Refurbed iMac - best year for a good deal?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by sibby, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. sibby macrumors newbie


    Mar 2, 2017
    Hampshire, UK
    Hi folks,

    I currently own a 20" early 2009 iMac with 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 8 GB RAM and 320 GB SATA, running OS 10.9.5.

    After heavy use (I work from home) it's been having issues over the past year (occasionally needs fresh power cycle to boot up, grey screen occasionally on start up or shut down, audible hard drive sounds, and I recently had to zap the P-RAM because "no wifi software detected" notification came up) although the speed isn't too bad since I did a RAM upgrade last year. I didn't really want to buy a new machine as I'm lucky to have full Adobe Creative Suite installed, and I'm guessing that given its age and issues, it's time for a new you agree? I haven't upgraded the OS, despite support for certain browsers being pulled, for fear it'll break the darn thing.

    If so, I'm looking for something that won't break the bank (£800 max, ideally much, much lower), but will be suitable for my needs and will last me a good few years. Am I asking for the impossible? I would like to install Adobe Creative Suite again - and use my iMac for web browsing, office work, and Photoshop, artworking (Illustrator) and in the future I hope to use video editing software too.

    I've been looking on Ebay that come with Adobe CS pre-installed (?) and can see a variety of refurbished iMacs, a lot of them are 2011 and some are 2012 (although for super cheap (£200) I can get a 2009 iMac again but with upgrades).

    I've never tried SSD - is that a crucial upgrade when looking at older machines?

    If I'm looking for longevity, would it be wise to go for 2011 or should I go for a much later year?

    All advice welcomed (whether I should ditch this machine or not, and if so what year and specs should I look out for or avoid?). I'd like to keep the price low, but wouldn't want to replace it again in a couple of years time.

    Many thanks!
  2. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    Don't get a 2011 mac.

    The 2011 imacs only have USB 2.0. Yes, they also have a thunderbolt port, but I'm guessing that you'll take one look at the prices for thunderbolt devices, and shy away in horror. Besides, even if you do find the cash for a thunderbolt -- USB 3.0 bridge, you'll likely encounter problems booting from usb 3.0 drives connected through that bridge.

    The 2012 imacs have USB 3.0.
  3. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    The 2012 Macs can run the current OS. Do not buy anything older.

    There are other hardware issues for 2012–2014 although no end of life has been announced for 2019 except 32 bit apps.

    Personally, the 2015 model year is the earliest that I would consider.

    Wanna buy my 2010 and 2011 iMacs?
  4. padams35 macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2016
    Later year. A (21.5") 2011 is easily good for a couple more years, but that is more of a short term value purchase. If you are looking for longevity you probably want something newer that can run Mojave. The 27" 2011's also had GPU problems.

    SSDs are very nice to have but optional if you have plenty of RAM. However do avoid the laptop 5400rpm HDDs that were used in the 2012-2017 21.5" iMacs since those are even slower than what originally shipped in your 2009.
  5. mikehalloran, Nov 8, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018

    mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    I couldn't disagree more.

    An HDD typically lasts around 5 years in an iMac before causing problems. A 2015 with a Fusion drive is the earliest I would buy (and I'd still pull the spinner out of there before firing it up).

    An SSD inside runs cooler, faster, uses a lot less energy and causes less stress on the machine. Heat is the enemy of components and that spinning motor generates quite a bit inside an iMac.

    Any iMac except the Pro can be stripped and reassembled with a larger blade, an SSD or both in about an hour. If you buy an older Fusion iMac 2012–2014, you can replace just the HDD and tie it to the blade to make an all solid state fusion drive. Techs charge $75 for this around here.

    With the 2015, replace the blade with a 970 EVO as it makes those run faster. A 250G is $89 + a $13 adapter but a 2TB is available for $579.


    A 970 increases the capacity but not the speed of the PCIe buss on a 2013–2014.

    A 2012 has a SATA III blade. Larger capacity m.2 and adapters are cheap and readily available for these, too but there's no real benefit unless you want more than 2T internal storage—and then there is.

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4 November 6, 2018