Mac Studio storage is removable but Apple blocks user upgrades

Mac Studio storage is removable but Apple blocks user upgrades

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Mac Studio storage is removable
Why, Apple?!
Photo: Luke Miani

Breaking open the new Mac Studio reveals that its solid-state storage modules are easily removable, but you can forget trying to upgrade them. Not only does Apple use a proprietary connector, but it also blocks user swaps in macOS.

YouTuber Luke Miani pulled apart two Mac Studio machines and discovered that even if you take an original SSD out of one and put it in another, it will simply refuse to boot up.

You can’t upgrade Mac Studio’s storage

On its website, Apple tells potential Mac Studio buyers that “storage is not user accessible,” and that they should “consider configuring to a higher capacity” if they believe they’re going to need more than the default 512GB in the future.

It turns out that statement is only partly true. Mac Studio’s storage drives are accessible and they are not soldered to its logic board, so they’re relatively easy to remove. However, it’s not possible to perform replacements yourself.

Mac Studio won’t accept SSD swaps

Apple has taken several steps to prevent DIY upgrades, Miani discovered. Not only does it use a proprietary connector for its SSDs — a move we’ve seen plenty of times in Apple machines before — but it adds a software block, too.

That block not only prevents you from potentially pulling out your original 512GB drive and swapping it for a larger model from a third-party vendor, but it also stops original Apple drives being used in another Mac Studio.

If you attempt your own replacement or upgrade, Mac Studio simply refuses to boot while its status light blinks SOS in Morse code. There’s seemingly no way to get past this — other than reversing the steps you carried out.

So, what’s the point of making it removable at all? Well, Apple likely wants to make it easy to replace failed Mac Studio drives later. But it also wants to ensure that those replacements can only be carried out by Apple.

But … why?!

We know what you’re thinking. That’s a pretty sh*tty move. And you’re right. It could be that Apple, unlike other computer manufacturers, doesn’t trust users to perform this kind of procedure without destroying their machines.

It could be that the company wants to ensure that you can only buy storage upgrades (at significant higher prices than third-party vendors would charge) directly from Apple at the time of purchase. That’s more likely.

Whatever the case may be, it’s frustrating. And it flies in the face of the steps Cupertino has begun taking — like providing tools, official components, and instruction manuals — to make other devices user-repairable.

Apple could change its mind

There is a chance, however, that Apple could change its approach in the future. Given that it is only a software block on Mac Studio, a future update could remove that restriction and provide users with an upgrade path.

It seems unlikely, but it has happened before. Apple originally blocked storage upgrades on the latest Mac Pro, then went on to offer a storage upgrade kit later. However, it did take 18 months for that to happen.