Mac Studio Teardown Suggests SSD Storage Is Upgradeable but May Be Blocked by Software

Mac Studio Teardown Suggests SSD Storage Is Upgradeable but May Be Blocked by Software
Photo: Phillip Tracy/Gizmodo

Apple’s Mac Studio is a compact desktop with beastly performance, but its lack of upgradability is a disadvantage when compared against the highly modular systems in the PC world.

Well, non-upgradable according to Apple, at least. One curious YouTuber decided to pry open the Mac Studio to determine whether the components are actually permanent or if Apple just doesn’t want you tinkering with its products.

YouTuber Max Tech disassembled his $US4,000 ($5,553) Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip and shared his efforts in a nearly 20-minute-long video. The desktop doesn’t have any obvious access points, but he found that peeling off the silicone ring on the bottom using a simple plastic tool reveals layers of screws.

After getting into the belly of this compact machine, channel host Max Yuryev discovered something encouraging. To his surprise, the Mac Studio’s dual SSD ports are easily accessed once the bottom panel is removed. He reckons there is enough room to add or swap out drives without having to dismantle the system any further.

This suggests the storage is upgradeable after all, despite Apple explicitly stating, “Note: Mac storage is not user accessible. If you think you need more storage capacity in the future, consider configuring to a higher capacity.” But there is one roadblock: finding the right SSD. Yuryev figured the Mac Studio had the same ports as the 2019 Mac Pro, but the SSD from Apple’s earlier system was too large to slot in.

Unlike the Studio, the current Mac Pro is user-upgradable via a DIY SSD installation kit. No such kit exists for the Mac Studio so far, and Apple hasn’t said anything about bringing one to market. It’s still possible that Apple releases DIY SSD kits for the Mac Studio somewhere down the road, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

If you’re itching to find a workaround, you might want to stomp on the brakes. Another YouTuber, Luke Miani, erased an SSD from one Mac Studio and tried to insert it into a different one as a way to upgrade the existing storage. Unfortunately, the second device wouldn’t accept the drive. While the PC recognised the newly installed storage, the system failed to boot, suggesting Apple is blocking upgrades with software.

That’s a shame because Apple charges a fortune for storage upgrades. The Mac Studio starts at $US2,000 ($2,776) when equipped with a 512GB SSD. Upgrading to 1TB costs another $US200 ($278) and you’ll pay an extra $US400 ($555) on top of that for 2TB of storage. The maxed-out 8TB model costs $US2,400 ($3,332) more than the base one.

As for the other components, the Mac Studio uses unified memory and its M1-series SoCs combine the CPU and GPU, meaning storage is the only upgrade candidate. If you’re curious how the Mac Studio looks on the inside, or want to see a gigantic chip in the M1 Ultra, check out the full video above.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.