early 2009 iMac upgrade advice?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by sibby, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. sibby macrumors newbie


    Mar 2, 2017
    Hampshire, UK
    Hi folks,
    I'm new to this forum, and have very limited experience with upgrading computers, with the exception of RAM and battery replacements.

    I own an early 2009 20-inch iMac, 2.66 GHz Intel Core Duo, running OS X 10.9.5. I upgraded the RAM two years ago to 4 GB (1067 MHz DDR3).

    As one might expect, it's running a little on the slow and noisy side nowadays, and very occasionally I have a grey screen when rebooting, but I'd like to think of upgrade options first, before looking to replace with a secondhand machine. I have Adobe Creative Suite but have light use of this and don't do video editing. I currently use the iMac heavily for web browsing, and lightly for photo editing (basic) and office work.

    My questions are:
    1. Will upgrading the RAM to 8GB (the max Apple says it will take) make a whole lot of difference? I'm hoping it will, but fear I might need a new hard drive.
    2. Is there any point whatsoever in upgrading the RAM to 6GB (keeping the 2GB in one slot and adding a 4GB to the other)?
    3. Any improvement to speed would be really great, but if no to the previous questions, will replacing the existing 320 GB SATA with an SSD mean that I will lose Adobe Creative Suite? I'm not in a position to re-license it. I assumed it would mean I'd have to get a fresh copy, but my pal thinks I'd be ok with a Time Machine backup. Although I use Time Machine to make back-ups, I've never had to use it to reinstate anything onto a new hard drive or Mac.

    If you think my machine is set to die soon I'd take any advice!

    Apologies if my questions are daft - as I say, I'm relatively inexperienced with anything other than RAM upgrades and joined this forum to learn more!

    Many thanks in advance for any advice you may be able to give...
  2. jerwin macrumors 68000

    Jun 13, 2015
    I had one of those things until 2015. I upgraded to 8GB early on. I suspected that it needed some sort of SSD by the time I replaced it.
  3. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    At 8 years old it's probably not worth sinking any money into it, my general rule is laptops over 5 years old are rarely worth the effort and desktops over seven years old the same.

    However for your stated use an SSD will make a massive difference and a failing HDD is probably the cause of your slowdowns anyway so replacing the HDD with an SSD is your best bet for getting another couple of years out of it assuming it doesn't fail in some other way.
  4. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    I have an early 2009 and for browsing and non-intensive work, it's definitely worth upgrading.

    1), 2) adding RAM to 8 Gb is simple and will make a difference, although not an astonishing one. That's the first thing I'd suggest. You can try 6 if you have the memory lying around, but I wouldn't pay money to try it.

    3) No, you don't have to re-license. Replacing the hard disk with an SSD is a big win, plus running an 8 year old HDD is not a good gamble. You can do this yourself; it's easier on the early 2009 than later machines. It's not particularly hard, but you do need patience, the ability to read directions exactly, and no interruptions. If you use the iFixit instructions be sure to read the comments first! The instructions tell you to unplug a display connector that's very hard to reinstall, and it's not needed. I did mine in maybe 30 minutes working carefully.

    Since you'll be installing a SATA SSD, I suggest getting a cheapo USB/SATA enclosure and putting the SSD in there temporarily. You can use something like SuperDuper or Carbon Copy to duplicate your hard disk to the SSD over the USB port; it's USB2 so it will take forever, but it's just once. That way the SSD is set up and verifiable before you take the iMac apart. If you have a Bootcamp partition you'll need something like Winclone to take care of the Windows side.
  5. sibby thread starter macrumors newbie


    Mar 2, 2017
    Hampshire, UK
    Hi, thank you for your detailed advice. Are you suggesting I can add an SSD externally, and keep my old HD in the machine? Sorry I've not heard of a USB/SATA enclosure before, but I'm assuming it's like a portable HD?
    Thanks for the clarification on keeping my Photoshop etc too. Phew!
    --- Post Merged, Mar 3, 2017 ---
    Thanks for your advice guys. I'm definitely not going to spend too much money, but will do some cheap upgrades. I'm going to order some RAM today. What are your views on used/refurbed RAM from Ebay etc? I always bought brand new RAM in the past, but seeing as I'm not wanting to spend much...or is it not worth the gamble? (used RAM is half price, with warranty)
  6. vrBrew Suspended


    Mar 3, 2017
    High life, High times
    An SSD will be the biggest improvement.

    I upgraded a 2009 i7 with a 240GB SSD as the boot and a 1TB SSD as the home. It was way more responsive than my HDD based 14,2 27 inch imac.
  7. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    To be honest, I wouldn't put much money (any money) into a 2009 iMac.

    It's now going on 8 years old.

    Time to start looking for something new, or at least, "newer" …

    One thing I -would- do is, keep a good, current backup!
  8. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    I disagree. If cash flow is an issue, an upgrade is definitely worth it. It was the right choice for us.

    Yes, you can do that, although for your machine it would be just a short term thing to get the new SSD set up. The interfaces available on an early 2009 iMac are USB2 and FireWire, and both are a lot slower than your internal drive interface. (Actually, FireWire 800 isn't too bad but the enclosures are $$$ now, and it's still slower than internal SATA.) The kind of USB enclosure I was talking about would be something like https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817182313 or an equivalent.

    I don't think you are going to beat new prices by enough to be worth it. Try newegg or datamemorysystems.com; I'm seeing 2x4Gb kits for $55-ish, and ebay is only beating that by a few dollars. I've no intrinsic objection to used memory, you just have to beware of sellers dumping offspec or marginal junk.
  9. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
    I have a late 2009 iMac that I thought was worth upgrading and even had the SSD & enclosure picked out until the GPU died. Now it's definitely not worth putting money into.

    Just remember, would you be ok putting MORE money into it if more components failed after installing these?
  10. sibby thread starter macrumors newbie


    Mar 2, 2017
    Hampshire, UK
    Hi guys,
    just wanted to thank you again for your advice. I did an 8GB ram upgrade for starters and will play things by ear. Won't put too much money into it though. Thanks again
  11. Jmorriso, Sep 15, 2018 at 5:58 PM
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018 at 6:04 PM

    Jmorriso macrumors newbie


    Hi, Sibby. I’ Planning on getting an iMac that’s quite similar to yours as a secondary Machine. So I’ve been doing a load of research. I’d say save adobe to a flash drive and then upgrade to an SSD.
  12. DonP macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2005
    I have an early 2009 iMac 24". RAM was upgraded early on to 8GB.

    I've always backed up to an external FireWire drive with SuperDuper, and I can boot from the FW drive. Last year when the internal HD became flaky I just continued working from the FW drive while considering my options for replacement. IIRC Apple had announced that security updates for our early 2009 models would end in October 2018, so I made the decision to forgo the expense of an SSD and just replaced the internal HD with a 1T SATA disk. Took about 1 hr to R&R the internal drive, no problem at all.

    Without the security updates this machine is end of life for internet use, so planning to upgrade soon to a new iMac.

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