Obsolete iMac Hard Drive Replacement. Where to purchase?
July 2, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

What internal Hard drive can I purchase for an iMac 20" G5 computer?

I need to replace the internal hard drive on my 20" iMac G5, which has become damaged. I've removed the hard drive, but don't know where or what to purchase to replace it. The computer other than that works fine. I can boot from a CD or in Target mode from my Macbook. I've had no success figuring out how to get an external drive to be the start up drive.

I was running the latest version of Tiger when it crashed and did manage to backup all of the data on it using Disk Utilities Restore function to an external hard drive. Disk Utility, nor Disk Warrior were able to repair the internal hard drive.

Any advice would be appreciated. I can't afford a new computer.
posted by hdh to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Any 3.5" SATA drive should work fine.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:38 AM on July 2, 2012

Start here at iFixit. If you don't want to spend that much on a drive, any 3.5" SATA drive on This Page would work fine.
posted by Oktober at 9:39 AM on July 2, 2012

You can boot it from an external drive if that external drive is Firewire. G5 iMacs won't boot from USB drives.

As to which internal hard drive to replace it with: any of them. The iMac uses an industry-standard SATA interface and an industry-standard 3.5" form factor. You should also make sure it's 7200 RPM.

There are various SATA standards, but they're backward-compatible, so SATA-2 or SATA-3 shouldn't matter.

If you don't need much space, have a look at a solid state disk, which will be an order of magnitude faster than a spinning disk. You can get a 120 GB solid-state drive for around $100 these days. SSDs are usually 2.5" drives but most of them come with adapters that let you put them into 3.5" mounts like the one in your iMac.

If you need more space, I would suggest a Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drive; it is partially solid-state so it can provide some performance improvement, but it still has a good capicity for an internal drive. $150 for 750 GB at New Egg.

The original drive in that computer was likely rather small by today's standards. Do not assume that since an 80 GB drive is $100 at New Egg that you can't afford a bigger one. The reason an 80 GB drive is $100 is because they are basically obsolete and supplies are low. I just bought a 2 TB drive for $120 at Fry's.
posted by kindall at 9:46 AM on July 2, 2012

I highly recommend OWC (Other World Computing) for a replacement drive. You need not buy a new computer, just replace the hard drive with a comparable size or if your drive size needs have changed, you can get one bigger than stock.

If you can afford it and it fits the computer, you might consider an SSD drive as a replacement. Unlike standard disk drives, SSD drives have no moving parts and can be considerably faster than standard hard drives.
posted by kuppajava at 6:36 AM on July 3, 2012

I wouldn't get an SSD for that machine. It can run Tiger well or Leopard poorly, but it won't run Snow Leopard, which is the oldest OS that supports TRIM commands. Long story short: your drive performance will degrade quickly unless you're using at least Snow Leopard.
posted by Oktober at 8:05 AM on July 3, 2012

Okay here's the new problem. I purchased a new drive from iFixit. I installed it as per instructions on their site. Now I booted up the machine using the Tiger Install DVD that I own. (The original computer came with 10.3) Since it couldn't find the new drive I figured it had to be formatted first. I went to Disk Utility, found the drive, Choose Erase from the menu and called the disk iMac2012. It took a few seconds and then the new disk appeared. To be on the safe side I verified the disk and it came out good. I then ran the Tiger install disk, which worked fine with no errors that I noticed. After reading, writing and installing all the software necessary, it told me I had to restart the computer, which made sense. On restart however the new drive neither boots up or shows up. It's like it disappeared. It doesn't show up in Disk Utility (run from the disk), Disk Warrior (run from the disk) or in Target mode, when I connect my Macbook via Firewire and Hold the T down on boot up of the iMac.

Where is it and how do I get it back, not to mention get it to work?

...so close...
posted by hdh at 12:23 PM on July 5, 2012

In Disk Utility, when you formatted the disk did you set is as Apple Partition Map? In the Partition tab, you've got to change the partition layout from "current" to whatever you want -- choose 1 partition, then you can click the options... button, and chose the partition scheme. It should default to that, but it's worth checking. Also, is it formatted Mac OS Extended (journaled) ?
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:17 PM on July 5, 2012

I believe that I did all that. After letting it sit dormant for a while and then trying to boot it up, it worked. I was able to set up the machine, but when I went to restart, it froze, so I used the power button to shut it down. I tried to start it again and again it couldn't find the drive. Again after a while (over an hour) I tried to start it again and it worked. I ran Disk Utility to Verify the drive and repair permissions, then ran Software update to install the most recent version of Tiger. It ran and then told me I had to shutdown or restart. Again it froze when I clicked on restart, and wasn't recognized at all after I force quit. I'm giving it time again to see what happens, other than that I'm miffed.
posted by hdh at 5:12 PM on July 5, 2012

It's entirely possible that something else (power supply, logic board) is malfunctioning given that your computer is ~7 years old.
posted by Oktober at 5:43 AM on July 6, 2012

True. What year model is this machine? The earlier iMac G5s were plagued by a bad capacitor issue. I've had 2 different iMacs here suffer from that, now. You might pull the back off again and have a good look at all the capacitors on the motherboard.

If it's the power supply, it's a lot harder to dig into to inspect the capacitors on it visually, but if it's starting up at all, that's probably not the cause.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:56 AM on July 6, 2012

I got the iMac in November of 2004. It boots up fine. Runs programs from startup disks, like the G5 setup disk it came with OS 10.3, Tiger setup disk (which I own) and Disk Warrior. It also runs in target mode connected to my MacBook via firewire cable and when external drives are attached, they are noticed by Disk Utility. It is just the new hard drive that fails to be spotted.

In the latest attempt I booted the machine using the G5 install disks and ran disk utility. It saw the drive so I repartitioned it to make sure it was formatted. Then I tried to use retore from Disk Utility to put the backup of the damaged drive onto one of the partitions. It ran for over 8 hours, copying blocks until it froze 2/3s of the way to completion. Of course after force shutting it down, it couldn't find the internal drive again when I started it up again.

Till tomorrow, when I try to come up with another idea.
posted by hdh at 8:15 PM on July 6, 2012

I still have a problem with this computer. I tested out the new internal drive, using a universal drive adapter attached to my laptop. It read fine. I used my setup disks for e iMac to run a hardware test on the iMac, and everything passed. The startup problem still exists. Sometimes it boots fine, other times it can't find the drive. I have energy saver set to shutdown the computer each night and start up each morning. It pretty much shuts down each night and is hit or miss in the morning whether it starts and finds the drive or not. If it doesn't find the drive, I shut it down and try to start it later. Eventually it will find it and start up. I've never been able to do a restart and have it work the first time.

Still perplexed.
posted by hdh at 5:56 PM on August 1, 2012

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