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olivione

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 4, 2017
4
5
Hi,

my parents are still rocking the late 2013 iMac (14,1) with a 2.7 GHz i5, 8GB of Ram and a 1TB Hard Drive.

They use it for super basic things like surfing, sorting pictures and light office work. However, since the upgrade to MacOS Catalina, the Mac has become suuuper slow. Opening the browser takes like a minute....

They are thinking about getting a new one, but given the 24" M1 iMac has been out for quite a while now, I wanted to see whether we can keep this one running for another year or so (until the M3 version comes out).

Do you see any merit in upgrading the Hard Drive to an SSD? Do you think that would make the iMac considerably faster? Along the SSD upgrade I would install a clean version of MacOS, which should also help. Would you further recommend upgrading from 8 to 16 GB of RAM in the process?

Thanks!!
 

Nguyen Duc Hieu

macrumors 68020
Jul 5, 2020
2,128
614
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Hi,

my parents are still rocking the late 2013 iMac (14,1) with a 2.7 GHz i5, 8GB of Ram and a 1TB Hard Drive.

They use it for super basic things like surfing, sorting pictures and light office work. However, since the upgrade to MacOS Catalina, the Mac has become suuuper slow. Opening the browser takes like a minute....

They are thinking about getting a new one, but given the 24" M1 iMac has been out for quite a while now, I wanted to see whether we can keep this one running for another year or so (until the M3 version comes out).

Do you see any merit in upgrading the Hard Drive to an SSD? Do you think that would make the iMac considerably faster? Along the SSD upgrade I would install a clean version of MacOS, which should also help. Would you further recommend upgrading from 8 to 16 GB of RAM in the process?

Thanks!!

SSD upgrading is for poorman. 1 external USB enclosure + 1 SSD is good enough for the iMac 2013 regain its speedy operation in Catalina.

If you are rich, get the iMac M1.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
25,374
10,370
Rather than pry the iMac open, get an EXTERNAL USB3 SSD.

It can be 1tb, or might even be 512gb (check to see how much space your parents have actually used).

Many are available, I'd suggest the Samsung t7 "Shield". I bought one a few weeks' back and it's very nice (fast, too).

Format the external SSD to APFS, GUID partition format.

Then use either SuperDuper or CarbonCopyCloner (both are FREE to use for 30 days, this will cost you nothing) to "clone" the contents of the iMac's internal drive to the SSD.

Now, go to the startup disk preference pane and set the SSD to be "the new boot drive".

I -guarantee- (yes, I'm THAT confident) that both you and your parents will be quite pleased with the speed-up.

This will carry them over until the m2/m3 iMac is released.
And when it DOES arrive, the external SSD will make it easy to "migrate their stuff over".
Just connect to the new one and "go". (Although you might want to exclude applications from the initial migration, as a good number of the ones they use -might- require updating).

And once migrated, the external SSD can now become the backup for the iMac's INTERNAL SSD...
 

Macky-Mac

macrumors 68030
May 18, 2004
2,958
1,830
I have a late 2013 iMac and am using an external SSD as the boot drive.......it's my "daily driver". It's way faster than the original hard drive (which failed a year ago).

It's got 8GB RAM which is fine for basic stuff, so I'd say you don't need to upgrade the RAM
 
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olivione

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 4, 2017
4
5
That is very helpful input. Many thanks to you all!! I just ordered the suggested Samsung SSD
 
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rampancy

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2002
446
518
Hello! I usually live in the Early Intel Mac forums, but this thread caught my eye...

I'm pretty much in the same position as the OP: I've been gifted a Late-2013 iMac (14,1) but the hard drive (which I already knew was slow at 5400 rpm) is apparently failing according to DriveDx's SMART diagnostics. I had planned on replacing the hard drive with an internal SSD anyway, but the idea of having to cut through and reapply adhesive strips is something I'm not currently comfortable with.

Currently Black Friday pricing has put a 1 TB Samsung T7 Shield external USB 3 SSD at a cheaper price than an internal SATA 1 TB Samsung 870 EVO, plus the tools/adhesive strip kit from iFixit that I'd need to make the swap.

At the risk of being repetitious, is running the iMac off an external USB 3 SSD truly a viable option in terms of performance? I'm used to external USB disks being extremely slow as boot drives.

Edit: Oh, and looking at the iFixit guide it looks like replacing the RAM necessitates tearing down the entire machine, even though the RAM is still socketed. I've never dealt with a Mac this horrendous to internally work with since my G3 iBook.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
25,374
10,370
External USB3 drives will typically yield a read speed of 400-430MBps or thereabouts.
A good cable counts, too.

Compare this with the speeds you're getting NOW from the internal drive.
Would it be a "big jump up" for you?
 

KFridman

macrumors member
May 8, 2020
90
28
New York State
About 2 1/2 years ago I had my late 2012 iMac upgraded with an internal SSD and 16 GB Ram. The change in speed was impressive. Like the OP it took about a minute to boot up. With the new SSD that time dropped to seconds. I don't use it for anything personal anymore. Banking and that sort of stuff are now done on my M1 MBA. I also installed Brave and Firefox and use those instead of Safari. Glad I did it. It is the first thing I bought from Apple and would like to keep it going as long as I can.
 

Snowlover

macrumors 6502
Nov 28, 2018
343
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Alpine , CA
A no cost alternative would be to just downgrade the OS. Catalina is no longer supported so the security ramifications would not be that big a deal.
 

EugW

macrumors G5
Jun 18, 2017
12,729
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External USB3 drives will typically yield a read speed of 400-430MBps or thereabouts.
A good cable counts, too.

Compare this with the speeds you're getting NOW from the internal drive.
Would it be a "big jump up" for you?
It's not about max read/write speed. It's about random access speed. For random access speeds, an external SSD might be something like a factor of 25X faster (or even more) than an internal hard drive.
 

weckart

macrumors 603
Nov 7, 2004
5,691
3,288
At the risk of being repetitious, is running the iMac off an external USB 3 SSD truly a viable option in terms of performance? I'm used to external USB disks being extremely slow as boot drives.
The biggest speed bump you will notice isn't necessarily the headline 400MB/s, which is only for sequential large file copying but rather the much faster random access speeds, which won't saturate a USB3 connection. You can pay extra for an external Thunderbolt SSD if you want but there's diminishing returns on that for your use case.
 
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EugW

macrumors G5
Jun 18, 2017
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A no cost alternative would be to just downgrade the OS. Catalina is no longer supported so the security ramifications would not be that big a deal.
I don't think this is a viable solution. Even Sierra and High Sierra would need SSD to be responsive, but those already are problematic for application support. Going to El Capitan would be a severe problem for applications and even just surfing, and even El Capitan isn't exactly fast on a hard drive. So, Catalina is the only OS I'd consider running from that standpoint. If internal SSD is not an option, then USB 3 is a reasonable alternate solution. Catalina on a USB 3 SSD is much, much faster than High Sierra on an internal hard drive and is faster than El Capitan on an internal hard drive too.

In my case with a 2010 iMac, it's stuck on High Sierra, and it limits its functionality with regards to app support. However, even on High Sierra it was very slow trying to run it off its internal 2 TB hard drive, at least if I ever had to load anything. Once a browser was loaded, if I just used the browser it was fine, but as soon as I wanted to do anything else, it would slow right down. Really irritating. It doesn't have USB 3 so I tried running it off USB 2 SSD, but that was just too slow, just as bad as internal HD overall. So I tried running it off FireWire 800, and that actually was pretty decent. Not awesome but a huge improvement. My main problem with this setup was that the speed increase was only there for relatively small file transfers like app loading and browsing and the like. However, if I wanted to transfer many hundreds of MB to many GB, it'd overload the cache and the drive would slow right down. It'd take a long time to speed up again too, because there was no TRIM support.

However, USB 3 can provide very good speeds, and some modern drives have excellent sustained speeds so that they won't slow down even after several GB of data has been transferred. If my iMac had supported USB 3, I might have just stuck with a USB 3 SSD and called it a day. However, since it didn't have USB 3, I took the plunge and disassembled it to install an internal SSD.

Internal SSD (excellent) > USB 3 SSD (good) >> FireWire 800 SSD (OK), but all of those are much faster than internal HD (bad) and USB 2 SSD (bad).
 
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Snowlover

macrumors 6502
Nov 28, 2018
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Alpine , CA
I don't think this is a viable solution. Even Sierra and High Sierra would need SSD to be responsive, but those already are problematic for application support. Going to El Capitan would be a severe problem for applications and even just surfing, and even El Capitan isn't exactly fast on a hard drive. So, Catalina is the only OS I'd consider running from that standpoint. If internal SSD is not an option, then USB 3 is a reasonable alternate solution. Catalina on a USB 3 SSD is much, much faster than High Sierra on an internal hard drive and is faster than El Capitan on an internal hard drive too.

In my case with a 2010 iMac, it's stuck on High Sierra, and it limits its functionality with regards to app support. However, even on High Sierra it was very slow trying to run it off its internal 2 TB hard drive, at least if I ever had to load anything. Once a browser was loaded, if I just used the browser it was fine, but as soon as I wanted to do anything else, it would slow right down. Really irritating. It doesn't have USB 3 so I tried running it off USB 2, but that was no good. While random access speeds would be OK, the 20ish MB/s speed limit was just too slow. So I tried running it off FireWire, and that actually was pretty decent. Not awesome but a huge improvement. My main problem with this setup was that the speed increase was only there for relatively small file transfers like app loading and browsing and the like. However, if I wanted to transfer many hundreds of MB to many GB, it'd overload the cache and the drive would slow right down. It'd take a long time to speed up again too, because there was no TRIM support.

However, USB 3 can provide very good speeds, and some modern drives have excellent sustained speeds so that they won't slow down even after several GB of data has been transferred. If my iMac had supported USB 3, I might have just stuck with a USB 3 SSD and called it a day. However, since it didn't, I took the plunge and disassembled it to install an internal SSD.
Just made the suggestion because it seemed the op's parents were fine with it before updating to Catalina.
I agree with personally wanting a ssd for any OS past Mavericks.
Not sure what application support issues there would be on High Sierra - though would use Firefox or Brave browser(both still supported) instead of Safari.
 

EugW

macrumors G5
Jun 18, 2017
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Not sure what application support issues there would be on High Sierra - though would use Firefox or Brave browser(both still supported) instead of Safari.
Well, that was one of my concerns. You can't really use Safari (which is my preferred browser). Not only is it missing security updates, it also has lost compatibility with some sites.

There are also niggling issues like no local OS WebP format support etc. if you want to download those images (although there are workarounds). Also, some stuff like some business apps no longer support High Sierra due to the security issues. This may not apply to these parents though of course.

In my case I've repurposed my 2010 High Sierra iMac with SSD for the kids, and I've installed a WebP viewer for the Finder that supports Quick Look etc.


With the internal SSD, it works well, but that's because all they ever do on the machine is use Chrome (YouTube, Google Classroom, Google Drive) and Notes and stuff like that.
 

pshufd

macrumors G3
Oct 24, 2013
8,532
13,499
New Hampshire
I have a 2010 iMac 27 with i7, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD and it's actually fine for office work. It's only USB 2 so an external SSD really doesn't help performance. The 32 GB of RAM makes a big difference because just about everything is cached. Large file transfers are obviously slow as is startup but the system is fine once it has started up.

Your 2013 should be fine for basic uses with an external SSD. I would also add RAM as it will help performance, particularly if they machine isn't shut down and started up every day.

I use a 2014 iMac with 32 GB of RAM and an internal SSD and the read/write speeds are around 560 mbps so a little faster than USB3 - and this system is more than fine for office stuff. I can do HD video editing on it if I want to though I do 4k video editing on a Mac Studio these days.
 
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EugW

macrumors G5
Jun 18, 2017
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I have a 2010 iMac 27 with i7, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD and it's actually fine for office work. It's only USB 2 so an external SSD really doesn't help performance. The 32 GB of RAM makes a big difference because just about everything is cached. Large file transfers are obviously slow as is startup but the system is fine once it has started up.
Yeah, for my 2010 iMac 27 with i7, 12 GB RAM, 2 TB HDD, it was OK for office work, if I made a point to launch everything I needed ahead of time so it was cached. But the launch process was painful, and with 12 GB RAM it wasn't hard to max it out if I started launching other programs, which also made things painful not just because of the need to launch those programs but also because I might start to hit swap.

Sure, going to 32 GB RAM would have helped, but that was really expensive at the time (although cheap now), and SSD was just a better solution overall as it directly addresses the underlying problem (which is the hard drive). Swap is never good but it wasn't quite so horrible with the SSD installed. SSD + a decent amount of RAM is even better, but at this point I'm not going to bother adding RAM since it only gets light usage now so 12 GB is sufficient. The slots are all already populated - 4+4+2+2 - so I'd have to remove 4 GB in order to add more RAM.
 

Nguyen Duc Hieu

macrumors 68020
Jul 5, 2020
2,128
614
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Yeah, for my 2010 iMac 27 with i7, 12 GB RAM, 2 TB HDD, it was OK for office work, if I made a point to launch everything I needed ahead of time so it was cached. But the launch process was painful, and with 12 GB RAM it wasn't hard to max it out if I started launching other programs, which also made things painful not just because of the need to launch those programs but also because I might start to hit swap.

Sure, going to 32 GB RAM would have helped, but that was really expensive at the time (although cheap now), and SSD was just a better solution overall as it directly addresses the underlying problem (which is the hard drive). Swap is never good but it wasn't quite so horrible with the SSD installed. SSD + a decent amount of RAM is even better, but at this point I'm not going to bother adding RAM since it only gets light usage now so 12 GB is sufficient. The slots are all already populated - 4+4+2+2 - so I'd have to remove 4 GB in order to add more RAM.

Let me verify about the economy of RAM and SSD upgrade
Where I live, an 8GB RAM stick (2nd hand) cost about 16$. 16$ x 4 = 64$
512GB 2.5" SSD: 40$~50$.

I wouldn't hesitate to upgrade my gear with that cost, to improve my Mac usage experience.
 

EugW

macrumors G5
Jun 18, 2017
12,729
10,123
Let me verify about the economy of RAM and SSD upgrade
Where I live, an 8GB RAM stick (2nd hand) cost about 16$. 16$ x 4 = 64$
512GB 2.5" SSD: 40$~50$.

I wouldn't hesitate to upgrade my gear with that cost, to improve my Mac usage experience.
Yes, as mentioned, nowadays I agree the RAM is cheap for the 2010 iMac. However, many years ago, it wasn't so cheap. So, I decided not to invest that much more money into my 2010 iMac, a machine that would be stuck on High Sierra and which I had already upgraded to 12 GB. Instead, I bought a 2017 iMac and upgraded that to 24 GB RAM, and used the 2010 iMac as a matching secondary monitor.

And I think that was a good decision, since even though I'm not using the 2010 iMac as a secondary anymore and have repurposed it again as a functional computer, the 12 GB is more than sufficient for what it is being used for: Light usage, which doesn't max out the RAM, as a secondary machine for the kids. In that context, 12 GB + SSD >> 32 GB + hard drive. My 2017 iMac is my main machine, and officially is supported by Ventura.

Next I will likely buy an M2 Mac mini in 2023, probably again with 24 GB RAM, and that will last me to macOS 18 or whatever.
 
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rampancy

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2002
446
518
So I took the plunge and got a 1 TB Samsung T7 Shield (thanks to @Fishrrman for the recommendation). It's an incredibly fast SSD. From a review I've read the Kingston XS2000 is significantly faster, but I assume that to take full advantage of its bandwidth I'd need a computer with 20 Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 ports.

Anyway, the iMac runs significantly faster than on the internal drive, though I need to read up a bit more on AFPS to clarify if it's using the user data volume on the SSD, or using the user data volume on the internal hard drive.

Me being the stickler that I am, I still would have preferred to replace the internal drive (and upgrade the RAM too) - if only Apple didn't make it so damn hard on this version of the iMac.
 
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Nguyen Duc Hieu

macrumors 68020
Jul 5, 2020
2,128
614
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
So I took the plunge and got a 1 TB Samsung T7 Shield (thanks to @Fishrrman for the recommendation). It's an incredibly fast SSD. From reviews I've read the Kingston XS2000 is significantly faster, but I assume that to take full advantage of its bandwidth I'd need a computer with 20 Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 ports.

Anyway, the iMac runs significantly faster than on the internal drive, though I need to read up a bit more on AFPS to clarify if it's using the user data volume on the SSD, or using the user data volume on the internal hard drive.

Me being the stickler that I am, I still would have preferred to replace the internal drive (and upgrade the RAM too) - if only Apple didn't make it so damn hard on this version of the iMac.

It's much harder on the iPhone, but the shops where I live have been repairing them here.
They do replace the NAND chip with 256GB, 512GB or even 1TB.
It's just not the job a common iPhone user can do, though.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
25,374
10,370
rampancy wrote in 19 above:
"Anyway, the iMac runs significantly faster than on the internal drive, though I need to read up a bit more on AFPS to clarify if it's using the user data volume on the SSD, or using the user data volume on the internal hard drive."

HOW did you "move stuff over"?
Did you do a clone from the internal to the external?
Or... did you do it some other way?

If you used either a clone or setup/migration assistant to move your data,
then
If you are booting from the SSD, the OS should be loading the user data volume that now is on the SSD (as well).
 

rampancy

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2002
446
518
HOW did you "move stuff over"?
Did you do a clone from the internal to the external?
Or... did you do it some other way?

If you used either a clone or setup/migration assistant to move your data,
then
If you are booting from the SSD, the OS should be loading the user data volume that now is on the SSD (as well).
Straight-up clone of the internal HDD to the Samsung external SSD using CCC set to default. So that means all is well. I'm basically trying to minimize any additional wear and tear on the internal hard drive in the hopes that it can last longer.
 
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