Help Please? Need buying advice to replace ancient iMac

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Old but Noob, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. Old but Noob macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2013
    I have a mid 2007, 1st generation aluminum iMac that has become so sluggish that I have concluded it is time to replace. This computer sits in our upstairs office and is not used on a daily basis, but does store our entire Aperture photo library of some 25,000 photos. (And don't worry, the photo library is backed up.) Our "primary" computer, which isn't used for anything particularly taxing (web browsing, email, word processing and very occasional non-pro photo/video editing) is a 2011 MacBook Pro.

    I'm looking for the most cost-effective option:
    --Replace the iMac upstairs with the MacBook Pro, then replace the MacBook Pro with an Air (or possibly even an iPad).
    --Replace the iMac with a Mini--if so, which one?
    --Replace the iMac with another iMac
    --Other options?

    I really don't want to spend a lot of money, since I'm paying college tuition for 2 kids, who of course have much nicer computers than I do :confused:, but I want a solution that I won't have to worry about for a couple or three years. Any advice?
  2. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    "Most cost effective" really depends on whether or not you want to work at a desk since any desktop computer is ergonomically better, or do you want the fully portable solution? Anyway, in increasing cost:

    1. For the portable solution, you could probably just retire the iMac and do everything on your MBP. Buying an iPad or MBA would be completely a separate decision.

    2. Maximizing the RAM in your iMac might be all you need to revive it, if it isn't already maxed out.

    3. Next step up in cost effectiveness would be to buy a large monitor (not necessarily the Apple one, which is expensive) and using it and your old keyboard and mouse from the iMac run the MBP in "clamshell mode" at a desk.

    4. The most cost effective desktop solution would be a Mac mini, the base model would be much faster than your iMac! Try to get a refurbished one to save money. Buy a monitor and use the old iMac keyboard and display.
  3. iamMacPerson macrumors 68030


    Jun 12, 2011
    Well, cost effective would be to first check some things on the iMac. Try upgrading the RAM. If that doesn't work, maybe the hard drive is dying.

    Replacement wise, the MBP is going to be the cheapest, since, well, you already own it. But then to replace it, the baseline iPad is $299. Its only 7.9", its specs are a year and a half out of date, and its not as capable as a full-blown Mac. Baseline MacBook Air is $999, but I would definitely get the 8GB of RAM upgrade. 4GB won't cut it in the near future.

    The next best option if you wish to keep the MacBook Pro and not replace its portability with an iPad would be to get a Mac Mini. Since the RAM is upgradeable, I'd just go baseline i5 unless you see yourself needing an i7 chip. On the high estimate: $600 for the (baseline) mini, $200 for a good monitor from the likes of Dell or HP (make sure its HDMI, or get a HDMI to DVI adapter and go DVI. Point is stick to digital, try not to go with VGA), $140 for the Wireless Keyboard and Mouse/trackpad.

    IMO, your best option would be to get an iMac. You get a Haswell processor versus the Ivy Bridge in the mini. Its a 2.7GHz versus 2.5GHz. And the big plus: its Quad Core versus Dual Core. 8GB of RAM standard, as well as a 1TB HDD. Thats the 21", which starts at $1299. Keyboard, Mouse and monitor are all included. A beast of a machine for $1300, if you ask me.
  4. Tike1994 macrumors member


    Jun 27, 2010
    St. Charles, IL
    I agree with the other posts that suggest taking a second look at the iMac before you retire it.

    I had a co-worker who's Mom had a late 2006 white iMac 6,1 and the Hard Drive had died. I replaced the Hard Drive for her and we upped the RAM to 4GB. In the brief time I was working with it after making the repairs I was impressed with how quick it was for a computer that was so "old." Of course, this was with a fresh install of OSX Lion.

    I'd suggest a fresh install of OSX and a RAM upgrade before you spend the money for a new computer.
  5. erik7970 macrumors member

    Jan 3, 2009
    I, too, have a mid-2007 iMac (20-inch model to be precise) and was having experiences similar to yours in regards to performance. I actually installed a Crucial M500 240GB SSD not even a week ago and my iMac is performing like a totally different machine. It boots up noticeably faster, applications load almost instantly. This is all running Mavericks, btw. Makes me wish I had installed an SSD sooner.

    Also, I believe you should be able to install up to 6GB of RAM as opposed to the suggested 4GB for this model of iMac. I'm planning on doing this upgrade next. Other World Computing sells a 6GB kit precisely for the mid-2007 model.

    The SSD alone was about $110 through Amazon which is pretty cheap compared to other SSDs. This is not including the 2.5 to 3.5 inch converter bracket, suction cups and other things I bought to do the upgrade.

    Hope this helps.
  6. phoenixsan macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    For me.....

    two cost based solutions would be:

    1-Max out the RAM in your old iMac. You would be amazed/pleased with the speed bump you can get.....

    2-Go for a Mac mini. If so, maybe a server edition can do the trick. Why the server? The HDD you are getting are 1 TB, I think, so you will get a nice chunk of storage....:D

    And then, you can use your portable with a no so expensive monitor and complement it with an iPad.....but not seems too inexpensive to me...:(

  7. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    I've got an early 2008 iMac and I'm in a similar situation. As much as I like my iMac, I'm probably going to replace it with a Mini -- assuming they're refreshed later this year -- because the new iMac design has me worried about serviceability and longevity.

    About a year ago, I doubled my iMac's RAM to 4 GB. That made a noticeable difference until Mavericks, which has me seeing the beach ball more than I care to.

    Good luck.
  8. djholman macrumors newbie

    Jul 15, 2013
    I was in the same boat. I replaced my 2006 iMac with a 2012 27" i7 w/fusion drive.

    Best upgrade ever. I already have a Macbook Pro but mostly work from home so the big screen is a bonus along with two 24's on either side. I'm hoping this machine will go for six years.
  9. Old but Noob thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2013
    Thanks for the thoughtful advice

    I replaced the hard drive on the iMac a couple of years ago, and the memory is maxed out (although only with 4 GB; I may look at the 6 GB option erik7970 mentions above). I'm wondering if upgrading to Mavericks was a mistake; maybe I should go back to Lion.
  10. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Cost/difficulty of repair and longevity are two different issues.

    Cost/difficulty of repair? Yes, adhesives and limited user-accessibility make repairs, if necessary, harder and more expensive. The point, however, is to reduce manufacturing and warranty service costs and the necessity for repair. And while it's harder to see, it allows the manufacturer to maintain or reduce price and improve the price/performance ratio. That's no solace to the individual who must pay for a relatively labor-intensive out-of-warranty repair, or the do-it-yourselfer who needs special tools and techniques to do their own work - the law of averages is working against them.

    Longevity? There's no reason a 2014 iMac will die sooner than a 2008 iMac (I have a 2008 myself), and there's a variety of reasons to believe the opposite. And if you go for the all-Flash option? 2014 should last far longer without repair.

    If one conflates user-upgradability with longevity? Little has changed since 2008, with the exception of RAM upgrades for the 21" iMacs. If you want to extend the life of your computer by upgrading CPUs and GPUs or adding internal HDDs, iMacs (like laptops) have never been seriously in the game - though each year it gets harder for the relatively few who make the attempt. And if you consider the speed and capabilities of the Thunderbolt interface? External expandability has improved substantially.

    Effectively, for much of its history, personal computing has been in the Model T era, with machines that a reasonably handy person can maintain and modify. The Apple I was a kit! Now, for Apple, that era has even ended for the Mac Pro. But this is part of the natural progression. We've seen it in cars, radios and music players, home appliances, timepieces, even weapons systems.... "No user-servicable parts inside." In the end, that hasn't stopped people from buying any of these things - the utility of the object has not changed.
  11. bingeciren macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2011
    Mavericks is fine. In fact with the 4Gb memory you have, Mavericks uses memory more efficiently than Lion with its compressed memory feature. So, I'd say stick with Mavericks and don't go back to Lion.

    Check the Amazon and you will find a 500Gb Samsung Evo 840 SSD for $280. Just adding this drive will make your iMac so fast that you won't believe it is the same machine.

    You will need a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter to mount this drive in your iMac.

    I had the same iMac a few years ago and I replaced the hard drive myself as well. Since you too have done this before, you know how to do it and how difficult (or easy) it is.

    So, for less than $300, you will have a machine that will last you a fair number of years.

    Should you decide to sell your iMac in the future, you can take out the SSD and put the old drive back in and use the SSD in another notebook as well.

    This is the most economical solution as far as I can think of.
  12. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    I agree that serviceability and longevity are two different issues. That's why I put "and" between them in my original post.

    Regarding longevity, my concern about the current design is heat buildup reducing component life. I've seen that happen with laptops and desktops from a variety of vendors.
  13. RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    I agree with the SSD advice but not with the Mavericks advice. Mavericks has been using 4GB RAM consistently with my new iMac, so I think unless you decide to upgrade the RAM to 6GB, then downgrading the OS is a good move.

    I just hope that you didn't upgrade your iPhoto '09 library to iPhoto '11. If you did, you might not be able to save the things added to the library since you upgraded.
  14. bingeciren, Mar 20, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014

    bingeciren macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2011
    Mavericks will use whatever the ram you have available to the max. Compared to previous OS's like Lion or ML, it will look like it is using more ram, however don't be fooled by the actual ram usage. Look at the "page outs" and the amount of compressed memory. The new Activity Monitor shows the "Memory Pressure". If you see more page outs and the memory pressure being pushed to the red zone, then worry. In other words, even if you install 32Gb memory, Mavericks again will use almost all of it. It never empties its cache unless it has to, thinking that whatever is used once, it will be used again.

    Here is a good article to read about:

    At first, I was annoyed to see the memory being occupied more so compared to Mountain Lion but after reading those technical articles, I understand what is actually going on.

    The only upgrade I am against is the new iMovie 10 (10.0.2 to be precise). It is the worse piece of software Apple has created so far. Stay away from it.
  15. RedCroissant, Mar 20, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014

    RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    Oh, I’ve read articles on Mavericks memory compression technology and seen it in action and I have no problem with that when you have a system that has more RAM ,and therefore more available virtual memory and a higher amount of RAM that can be compressed to save the system from using the SWAP. I get that.

    I also know that it will only use whatever Ram you have available to the max once you reach that max. If basic usage for me with the apps I had listed results in 4+ GB of memory usage in a system with 16GB RAM, then there is no memory pressure, no compression, no swap used, and no proportional increase in virtual memory.

    That being said, the compression algorithm is great for compression of a memory cache to about half its size. Great. That means with 32GB RAM, you have roughly 16GB of RAM that can be compressed, which would result in having 48GB of virtual memory (I think). 16GB of Ram will give you a limit of 8GB that can be compressed resulting in a proportional increase in virtual memory and so on down the line.

    So the OP only having 4GB on an older system which is probably the last time that his iMac will be able to be upgraded (even with the compression technology in Mavericks), Mavericks will only be able to fully compress 2GB an will still only give the OP 6 GB of virtual memory and will result in continued beach-balling or slow downs.

    Sure, memory purging in older OSes wasn’t as sophisticated as it is in Mavericks, but the newer apps requiring more memory initially doesn’t make upgrading to Mavericks (or staying with Mavericks) seem like a good move unless some hardware upgrades are performed first to mitigate the concerns of Mavericks' memory requirements.

    I of course could be wrong in my understanding of how the compression works. And if that's the case, then fine. But the way that you posted, it seems like you belie the memory compression happens continuously. If that IS what's happening, then cool, but that would still only result in a total compression of half the available memory. I would also think that the continual use of the compression algorithm that is multi-threaded would not be wise given the need for power efficiency.

    Here are my stats from activity monitor right now with the following apps open and running:

    Safari (3 tabs open)

    Physical Memory: 16.00 GB
    Memory Used: 5.56 GB
    Virtual Memory: 16.00 GB
    Swap Used: 0 bytes

    App memory: 1.79 GB
    File Cache: 2.47GB
    Wired Memory: 1.30 GB
    Compressed: 0 bytes

    Memory Pressure: completely at the bottom and in the green.

    And just for kicks, I decided to do a manual purge in terminal and these are the new stats:

    PhysicalMem: 16GB
    MemUsed: 3.25 GB
    VirtualMem: 16GB
    SwapUsed: 0 bytes
    AppMem: 1.80GB
    FileCache: 160.00 MB
    WiredMem: 1.29 GB
    Compressed: 0 bytes

    Memory Pressure: still at the bottom and completely green.
  16. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    If it's a 2007 iMac, at least you got your money's worth :D

    For lowest cost, I'd go for Mac Mini, refurbished. Add a single 8GB RAM chip from Crucial, which brings it up to 10GB. Any monitor will do, and you take the mouse/keyboard from the iMac.


    I did feel that my own 2010 MBP wasn't quite happy with 4GB RAM and Mavericks (upgrading to 10GB gave a huge improvement), but with a 2007 iMac you might be stuck at 4GB.
  17. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    We have two of the same model of 2007 iMac. One of them was upgraded to Mavericks and although the RAM is maxed out (4GB) it still has performance issues under the new OS that I never saw in Snow Leopard. This is, after all, the minimum Mavericks configuration, so I probably should not expect much better.

    Yes, we have certainly gotten our money's worth out of these computers. I am curious to know how a SSD would make such a big difference and whether it's really worth investing $300 to replace the internal HD on such an old computer. I would also like to know how the old HD can be migrated to the new one, without also buying an external drive enclosure.
  18. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Actually the minimum is 2GB for Lion through Mavericks. It is working well for the light use (browsing, office apps mainly) on a MBA we have. The minimum for Snow Leopard is 1GB.

    Going to a SSD can make a big difference when memory is tight because it increases swapping speed.
  19. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    Sorry, I wasn't clear. I meant the 2007 iMac hardware is the oldest eligible for an upgrade to Mavericks.

    I can see where an SSD would help with virtual memory swaps.
  20. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Purely casual, unscientific observation: I just placed my hand on the rear of my 2008 21" iMac and then on the back of my 2013 27" iMac. The old machine is quite warm to the touch, the new machine feels much cooler (maybe a couple of degrees warmer than room temperature). The load on both CPUs was running at around 5% (95% idle). Yes, the 2008 has that vent port near the top of the case, and there's no top vent on the 2013. The 2008 has a plastic rear case, the 2013's is aluminum. If the back of the 2013 is functioning as a heat sink (how can it not be?), that huge expanse of metal would seem to be doing a more efficient job than the vent on the plastic case.
  21. McScooby macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2005
    The Paps of Glenn Close, Scotland.
    Of course, you could also factor in the planned obsolescence of whatever the next operating system is that launches this year, will apple allow you to upgrade the iMac? I'd counter that in before dropping money on ram & SSD, nothing more frustrating than having 2 computers on different versions of an OS, then again YMMV!!

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