Athough I know some readers will write that they already posted reports in the drive database here on this in the past (iMac and even Cubes using external IDE drives with tips, links, etc. - with so many drive brands, omitting drive brand and OS version - selecting only a drive type - CDRW, Combo drive, DVD-R, etc.- and mac model will provide more search page results), an early iMac owner sent an email with a mini-guide to using a long IDE cable to use an IDE CDRW drive externally with an early (233-333MHz) iMac.
(copy of the reader email follows)
Adding an IDE CDRW or second IDE drive to an iMac
(rev. a and b) mini HOWTO
by Dan MacDonald - March 9, 2003
I have only ever been inside my iMac (a revision b
model) so I do not know if this would work for later
models. (iMac 233-333MHz models have two IDE cables - one for HD and one for CD. Later iMac models have only a single IDE cable/interface so they can only have two drives.-Mike) It is sure to invalidate any warranty you may
have on the machine and I will not be held responsible
for any damage caused to your system as a result of
this document. I also cannot guarantee that the drive
will work with MacOS 9.x or below as I have not tested
that. (Note - CRT based iMacs store hazardous voltages even with power off. Avoid any contact of components near the Monitor's CRT area)
A good CDRW drive - I bought a 52x LiteOn model and
I'd recommend you do the same.
2 x internal Hard Disk power splitters (to take power
from internal hard disk, they're about $1 each)
A long IDE cable with 3 connector heads
(interface plus master/slave connectors)
A (preferably magnetic) screwdriver
A pair of pliers
("Y" power adapter cable - makes one HD power
connector into two)
A few spare hours (or days!)
This document presumes you know how to take your iMac
to bits. I learned how to this using the excellent iMac
hard drive upgrade instructions over at:
http://www.theimac.com/drive_steps.shtml (As of Nov. 2003 that link is not working, here are some
[for slot loading CD type iMacs]
http://www.macworld.com/2001/10/bc/howtoimac/ [covers tray loading (233-333MHz) and slot loading models]-Mike)
Go to that page and print the full tutorial off NOW if
you haven't ripped your iMac to bits before. It takes
you through the process step by step with clear
photographs as an aid. If you still have a 4GB drive
in your iMac then it would be a good idea to upgrade
your hard disk now as you need to get at it to perform
this upgrade. I'm pretty sure that the IDE controller
in the original iMacs is only ATA33 or 66 so you could
use a new 120GB ATA133 (or whatever) drive so you
wouldn't be able to make use of the extra speed it
offers, but you'd have a hell of a lot more storage
So, I'm now presuming that you've got everything in
the requirements list and you're sitting there holding
your iMac's hard drive after ripping it to bits and
you're wondering if your machine will still work when
you put it all back together. It's a scary situation,
I know! If you've got this far then you should have
nothing to worry about as the rest is easy!
1- Take the little yellow power connector out of your
iMacs hard drive. It's very stiff but it does come out
with some persuasion. You will need this so keep it
safe! The internal CD-ROM and disk cables are binded
by a little metallic ring. Take this hoop off. You
will still need the internal CD-ROM (compact IDE)
connector cable but you will not need the short HDD
cable any more.
2- Plug a power splitter cable ("Y" adapter cable) and your 3 head IDE
cable into whatever drive you are going to use as your
internal HDD. Most 3 head cables are divided up so as
to have a 'long half' and a 'short half' (i.e the
distance between the middle and an end connector). You
need to make sure that you plug a connector from the
'short half' into your internal drive as the long bit
of the cable will be trailing out of the side of your
3- Screw your HDD back in place and put the internal
CD-ROM back too.
4- Position the 'long half' of the IDE cable and the
power splitter cable so that they stick out of the
side of (or at least are facing towards the side of)
your iMac. Make sure your IDE cable is stretched so
you've got a max amount of 'slack'.
5- You can now, carefully, screw your motherboard back
in place and connect up all the cables. Connect your
internal HDD to the motherboard BEFORE the internal
CD-ROM. You'll find that you'll have to bend and shape
the HDD cable a bit in order to get the CD-ROM cable
to fit over it. Put your processor daughterboard etc.
back in place too.
6- I wouldn't bother screwing the side panel (the blue
holographic plate which goes around your USB slots
etc.) back on as you don't need it and it will only
make accessing your IDE and power splitter cable more
7- You should now have your iMac back as it was before
you slid it out of the monitor casing except that the
side panel has been took off and you have a power
adapter and IDE cable sticking out from the side. Now
you need to gently tuck both of these away under the
motherboard just enough so that nothing is sticking
out BUT make sure that the IDE and power connectors
are right near the edge so that you can grab them
easily with a pair of pliers. You need to have them
tucked away or else you won't be able to slide your
motherboard back into your iMac case.
8- Slide your motherboard back in to your iMac case
and plug in the rest of the connectors.
9- Get your pliers and pull the connectors out from
under the motherboard so that they're sticking out
again. The power connector won't be long enough to
reach your CDRW/ 2nd HDD so that's why you'll need to
plug the second power splitter into the other one now.
10- Attach your CDRW and keyboard and power up!
I tried doing this with two different external PC
power supplies instead of using power splitters but it
didn't work because many ATX power supplies only
supply power to the disk drives when there is a PC
motherboard plugged into it. The power splitter option
is cheaper, looks better and is more environmentally
friendly anyway! I also tried plugging an old 2x Sony
CD-R drive in but both OSX and Linux refused to boot
when it was connected. Just get yourself a new CDRW
GETTING IT WORKING WITH LINUX
My Lite-On drive worked instantly under OSX 10.2 but a
slight adjustment was required to get it working under
Debian 3.0. When you boot linux you should see that it
detects your drive but you won't be able to use it as
a burner until you have it recognised as an ide-scsi
device instead of plain IDE.
Make sure that you have both the 'General SCSI'
(module name 'sg') and the 'ide-scsi' kernel modules
installed. You may have to do a recompile for this.
Unfortunately I can't remember the command to check if
they're present already unfortunately. If you're sure
those modules are running then edit /etc/yaboot.conf
and after the "root=xxxx" line add:
My CDRW was hdb but just replace the 'hdb' bit with
whatever you drive is detected as.
You can then check it is working by typing:
and it should list your CDRW.
I must say a huge THANK YOU! to a Mr. Travis Beals.
Travis alerted me to the fact that adding an external
CDRW to the iMac was possible and helped me every step
of the way in getting it done. Thanks again Travis!
Big thanks also go to the guys at theimac.com for
their excellent hard drive upgrade instructions and
Good luck with your hacking!