iMac 27" RAM Upgrade (and HDD?)

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Amnesia180, May 19, 2017.

  1. Amnesia180 macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Hi All,

    I've just grabbed myself a late-2009 iMac, 27". 2.66 Ghz i5, 8GB RAM, 1 TB SATA HDD. (£200).

    I only need it for generic office use, and I do some light GoPro editing footage (which it seems to be handling up to 1080p just fine).

    However, I'd like to upgrade to 16 GB RAM. Is this possible, and if so, is it easy enough to do myself?

    Similarly, I'd like to add a second HDD or replace the one already on it with SSD. Again, is this possible?

    Any advice and comments are welcome, I was looking at the 2013 - 2015 iMac models in the 20.5" and they're still around £700 second-hand for equivalent specs - so I thought it would be better to buy this one, and do some minor upgrades (if they're possible, if not, I'm sure it's perfectly useable as it is).

  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Max RAM supported on yours is 32GB (4x8GB DDR3 1066MHz SODIMM). But those 8GB 1066MHz DIMMs are really expensive so 4x4GB would work fine and be much better from a financial perspective. Or you can fit 2x4GB along with your current RAM and have 12GB RAM (assuming it's 4x2GB modules).

    If it's 2x4GB modules already fitted then you just need an extra 2x4GB.

    Here are the 4GB DIMMs:

    RAM upgrade is nice and simple:

    Steps for HDD replacement is here:

    You might encounter issues with the fan speed permanently blasting at 100% if you change the HDD. Others here should be a little more helpful in that department, so hold off on the teardown until you get some better advice for how to sort out the fan speeds.

    I'd definitely recommend an SSD upgrade though. It'll make your machine run better than new.
  3. Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Thanks! I'll just buy another 2 x 4 GB to upgrade to 16 and it seems super expensive to go to 32 GB.

    Can I mix brands?

    The SSD upgrade looks a big job. Can I get an external SSD and just put the OS etc on it, connect through FireWire etc... or will I notice not a lot of difference because it's external?
  4. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    The late 2009 doesn't have any high speed external connectivity; the USB is just USB2 and it will be dog slow compared to internal. FW800 isn't much better. The internal SSD upgrade looks daunting but it's not really that bad. If I'm not mistaken, the screen glass is held on magnetically in your model, so no need to cut and reset adhesive. I'd want to change out the hard disks on a 7+ year old machine anyway, since hard drives get more prone to failure as they age.

    As for the ram, I think you're asking if you need to match the brand that's installed, and the answer is no. Buy from a reputable source (data memory systems, crucial, owc, kingston, etc etc) and match the specs for your machine and you should be fine. 16 Gb should be plenty for most users.
  5. Foxglove9 macrumors 68000


    Jan 14, 2006
    New York City
    I'm running the same iMac model and upgraded the internal hard drive. It is very difficult, but I used the iFixit guide as posted above. If you do it just give yourself plenty of light and workspace. Also you'll have to buy suction cups and a few other things. It's definitely not something I'd personally want to do again because a lot can go wrong in the process.

    But, adding an SSD makes a huge difference and totally worth it. I'm not sure I would have stuck with this computer as long as I did if it wasn't for the speed gains of the SSD upgrade. What I did to get around the fan issue was to leave the original 1TB hard drive and remove the DVD drive since I wasn't using that anyway. I installed the SSD using the connectors from the DVD drive and everything works fine.
  6. Amnesia180, May 20, 2017
    Last edited: May 20, 2017

    Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Thanks both for the replies.

    Definitely going to upgrade the RAM. Will get from a reputable brand and should be good to go.

    I like the idea of adding the SSD in place of the DVD drive. That way I can test if I've done it correctly before transferring the OS etc.
    Id then use the 1TB HDD for backups, or replace it like for like.

    What size SSD would I need to fit the OS, a few programs? I'd use it for storing my Gopro footage whilst editing it in iMove or FCPX. Once the final edit is complete, I'd move it over with all the original to the HDD and backup externally.

    Edit: quite a few sites recommend a SSHD as they're a fraction of the price but give the benefit of an SSD (just like how Apple's FD works)
  7. sboychuck macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2014
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    I have used the Crucial MX300 525GB drives in all four of my Mac's. I bought them on sale and they seem to be a good value. May not be the absolute fastest drives, but most users will never notice. Unless you can get a great deal on something bigger, I would stick with 525GB and an external enclosure for large storage.
  8. Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Thanks, I've been looking at SSD and it seems quite an expensive route. I will definitely do it, just might be a month or two down the line.

    In the meantime, I'm going to invest in a 2TB external HDD as I've got photos/videos/projects and lots of raw files I want to backup from both my ageing laptop and iMac - so at least then I've got a centrally backed up copy of everything.

    I'll then have two smaller external HDDs for working from (i.e: moving finished projects too) and the SSD will be for working on live edits.

    What are peoples experiences with SSHD (apparently they work like FusionDrive?).
  9. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    The Fusion drive (SSHD) uses the SSD as a cache for frequently used files, overflowing to the HD when the SSD is full. It's a compromise, giving you more space for a lower price than you'd pay for an SSD of equivalent size, and giving you SSD speed some of the time. How well it works depends strongly on individual usage patterns so it's hard to say in general. For some people it will be almost like using pure SSD and for some it will be a dog. I'd guess that as long as the SSD part is at least 128 Gb, it can be a win for most people. Pure SSD will always beat it performance-wise but of course it will cost more.
  10. sboychuck macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2014
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    The hybrid drives for sale generally have pretty small SSD's in them. I would go with a decent size SSD (256 or 512 GB) and then use an external. I have a 3TB Fusion Drive in my 27-inch Mac, as I felt a 128 GB SSD was fine for me. My next purchases will be SSD only (at least 512 GB) and then external drives for large storage. My 3TB Fusion drive is pretty quick. A pure SSD is probably quicker, but I do not need it and I can wait a few extra seconds. If you are doing intensive work, then you would probably be happier with a pure SSD drive only.
  11. Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Back onto the topic of RAM.

    I have 4 x 2 GB sticks. If I purchase a 16 GB set (2 x 8GB) can I keep 2 x 2 GB in as well? Or do they have to match in size?
  12. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 68000


    Oct 19, 2007
    Nambucca Heads Australia
  13. MadDane macrumors 6502a

    Apr 5, 2015
    That is what I have in my late 2009 iMac (i7 model). 2x 8GB + 2x 2GB for a total of 20GB. Furthermore I have replaced the SuperDrive with an SSD and made a Fusion Drive together with a 2TB HDD. It has been running like that for 4 years now and it still works perfectly.
  14. Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Would love to hear more about how you did the SSD and Fusion Drive.

    Also, any particular brand of RAM recommended? I'm in the UK and many website are selling "premium unbranded" so I wouldn't actually know what I was ordering until it arrived.
  15. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    See my reply #4 above. I don't think it's the brand that matters as much as getting the proper specs, and ordering from a good vendor like DMS, Crucial, etc will help you get the right stuff. If you are familiar with RAM specs and know what you're doing then you can buy from ebay etc with reasonable confidence. I don't see that it's worth it for the smaller 4G or 8Gb sticks, which aren't all that expensive.
  16. Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
  17. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
  18. MadDane macrumors 6502a

    Apr 5, 2015
    I replaced the SuperDrive with a regular 2.5" SSD (mounted in a drive caddy). Then I followed one of the many guides online for how to make a Fusion Drive. Here is one example:

    I usually just get RAM from a reputable brand (Kingston, Corsair etc.) that fits the computer. I have replaced all the RAM in my iMac with 1333 MHz to get slightly faster RAM.
  19. Amnesia180 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2017
    Thanks all,

    I've got some Kingston 2 x 8Gb ram coming. It'd the
    KTA-MB1066K2/8G 16GB 1066MHz SODIMM Memory Kit

    Hopefully I'll notice a difference.

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18 May 19, 2017