Really slow iMac 2011- increase the RAM?

jeddouglas

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Dec 13, 2012
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Inverness, UK
My iMac (late 2011, Core i5) seems to be getting slower by the day. It does only have 4GB (2 x 2GB) of RAM and is running MacOS High Sierra. Would I see a big improvement if increased the RAM? If so what should I increase it to? Any other tips for improving the performance or is it time to replace?
 
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jerwin

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open activity monitor (It's in /Applications/Utilities). switch to the "Memory" tab, and look at Memory Pressure.
 

mikehalloran

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Too much RAM won't speed up your Mac. Too little will slow it down. An SSD will give it a big speed bump.

Installing an SSD and adding another 8G or so will give this its Wheaties. If running High Sierra, do both.

OWC wants $60 for 8G but system pulls are cheap as this machine won't run Mojave. I may have some RAM from a 2011 around here, too. Many online resellers will have this for less.
 

EugW

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If you're like me and don't want to open up the iMac, then see if you can get a decently priced Thunderbolt SSD. Failing that then try a FireWire 800 SSD. External power preferred. Bus power may work, but sometimes some setups will be unreliable with bus power alone.

RAM will help, but nowhere near as much as an SSD for most people. For light usage, SSD + 4 GB is actually reasonable, even with High Sierra. In contrast, hard drive + 8 GB will still be slow.

Unfortunately, USB 2 SSD is not fast enough to speed it up significantly.
 
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EugW

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An experienced tech can install an SSD inside a 2011 27" iMac in less than a half hour. I take the entire 30 minutes because I have only one working arm.

These are very easy to do.
Yes they can but an experienced tech will charge an an arm and a leg. Oh wait...
 
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jeddouglas

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Dec 13, 2012
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Too much RAM won't speed up your Mac. Too little will slow it down. An SSD will give it a big speed bump.

Installing an SSD and adding another 8G or so will give this its Wheaties. If running High Sierra, do both.

OWC wants $60 for 8G but system pulls are cheap as this machine won't run Mojave. I may have some RAM from a 2011 around here, too. Many online resellers will have this for less.
Thanks for replying. I should have mentioned it is a 21.5" iMac. How easy is it to install a new SSD? I have a 1TB hard drive at the moment. Was thinking of adding an additional 8GB of RAM to give me 12GB in total. If I do nothing with the hard drive, will I see any improvement?

Just priced a 1TB OWC SSD at £570!!!. I had no idea they were so expensive!

Found a Crucial 1TB SSD at £146, which is more reasonable. Anyone know why the big difference in price? The OWC includes an installation kit, but the Crucial doesn't, however, I wouldn't have thought that would account for the big price difference.
 
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padams35

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Nov 10, 2016
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Thanks for replying. I should have mentioned it is a 21.5" iMac. How easy is it to install a new SSD? I have a 1TB hard drive at the moment. Was thinking of adding an additional 8GB of RAM to give me 12GB in total. If I do nothing with the hard drive, will I see any improvement?

Just priced a 1TB OWC SSD at £570!!!. I had no idea they were so expensive!

Found a Crucial 1TB SSD at £146, which is more reasonable. Anyone know why the big difference in price? The OWC includes an installation kit, but the Crucial doesn't, however, I wouldn't have thought that would account for the big price difference.
Upgrading to 12GB will have a significant impact on the iMac's top speed... it just doesn't help much with acceleration (ie system startup times, application/file opening times, etc). I personally thought the jump from [4GB + HDD] -> [12GB + HDD] was bigger than the jump from [12GB + HDD] -> [12GB + SSD].

The SSD upgrade is a pain, especially if this is your first time. I thought the hardest part was disconnecting/reconnecting all the display cables and the 21.5" only leaves a couple inches of clearance to disconnect/reconnect them. Most technically inclined people manage to get it done first try, but if one is as hamfisted/unlucky as I was you'll spend 4+ hours and disassemble/resemble the thing three times before everything is properly reconnected.

The OWC installation kit for 2011 iMacs includes an inline thermal sensor cable, which you need for normal automatic fan control. Try comparing installation kits without a bundled drive + Crucial SSD vs the kit bundled with an OWC 1TB.
 
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jeddouglas

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Upgrading to 12GB will have a significant impact on the iMac's top speed... it just doesn't help much with acceleration (ie system startup times, application/file opening times, etc). I personally thought the jump from [4GB + HDD] -> [12GB + HDD] was bigger than the jump from [12GB + HDD] -> [12GB + SSD].

The SSD upgrade is a pain, especially if this is your first time. I thought the hardest part was disconnecting/reconnecting all the display cables and the 21.5" only leaves a couple inches of clearance to disconnect/reconnect them. Most technically inclined people manage to get it done first try, but if one is as hamfisted/unlucky as I was you'll spend 4+ hours and disassemble/resemble the thing three times before everything is properly reconnected.

The OWC installation kit for 2011 iMacs includes an inline thermal sensor cable, which you need for normal automatic fan control. Try comparing installation kits without a bundled drive + Crucial SSD vs the kit bundled with an OWC 1TB.
Thanks for the advice. Looks like I can get an OWC installation kit for £30. Will I be able to use this for the Crucial SSD?
Also, not sure whether to go for full replacement of HDD with SSD (1TB with 1TB) or say 250MB SSD with existing 1TB HDD. Sorry, lots of questions but I haven't done anything like this before.
 

padams35

macrumors 6502
Nov 10, 2016
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Thanks for the advice. Looks like I can get an OWC installation kit for £30. Will I be able to use this for the Crucial SSD?
Also, not sure whether to go for full replacement of HDD with SSD (1TB with 1TB) or say 250MB SSD with existing 1TB HDD. Sorry, lots of questions but I haven't done anything like this before.
There are a lot of installation kits. A £30 kit is either an incredible deal or is the 3rd drive kit for adding an SSD behind the optical drive without replacing anything (that upgrade doesn't require a thermal sensor cable). That install is rated as more difficulty, but I think it is mostly just a lengthier process with additional disassembly steps.

And yes, Crucial SSDs work. I'm using a Crucial SSD in a generic 2.5" to 3.5" drive adapter installed with the OWC Inline Thermal Sensor HDD upgrade cable and install tools for iMac 2011 kit.
 

AmazingRobie

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We have a mid-2011 iMac 27" with 32Gb of Ram and a Thunderbolt SSD for editing. The original configuration came with an SSD as main OS drive. You'll notice an increase in speed for a little while, then you'll get used to it and after a few HS updates you'll probably feel you're right back where you started. It depends on what you'll be using it for if the speed increase you get from the upgrades will be long lasting for you.

Also, since it's a 2011 iMac, I believe you might need to research whether you have one of the faulty GPUs that came out that year. With the added RAM the internal temps may see an increase and even though you haven't had any GPU issues, you might just win a lotto.

With our configuration of 32Gb of RAM and internal SSD we had three GPU replacements. Since the last one we keep the display brightness down to halfway or all the way down if it's dark and monitor the temps and adjust the fans with the installed macs fan control app when under heavy loads. GPU has been okay since we've been doing this, but we cannot guarantee the two are related.

If you do decide to trade up, we'd recommend looking at ipowerresale.com which is where we recently purchased our new-to-us 2010 Mac Pro 5,1 and even though it's an older machine and is expensive for what it is, (snazzy labs on YouTube just recently built a hackintosh for half the cost we paid and it's a much faster machine but requires more involvement than we can manage at this time), it's still an overwhelming relief to not have to worry about GPU issues or updates.

Best of luck with your decision.
 

EugW

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You don't need a 1 TB SSD.

You just need maybe a 256 GB SSD.

Either use an external 256 GB boot SSD and use the internal drive for general data storage, or else install it internally and use an external HD for general data storage.
 
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EugW

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3.5GB out of 4GB - is that bad?
Is it green? Is it ever yellow or red? Do you often get the spinning beachball of death?

But regardless, if you have 4 GB or more paired with a hard drive, the first thing you need to upgrade is usually the HD to an SSD, and then if necessary, upgrade the RAM after.
 

jeddouglas

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Dec 13, 2012
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Inverness, UK
Is it green? Is it ever yellow or red? Do you often get the spinning beachball of death?

But regardless, if you have 4 GB or more paired with a hard drive, the first thing you need to upgrade is usually the HD to an SSD, and then if necessary, upgrade the RAM after.
Yellow when I just looked and yes, get the spinning beachball of death a lot.

My preference was to try increasing the RAM first as more straightforward, but if you think I would be better trying an SSD first then will give it a go. Would prefer the internal option and willing to try this myself if not too difficult. Also, the fact that you suggest a 250GB will make it a lot cheaper. Thanks for your help.
[doublepost=1540489679][/doublepost]
The following screenshot is from apple's support page for High Sierra's Activity Monitor


Note the memory pressure graph. Yellow is a warning. Red is a definite sign that one would benefit from more RAM.

Also, look at it when you're running a typical load.
Had lots of safari tabs open so closed them all down and also a few apps that were open and it dropped down to green. So in your opinion, would I be better adding RAM, say 8GB instead of a SSD?
 

EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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Yellow when I just looked and yes, get the spinning beachball of death a lot.

My preference was to try increasing the RAM first as more straightforward, but if you think I would be better trying an SSD first then will give it a go. Would prefer the internal option and willing to try this myself if not too difficult. Also, the fact that you suggest a 250GB will make it a lot cheaper. Thanks for your help.
[doublepost=1540489679][/doublepost]
Had lots of safari tabs open so closed them all down and also a few apps that were open and it dropped down to green. So in your opinion, would I be better adding RAM, say 8GB instead of a SSD?
Honestly, I think you should do both in your case. It looks like you need both 8 GB RAM and SSD.

Just upgrading to 8 GB RAM would improve things, but the problem is that it will still likely be slow. My 2009 Core i7 iMac with hard drive only and 12 GB RAM can be slow. It was way faster when I had a FireWire 800 boot SSD.

But it's moot now since I just use it as an external monitor to my 2017 iMac.
 
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jeddouglas

macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 13, 2012
171
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Inverness, UK
Honestly, I think you should do both in your case. It looks like you need both 8 GB RAM and SSD.

Just upgrading to 8 GB RAM would improve things, but the problem is that it will still likely be slow. My 2009 Core i7 iMac with hard drive only and 12 GB RAM can be slow. It was way faster when I had a FireWire 800 boot SSD.

But it's moot now since I just use it as an external monitor to my 2017 iMac.
Have ordered 2 x 4GB RAM modules to see if that improves things. Have also watched the video on how to install an internal SSD. Looks pretty difficult so have looked into external Thunderbolt SSD, but cheapest I can find is a Transcend 500 256GB for £142 on Amazon. Are there cheaper external options out there?
 
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mikehalloran

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If you're going to go into the case to install RAM, the SSD is a piece of cake on these.

Along the way, you'll see the original BR2032 NV RAM battery. Replace it with a CR2032. The BR is a high-heat resistant version. Pulling the HHD will lower the internal heat significantly making the CR2032 ok. This battery can be found in any drug or hardware store.
[doublepost=1540508876][/doublepost]
Are there cheaper external options out there?
Yes. An internal SSD.
 

jeddouglas

macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 13, 2012
171
30
Inverness, UK
If you're going to go into the case to install RAM, the SSD is a piece of cake on these.

Along the way, you'll see the original BR2032 NV RAM battery. Replace it with a CR2032. The BR is a high-heat resistant version. Pulling the HHD will lower the internal heat significantly making the CR2032 ok. This battery can be found in any drug or hardware store.
[doublepost=1540508876][/doublepost]

Yes. An internal SSD.
The video I watched was adding an SSD to the iMac whilst retaining the original HDD. It involved removing the screen and quite a number of components and cable connections etc. I've not done anything like that before. Adding RAM just seems to involve removing 3 screws in the bottom of the iMac and slotting in the RAM modules. Sorry, but I am not understanding the reason for replacing the RAM battery with a CR2032 and does it involve removing the screen?
 

jeddouglas

macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 13, 2012
171
30
Inverness, UK
My mistake. You're right — all the 2011s have the door. I was confusing it with the 2012 and later where the screen has to be pulled to get at the RAM on the 21.5".
Okay, that's good. Still intrigued about replacing the battery and what the benefits are in case I do decide to add an internal SSD.
 

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