OSX El Capitan - RAM Upgrade?

Would a RAM upgrade from 4GB to 8GB improve my Macs performance significantly?


  • Total voters
    16
  • Poll closed .

Braders88

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
29
3
Liverpool, England
Hello Mac Community,

I have a quick couple of questions with regards to running El Capitan on an older machine.
I currently have an early '09 iMac (see specs below).

iMac (24-inch, Early 2009)
2.93 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3
NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 256 MB

I have began using my iMac more and more now with my photography hobby growing. However when editing pictures and photographs in Pixelmator/iPhoto I notice a HUGE drop in performance. Editing, adjusting and simply saving can result in minutes of the spinning beach ball.
Even turning my computer on now takes a good 2-3 minutes to fully boot up (even from a cold boot).
This never really bothered me at first until I saw how my partners brand new Macbook ran and how it booted up in seconds!
I cannot afford a brand new machine at this point and was looking for an alternative to improve the speed of my iMac and El Capitan without breaking the bank.
A friend of mine recommended a RAM upgrade, he said I should notice a rather large difference upgrading to 8GB over my current 4GB of RAM - can anyone else confirm this? If so does anyone have any respectable websites which sell RAM for Mac at a reasonable price?

If anyone has any ideas on how to improve the speed of my Mac either via software or hardware then I would be very grateful.

Many Thanks!
 

gsmornot

macrumors 68040
Sep 29, 2014
3,073
2,471
Hello Mac Community,

I have a quick couple of questions with regards to running El Capitan on an older machine.
I currently have an early '09 iMac (see specs below).

iMac (24-inch, Early 2009)
2.93 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3
NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 256 MB

I have began using my iMac more and more now with my photography hobby growing. However when editing pictures and photographs in Pixelmator/iPhoto I notice a HUGE drop in performance. Editing, adjusting and simply saving can result in minutes of the spinning beach ball.
Even turning my computer on now takes a good 2-3 minutes to fully boot up (even from a cold boot).
This never really bothered me at first until I saw how my partners brand new Macbook ran and how it booted up in seconds!
I cannot afford a brand new machine at this point and was looking for an alternative to improve the speed of my iMac and El Capitan without breaking the bank.
A friend of mine recommended a RAM upgrade, he said I should notice a rather large difference upgrading to 8GB over my current 4GB of RAM - can anyone else confirm this? If so does anyone have any respectable websites which sell RAM for Mac at a reasonable price?

If anyone has any ideas on how to improve the speed of my Mac either via software or hardware then I would be very grateful.

Many Thanks!
RAM will help your applications but going from 4 to 8 I don't think it will change everything. It will be better.
If you're still using the original drive you might consider an external SSD. Internal is fine as well but its not super easy to get into an iMAC.
 

leman

macrumors G3
Oct 14, 2008
9,978
4,555
You can use Activity Monitor to check your ram usage while using these apps. If the memory pressure is red most of the time than the extra RAM might help. However , the GPU is likely to be another issue as well.
 
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Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
29,174
8,822
California
Editing, adjusting and simply saving can result in minutes of the spinning beach ball.
This almost sounds more like a failing hard drive. Even on your older Mac, it should not take minutes of beachball spinning just to save an edited photo.

Are you seeing any other symptoms like apps taking a really long time to launch. Has this slow photo saving for example, always been an issue, or is it something new you are seeing.

Like leman mentioned, do some work like you normally do on your Mac then open Activity Monitor and go to the memory tab and look at the bottom under memory pressure. If that is in the green, more RAM is not likely to help you at all.
 

Braders88

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
29
3
Liverpool, England
This almost sounds more like a failing hard drive. Even on your older Mac, it should not take minutes of beachball spinning just to save an edited photo.

Are you seeing any other symptoms like apps taking a really long time to launch. Has this slow photo saving for example, always been an issue, or is it something new you are seeing.

Like leman mentioned, do some work like you normally do on your Mac then open Activity Monitor and go to the memory tab and look at the bottom under memory pressure. If that is in the green, more RAM is not likely to help you at all.
I sure hope not, however it has become louder too...
Yes, apps do take a lot longer to launch and tend to bounce more on the dock.
I never even thought of looking in to Activity Monitor. Thank you both for your help!
 

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
29,174
8,822
California
Yes, apps do take a lot longer to launch and tend to bounce more on the dock.
So this never used to happen and now it does? That does sound like a drive failing.

Are you seeing things like you click to launch an app and it sits there and beachballs for a long long time before launching?
 

Braders88

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
29
3
Liverpool, England
It seemed to be bad with Yosemite and worse with El Capitan...
Yeah, that is exactly what I see - Firefox, iMessage and even my Mail. It bounces and takes a long time to load. The spinning beach ball truly favours hogging my screen when it comes to photo editing though.
 

MultiFinder17

macrumors 68020
Jan 8, 2008
2,011
709
Tampa, Florida
The biggest difference you can make is to swap the HDD out for an SSD. The 2009 iMacs aren't too bad to get into, and the drive is easy to swap once you get in. Pop in an SSD and you'll fall in love with it all over again :)
 
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Braders88

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 2, 2013
29
3
Liverpool, England
The biggest difference you can make is to swap the HDD out for an SSD. The 2009 iMacs aren't too bad to get into, and the drive is easy to swap once you get in. Pop in an SSD and you'll fall in love with it all over again :)
It's funny you should say that, after watching videos on YouTube it seems that is the most favourable solution.
Is it difficult to install the SSD? I thought only the RAM was the easily accessible part.
I would like for Apple to do it but no doubt that would charge me a fair amount...
 

leman

macrumors G3
Oct 14, 2008
9,978
4,555
It indeed sounds like you might have an issue with your HDD in the end. What does the SMART status say? BTW, if the HDD is fine and RAM is indeed the culprit, upgrading to an SSD will bring you almost nothing.
 

Ebenezum

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2015
782
259
OP:

I agree with previous posters, HDD might be faulty. Unfortunately El Capitan Disk Utility won't show SMART values so you might need some other software.

As for the RAM 4 Gb is the smallest practical amount for El Capitan, if you have large pictures or large iPhoto library installing more RAM will certainly help. Looking at Activity Monitor will show you if you need more RAM.
 

tpjets62

macrumors newbie
Apr 21, 2016
2
0
I have a 2010 MBP, dual boot, 10.9 and 10.11....did a memory upgrade, 4 to 8 gig, slight improvement, then put a Samsung 850 evo SSD, in unbelievable improvement, from boot to shutdown. Worth every penny and time invested.
 

Ebenezum

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2015
782
259
DU still shows SMART status for me on El Capitan./QUOTE]

Yes but in my experience it is inconsistent compared to previous versions, sometimes it shows the information and sometimes it doesn't. Furthermore Info button shows less relevant information.