iMac Longevity

Discussion in 'iMac' started by vennemme, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. vennemme macrumors newbie


    Aug 13, 2017
    Hi all,

    I'm a long time lurker, and I have the opportunity to buy an iMac from around 2009 at a fairly discounted price, but I'm curious about how long it will stay functional as hardware and software progresses.

    I'm looking at a one of the following 3 options:

    20" iMac, 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB or 750 GB HD
    24" iMac, 2.93 GHz Core 2 Duo, 8 GB RAM, 640 GB HD
    27" iMac, 2.7 GHz i5, 8 GB RAM, 1000 GB HD

    Thanks for your help!
  2. paulryp macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2016
    Whats your budget. The cpu is not the bottle neck for a decent computer. Whatever happens I would stick an SSD in whatever config you go for. This will cost more money but ultimately the usability of this old iMac will live or die on getting an SSD on the internal sata. Hopefully your tech savy to pull this off or you know someone who is? Without the SSD you've pretty much got a paperweight and would be better off with an iPad.
  3. williah macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2014
    I have a 2007 which I use as a third monitor and only just started dying. That's roughly 10 years, being fairly well taken care of.
    Paulryp is correct about the drive though. I've replaced it twice on this workhouse. I give a drive at most 5-6 years before problems will likely pop up.
    My guess on a 2009 would be about the same lifespan, 9-10 years total, but (obviously) there's no real way to tell for any specific computer. I just started having powerboard issues on my, an am looking for cheap repair options, making it work keeping.

    That's all I have, hope that's useful.
  4. curmudgeonette macrumors 6502

    Jan 28, 2016
    These seem to be early 2009 models.

    The clock rate implies a 2011 model.

    The 2009's already do not officially support the latest version of macOS. Thus, stay away! The target buyer should be someone who already has one of these systems and is looking for spare parts. The 2011 should be OK if the price is right, but keep in mind that Apple might drop OS support for this model any year.
  5. KentuckyApple macrumors regular


    Jul 2, 2003
    Chicago, IL
    I just replaced my 2009 i7 last month. Prior to that, I had been running it 24/7 for the previous 7 years with no ill effects. I did replace the hard drive with a Samsung 850 evo, and I added more ram. I was waiting for it to die before I replaced it, but I got impatient. Lol.
  6. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2007
    Nambucca Heads Australia
    Discard the first two, and the third is perhaps a 'barely'. the day nof the slow old platter hard drive are well and truly behind us. A Solid State Drive installed in the 2011 27" model would improve its performance out of sight, but it is hampered by USB2 and at its age, questionable graphics.

    If the budget runs to it, a later model of say the 2015 27" iMac. Do not consider the 21.5" as from 2012 you cannot increase the memory and they have a slower 2.5"" notebook style hard drive, unless you find one with an SSD installed.
  7. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
    My 2009 just died due to GPU (graphics card) failure. I considered replacing, but there was/is no knowing what else could fail or when. Just a liability IMHO.

    Really depends on how much you’re paying.

    Also, you didn’t mention how much memory (RAM) each one has.
  8. mmomega macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2009
    DFW, TX
    I have a late 2009 27" i5 in one of my offices being used now. The people that use it have zero idea that it's 7 years old.
    I did put an SSD in it in Dec '09. It is still going strong today.
    Mileage may vary, also depends on your particular usage.
  9. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    If you fit an SSD - the HD replacement instructions are here: - then you'll have a perfectly usable machine that will cope with most general computing tasks. There's a chance that it won't run the latest version of Mac OS (or maybe the next one), but its usually a couple of years before that becomes an issue. Processors have only got, what, 50% faster, like-for-like, over that time. Main practical issue is the lack of USB 3 - if the i5 is a 2011 model, though, then it will have Thunderbolt so you do have fast i/o capability.

    HOWEVER: if it breaks, you get to keep both halves. It'll be up to you to keep it going - probably buy buying more old iMacs from eBay for parts.

    There's a big difference between "The Mac I bought in 2009 is still going strong and does everything I need it to do" (you'll get a lot of that - and its true - I've got a 2011 MBP that's still going strong and would, at a pinch, do everything I need to do) and actually investing significant money in buying a 6+ year old Mac today, then maybe investing more money to add SSD, Thunderbolt-to-USB3 etc. Personally, I'd save up my money for something newer - unless you're in a financial position to say "I'll spend a couple of hundred bucks on this to see how I like iMacs, and if it dies after a few months then I'll put it down to experience".
  10. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    I'd sharpen my pencil, and see whether the price of the 2009 models makes sense after adding the cost of replacing the HDD. You might be lucky and the machine may have a reasonably new HDD already. But if not, you'd have a ticking time bomb.

    As already noted, if the iMacs are early-2009 or mid-2009, El Capitan is the highest version of the OS they'll run. El Capitan's a little less than two years old now, so there aren't any significant incompatibility issues. However, in another couple of years, that may no longer be true.

    I have an early-2008 iMac, which is also dead-ended at El Capitan. It's not likely I'd use it with El Capitan for more than another two years - by then the OS would be too old for my purposes. It has the original 250 GB HDD. I could replace it with a 500 GB+ HDD for around $50, but it wouldn't improve the machine's slow performance. For a speed fix, I'd spend around $125 on a 250-275 GB SSD and necessary hardware, still just for the sake of two year's use. And these are, of course, parts-only prices - paying someone else to do the job might add another $100-$150. If you are a DIYer, it may seem practical (I may have just convinced myself to do the SSD upgrade). If you'd have someone else do the job...
  11. Phil in ocala macrumors 6502a

    Phil in ocala

    Jul 14, 2016
    I have the first flat screen with the big white base....bought in 2000....still works
  12. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    In general I wouldn't suggest any of those. In computer years 2009 is a long time ago. On the Apple refurbished site you can get an essentially new 21.5" iMac for about $1k and it will be about 2x as fast as the fastest one you mentioned:

    If that is too much money, you are not limited to just the ones you mentioned. There are various other reputable web retailers selling certified pre-owned iMacs, e.g:
  13. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    We run an early 2009 24" 2.66 Ghz iMac and it's perfectly usable as a home computer (email, web, occasional document stuff, light photo fiddling). We've upgraded it to 8 Gb RAM and replaced the disk drive with SSD; prior to the SSD upgrade it was getting pretty slow. It's probably good for at least another 1-3 years, if nothing breaks. It's still running El Cap, and as far as I know it can run Sierra fine (according to the macrumors Sierra list).

    Having said all that, I don't know that actually buying a 2009 iMac is a good idea. If you get it for free, or under $100, maybe. Adding memory and SSD will run you a couple hundred, depending on how large an SSD you'll need. If you just need something to get you through a year or so, that's one thing, but if you need it to last any length of time, I think you'd be better off starting with a newer model. (For one thing, models starting with the late 2012 had USB 3 instead of USB 2, and that could make a very significant difference for adding outboard storage, doing backups, etc.)

    Weren't the 2011's the ones with the dodgy AMD GPU model? I'd avoid 2010-2011, I think. Either get a 2009 for really cheap, or start with the late 2012 series and get some better peripheral connectivity and newer parts.
  14. EugW, Aug 13, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017

    EugW macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2017
    You should be a little more specific. The late 2009 iMacs run High Sierra just fine, even though the early 2009 models don't.

    Personally I would not buy any iMac unless it had:

    1) USB 3
    2) SSD (This can be in the form of some of the Fusion drives, as long as it includes a 128 GB SSD.)
    3) At least 8 GB RAM

    Note that I don't actually mention the CPU here. These three factors are more important than the CPU IMO.

    What this means is that I wouldn't recommend any iMac older than 2012.
  15. G.McGilli macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2015
    OP: You didn't mention what you would use the computer for?

    If it's cheap - and in your budget - and you just want a machine for web browsing and email and Facebook - maybe using Photos to and iTunes to sync an iPhone etc - then it would work perfectly as is. No need for a SSD drive, or anything else. Even if it can't use the absolute latest OS by Apple, Apple does a great job of supporting its older operating systems.

    I have a 2009 and 2011 that I use at another location for Logic music production and they work great still and can do the same workload as my 2015.
  16. curmudgeonette macrumors 6502

    Jan 28, 2016
    The OP didn't list any late 2009's...
  17. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    2009 is far, far too old.

    Tell us what your budget is.
    Then tell us what you'd -really- spend if you wanted it!
  18. vennemme thread starter macrumors newbie


    Aug 13, 2017
    Thanks everyone for the advice. I don't need anything super heavy hitting as of right now. General internet use, streaming Netflix/Hulu, but I'd like to get into Photoshop a bit.

    Price on the first 2 is around 125, and price on the other is 550. I don't have any personal upgrade experience but I'm not afraid of it as long as I've got a few sets of instructions or YouTube videos.

    I'm not immediately in the market for a desktop, but it's one of those things - if a good deal comes up, you take it. How much in upgrade costs would I be looking at?
  19. EugW, Aug 14, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017

    EugW macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2017
    Hmmm... $125 is cheap. At that price I'd get the 2.93 GHz 24" iMac with 8 GB RAM and HD. It's still fine for Netflix and light Photoshop.

    Even though I did say I wouldn't buy a Mac without SSD or USB 3, that was assuming the pricing was going to be several hundred dollars. $125 is nothing for a Mac with 8 GB RAM.

    BTW, El Capitan 10.11 is still quite usable (for now), and that runs on that iMac. Furthermore, I believe you CAN install even High Sierra on it with the (High) Sierra Patch Tool. However, I'm not sure if all the drivers are 100% included or not.

    For example, my unsupported 2009 MacBook Pro apparently works fine in High Sierra, but some people have occasional issues with other Macs, like incomplete trackpad support (which doesn't apply to an iMac).


    What this also means is I wouldn't usually recommend a $550 iMac without SSD or USB 3, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend upgrading the thing either, esp. if you have no experience. Judging by iFixit's assessment and by results of some users on this forum, it's far too easy to screw up the upgrade in one way or another.
  20. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    Those are really cheap prices, OTOH you want a computer that doesn't frustrate you. E.g, the first year iMac with USB 3 was 2012. IMO not having USB 3 would be a frequent irritant -- anytime you pop in a thumb drive or portable backup drive it would be limited to USB 2 speeds which is very slow.

    Another issue is age of the spinning hard drive. In general hard drives have greatly increased failure after about 5 years. IMO replacing the hard drive would be mandatory.

    If you use only WiFi internet in your house, another issue is the newer computers have later-generation WiFi and better & more reliable performance. I think the 2009 models only had 802.11n.

    There are some pretty decent certified pre-owned iMacs for around $1000 or under if you look around. I would suggest 2012 or later, if nothing else than USB 3. You might even find one with a SSD hard drive which would be much faster and reduce (but not eliminate) the drive longevity issues.

    Here is a brand-new 21.5" iMac for $899. It's not the best config -- has a 1TB HDD, but it's new and could give a better experience than a 2009 model, even if upgraded:,loc:2
  21. EugW macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2017
    Yeah, but it's 7X the price! :D And it still only has a HD.

    I agree the lack of USB 2 can be frustrating, but for $125, it's basically a throwaway machine that can still get the job done. The $900 machine would also be frustrating because it has a HD.
  22. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    The 24 inch #2 is not a bad buy at that price. About $150 to add a 500-ish Gb SSD, add another $10 or so if you need to buy the suction cups for removing the iMac front glass (and you probably do). You can of course try running it with the hard disk to see if the speed is acceptable for your uses.
  23. jlseattle macrumors 6502


    Jan 9, 2007
    Seattle WA
    There is an old addage that I use when purchasing things. I learned it early on with tennis shoes. A cheap pair would last 6 months and an expensive pair would last 2 years. You get what you pay for. If you buy the more expensive iMac it will last longer and be more relevant than a cheap one. Just keep that in mind with your purchase. I buy the most expensive version I can afford with the knowledge that I would have this computer for a while.
  24. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    One note: if you buy a 2009 and decide to do the SSD upgrade, use the iFixit instructions, but read the comments first! The original instructions have you disconnect a display cable that is very hard to re-connect, and it's not needed.
  25. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    The Core 2 Duos don't have quicksync. Which may turn out to be important.

    At one time, I had a Core 2 Duo imac (early 2009, 20 inch). I also had a appleTV, connected to my HDTV. Could I use the appleTV to watch the HDTV recordings on my iMac, given that the AppleTV likes mpeg4, not mpeg2?

    Not a chance. Well, if I put in more memory, and waited a day for the clips to transcode.

    On a mac with Quicksync, it's realtime, or better. You can even share a screen over wifi.

    Of course, now that it's 2017, my imac has a better screen than my tv, and streaming has mostly replaced off air recording.

    But still. Things that apple takes for granted nowadays aren't there in the 2009 imacs.

    Also, the 9400 graphics chipset is thoroughly obsolete. USB3 is actually quite nice to have for connecting drives. And, a whole host of other gotchas await.

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