iMac 2010 advice

Discussion in 'iMac' started by jcmc, Apr 24, 2018.

  1. jcmc macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008

    A little bit of advice would be welcome and I'll try to not make my question too general. I have a late 2010 27" iMac with 8gb of RAM and it's increasingly driving me mad with how slow it's getting. I have a 2tb hard drive so it's not because I am tight on that. Running the latest OS X.

    Biggest problem is my iTunes which is quite a big library and has become utterly unusable - I mean I click a track to play it and I get a spinning beachball for 10 minutes slowing down my machine across the board. I think it's broken somehow beyond just my machine being slow but I don't know what to do about that.
    My large Photos library is also awkward and slow to navigate, edit etc.

    So the question I would have is whether it would be worth my while upgrading the Ram to 16gb on this machine in the hope of getting a big enough boost in performance so I could continue to use it a while longer. Or should I accept that it's too old and not worth my while trying to salvage it?


  2. Capoya macrumors newbie

    Apr 24, 2018
    A ram Upgrade won‘t help. I am pretty sure its the spinner. Check your hdd. Sounds like its dying. I swapped mine for a 500gb ssd and my 2010 feels brand new with high sierra. 4K Editing and a 5k screen would be nice but since the ssd upgrade i hold on year after year until Apple comes up with something worthy
  3. jcmc thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    Interesting. Is there anyway I can find out the actual physical state of my HDD?
  4. BrianBaughn macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2011
    Baltimore, Maryland
    There are some paid apps that might find something but I don’t recommend putting money toward those. If you run “First Aid” via Disk Utility does anything unusual show up?
  5. redheeler macrumors 604


    Oct 17, 2014
    Based on those symptoms, I second the HDD as the cause of the issue. An SSD would make your 2010 iMac feel like new.
    With your drive selected in Disk Utility, click First Aid.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    You have two problems.
    RAM -IS NOT- one of them.

    The two problems are:
    1. Platter-based hard drive
    2. A 2010 iMac is just gettin' "too old" for the latest versions of the OS.

    The solutions (as I see them):
    - Upgrade the hard drive. I WOULD NOT open the iMac unless you are confident of your abilities, and if you're either willing to buy a new computer or pay more to get it fixed (if something else breaks on you).

    The only practical course for booting from an external drive would be to buy a thunderbolt drive, and they're on the expensive side. Probably not worth it for an 8-year-old Mac.

    - Downgrade the software. You could "go back" to something like El Capitan which might run a little better, but there are no guarantees.

    - Start shopping for a replacement. I'd suggest this as the best course of action. That way all the $$$$ you spend will be "on the new" instead of "patchin' up the old".

    The 2017 iMacs are quite nice. But you might try to hold out until mid/late summer, when new iMacs are expected. Then choose either to get a brand-new one or pick up a 2017 design at [what hopefully will be] a "closeout" price.

    If you decide to get something new, I would advise you to NOT BUY any iMac with only a platter-based hard drive inside. TOO SLOW -- just like yours is now.
    DON'T BUY an iMac with a 1tb fusion drive. Again, the SSD portion is tiny (32gb) and speed may suffer as a result.
    You might consider a 2tb fusion model. These have a 128gb SSD portion. Not perfect, but "better".

    I recommend that you buy an iMac with a "straight SSD" inside -- even the 256gb model will work. An SSD will always run at its best throughout the life of the computer. And it's easy enough to add external USB3 storage if more is required.
  7. jcmc thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    Hello. I ran the First Aid process and it didn't seem to turn up any major issues, but I take on board what you're both saying about the drive and why that's probably the issue - my machine is very slow to boot up too which I am thinking will be another symptom.

    A 1tb Samsung 850 SSD costs roughly £250 which is a lot for an old machine, so some thinking required. Is there another brand that you might recommend which might be cheaper? Also, can you run a mix of SSD and hard drive and allocate what application goes where?

    --- Post Merged, Apr 24, 2018 ---
    And just seen your advice too fishrrman so thanks for that. Would love a new machine but need a large hard drive and budget is an issue unfortunately!
  8. Guy Clark Suspended

    Guy Clark

    Nov 28, 2013
    London United Kingdom.
    Download the Trial version of DriveDX which will carry out a full diagnostic of your Hard Drive
  9. padams35 macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2016
    Yah, frequent persistent beachballs are usually a sign of drive related difficulty. Probably impending drive failure, possibly just heavy fragmentation or metadata corruption. If you are committed to replacing the drive anyway and have redundant backups you could try reformatting the HDD followed by either restoring, cloning or better yet a clean reinstall. Sometimes that works.

    Other observations...

    Is 2010 too old? No, net yet... but its close enough that £250 for an SSD upgrade is probably not worth it.

    Mixed SSD/HDD? That works. Specifying iTunes or Photo library locations can be tricky (I haven't attempted that) but 3rd party applications are usually agreeable to drag/drop relocation.

    Thunderbolt drive? Not an option as 2010 was the year before Thunderbolt came out. However you could try booting from a Firewire 800 external HDD if you don't want to open the case. A Firewire 800 HDD would still be kinda slow but should improve things from beachballs lasting several minutes to beachballs lasting just a couple seconds. Also most firewire drives still sold these days double as USB 3.0 drives allowing reuse as external storage or as a time machine backup on a new mac.

    Speaking of new macs don't worry too much about the 1TB/2TB fusion drives (assuming you go for a new 5K). HDDs/Fusions mostly get their bad reputation from the 2.5" 5400rpm HDDs that ship in the 4K models (modern 5400rpm curd is still slower in every way than your 2010's 7200rpm was when new).
  10. tyche macrumors 6502

    Jul 30, 2010
    BlackMagic Disk Speed is free. Get a benchmark so people can compare against expected platter disk speeds. Like people have said, it certainly sounds like the drive is failing. I've seen this before, it takes a long time to fail but the drive is dead man walking.
  11. jcmc thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    Thanks for all your advice. Just one more question: is it possible to purchase an external SSD drive and potentially run my most demanding applications from there?

    If I was going to send that sort of money I would rather have something that I can use in the future for general back-ups when i eventually did upgrade my machine.
  12. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    The problem is that you've only got Firewire / USB 2 / GigE as options to plug it into. A USB 2 SSD drive is probably faster than your internal HDD but it is slower than it would be internally on SATA and treacle-like compared to the modern internal SSDs (NVMe and the like).

    I'm too running a 2010 iMac (top i7 CPU in a 27") and had the misfortune to have the HDD die back in August 2015 (first point - is everything backed up properly? that should be priority number 1).

    I got an extra 8 GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and cracked open the shell. Not an easy task but all sorted out and the bump to 16 GB of RAM and the SSD did indeed make it feel like a new machine. However its now 2.5 years later and its definitely beginning to be a pain. I've got a pretty large Photos library and that is getting really irritatingly laggy - not to mention that the ethernet got fried by lightning so its stuck on WiFi with the speed and lack of reliability inherent there.

    That £300 or so was a great investment that has bought me another 2.5 years of computing on whats been a fantastic machine... but I think its now pretty much end of the road and its basically just can it hold on until we get an iMac refresh. At this stage I'm not sure its worth burning a couple of hundred quid on an interim solution (you can cheap out and have something worthless - but even if you spend are you really going to want a, relatively, slow and small external SSD rather than a bump to the internal SSD or a large external HDD?) when its not realistically going to get you much beyond the next refresh.
  13. jcmc thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2008
    Yes, that all makes sense. Oh well, have to get saving for a new one I guess!
  14. elf69 macrumors 68020


    Jun 2, 2016
    Cornwall UK
    I have a 2007 imac that had same issues.

    It's HDD failed and I fitted an SSD and max ram to 6GB.
    almost new machine, with dosdude hack hope to have high sierra in it soon and changed out the CPU too.

    They not too bad to swap HDD yourself or ask a local computer shop to do it.
    my SSD was £54 from china, only sata2 but still faster than hdd.
  15. AmazingRobie macrumors 6502


    Jun 10, 2009
    We have a mid-2011 iMac with 32gb of Ram and SSD on High Sierra. No problems with machine. iTunes has always been a problem backing up takes forever. iTunes is the weak link, it's a POS.
  16. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    Yes, an SSD works fine as a boot disk in a FireWire 800 enclosure. Not nearly as fast as internal SSD but significantly faster than the 8 year old hard drive. Just make sure you get an enclosure that accepts supplemental power because FireWire power may not be stable enough.

    Here’s my thread on this:

    And the part about bus power:

    The other thing to remember is to get way more storage than you need since an SSD will slow right down if near full, esp. without TRIM support. There is no TRIM in a FW enclosure.
  17. Richdmoore macrumors 68000


    Jul 24, 2007
    Troutdale, OR
    If you are interested in trying more ram anyway, I do have a for sale post in the classified section of macrumors with some compatible ram (same as the 2011 iMac models).
  18. Guy Clark Suspended

    Guy Clark

    Nov 28, 2013
    London United Kingdom.
    You could consider a Seagate Solid State Hybrid Drive SSHD which offers improved performance and capacity available up to 2TB all at a reasonable cost. I have been using Hybrid Drives for some time now and can thoroughly recommend them
    Below is a detailed iFixit tutorial on fitting a new Hard Drive to the 2010 27" iMac
  19. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    Almost any SATA SSD will work just fine. I believe that the 2010 is still SATA 2, so there's not a lot of point to buying a relatively expensive SSD just to get a minor boost in the benchmarks. I put a Mushkin into my 2009 iMac and it's been working fine for close to 2 years now.

    The hybrid is definitely a thought. However if you can find a sufficiently large SSD at a reasonable price point, I think that would be preferable; not only will it be faster, but when you do buy a new machine, you can pull the SSD out and mount it in an external case. Decent USB 3 drive cases are quite inexpensive, and you would want to buy one anyway to clone your current hard drive to the SSD before installing it.

    And, one more suggestion: you might even consider replacing the hard drive. Refurb drives are very cheap, and while you won't get anything like SSD or even SSHD speeds, a decent 7200 RPM drive ought to get you back to couple-second beachballs for a minimum investment.
  20. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 68000


    Oct 19, 2007
    Nambucca Heads Australia
    Leave Seagate's Hybrid and Apple's Fusion drives be. They are both poor value and thw technology was to 'make do' when SSDs were first introduced at horrendous prices. Go with all SSD.
  21. pl1984 macrumors 68000

    Oct 31, 2017
    Before spending any money you should attempt to determine where the bottleneck lies. You can do this with "Activity Monitor" which is located within the Utility folder within the Applications folder.

    The main window allows you to view information on CPU, memory, and disk (among others) usage. My recommendation is to start Activity Monitor and then observe usage for all three of these items when using iTunes. If you see CPU usage at 100% then it's likely you are CPU constrained. If you see significant memory pressure you might be memory constrained. The same applies to disk usage.

    Unfortunately I cannot provide any absolute guidance on what is or is not acceptable. It will be a judgement call on your part (or share it with the forum and they can offer suggestions).

    In addition it might not be a bad idea to backup your data and reinstall the OS. It doesn't cost anything but a few hours.

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