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iMac Intel 27" EMC 2309 (Late 2009, Core 2 Duo 3.06 or 3.33 GHz) ID iMac10,1, EMC 2374 (Late 2009, Core i5 2.66 GHz or Core i7 2.8 GHz) ID iMac11,1

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HOWTO set up 27" iMac for permanent Target Display Mode?

It appears the display and/or logic board for my iMac has achieved terminal failure. This is not my screen, but the display exhibits these same symptoms.

Block Image

The display is blocky and degraded even after wiping the HDD and installing fresh OSes (Yosemite through High Sierra) and when booting into the Utilities menu from an installation USB stick, as well as in screen sharing from remote desktop. Didn’t think it would happen there, but it does. It works flawlessly in target display mode, however, so I’m pretty sure the internals are roasted. As of May 2019, used Radeon 5750/6970 display cards are not cost effective to replace, so on to Plan B.

I had been using the iMac in Target Display Mode exclusively, but even in TDM, having booted to a login screen on a vanilla system install, the fans constantly kick out processor heat. Not full-bore fan blast, but more than I’d expect for what should be idle load on the procs. It’s noisy and heats up the room, and I know it’s drawing more power than needed just to light the screen so on to Plan C.

I got Apple’s shipping label for their free recycling program and am about to send the iMac to be shredded or whatever they do, but I need to open it to pull the HDD before packing it up.

It occurred to me that while I’m in there I have an opportunity to disconnect any or all components not critical to target display mode, essentially up-cycling the iMac as a dedicated monitor.

So here’s the question.

Anyone know how target display mode works on the hardware/firmware level? Target display switches on instantly once a cord/signal is detected. A keypress is not required, nor does it need to switch over from the OS, so it does not appear to rely on software. Knowing nothing, I would think pulling the HDD, CPUs (if not soldered on) and disconnecting the fans should effectively make it a full-time monitor, but then again maybe not.

This model has been around nearly ten years, and since there’s always someone on the internet who has already done what you’re about to do, I’m putting it out there: Who knows the what the deal is with target display mode? And is what I’m trying to do even possible?

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Here’s my pictorial guide on doing this with a iMac 24”. Yes, it’s neat and a fun project. The parts are model specific, so do as Oldturkey suggests.

How to build a display using a iMac

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“up-cycling the iMac as a dedicated monitor. “ potentially possible but we would need the exact model number from your LCD panel. Ultimately if this is a panel that is supported you can eliminate 90% of the parts that are currently part of your iMac. This is not always an easy task but it is a fun project and will allow you to keep eWaste to a minimum. Let us know what your panel # is and we’ll see if we can hook you up.

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Hi @oldturkey03, thanks for checking in. Guessing the panel spec is something that I need to find when I open the case?


Greg, that is correct. there should be a manufacturer's label on the back of the panel. Once we know what panel this is we need to look at the specs and see if it is wired by any kind of standard that will fit a new LCD driver board.


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Sadly you need the logic board as the display is still driven by it and you still need the power supply and the backlight driver board. So there’s nothing to bailout in the current setup. But …

What you could get a LVDS to mini DP or VGA adapter board which could fit inside the case allowing you to pull most of the guts out.

@oldturkey03 has much more experience on doing this than me. Lets see if he can offer some insight on what’s needed.

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To more accurately answer your Question, Apple has set Target Disk Mode to work with your intact iMac. You can go into your System Settings / StartUp Disk and choose this mode. This will toggle your iMac into said mode so that you can now use the machine thusly.

Only downside to this, the Mode will not maintain through a reboot. Though using cmd-2 will toggle this Mode on again; but that's not the point I am guessing.

I am pointing this out since I have recently gotten a Mac Studio and was curious as to if I could use my 27" 5K iMac as a pseudo-permanent Display. The concept of finding a used version of my iMac and gutting it & finding a display board intrigues me, but I don't have the time to put into that kind of project. …for now…

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Greg zal eeuwig dankbaar zijn.

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