2011 iMac - CPU upgrade possibilities.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by amanpatel, Sep 7, 2011.

  1. amanpatel macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2011
    I own a 2011 iMac (the 27", Core i5 2.7ghz model). I plan to upgrade to an internal SSD soon, but while I have the thing on the surgery table, why should I not upgrade the CPU too?

    I'm pretty sure that swapping out the Core i5 2500s (2.7ghz) with a Core i5 2500 (3.1ghz) or even a Core i7 2600 (3.4ghz) is completely possible. I think the power requirement should not be a huge deal for a desktop class machine like the iMac (and apple would be wise to use the same PSU and other logic board components between the 27" iMac models - to keep costs low). The difference in power requirement between a i5 2500s and an i7 2600 is very slight (65W vs 95W).

    Here's my question though. Ivy Bridge (coming out in Jan/Feb timeframe) is going to use the same LGA 1155 socket -- excluding the crazy "extreme 6-core" series. Ivy bridge is also going to be roughly 30% faster than sandy bridge and probably will have similar cost for parts, and with all the new tech (trigate transistors and 22nm process) will use even less power!

    Should I wait and gamble with the i7-2600 equivalent Ivy Bridge part? Or should I go ahead and upgrade to i7-2600 now? (will be almost 30% improvement from the i5-2500s I currently have).

    I would like to know your opinion. I don't mind waiting till Jan/Feb 2012, but I am not 100% sure whether or not swapping the i5 for a nice Ivy Bridge i7 would work or not. If this is hopeless anyway, I'd rather upgrade to i7-2600 now.

    I would also like to know if someone has actually performed a CPU upgrade successfully (in any of the 2011 iMacs).
  2. Spike88 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    What do you plan to use your iMac for?

    If using as typical home user tasks, I'd simply use the factory i5 build, then upgrade in 3+ years. The i5 is more then enough power for the average home user.... If a professional machine, simply upgrade in early 2012 and get the business to pay for it.

  3. 88 King macrumors 6502

    88 King

    Jun 18, 2011
    London, UK

    There are simply too many risks of mess up the inside of the iMac. Also its a pain the take it all apart and put it back together again. You might have to do it few times to get it right, that will be a PAIN.

    Also you have no idea if Ivy Bridge chip will work with current motherboard and Apple's BIOS (forget what this is called). It's not like Windows machine, where you can go to manufacture's website and download a new BIOS.

    Like the above post said, just buy one if you need it now, and sell it for a new one once you find the CPU don't have enough power for you.
  4. reputationZed macrumors 65816

    Mar 9, 2011
    34°55′42″N 80°44′41″W (34.
    my understanding is that IvyBridge will still implement the LGA 1155 socket, as does SandyBridge but will move to a new chipset (7series). So while it may be technically possible to upgrade to an IvyBridge CPU you wouldn't get any of the IvyBridge features (USB 3, etc) that are implanted in the 7 series PCH. According to http://www.guru3d.com/news/intel-ivy-bridge-chipsets-will-have-usb-30-and-pcie-30/ IvyBridge will run on the current 6 series PHC but will require a bios update.
  5. ljonesj macrumors 6502a


    Oct 20, 2009
    Kingsport TN
    I was under the impression that the imacs cpu was soldered to the main board like the mac mini and the macbooks
  6. Gamoe macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2006
    Sounds cool, but the iMac gets hot enough with the stock processor going on all four cylinders. Are you really in need of more power? I'd say the same as a poster above- wait a few years till you truly feel a need to upgrade. At that point, it may well be worth it. And if it goes wrong then it won't be as much of a loss as what is essentially a brand new iMac right now.
  7. flopticalcube macrumors G4


    Sep 7, 2006
    In the velcro closure of America's Hat
    Hahahaha! The iMac may be in the desktop class but its sitting at the back and making flippant remarks at the teacher.
    That would indeed be wise. Unfortunately if it saves Apple 10c to make a new PSU for the lower powered iMac, they would have done it.
    50% is not slight. The heatsink and fan are not built for those higher power CPUs and neither is the PSU in all likelihood.
    Ivy Bridge will require a bios/EFI upgrade that will not happen from Apple. More to CPU compatibility than a pinout, as the Core 2 Quads showed in previous iMacs.
  8. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    From what it seems, you could probably do the i7 2600, but don't bother with Ivy Bridge, as it will require new firmware, which you won't be able to get. I do know that the cooling system is the same for the two CPUs, as we have a 2010 i3 27" that runs very cool (like 75-80F), and given that PSUs typically come in increments of 100+ W, it's more than likely the same. Plus, it's just easier to put the same base components in each one for simplicity.
  9. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008

    It could be possible to bypass via kernel modification, but honestly, if you want to walk down that road, you are better of with building a hackintosh.
  10. Qwaf macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2010
    Nah. They use regular sockets, as does the GPU - slots in via PCI. To replace that, it's just a matter of finding someone who makes one that'll fit into the case, because it'd slot into the PCI slot fine.
  11. amanpatel thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2011
    Thanks everyone for chiming in. I do regard upgrading CPU as a 'weird' project for someone who owns an iMac, but I've always been a tinkerer and have lot of modding experience. I bought this iMac for $1439 refurb, and while on tax holiday. It was a very good deal. I plan to:

    - add a 120gb vertex 3 - $200
    - replace cpu i7-2600 - $300
    - sell the i5-2500S - (maybe $150??)

    so about $350 net.

    For $1789, I get many of the features/benefits that apple sells for >$2799+tax (yeah i know, you don't get the better graphics and 256gb ssd... but i don't need those :p). I already up'ed the RAM to 16GB for $75 (corsair was running a rebate last month). Btw apple charges $600 for that upgrade (that would push the comparable cost to a ridiculous $3399). But I don't think anyone would be crazy enough to go for the memory upgrade since its easy to do it yourself.

    It looks like the consensus is that Ivy Bridge will be out of question. I agree with @leman -- If you have to begin messing with EFI and kernel extensions, I'm probably better off with a hackintosh project. I definitely don't really want to mess with software.

    I'll try upgrading to i7-2600 and will report back! Btw, anyone interested in buying a 2-week old i5-2500s ? :)
  12. jsolares macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2011
    Land of eternal Spring
    the good news for you is that it could be done with the 2010 model, http://www.hardmac.com/articles/335/page1 i might change my cpu from the i5 760 to the i7 870 when my warranty runs out, but that's still 2 years out so i might just change the iMac then XD
  13. R.OG macrumors regular

    Aug 19, 2010
    The cpu upgrade can be done while adding an SSD to the system. I was able to upgrade my i5 2500s to an i7 2600
  14. amanpatel thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2011

    Now... intel just released i7-2700 :) (3.5ghz). Do you think that would also work...
  15. ProphetX macrumors 6502

    Feb 8, 2011
    Im thinking about doing the same thing. I've found 27" imac 2011 for $1000 with the same specs as yours.

    Heres my estimate for cost of upgrades:

    Intel i7 2600 or 2600k $200-$250
    AMD/Ati Radeon 6970 2gb $300-$350
    OWC Memory Upgrade 16gb $98
    OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G120gb $240

    Thats under 2k for the highest priced config that apple sells for nearly 4k!!

    Well worth it to me. But when you think about it. Most people that buy imacs are not savy with building computers. Which is why that bought the imac in the first place. But guys like me that have lots of experience building high end pcs for the sake of overclocking.... this is a no brainer.

    Not to mention i can sell my old cpu and ram. And im sure i can get cheaper components if i shop around or buy used.


    I was wondering about this as well..
  16. Nightarchaon macrumors 65816


    Sep 1, 2010
    Always makes me chuckle when people say the iMac is a "desktop" (or any mac other than the mac Pro) the iMac is a Laptop, strapped to the back of a large screen, with a desktop HDD, and no Battery, its not a Desktop class machine, Its a "High End" laptop you can't take with you.

    Just as i don't expect to be able to upgrade anything in my macbook other than the HDD and Ram, i don't expect to be able to upgrade anything other than my HDD and Ram in an iMac, and apple screwed me over on the HDD !!, good job my media library is on a drobo !
  17. WAM2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 6, 2011
    United States
    Thats Simply not true, To my surprise, the CPU is in a socket and not soldered on iMacs, unlike the portables. Meaning you can upgrade, CPU's, HDD's/SSD's, RAM, GPU, and optical drive. the iMac is a very upgradable machine it seems, so thus not in a laptop class.
  18. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Usually people only quote Apple's pricing for SSDs and ram when they're trying to make something look more expensive. If you're going to all that work, you could get a nice tower and a better gpu for that money. Really the one used in the imac is basically an underclocked desktop part. Also be careful on that SSD. The SATA III /6G sandforce controllers have seen many issues.
  19. ProphetX macrumors 6502

    Feb 8, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

    I converted to apple back in 08 and don't plan on ever going back.
    Besides I'm not into Pc games so building a gaming of is useless.

    I just simply want a baddest iMac by paying the least amount of money possible.
  20. Nightarchaon macrumors 65816


    Sep 1, 2010
    Ive had, and have many laptops you can upgrade the CPU in, and unlike the current iMac where you CANNOT upgrade the HDD with anything other than an apple supplied spare without major tweaking and risk of frying your system, Ram is also an easy upgrade to any laptop.

    The GPU is NOT upgradable in the iMac, its a custom part, it may be removable, but you will not be able to replace it with an off the shelf part bought anywhere in the world, MXM upgrades have tried, and failed.

    so the iMac, like 90% of laptops, can have the CPU, Ram and HDD/CD replaced.

    Its a Laptop with a BIG screen !

    and thats nothing bad, i love mine to bits.
  21. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    please give us the link to mxm upgrades so we can read about the failed attempt on graphics upgrade.
  22. Nightarchaon macrumors 65816


    Sep 1, 2010

    give them an email, the response i got back was that although the iMac has an MXM type connector, the motherboard will not recognise or boot with any other card in..

    The base 21.5" iMac will not recognise the 6770 from the next model up, as the motherboard is subtly different,

    The 21.5" iMacs will not take the 27" iMacs GPUs because they are a different form factor (larger card, different heat sink locations, and bigger heat sinks to dissipate the heat)

    even if you could get a card to fit , the heat sinks etc to all line up, and the screw holes to all match, the chances of the iMacs EFI firmware seeing the card and allowing the iMac to boot are slim to non-existent.

    the video cards are modular so apple will incur less expense if they have another Nvida cock up like the 8x00 series, where apple had to replace all the motherboards with an 8x00 series video card that failed because it was surface mounted. As it stands now, if ATI is found to have a manufacturing defect in the 6xx0 series, they provide apple with new mxm modules and apple replaces them, much cheaper from a corporate perspective.
  23. xserban macrumors newbie

    Nov 28, 2012
    Upgrading i5 2.7 to i7 3.4 2600 (non K)

    Hi guys and thank you so much for the valuable information. I've researched a lot but still have some questions that I need your expert feedback on.

    I was wondering if any of you who have managed to upgrade the i5 2.7 CPU to the i7 2600 CPU in the 27" iMacs have ever had problems. I would be interested to know the following:

    1. how long have you used the machine for with the upgrade?
    2. are you using CPU intensive software light lightroom / media encoder / photoshop or high res games?
    3. has the system been as stable as before until now?
    4. has the mac been noisier or much more hot?
    5. do you happen to know if the PSU and cooling components in the the i5 and I7 iMacs as sold by Apple are the same?

    Thanks a ton.
  24. Learningtheropes macrumors newbie


    Mar 9, 2017
    Hello, I know this thread has been inactive for a while but I was wondering if anybody had any luck with this project or not; I'm definitely interested in trying this at some point in the future. Thanks!
  25. jkurrle macrumors newbie


    Jun 30, 2017
    My wife has an iMac model "12,2" model we bought back in 2011 (27" screen). Since we've had it, I replaced the 1GB ATI card with a 2GB version. I have replaced the built-in hard disk with a 1TB SSD and the DVD player/CD burner with a Blu Ray reader/burner. I also was able to max out the memory to 32GB, as this was one of the odd models that actually went beyond a 16GB memory capacity.

    As far as swapping out the CPU goes, I don't know if there is an actual option to do it or not. I did read about someone changing out the ATI GPU with an nVidia 9600 GPU, which would allow them to play some of the latest games with a somewhat respectable frame rate. The missus only does Photoshop and surfing the web, so the GPU, memory, and hard disk updates were more than sufficient for her needs.

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