Mac Studio storage may be upgradable

I saw a Mac Studio teardown video on Youtube which showed two SSD slots with a smaller-than-usual SSD in one and nothing in the other. I believe it was a model with 512 GBs of storage. When ordering a Mac Studio, the maximum storage per Apple is “8TB SSD storage”, apparently 4TB per slot.
MacRumors has posted an article on the subject:

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I watched a youtuber take apart and there are two slots. They are small and likely Apple-proprietary until we get confirmation (in other words, the slots are small, and not enough length/space there for 2280-type M.2 NVMe, especially 4TB length modules.
I’m not 100% sure these are SSDs but if they are, why didn’t Apple mention this?

I also saw that Apple noted it wasn’t “User Accessible” but not impossible. If you watch this video from Max Tech , and be warned as the person doing the takedown isn’t professional and peddles their T-shirts several times during the video, you will see the slots.
I’d like to see a M1Max and M1Ultra taken down and compared. To see if Apple made two different MLBs or just put in the larger Ultra.

The MacRumors article links to this video:

Very impressive. And yes, it would appears that the SSDs are upgradable, but I suspect that they are cryptographically linked to the M1 itself, in much the same way that a Mac Pro and iMac Pro has the flash paired with the T2 chip.

But still, an upgrade may be possible if they are generic NVMe and if Configurator can be used to format/pair everything.

4 posts were split to a new topic: Mac Studio with a small, portable monitor

Seems that there is a software block apple has in place (someone swapped SSD from one studio to another) to prevent replacing without access to something that probably locks the SSD to the computer for security.

Still, the availability of two slots is very appealing in other ways. For a professional type, I would think there would be a lot of interest in having two internal drives for redundancy. Internal Mirrors with some kind of offsite backup to complete the picture of course.

This is a non-starter. It’s a got a proprietary Apple software block making such third-party updates impossible by users.

Various reports suggest that authorised service centres may (note: MAY, not WILL!) have a software tool to do the job. But with Apple controlling prices for such work anyway and likely mandating ‘official’ parts, it won’t ever be cheap, so likely not worth thinking will happen. Best to use external storage, that can be moved between machines in future IMO.

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This is not surprising. Ever since the T2 chip was added to Intel Macs, the SSDs have been cryptographically linked to one computer. If you move it to another Mac (possible with an iMac Pro or a Mac Pro), they won’t be readable.

This is deliberate and is considered a security feature - someone can’t connect the SSD to another computer, on which the attacker has root access, in order to bypass file system security.

On an iMac Pro or a Mac Pro, you can wipe an SSD that’s been moved from another Mac. Configurator 2 gives you the ability to generate the cryptographic pairing. So you can move the media, just not the content.

It’s too early to know anything for certain, but if Configurator 2 can do the same for M1-based systems, then that’s the way you can move/upgrade storage (but again, not content) between two systems.

If you need to move files between computers then you definitely need to use external storage. Not just because of extreme convenience but also because it can’t be done with the internal storage devices.

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Lol…I agree that Apple’s prices won’t ever be cheap, but I am hopeful that the prices to add another SSD will be cheaper in five years.
I like the idea of using external storage, but I have all my wife’s work data arriving at home via Dropbox to her account on a 2TB Crucial SSD in my 2012 MacBook Pro so she can work at home. I would love to put all her preschool pictures and videos on external drives and sync those external drives between external drives on two computers at work and also sync to an external drive at home. (I have already moved the Photos libraries to SSD external drives on the two computers at her work.) Then I could order a Mac Studio with 1TB SSD and save $400. I just learned about Resilio Sync from Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Automating Your Mac which might take care of that, but then I need to provide IOS access for iPads and iPhones which leads me to iCloud or Dropbox for syncing. Hm…I am wondering if there is a way to have Dropbox sync external SSDs.

Sounds like it might be easier to add another SSD (using Configurator 2 which I have never used) than upgrade an existing SSD (if the Apple gods grant us that ability).

If we talk specifically about iCloud Drive storage – obviously Apple’s preferred cloud sync solution.

I suppose the main problem with it, is that AFAIUI the storage has to be internal, doesn’t it?
So if you connect an external drive –DAS (TBolt, USB) or NAS (Ethernet)– you can’t use any of that drive’s storage space to sync between machines via iCloud Drive.

EDIT: Of course the Photos service/apps synced via iCloud do allow you to specify an external drive volume. But not the vanilla iCloud Drive storage.

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Good technical breakdown of the Mac Studio storage and system setup:

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Basically the salient points seem to be these.

You cannot replace the SSD/Flash storage…

  1. Yourself (only Apple authorised service providers, using Apple-supplied software).
  2. With any third-party drives.
  3. With other higher/lower sized Apple ones (the board controller knows original volume size).

Apple authorised service providers can…

i. Replace with Apple-sourced parts only (the Flash storage units are highly proprietary).
ii. Only replace with same volume size drive as originally came with the machine.

So after all that, like MBP buyers at the end of last year, it looks like users will have to decide the amount of internal storage they want at purchase, and just use external for extra needs that don’t require that internal storage.

I think the real issue here is that SSDs do fail, and Apple needs some way to handle SSD failure other than either (a) telling you to buy a new machine or (b) replacing the entire innards of the computer.

So it makes a lot of sense for the SSDs to be authorized-service-provider-replaceable.

Dave

The last paragraph of the Ars Technica article makes me hopeful that it will be possible to upgrade storage on Mac Studios at some point. That works for me. I can’t predict what apps I will be using in five years or how much internal SSD space I might need.

“The presence of the second connector in all Studio models, regardless of the amount of storage they were ordered with, suggests that it will at least be possible to upgrade your storage down the line… provided you buy a matched pair of NAND modules and reset the system properly.”

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Looks like iFixit was able to get the SSD from one Studio working in a second one, so more progress than seen elsewhere:

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Another point I saw that makes sense–having the SSDs pluggable makes it possible for Apple to offer a variety of storage levels with a single motherboard. If the SSDs were soldered to the board, then they’d have to manage a lot more distinct kinds of parts earlier in the build process.

Dave

Dave

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