Getting the Hard Drive out of a 2006 iMac

By Eoin Woods

Posted December 28, 2009

Reading time: 3 minutes

(Note: This post dates from 2009, 12 years ago at the time I add this update, and John Wood’s site referenced below has long since disappeared. I have linked to the Wayback Machine for his site, but the archive copy they have appears to be missing the crucial photos. I don’t know of any way of resolving this problem in 2021.)

My early 2006 iMac gave up the ghost a few days before Christmas and refused to respond at all to being switched on, so it was clear that something pretty terminal must be wrong with it and I replaced it with a new aluminium iMac. (As an aside, this went much more smoothly than expected thanks to a Time Machine backup, which meant that it really was a case of booting the new machine, attaching the Time Machine disk and it restored me back to where I was before the failure – just as the Apple advertising said it would, amazing!)

Anyway, this left me with the problem of a non functioning machine containing a hard drive that presumably still worked and contained all of my private data. Not something that I want to send to the recycling centre. A few Google searches later and it became clear that opening a 2006 era iMac (one of the ones with a white plastic case) and getting at the hard disk isn’t a job for the faint hearted. It’s a lot easier if the machine is dead already, but even then, it’s hard to find out how to do it.

In the end I discovered this very useful photo slide show that shows how to open the machine, access the hard disk and get the thing assembled again. Thanks to John Wood for publishing this guide.

In short …

  • Remove all of the cross-head and torx screws in the bottom of the iMac;
  • Then if you press in the memory chip retention arms, you’ll be able to pull the outer case off towards the front of the machine;
  • You can then unscrew the 4 deeply recessed #8 torx screws that hold the screen in place and (having pulled the black material at the bottom of the machine up), pull it upwards to peer underneath;
  • Disconnect the various leads that tie the screen to the motherboard and you can carefully pull it upwards and out of the way;
  • You can now see the hard drive and if you remove the two screws holding its cradle in place, and remove the lead to the temperature sensor, you can lift the hard drive out;
  • Assembly is “merely” the reverse of this process (as the Haynes manuals used to say!)

By following this process, I managed to safely extract the hard disk and get the machine together again … mind you, it was broken already so I don’t know if a healthy machine would have survived my efforts! One tip is that to access those damn torx screws that secure the screen you’ll need a #8 torx driver, with a magnetic tip to prevent you dropping the screws into the middle of the machine (or a very small straight head screwdriver if you don’t mind mangling the torx screws a bit).

Naturally this process invalidates any remaining warranty for the iMac. All in all, if it was a drive upgrade rather than a simple extraction, I think I’d leave it to the experts at a Mac service centre. Still, it was an interesting process!

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