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How do you upgrade the hard drive in the "Original," "Early 2008" and "Early 2009" (20-Inch and 24-Inch) Aluminum iMac models? What type of hard drive do they support? Can you swap the hard drive for an SSD?
Please note that this Q&A covers Aluminum iMac models with 20-Inch and 24-Inch displays. For more recent 21.5-Inch and 27-Inch models, please see "How do you upgrade the hard drive in the 'Late 2009,' 'Mid-2010,' 'Mid-2011' and 'Late 2011' (21.5-Inch and 27-Inch) Aluminum iMac models? What type of storage do they support? Is it even possible to upgrade these models?"
The "Original," "Early 2008" and "Early 2009" Aluminum iMac models -- all Aluminum iMacs with a 20-Inch or 24-Inch display -- each have a 3 Gb/s SATA connector for a 3.5" hard drive and different models have a variety of different hard drives installed by default.
Apple considers the memory in these models to be a "customer installable part" but the hard drive is not intended to be upgraded by end users. Upgrading the memory is extremely easy -- there is a small removable "door" on the bottom of each system for this purpose -- but upgrading the hard drive requires one to remove the display and effectively disassemble the entire computer.
As all of the 20-Inch and 24-Inch Aluminum iMac models have the same hard drive support, identification may not be necessary for this particular task.
However, if you're not sure which 20-Inch or 24-Inch Aluminum iMac you have, these models can be most readily identified externally via EMC number (located inconveniently under the "foot" supporting the computer) and in software by model identifier.
For adventurous -- and highly skilled -- users interested in replacing or upgrading the hard drive in 20-Inch or 24-Inch models themselves, iFixit provides hard drive upgrade guides for the 20-Inch Original/Early 2008 and Early 2009 models, OctoMac provides a hard drive upgrade walkthrough for the 24-Inch models, and C|Net provides a helpful blog posting for the 24-Inch models as well. ThatSiebGuy covers installing an SSD specifically in the 24-Inch models.
Photo Credit: iFixit
The hard drive in these models also can be swapped out with a faster 3 Gb/s SATA-equipped SSD, and the swap is no more difficult than upgrading the hard drive.
Also see: How do you upgrade the hard drive in the "Late 2009," "Mid-2010," "Mid-2011" and "Late 2011" (21.5-Inch and 27-Inch) Aluminum iMac models? What type of storage do they support? Is it even possible to upgrade these models?