DIGITAL GURU BY JOHN RETTIE
THE DAY I OPERATED ON MY IMAC
Break out the screwdrivers and upgrade your computer’s internal components
for DIY performance boost.
LEFT: The OWC kit contains the tools
needed for working on the insides of
I have owned my 27-inch iMac (late 2009 model) for nearly
five years. Until a year ago, it served me well without any
hardware upgrades other than adding external hard drives
for backup. I was satisfied with the 1TB internal drive and the 8GB of
RAM was just about enough. However, the computer was becoming
sluggish when running several programs, so I knew I would be facing
a choice soon: upgrade my components or buy a new one.
I decided not to make a decision until Apple announced a new
iMac. Soon after the current 27-inch model was released, with its
stunning 5K Retina display, I checked one out at an Apple store. Yes,
the display was better, but was it worth spending around $3,000
to buy what I needed? I knew I’d be lucky to get $800 for my old
computer so it would mean a net outflow of around $2,200.
Rather than drop thousands on the new Retina iMac, I decided
to whip out the screwdriver and set to updating my RAM and hard
drives for a performance boost. Upgrading my current iMac would
give me everything except the Retina display and a Thunderbolt
port—two things I decided I could live without. The processor in my
iMac was fast enough for my needs—the choke point was the amount
of memory and speed of the drives.
Desktop PC users and owners of the older Mac Pro have it made
when they want to upgrade hardware; they can just open the case
and replace cards and drives relatively easily.
But don’t be intimidated by the iMac—or for that matter, a
Macbook Pro or Air. Even though it looks like a closed system, it’s
possible for much of the internal hardware to be upgraded. Sure,
it takes a little more nerve, but thanks to good online instructions
on several websites such as iFixIt.com and Other World Computing
(OWC at www.macsales.com), it’s perfectly feasible for anyone who
knows how to use a screwdriver—and is not too technophobic!
WHAT’S INSIDE YOUR MAC?
Anyone who has experienced a computer, such as the MacBook
Air, with a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of a traditional hard drive
will know that the speed increase when booting up and opening
programs is phenomenal. Upgrading to an SSD is the best thing you
can do to rejuvenate your “old” computer.
I elected to get the components from OWC, having had
experience with this company many times in the past 20 years.
Known for specializing in Macs, the website is a comprehensive one-stop shop.
I decided to replace my non-functioning optical drive with a
480GB SSD drive (cost $265 with adaptor and DIY kit) and the
internal 1TB hard drive—which was full and showing signs of nearing
the end of its life—with a new 2TB hard drive ($99). Incidentally
if you think your hard drive is going bad, use a program such as