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Model A1311 / Mid 2010 / 3.06 & 3.2 GHz Core i3 or 3.6 GHz Core i5 Processor

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Can SATA III HDD be installed on mid 2010 iMac Intel 21.5"

I want to upgrade the HDD in my iMac Intel 21.5" mid 2010 ( EMC 2389 , core i3 3.06 GHz, original HDD 500GB SATA/16MB cache , WD5000AAKS). I would appreciate it if anyone could tell me whether HDD with SATA III 6.0Gb/s (for example, WD Desktop Mainstream WDBH2D0010HNC-NRSN 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5") is compatible and I can install it on my iMac. Also I need to know if the on-board thermal sensor interface can be used the same way as it was originally.

Thanks in advance

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Your systems specs: iMac 21.5" 3.06 GHz( Mid-2010)

WD drive specs: WDBH2D0010HNC


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Here's the IFIXIT guide to install a replacement drive: iMac Intel 21.5" EMC 2389 Hard Drive Replacement

Your systems SATA port is only SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) So sadly you can't use most of the Western Digital drives as they are FIXED SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) drives as WD no longer makes SATA II drives.

So what to do?? Well you can still use an AUTO SATA port sense drive! These drives have the ability to match to the systems SATA port speed. As an example the Seagate FireCuda drives. Here you can see the SATA Transfer Rates Supported (Gb/s) line lists all three SATA speeds! 6.0/3.0/1.5. Unlike a standard HD the FireCuda is a SSHD so you gain some zip over a standard HD!

OK so we've found a workable drive now we still have the onboard SMC thermal sensor to deal with.

Apple leveraged a diagnostic sensor the manufactures had on the drives accessing it though the AUX header. As Apple sourced drives from a few different vendors (3) they ended up having different sensor cables as the different makers used different pins (no standard). Todays drives are different so one can't depend on the cable to even work with the same drive maker anyways so we need to find a better approach.

As it turns out OWC has the answer here! OWC In-line Digital Thermal Sensor for iMac 2009-2010 Hard Drive Upgrade which allows us to bypass the onboard sensor to an externally mounted unit which works across any drive you might use.

So the bottom line here is: You'll need the Seagate drive (Auto SATA port sense) & OWC in-line thermal sensor!

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"So sadly you can't use most of the Western Digital drives as they are FIXED SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) drives."

WRONG, @danj. You can certainly use a SATA III drive on a mid-2010 iMac (EMC 2389, a/k/a 11,2). The SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) specification mandates backwards compatibility with SATA I and SATA II. So while a mid-2010 iMac uses SATA II, a SATA III drive will still work on it. You don't even need a different cable -- SATA I/II/III all rely on the same connector. The only downside is that you'll be stuck with SATA II speeds even though the drive supports SATA III, because the system board only supports SATA II.

This is a fairly basic point, so please stop spreading bad info @danj.


@raven - please read my response below. Sorry to say I have it right! Don't be confused by auto sense Vs fixed drives. As the standard was written before auto sense drives came to the market. There is nothing in the spec that mandates the direction you are thinking.

To help you see how things change just look at the original IEEE Ethernet standard was 10 MB, then came 100 MB but you couldn't plug in a 100 MB connection into a 10 MB hub (or even the other way around until auto sense technology came out). Later on switches came out which allowed inter-operation of different speed devices. So I can have a 10 & 100 GB devices which can communicate with each other without needing a Bridge or Router. Look at Apple's own Ethernet port they are even auto sense and you can even take a cable back to back with another Mac system! In fact the technology that Ethernet uses is what the HD companies used for auto sense!

Now some bad news... Many companies are dropping auto sense or limiting it to SATA II & SATA III. They are trying to cut the costs of the sense logic. Western Digital was the first and Seagate is starting to drop auto as well, an example their 2.5" drives are now SATA III only now.


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While this is a couple years old, it’s still relevant. I have a spare Patriot Blast 240gig SATA III SSD drive, that originally was going into an old Core2Duo MacBook Pro a couple years ago. I got it all setup, probably with a slower external adapter, but then it would panic on boot once installed. The speed was overwhelming the MBP, so maybe 10-30 seconds into the boot, it would die. When searching, it turns out it was just much too much, and with SSD drive only lists SATA III.

Now a couple years later, I’m upgrading an old 24” iMac of the same era. I am used to there being backward compatibility, but Dan points out that that’s not here unless specified. And a WD HD that has auto sense was then used by Raven. Without auto sense, or something in between to slow things down, SATA III is too much for a pre-SATA III system. It’s like drinking from a straw, vs pouring the whole gatorade cooler over your head.

Too bad. For mine, I’ll have to use it in an external device that can slow it down, or wait to put it into a machine that can handle it. Thanks for the info!!!

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Correct answer is yes, a SATA III drive will work on a SATA II system like your iMac. See my comment above to @danj's answer.

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Sorry No! It's not that cut and dry.

There are two types of drives Fixed & Auto. A fixed speed drive is identifiable within the drives spec sheet as only one SATA speed i.e. SATA III (6.0 Gb/s). Some drives are auto sense, they match up with the systems SATA port speed. Here are two examples:

- Seagate 3.5" HD's

- Western Digital 3.5" HD's

The Seagate drives are Auto sense the Western Digital drive are fixed SATA III (6.0 Gb/s). Review the spec sheets your self! Look at the Interface line.

So the last piece of the puzzle is the direction of compatibility with a Fixed speed drive. Lets say you have an older SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) HD it will work in your newer SATA III system without any problems! The standards group designed the spec for upward compatibility not downward! I was at the meeting! So I really do know which way things work! At the time HD's where expensive and it was thought people would more likely need to use the older drive in a newer system or need to connect it in the new system to migrate the data over.


For reference here's the Gold standard: Serial ATA Revision 3.0.


I beg to differ. If you read the WD spec sheet, it doesn't say that it will not work with SATA I and SATA II, only that its *maximum speed* is the 6.0 Gbps of SATA III. Do you have any real-world evidence that it will not work with SATA I and SATA II buses, or is this merely conjucture with no hard evidence to back it up?


Daniel, Its not conjecture! I was at the meeting first hand and the direction of compatibility is as I stated. I've been doing this a long, long time and have fought through many hard drive issues so I also know from experience!

Lets look at another example were compatibility can be confused > Ethernet!

So a 100 mbps adapter in a computer can support a 100 mbps connection into a 10 mbps dump hub? If the adapter is fixed speed no! If the adapter is auto sense then yes! As it will lower the speed.

Lets change the hub to a layer 2 Switch! Now what happens? The 100 mbps connection happens to the switch! But! The other devices also need to be 100 mbps for them to get the data stream. Unless! The Switch also offers a bridge function between the two nets (10 & 100). As you can see it can be confusing!

SATA interfaces are no different! The device (Drive) needs to match the systems I/O data rate if it is faster. Only when the drive is slower than the systems I/O the system will match to the slower drives I/O data rate.


I purchased a Western Digital Blue 1TB 3.5" Desktop HD (7200 RPM) -- SATA III (6Gb/s), model WD10EZEX. It is installed in my mid-2010 iMac 21.5" (EMC 2389) and works fine. I have formatted, partitioned, and installed multiple macOS multiple times on it. It is a SATA III drive and works just fine. So there's your answer.


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