Need advice choosing iMac specs

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by jadoria, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. jadoria macrumors newbie

    Dec 30, 2011
    Hello! I'm buying my first Mac in a couple of weeks time - VERY excited!

    I've asked so many different sales assistants in many different stores about what is the best option for me. Of course, they all have their own opinions - just as I'm sure many will here - however I won't be buying a Mac from anyone here, so I will trust the advice here a bit more.

    So far, I know I want the following:

    I want an iMac 27" 3.4GHz i7, 2GB Graphics. These are all definite.

    It's the RAM and Hard drive that I am unsure what to choose.

    I was originally going to get the 1TB Harddrive and 8GB RAM. Then I was going to get 2TB Harddrive and the 8GB RAM (or purchase it as 4GB and upgrade it myself to 8GB, or perhaps even 16GB. It looks fairly straight forward). But will I even NEED 2TB Harddrive, or is that a complete waste of money?

    What I use it for:

    I do the most amount of my work in Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop - I often run the 3 programs at once. I will be learning flash and web design too.
    I also enjoy gaming when I get the time. I plan to put a lot of apps on it as well.

    My current computer (PC) has the following: 3.1GHz Processor, 1TB Harddrive, 4GB RAM. It runs fairly well and it's about 2 years old now. Occasionally I get told "not enough memory to open this" - which I am assuming is due to the RAM?

    I get confused about the RAM and Harddrive.

    I guess my main questions are:

    - Is the 2TB Harddrive a waste of money?
    - Is it better for me to upgrade the memory myself, or should I get them to do it?
    - What RAM size would you recommend?

    Really appreciate advice. Thank you!
  2. The-Pro macrumors 65816

    Dec 2, 2010
    1) i wouldnt consider the 2TB HDD a waste of money but I myself wouldnt buy it. This is because I never have that much data, and i do graphics design in illustrator and photoshop and ontop of that I do intense 3D work where each file is 500MB. ive only used 400GB. 1TB of data is alot of stuff, most people have no where near that amount of stuff.
    Also if i actually had 2TB worth of stuff i dont like the idea of having it all on one HDD. i rather have it split on two 1TB, or four 500 GB. I dont trust HDD's. think about if your single 2TB drive fails and all ur data is gone?? rather have 2 drives and then if one fails i loose half, also restore time from time machine is half :D

    2) definetly upgrade yourself, its so easy and apple overcharges extremely.
    3) get 12GB then see if you need more, 2x4GB sticks is so cheap now.
  3. crzdcolombian macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2010
    I need one for graphic design work to. I was going to get a 16gb one because I need one for freelance work. I have 4gb ram on a 3-4 year old imac and it's just not cutting it anymore. Where do you get get cheaper ram? $600 does seem like a pricey upgrade to me.
  4. SuperCachetes macrumors 6502a


    Nov 28, 2010
    Away from you

    Also, Thunderbolt will hopefully blossom in 2012, meaning there should be more reasonable hard drive options out there for you to bolster a 1TB drive with - IF you need to.

    Personally I am not completely "in the cloud" yet, but as connection speeds increase (eSATA, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt) I am leaning further and further away from having big HDs full of data inside immobile computers. I can't fit everything I own on my MBP, but I can take it AND a portable hard drive just about anywhere, easily...
  5. KylePowers, Dec 30, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011

    KylePowers macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2011
    Occasionally I get told "not enough memory to open this" - which I am assuming is due to the RAM?

    - Is the 2TB Harddrive a waste of money?
    If you don't need it, then yes. I'd much rather spend money on an SSD than 2TB (though obviously that's a huge price difference). Consider maybe just a 1TB if you don't want the SSD and expanding storage via USB (or eventually TB). It's a cheaper and more versatile option. Plus you can use one of them for Time Machine.

    - Is it better for me to upgrade the memory myself, or should I get them to do it?
    Upgrade yourself. It takes literally two minutes and it's super easy.

    - What RAM size would you recommend?
    Sounds like you need more than 4, so definitely go at least 8GB. Maybe go 12GB by buying two 4GB modules (less than or around $40 typically). You can get RAM for cheap on Newegg or TigerDirect or even Amazon. So 16GB would cost you around $80, rather than the $600 Apple charges.

    EDIT - On the topic of cloud storage, I backup a lot of important documents via Dropbox (I have about 8GB), and by signing up via an iOS device, I got 50GB from, in which I filled with other miscellaneous files.
  6. flynz4, Dec 30, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011

    flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    A few comments.

    Of course if you do not need the space... then buying a larger drive is a waste of money. However... you should not ask yourself if you will have 2TB of data. You should not fill your HDD more than 90% according to common wisdom. 90% of 1TB is 900 GB. So the question you should ask is if you will go over 900 GB over the life of the machine.

    Secondly... regarding the bolded section above, I do not buy the argument at all and I think it is bad advice.

    If you have all of your data on a 2TB drive and it fails... you have not lost all your data. That is why you have backup. Regarding backup time... it really doesn't matter if it takes overnight... or 1/2 of an overnight to restore. For most of us... it just doesn't matter. Of course, if you do not backup, then you deserve to lose all your data. In fact, you should back up at least twice, once local and once to the cloud or other automatic offsite method.

    Furthermore... if you spread your data across four 500 GB drives... you now have four spinning devices to fail... greatly increasing the chances that you will actually have to do a restore. It also gets messy managing which drive will contain which specific data... or failed connections because of wires strewn all over your desk.

    My advice is to determine how large your data is likely to grow over the next few years while you own the iMac. If it is over 900GB, then get the 2TB upgrade. If it is over 1.8TB (90% of 2TB).... then consider external storage options... however ugly they may be.

    In my personal case, my dataset was about 600 GB when I bought my iMac 2 years ago. I bought the 2TB model and my dataset is now at 1.2TB. I am VERY glad that I bought the larger drive, because I do not have to worry about a bunch of drives and cables all over my desk. My 1.2TB is backed up every hour to a Time Capsule using Time Machine... and it is also backed up every 15 minutes to the cloud using Crashplan +. CP+ is by far the more secure of the two systems... and it is only $3/month for unlimited backup.

    I am planning to get a new iMac in the spring when the new models are released. I am hoping that 3TB models are available, but I am fairly sure that I'll go over 1.8TB over the life of that new machine. If the largest is only 2TB, then I need to make a choice. So far I have thought of two options. 1) Buy a Mac Mini and offload all of my video library to that machine... which should allow me to fit within 2TB for many years... or 2) order the iMacs with the largest SSDs available, and get an external TB array for data storage. My very strong preference is to get a 256+ GB SSD & 3TB HDD configuration.

    Regarding memory upgrades... I absolutely agree with the quoted post.


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