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2TB hard drive shortage hits Apple's BTO iMacs with 5-7 week wait

Build-to-order iMacs with 2-terabyte hard drives now have an estimated shipping time of 5 to 7 weeks, in what is potentially the first sign of Apple being hit by a lingering global hard drive shortage.

A reader contacted AppleInsider on Friday to note that the estimated shipping times for custom iMacs went up dramatically from their previous time of 1 to 3 days. The shipping estimates apply in the U.S. as well as internationally.

The unusual wait time for an iMac equipped with a 2TB hard drive comes as flooding in Thailand has caused major problems for the hard drive supply chain. About 14,000 factories have shut down with more than 600,000 people put out of work, affecting hard drive makers Western Digital and Seagate.

So far, orders for build-to-order iMacs with hard drive capacities under 2TB are unaffected, showing normal shipping times of 3 to 5 days. In addition, all solid-state hard drives are also unaffected, and the lengthy 5 to 7 week wait only applies to iMacs with a 2TB serial ATA drive.

High-capacity 2TB drives are only available from Apple in the company's iMac and Mac Pro desktops. For customers looking to buy the far-less-popular Mac Pro, build-to-order configurations featuring 2TB hard drives are currently unaffected.

In fact, a user can place an order with a whopping four 2TB drives in all four of the Mac Pro's hard drive bays, and Apple still estimates the machine will ship in three to five business days.

During his company's quarterly earnings conference call in October, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was asked about flooding in Thailand and how any supply chain disruption might affect the company's production of Macs. Cook noted that Apple's thoughts are with the people who lost their lives and property as a result of the devastating floods.

As for the affect on Mac shipments, Cook admitted that Thailand supplies a "significant portion" of the total worldwide supply of hard drives. He noted that numerous factories were not operable and the timeline for those factories to return to work was unknown.

"It is something I'm concerned about," Cook said. "We do expect — I'm virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives as a result of the disaster. How it affects Apple, I'm not sure."

For now, there is no evidence of the industry-wide hard drive shortage affecting Apple's other products outside of the iMac, and in particular its popular MacBook line of notebooks. Notebooks take the lion's share of Apple's Mac shipments, accounting for 74 percent of Apple's computer sales last quarter.

But Apple executives noted that while desktops are an increasingly small proportion of its overall sales, the company still had a record quarter for the total number of desktops sold. Of the record 4.89 million Macs sold in Apple's last quarter, desktop sales were represented primarily by the company's all-in-one iMac.