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Late 2013 iMac 21.5" short term upgrade options?

Moccasin

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 21, 2011
959
182
Newcastle, UK
I'd appreciate some help and advice.

For various reasons, I've not been using my iMac much recently and have only now realised how slow it's become. I wanted to use Creative Cloud last night, but it unsurprisingly struggled. It's possible that performance was not helped by various upgrade software updates going on at the same time, but it's getting old (like me). I've got a 2020 iPadPro as well but while that is intended for some photography use while travelling, I still prefer using the iMac.

The iMac has a 1TB Fusion drive with 16GB and currently only has 50GB free. I'm unwilling to buy a new machine until I see what the next generation of iMacs look like - in terms of size of screen, graphics and the impacts/benefits/disbenefits of Apple Silicon. I've not ruled new hardware out, but want to explore other options first. I'm not going to open the machine up either as the machine is 7 years old and it would be somewhat wasted upgrading the internals.

I think my best option may be just to buy an external SSD and store everything but MacOS on that. The late 2013 model only has Thunderbolt, so I'd either just USB or get adapter and Thunderbolt cable to maximise throughput.

I wasn't planning to boot from the new disk (not advisable anyway if on USB-A?) and would just keep Catalina on the SSD element of the Fusion drive. Despite the cost, I may go for a 2TB drive for a bit of future proofing, as it can then be attached to whatever computer I buy next.

Am I right in thinking that this is a pragmatic upgrade to nurse the iMac through a few more months and with a future use for the external drive? Are the LaCie drives OK or should I go for Seagate? Its a long time since I've dipped my toes into hardware comparisons and don't know which brands I should trust/avoid. Amazon reviews are, as ever, a minefield.

Are there any other options I should consider? The only iMac currently in the UK refurb store is an iMac Pro at nearly £4000, not really what I want or need!
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
20,445
7,253
The fusion drive has slowed down because your drive is getting "near-full".

You DO want to "boot from an external SSD".
I predict things will go considerably faster if you do so.

The 2013 has USB3.
The fastest, easiest, safest way to "get a boost" is to get an external USB SSD, and set it up to become the "new boot drive".

You don't have to put everything (that's on the internal) onto it.
What you need:
- the OS
- applications
- your home folder (possibly with large libraries left on internal fusion drive).

This is very easy to do and just about anyone can do it.
A distinct advantage of adding an external boot SSD is that when you get a new Mac, you just disconnect your boot SSD from the old one, and then bring it over to the new one, and your stuff is "ready to migrate". And you can "re-purpose" the SSD afterwards with the new Mac.

Hardware you could use:
- A "ready-to-go" USB3 SSD, such as the Samsung t7 (or is it t9 now?)
or
- A "put-it-together-yourself" USB SSD. You would need a "bare" 2.5" SSD and an enclosure like this:
(case just snaps together, no tools needed)
or
- An "nvme" blade SSD, and a USB3.1 gen2 enclosure.

I prefer the "build-it-yourself" way. That way I get to pick the components.

First, you erase/initialize the drive using disk utility.

Then you can use CarbonCopyCloner to "clone over" the necessary portions of your fusion drive to the SSD (CCC is FREE to download and use for 30 days, this costs you nothing).

Finally, you set the external to become the new boot drive by using the "startup disk" preference pane.

An external USB3 SSD will give you read speeds around 430MBps.
A USB3.1 gen2 will give the same on an older Mac, but when you move it to a new Mac someday, it will give reads around 960MBps.

If you take my advice, you'll come back and say, "I wouldn't have thought this could make so much of a difference in performance...!"
 
Comment

Moccasin

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 21, 2011
959
182
Newcastle, UK
Great, thanks for all the advice. That’s exactly what I was looking for. I‘d not appreciated the distinction in USB standards - being the idiot I am, I’d read USB3 as USBC. Will look at the SSD drive options and make some time to initiate the upgrade. Hadn’t appreciated the option to make my own external drive either.

The fusion drive has slowed down because your drive is getting "near-full".

You DO want to "boot from an external SSD".
I predict things will go considerably faster if you do so.

The 2013 has USB3.
The fastest, easiest, safest way to "get a boost" is to get an external USB SSD, and set it up to become the "new boot drive".

You don't have to put everything (that's on the internal) onto it.
What you need:
- the OS
- applications
- your home folder (possibly with large libraries left on internal fusion drive).

This is very easy to do and just about anyone can do it.
A distinct advantage of adding an external boot SSD is that when you get a new Mac, you just disconnect your boot SSD from the old one, and then bring it over to the new one, and your stuff is "ready to migrate". And you can "re-purpose" the SSD afterwards with the new Mac.

Hardware you could use:
- A "ready-to-go" USB3 SSD, such as the Samsung t7 (or is it t9 now?)
or
- A "put-it-together-yourself" USB SSD. You would need a "bare" 2.5" SSD and an enclosure like this:
(case just snaps together, no tools needed)
or
- An "nvme" blade SSD, and a USB3.1 gen2 enclosure.

I prefer the "build-it-yourself" way. That way I get to pick the components.

First, you erase/initialize the drive using disk utility.

Then you can use CarbonCopyCloner to "clone over" the necessary portions of your fusion drive to the SSD (CCC is FREE to download and use for 30 days, this costs you nothing).

Finally, you set the external to become the new boot drive by using the "startup disk" preference pane.

An external USB3 SSD will give you read speeds around 430MBps.
A USB3.1 gen2 will give the same on an older Mac, but when you move it to a new Mac someday, it will give reads around 960MBps.

If you take my advice, you'll come back and say, "I wouldn't have thought this could make so much of a difference in performance...!"
 
Comment

Moccasin

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 21, 2011
959
182
Newcastle, UK
Having researched a bit further, I’ll likely get a crucial NVMe 2TB SSD as an upgrade, with an external caddy to maximise future proofing. I note that the caddy includes a thermal pad and heat sink to dissipate heat, which seems more of an issue with NVMe storage. The caddy I saw on Amazon is compatible with the 2280 type SSD.
 
Comment
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