Hard Disk 20
Connects toMacintosh Plus;
Macintosh 512K via:
  • DB-19 Connector
Design firmApple Inc.
ManufacturerApple Inc.
IntroducedSeptember 17, 1985 (1985-09-17)
DiscontinuedSeptember 1987 (1987-09)
CostUS$1,495 (equivalent to $4,068 in 2022)
TypeHard Disk
Memory20 MB
ConnectionFloppy drive port at 500 kbit/s[1][2]
Power consumption30 W
Weight7 lbs (3.2 kg)
Dimensions3.1 x 9.7 x 10.5 inches (7.9 x 25 x 27 cm)

The Macintosh Hard Disk 20 is the first hard drive developed by Apple Computer specifically for use with the Macintosh 512K. Introduced on September 17, 1985, it was part of Apple's solution toward completing the Macintosh Office (a suite of integrated business hardware & software) announced in January 1985. It would be over a year more before Apple would release the file server software AppleShare that would link all of the hardware together. By that time the SCSI interface introduced on the Macintosh Plus in January 1986, would accommodate far faster and more efficient hard drives, rendering the Hard Disk 20 virtually obsolete.[3]


The Hard Disk 20 (or HD20, as it was known colloquially) contains a 20 MB 3.5" Rodime hard disk which provides over 50 times the data storage of the stock 400 kB disk drive. At the time when the average file size was around 10-20 kB and due to the vast number of those files the HD20 can contain, Apple's original Macintosh File System, which does not allow for directories, made organizing those files unwieldy. Therefore, Apple introduced it with a new System and Finder update which include the Hierarchical File System allowing the user to better organize files on such a large volume. As a result, only the Macintosh 512K can access it; the original Macintosh 128K does not have enough RAM to load the new file system. In fact, even for the Macintosh 512K to use the drive, it requires an additional file in the System Folder on a special startup disk which adds additional code into memory during startup. A startup routine also allows the Mac to check for the presence of a System file on the Hard Disk, switch over to it and eject the startup disk. The HD20 cannot be used as a startup disk directly without first loading the code from the floppy disk drive. With the release of the Macintosh Plus and the Macintosh 512Ke, both containing the upgraded 128 kB ROM which contains the additional code, the HD20 can finally be used alone as a startup disk.

While other hard drives were available on the market, Apple's HD20 was generally preferred because it uses the high-speed floppy disk port, whereas third-party drives use the lower-speed Serial Port. While the floppy port was not initially supposed to be used this way, making creative use of the port allows the HD20 to achieve much higher transfer rates than products limited to the serial ports. With few exceptions, this along with complete compatibility with the new Hierarchical File System, gave Apple an instant edge over the competition. In addition, the HD20 has a convenient "zero-footprint" design which fit precisely underneath the Macintosh, merely elevating it 3 inches, but otherwise taking up no more desk-space.[4]




In 1985, the HD20 was an important step to solidifying the Macintosh as a true business computer and it was eagerly anticipated following its April announcement. Until Apple's introduction a year later of the Hard Disk 20SC, the first SCSI drive they manufactured, the HD20 was the only Apple-manufactured hard drive available for any Macintosh except the Macintosh XL. The HD20 was not compatible with any other Apple computer or other platforms.

However, the HD20's unique design and position in the marketplace was quickly outmoded by the advancement of the significantly faster SCSI standard which debuted with the Macintosh Plus in January 1986. Some third party companies offered a SCSI conversion kit which replaced the controller board thus preserving the user's investment in the expensive but proprietary Rodime drive.[6] Apple officially dropped support for the HD20 with System 6 as well as omitting the necessary ROM code beginning with the Macintosh II.[7] Sales of the HD20 continued to support the Macintosh 512Ke which has no other hard drive options, until it was discontinued in late 1987. Apple dropped support for the HD20 in all of its newer Macs, only to find many business users upgrading their older systems needed a way to transfer data from the unsupported drives to the newer Macs. Only Macs with legacy technology and floppy disk ports, which were eliminated entirely from Macintosh computers in 1991, are able to continue to use the older slower technology.

Manufactured in significant numbers for almost two years, the HD20 remains as one of the few surviving hard drives usable by a stock Macintosh 512K or 512Ke.

See also


  1. ^ "The Mac Plus 30 Years On". January 24, 2016. Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Apple brand HD20, HD20 SC Info". 2010. Archived from the original on February 3, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  3. ^ "Macintosh 128K and 512K: SCSI Hard Drives". Archived from the original on September 27, 2022. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
  4. ^ Lewis, Peter H (October 8, 1985). "Peripherals; Apple gives its Macintosh a hard disk". New York Times. Archived from the original on September 27, 2022. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
  5. ^ Dog Cow (October 24, 2017). "Macintosh Hard Disk 20". Mac GUI. Archived from the original on March 6, 2021. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  6. ^ "Apple HD-20: How To Convert It Into A SCSI Device". Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  7. ^ "System 6.0.3: Incompatible with Macintosh 512Ke and HD20". Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2014.