Apple’s new Mac Studio turned out to have an interesting secret this past weekend: It has removable SSD storage. But a subsequent video from YouTuber Luke Miani reveals that the Mac Studio still can’t be upgraded: not because of hardware limitations, but because Apple seems to be blocking replacement SSDs at the software level, via AppleTrack†
Unlike all of Apple’s other M1-powered computers, the Mac Studio’s storage isn’t soldered to the motherboard, as Max Tech’s teardown over the weekend discovered. Getting to the SSD is a tricky business, removing the rubber ring on the bottom of the device, unscrewing the panel and pulling out the unshielded power supply. But it turns out those expandable SSD hardware slots are for nothing: even if you can take your Mac Studio apart to get to it, Apple seems to block any extra or swapped software-level storage.
Which ultimately means no, you won’t be able to escape Apple’s horribly expensive SSD upsells for extra storage, even if you’re willing to disassemble your entire computer to do so.
That’s in line with Apple’s official rule: “Mac Studio storage is not accessible to users,” notes the company on the Mac Studio product page. “If you think you’ll need more storage in the future, consider configuring to a higher capacity.”
But my problem here isn’t necessarily that the Mac Studio as it exists today isn’t user-upgradable. It is with the philosophy that Apple has followed to get to this point.
Because the Mac Studio is doing have removable SSDs. Nothing about Apple’s design here requires the choice of burying it behind rubber sheets and a potentially dangerous power supply or locking it down at the software level.
But Apple made an active choice to make upgrading the Mac Studio’s internal storage impossible. Whether it hoped to discourage end-users from dismantling their computers in search of cheaper SSD upgrades or because it wanted to encourage customers to use its more expensive options (which, due to their non-replaceable nature, implicitly encourage you to pre-purchase more, otherwise they get caught with too little afterwards) – neither option is a good fit for the business.
It’s true that the Mac Studio makes it extremely difficult for customers to get to the SSD slots, but that’s also a choice Apple has made. This isn’t a laptop or tablet or even an ultra-thin all-in-one like the M1 iMac. It’s a desktop computer, one that presumably could have offered more expandable storage at the cost of a slightly larger chassis.
Nor can Apple make the argument it has for things like the unified memory, which provides tangible benefits by not offering a user-replaceable component: the SSDs here are already removable. Apple only prevents Studio owners from doing it themselves.
We know Apple can do this too: It’s already doing it for the 2019 Mac Pro, which it happily sells new SSDs for users to place at their leisure. (Hopefully there’s a trend it will continue to follow in the future too with the Apple Silicon-powered Mac Pro he’s been teasing.)
But the choice to limit the Mac Studio so much here is ultimately a sin. It’s a professional-quality machine, and it would be nice if Apple treated it that way rather than boxing it up in the same ready-made box that so many of the company’s other recent computers have done. And you shouldn’t have to pay $5,999 for a Mac Pro to upgrade the storage on your desktop computer in 2022.