Polishing a Turd: Upgrading Early-2008 iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by YtseThunder, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. YtseThunder macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2013
    I have an early-2008 iMac 24" with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz, 2GB RAM and 500GB HDD.

    Since upgrading to Mavericks (and I'm sure beforehand, when it was running Mountain Lion), the computer has been unbelievably sluggish: startup takes minutes, as does opening applications; opening even lightweight applications like TuxGuitar takes, sometimes, over a minute. Applications will often freeze up when doing the simplest of tasks.

    At first, I put the sluggish performance down to the fact that I'd filled the HDD, but once I'd cleared over 100GB, there was no clear effect. Opening Activity Monitor, it became clear that even with only Safari open, the memory is maxed at 2GB.

    So, it makes sense to upgrade the RAM, surely? My real question here is, is it worth upgrading the RAM from 2GB to 4GB (the recommended maximum, according to Apple) or 6GB (the maximum according to various sources), or taking a whole other route? After all, the 4/6GB of new memory will still be DDR2 running at 800MHz.

    In addition, I'd like to know if it is possible/worth it to swap out the HDD for an SSD.

    Thanks in advance, folks.
  2. jimsowden macrumors 68000


    Sep 6, 2003
    Yes, to all of the above.

    I'd start with a RAM upgrade to 4gb (for some it's even as low as 3GB, but haven't researched it for a while). Then a clean install of the OS, put back on the data you need piecemeal.

    And if you're feeling adventurous, a small boot SSD coupled with an external for your large data will net you a huge gain.

    That's the order I'd go in. Hope it helps.
  3. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    I have the exact same machine, except I've been running with 6 GB RAM for years. Up until last fall I was still using the original 320 GB HDD, OS X 10.6. Everything ran great; no sign of the sluggishness you describe!

    Last fall I replaced the original HDD with an SSD, replaced the optical drive with a 2.5" 1 TB HDD, created my own DIY Fusion drive, and installed Mountain Lion. It's been wonderful ever since.

    I think it's probably worth it to go to 6 GB RAM, but I haven't checked prices anytime recently. Sticks for our machines may be more expensive than they once were because there's less demand for them now.

    Putting in the SSD was definitely worth it to me, but I was able to do the research and work myself and I hope to keep using this machine for another two or three years. The replacement is not exactly easy, but it is doable with little experience if you're the type to take things slowly, methodically, and carefully. The iFixit guide was excellent (https://www.ifixit.com/Device/iMac_Intel_24%22_EMC_2134_and_2211).

    I've ended up with a machine I'm quite happy with, and it's my "daily user" machine (I do have a more powerful MBP but I rarely use it unless travelling). I do the usual web and email stuff, iTunes, iPhoto, a little bit of iMovie, run a Plex server and a lightly-used Minecraft server, a little XCode. I even use it for more horsepower-intensive stuff: I'm in the process of converting my collection of 12GB/1-hour dv-format home movie files to H264/mp4 with ffmpeg for playing via Plex and Roku. Transcoding each 1-hour movie pegs the cpu for 1.5 hrs, but I can still easily use the computer for browsing and email.
  4. hologram macrumors 6502

    May 12, 2007
    I have exactly the same machine but with 4gb ram (you really have to get at least 4 but 6 would be better), and it used to run slowly, beachballs all the time, taking forever to draw 10 icons when opening a folder, etc. Now it runs great under Mavericks. Much better than it did under ML, and hardly ever a beachball.

    The solution was a free program called EtreCheck. It may not work for you, but it did wonders for me. It found a number of launch daemons running that belonged to apps I don't even have anymore. Once I cleared up all the items it found in red, my computer felt a couple of years younger.

    You really need more ram, but before you spend a lot of money on other things, try running this first.
  5. jaxhunter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2012
    RAM and an SSD upgrade are always really good options for an aging but not yet out of the running machine.

    I would also recommend doing a clean install of the OS (rather than an upgrade or cloning over to a new drive) and using migration assistant to move the data. I have seen OS upgrades break a machine that was previously working just fine.

    I think with those upgrades and a clean install you may find your 2008 iMac continuing to meet your needs for some time.
  6. ncbill macrumors regular

    Aug 18, 2002
    why does nearly everyone say 'go small'?

    only $220 for the new crucial mx100 512GB SSD

  7. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    Same here. I doubled to 4 GB, and it was better. Then I installed Mavericks, and it's been increasingly sluggish, such as the minutes-long startup you mentioned.

    I'm going to buy a new machine when the iMac or Mini gets a major upgrade. This machine will go into my ham radio room, where it will be used mainly for browsing.
  8. Dorkington macrumors 6502a

    Apr 5, 2010
    I should have read this thread before last week...

    I just ended up giving in and buying a new iMac...

    I had 2.8ghz/4gb/320gb and it was slow as a dog under Mavericks.

    Now have 3.4ghz/8gb(soon 24gb/1tb fusion and it runs circles around the old model...
  9. thedeske macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2013
    Habit ;)

    Yes, the 512 is looking reachable these days.
  10. prizm macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2007
    I have a mid-2007 iMac 21" with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM and a 320 GB hard drive. It's chugging along under Mavericks, but totally fine once it boots up.

    Thinking about a 512 SSD upgrade. Total cost for parts $246. I think I might pull the trigger.

    I could also do a 256 SSD plus a 7200 RPM I TB internal drive upgrade for $289, by pulling the DVD drive out, but thinking that might be starting to get economically impracticable, but I'm still considering it. This thing runs and looks great. I could squeeze another couple of years out of it for next to nothing.

    These iMacs are beasts. Just love mine.
  11. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    I recall a thread a year or so ago about some iMacs of this vintage having dark streaks gradually appearing on the screen due to some defect, but I can't remember the reason. I always thought it was dust or smoke from scented candles I sometimes burn because the streaks are in a direction like the material was sucked in from the bottom by the fans. Do any of your iMacs have that?
  12. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    Some of the 2007-2008 iMacs where I work have the grey lines on them. They're about an inch each and most noticeable on the upper left corner. They're caused by dust getting between the layers of the LCD panel. The only way to remove them is to replace the LCD panel or open the panel and clean the layers. It's likely caused by the panel not being sealed properly, not the internal fans.
  13. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    That's mostly for 21" and 27" iMacs. Their screen lines and smudges are more well known than those in the 20" and 24" iMacs. But the causes and solutions are the same.

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