week, I had a peek through the recycle bin and cut squares off some scrap plastic, this was in the form of old containers, strawberry punnet boxes, milk bottles, soft drink bottles, etc. The possibilities were endless. I then used a ruler to measure 9mm in from the edges of these plastic offcuts and then ruled them out as lines with permanent marker, this way I’d know how deep I could or couldn’t cut. This worked surprisingly well, you could grab the plastic offcut, stick it in and work it up and down cutting away at the adhesive. The laminating pouch offcuts were quite good particularly for going around the corners. I started with the thinner pieces of plastic and worked my way up to slightly thicker pieces of plastic. I experimented with various different grips, you could pull it up one handed or use a swivel two handed approach to move the plastic cutter, both worked well. Make sure you have a few plastic offcuts on hand as they will weaken the more you cut and may need to be replaced with a fresh bit before you move on to the next section to cut through.

PlasticOffcuts

Plastic Offcuts and Old Credit Cards that I used to remove the iMac Display.

Once you have completed the cutting of the adhesive you use an iFixIt ‘Plastic Card‘ to wedge open the display. I hadn’t seen these cards but my instinct was that an old credit card would do the trick, and so it would. I wound up cutting it in half so I had two sections as the iFixIt Tutorial requires dual ‘Plastic Cards‘ in ‘Step 17’. This credit card also worked well as a slightly thicker plastic cutter compared to the plastic offcuts that I discussed above, perfect for removing any stubborn bits of adhesive. Using some old pieces of plastic that you have lying around the home you can easily save yourself a couple of bucks and complete the first step of your upgrade without a worry.

OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable

There seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not you require the purchase of this Thermal Cable. In some versions of the iMac there is a temperature sensor cable that runs from the Internal HDD to the Motherboard to communicate the temperature of the drive so the system can decide if it should deliver cooling through the internal fans. Many users report that after swapping an Internal Spinning HDD for an SSD in their iMac their internal fans ‘go crazy’ and are wildly going off/on and behaving in all sorts of erratic ways.

There are two solutions to this:

  1. Purchase an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’ and fit it while installing the SSD.
  2. Use 3rd Party Software (‘http://www.hddfancontrol.com/’ or ‘http://exirion.net/ssdfanctrl/’ to manually control the fans in your iMac.

I couldn’t find a solid yes or no to the question of ‘do I need this cable?’, some people said yes you definitely need it and others say it isn’t required. I can 100% Confirm that on my model of 27″ iMac that an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’ is NOT required. There is no place for it within my iMac, I fitted the SSD and upon completion of my upgrade the iMac is running perfectly with no erratic temperatures or fan cycles. I have been monitoring these metrics in iStat Menus and have had zero issues.

iMacWithHDD

27″ iMac with Left Speaker Removed and HDD unplugged.

The only cable that plugs into the Hard Drive is the SATA Cable which provides both power and data transmission for the drive. The iMac Bracket in which the HDD mounts is depicted below next to the SATA Cable.

HDDArea

iMac Internal HDD Area with No HDD Fitted, SATA Cable to the Left.

Mounting the SSD

The original Hard Drive that was in my 27″ iMac was a 1TB 3.5″ Seagate Barracuda and I chose to replace it with a 500GB 2.5″ Samsung 850 Evo SSD. One important thing to note is that you will require a 3.5″ to 2.5″ HDD Step Down Bracket, these exist in all shapes and forms but it basically turns the 2.5″ Form Factor of your new SSD to the 3.5″ Form Factor that your iMac was designed for. I used a Partlist Metal Step Down Tray which I wouldn’t recommend, the pre drilled holes lined up in the correct position but they had the wrong thread and weren’t compatible with the Internal iMac HDD Screws that are detailed in ‘Step 34’ of the iFixIt Tutorial. This is either because it was a cheap 3.5″ to 2.5″ Bracket or because Apple uses some form of non-standard thread, my inclination based on past experience is that it was the cheap bracket that caused the problem. I managed to get by using the screws to cut a slight new thread in the bracket to get a secure hold. It’s solid enough and definitely works but there are better solutions in terms of Step Down Brackets out there.

SSDMounted

Samsung SSD mounted to a 3.5″ to 2.5″ Step Down Bracket and fitted in my 27″ iMac.

Adhesive Strips

Now that the HDD to SSD swap over was complete, the next step was to seal it all back up. This involves three micro steps to complete the task:

  1. Remove Old Adhesive
  2. Place New Adhesive
  3. Set iMac Display Back Into Place

Before I get too into my alternate solution to the iFixIt Adhesive Strips I just want to alleviate any fears that people may have in terms of actually removing the adhesive that you cut through before. Apple are smart, this isn’t cheap adhesive that requires copious amount of peeling off or chemicals to remove, it simply peels back with absolute ease. The video below shows you how simple that is:

Be sure to remove all adhesive from both the iMac Display and the iMac Chassis. You can use either a spudger or you finger nail to start the peel and once you have a bit which is big enough to grab onto peel away. Lovely!

RemovedAdhesive

Small Piles of the Removed Adhesive.

Now if you follow the iFixIt Tutorial they will advise you to use their iMac Adhesive Strips. Being in Australia the same problem occured, iFixIt doesn’t have it on their store, nor do they ship to Australia and the eBay Versions were either expensive or delayed. So I devised my own solution. The original adhesive that Apple would have used is the industry standard, 3M. Surely you can just buy stock 3M Adhesive? That would be correct, you surely can. I took to eBay and found a 3M 6mm Car Trim Foam Adhesive. It is a thin double sided foam tape very similar to the original adhesive that is used in the iMac. It seems to be unavailable from some online retailers but there seems to be plenty of stock on eBay. I picked a 3 Metre Roll up for $4 delivered, a lot cheaper then the $20-$25 that was the asking price of the 3rd Party iMac Adhesive Strips. The trim section in the iMac where the adhesive is applied measures in at 5mm, the strips that I purchased were 6mm in thickness. This was minor concern that was quickly debunked once put into practice. It’s only a 1mm Overlap which is near un-noticeable, that little overlap still gets picked up by the display later on and provides no downside.

3MAdhesiveTape

3M Foam Adhesive Tape comes in many widths. 6mm was the winner!

I found the tape very easy to apply. Just cut a section of tape that is the appropriate length and then line it up on the iMac Chassis. You do four sections, one at the top, bottom, left and right. If you place it slightly wrong it’s easy to pull back up and start over, just don’t apply too much pressure, once pressure is applied it’ll be near impossible to pull back up and re-position. On the right side of the iMac there are a few extra notches that require adhesive, it’s very easy to see where the adhesive was when you peel it off so you should have a solid idea of where the new adhesive should go.

3MRedAdhesiveApplied

3M 6mm Foam Adhesive applied to iMac Chassis.

The next step is to peel all of red protectors off the double sided adhesive and you will be ready to place the iMac Display back in it’s original position. This part was the hardest of the entire upgrade. You place the display at the bottom of the iMac Chassis closest to the Apple Logo but it needs to be placed close to flat so you can accurately judge the gap between display and chassis while maintaining a straight line and smooth join along the side. Once you have it lined up you place the display down where the adhesive will catch it, it’s a little tricky to pull up at this point if you made a mistake but still doable. I had to re-seat the display 3-4 times before I was happy with it. Then while it is elevated you need to re-connect the display power cable and display data cable as detailed in ‘Step 18 & 19’ of the iFixIt Tutorial. The display is heavy to hold in the correct position and the cables can be slightly tricky to reconnect. Once plugged in you can place the display down to its flat original position, if you are happy with the placement apply pressure around the edges where you placed the adhesive and voila, your upgrade is complete. I enlisted the help of a second person to ensure I could get this step done correctly and it made life much easier, I recommend you do the same should you have another pair of hands available and willing to assist.

3MRedAdhesivePeeledOff

The Red Adhesive Protectors are peeled off and ready to be reunited with the iMac Display.

Upgrade Complete

The final steps of my upgrade involved performing a clean install of macOS Sierra and getting my software and data back on the device. I re-used the iMac’s Original HDD in a Simplecom External USB3 Enclosure which I then drilled a few holes in and mounted to the back of my 2nd Display onto the VESA Mount, a pretty cool and neat way to add 1TB of extra storage to my new rig.

HDDEnclosure01

3.5″ HDD Enclosure Hard Mounted to my 2nd Monitor’s VESA Mount.

HDDEnclosure02

3.5″ HDD Enclosure Hard Mounted to my 2nd Monitor’s VESA Mount.

This process was part of my Home Office Revamp Project where I upgraded my iMac as well as my desk. The specs you can see below:

Old Setup

Early 2009 24″ iMac (iMac 9,1)
2.66GHz Dual Core CPU
8GB 1066MHz RAM
GeForce 9400M 256MB GPU
500GB Crucial MX100 SSD
1920×1200 24″ Display
USB2 and FW800
Worn Standard Office Desk

New Setup

Late 2013 27″ iMac (iMac 14,2)
3.2GHz Quad Core CPU
24GB 1600MHz RAM (2x 8GB, 2x 4GB)
GeForce GT 755M 1024GB GPU
500GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD
1TB 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda via USB3 Enclosure
2560×1440 27″ Display x2
USB3 and Thunderbolt
New Motorised Height Adjustable Standing Desk

HomeOfficeBeforeAndAfter

Before and After Home Office Setup.

While it may not have all the latest technological bells and whistles, my new setup is more then adequate for what it needs to be while only costing a fraction of what the latest and greatest would. As you can see it’s clearly a superior upgrade and I am ecstatic with my new screen real estate and speed.

I hope that many of the lessons that I learnt undergoing this process can be passed onto you, saving you valuable time and money in your DIY iMac Repairs and Upgrades. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

Thanks!

DIY Apple Keyboard Repairs

In this post I will show you how I fixed the keyboard mechanism on an Apple Keyboard with a toothpick and a metal twisty tie. I was pretty surprised when I MacGyver’d together this make-shift solution and it actually worked! But before we dive into the nitty gritty I must give you some context.

Scissor vs. Butterfly

The infamous Butterfly Keyboard Mechanism was introduced by Apple in 2015 in the New 12″ MacBook. Apple claimed many benefits of the new mechanism such as increased comfort and responsiveness as well as being thinner with a lower profile. But once it got into the hands of users the complaints started rolling in, mainly centring around keys getting stuck while typing.

This replaced the Traditional Scissor Mechanism which you will find in older Apple Keyboards. In this tutorial I will be dealing with the Scissor Mechanism and two older models of Apple Keyboards.

ScissorVsButterfly

Scissor Mechanism vs. Butterfly Mechanism. Image Courtesy of Apple Inc.

The Two Keyboards

The two keyboards that I will be dealing with in this discussions are as follows:

Apple Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (Model: A1243)

WiredKeyboard

Apple Wireless Keyboard (Model: A1314)

WirelessKeyboard

If you wish to learn more about Apple Keyboards I suggest you take a look through this Wikipedia Article which gives you a very solid outline.

The Story

I recently purchased a 2nd Hand iMac during the eBay 20% Off Tech Sale and managed to snatch up quite a good deal. I was upgrading my Mid-2009 24″ iMac that had been retrofitted with an SSD for a Late-2013 27″ iMac that came with a Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse as well and providing specs that trumped my current setup. It wasn’t the newest and fastest setup but it was a significant step up for a reasonable price.

The 2nd Hand iMac came used from a facility that rents out Macs to University’s and then upgrades them for newer models down the line. Part of my process when I purchase any 2nd Hand Item is to give it a through once over when I get it. This iMac was in very good condition, it just needed a solid clean to remove some stains and make it feel new again. So I went over it with a combo of Isopropyl Alcohol, Shellite and Mineral Turps depending on the toughness of cleaning required. When I was doing a pass on the Wireless Keyboard I must have been a bit too rough and I broke the F10 Key, which provides the Mute On/Off Function, an important key in my opinion. I wanted it fixed but knew nothing about repairing a keyboard key so I dived in, got my hands dirty and learned a few things. This is what I discovered.

Lessons Learnt

The best way to remove a key from an Apple Keyboard is with a Plastic Spudger. You can use an expensive one similar to the iFixit Model or you can find numerous cheaper alternatives on eBay. The Plastic Spudger is good because it’s made from a material that won’t cause damage to the aluminium frame of the keyboard or the actual keys themselves. You can always use a thin jewellers screwdriver but the material, often steel, can dint the aluminium frame and damage the keys.

You basically wedge the Plastic Spudger underneath the key and lift it up. The deeper you get under the key the more leverage you will have the easier it will be to pop off.

Each key is made up of three seperate elements:

  • Keyboard Button

KeyboardButton

  • Scissor Mechanism

KeyboardScissor

  • Keyboard Key

KeyboardKey

The goal when removing a Keyboard Key from the Keyboard is to detach only the Keyboard Key with the Plastic Spudger and leave the Scissor Mechanism fixed in place to the metal lock offs on the Keyboard Button.

Once you have removed a key, these image will let you know if you have done it the Good Way or the Bad Way:

Keyboard Key

KeyboardKeyGoodBad

It’s bad when the Scissor Mechanism comes out stuck into the Keyboard Key.

Keyboard Button

KeyboardButtonGoodBad

It’s good when the Scissor Mechanism stays latched into the metal parts of the Keyboard Button.

Once you have successfully or unsuccessfully removed a Keyboard Key you will be able to examine how the actual keys function and understand how each of the elements interconnect with one another. Hopefully these images help to convey a certain level of understanding before you go pulling apart your own keyboard.

To fit the Keyboard Key back onto the Keyboard you first need to make sure the Scissor Mechanism is fitted in the Keyboard Button. If you removed the key in a good way then this is already fully sorted, if you unfortunately removed the key in a bad way, don’t stress as it’s easily fixed. You can remove the Scissor Mechanism from the Keyboard Key and fit it back into the Keyboard Button.

KeyboardButtonMetalScrewdriver

I found that it was best to use a small flathead jewellers screwdriver to lift the right metal flap on the Keyboard Button up (Green Circle – Above), then you can easily fit the Scissor Mechanism back into place. Use the same jewellers screwdriver to flick the winged notches into their respective metal holes (Blue Circles – Above). Then use the jewellers screwdriver to apply downward pressure to the same metal flap on the right that you lifted earlier, this will ensure it locks back into place. Then all you need to do is line the Keyboard Key back up and apply pressure down as if you were pressing a button. You’ll hear two clicks and this means that the key has been locked into place.

Tools and Materials

All I used for the repair of the Keyboard Mechanism was simple items that you could find around the home. They are both listed and depicted below:

Tools:

  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Cutting Pliers
  • Thick Pliers
  • Red Pin from QBond Set
  • Bench Vice

Materials:

  • Toothpick
  • Metal Twisty Tie
  • Super Glue

TheTools

Just to give you an idea of how small the Keyboard Mechanism is and how finicky it is to undergo such a repair, please see the image below of the part sitting next to my finger:

FingerWithMechanism

DIY Repair

I have a broken F10 Mute Key on my new Wireless Keyboard and a fully functional Wired Keyboard. Upon inspecting the broken F10 Key I discovered that the problem was a damaged Scissor Mechanism. I tired re-assembling it but it would just flick up on a weird angle and detach from the keyboard. No good.

I decided that I’d be using my newer Wireless Keyboard as my main keyboard when I setup my new 27″ iMac, the older Wired Keyboard would be put into storage as a spare. The Wired Keyboard has a bunch of smaller profile keys that matched my broken F10 Key located up the top that don’t get used, this is the F13 Key through to the F19 Key. I removed the F14 Key on my Wired Keyboard and transplanted the Scissor Mechanism from there to my Wireless Keyboard. I then put the F10 Keyboard Key back into place and the Wireless Keyboard was as good as new.

Now the Wired Keyboard was missing an F14 Button which I don’t use anyway, not a big deal but my mild OCD says otherwise. There has to be a way to fix it. You can purchase replacement Scissor Mechanisms from eBay and I’ve read of a few stories online where you could take it into an Apple Store and they’d most likely replace it for you for free, but I wanted results now. I thought the best way to achieve that was to repair my broken Scissor Mechanism from my Wireless Keyboard and fit it to my Wired Keyboard.

This is how a Good Scissor Mechanism should look, it consists of two parts:

ScissorMechanism

The ‘See-Saw’ and the ‘Winged Frame’, two parts that make up the Scissor Mechanism.

My Scissor Mechanism was broken in the two parts outlined below:

ScissorMechanismBroken

The first repair was to the See-Saw Part of the Scissor Mechanism. One of the notches which acts as a pivot point when it is placed in the Winged Frame was broken. It’s quite a small part but I was positive I could fix at least this part. What I ended up doing was using the Red Pin to poke a hole through the See-Saw where it was broken. Penetrating the plastic by hand wasn’t easy but it wasn’t overly tough. Eventually the pin went all the way through and I had a very tiny hole. I used a toothpick and forced it into the hole. The toothpick tapers in size as you get further from the tip, this meant that it wedged into place nicely. I used my Wire Cutting Pliers to trim any overlap that fell into the See-Saw inner circle which is where the button would sit, I also trimmed my new wooden notch to match the size of it’s counterpart. During this notch trimming process I clipped off a bit of thickness from the toothpick so that it would easily fit into the hole on the Winged Frame.

RepairedScissorMechanism

The second repair was to the Winged Frame Part of the Scissor Mechanism. One of the corner notches had snapped right off and could no longer clip into place on the Keyboard Button. It was snapped in a way that a simple toothpick wouldn’t do the trick as it still wouldn’t line up horizontally. I also had the problem of where do I put a hole to act as a mounting point. I ended up putting the Winged Frame into a Standard Bench Vice and using the Red Pin to poke a hole in the plastic vertically. This took a great deal of force but it worked and I managed to do it without damaging the rest of Winged Frame, having it mounted in a vice played a big part in that. Next I had to find something that I could bend to achieve the stretch and notch solution that was required, it also needed to be thin enough to fit in the little pin hole that I just made. It took a little bit of thinking but I decided metal would be the best material to use. A paperclip was too thick, a thin gauge nail was too thick and then genius struck. I’ll use a Metal Twisty Tie, you get them with almost every new cable that you buy or even sometimes with loaves of bread. I used my Wire Cutting Pliers to strip the┬áMetal Twisty Tie of it’s plastic wrapper, I then put a tiny bit of super glue on the tip and threaded it into my pin sized hole being careful not to go too deep so that it overlaps the inside. I then trimmed the length of the metal and used a combo of my Needle Nose Pliers and Thick Pliers to clasp the metal within the Winged Frame and bend it into shape. I was done, I had successfully repaired a broken Scissor Mechanism with miscellaneous bits and pieces I had laying around the house.

I fitted it back into the Keyboard Button on the Wired Keyboard with no worries at all. I placed the F14 Key back on top, clicked it in and I was 100% good to go. The button works, it feels and looks normal. Repair Successful!

RepairedScissorMechanism02

I’m pretty happy with myself as now I have a fully working Wireless Keyboard and a fully working Wired Keyboard. Though the Wired Keyboard does have a DIY Fix to one of the keys, the key still works, it also looks and feels normal, plus it’s a key that never gets used so it’ll never have any negative impact. It’s a total win on the DIY Front.

There was a bunch of literature online about cleaning your keyboard under the keys but not a lot on what to actually do if you need to undergo a finicky repair like this. While I initially thought a replacement part would be required, I certainly proved myself wrong. I hope this guide helps someone out there who wants to do a cheeky little fix to their broken keyboard keys all while embracing their inner guerrilla repairman!

Please Note: All Photos for this Blog Post were taken on an iPhone 7, the quality is reasonable but I have since purchased a Macro Lens Kit for my DLSR so I’ll be able to provide sharper, higher res images for you in the future. Thanks!