SSD Upgrade in 2011 iMac Worth it?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by RossAdamSF, Dec 23, 2015.

  1. RossAdamSF macrumors newbie


    Dec 23, 2015
    San Francisco
    I have a 2011 27" iMac. Maxed out - i7, 16GB, 2GB GPU - except the hard drive which is a 3TB that I installed (and subsequently the fans run non-stop).

    What I want to do with this system is run a Lightroom workflow with RAW images- and dabble with FCPX and FCP7 (old habits die hard). The latest OS upgrade I did was 10.6 to 10.8. This system is painfully slow now. Booting up & web browsing is a chore. Especially in contrast to my 15" MBP Retina I have from work.

    Here's my question: Will the $500 investment of a new SSD and a clean install of El Cap remove my bottlenecks and bring some life back into this old thing? I'd like to think I can get another 2 years out of this beast before upgrading. Some colleagues said go for new iMac, but with a baby on the way $3500 for what I'd want is out of reach.

    Would love to hear from anyone who has done this upgrade on a similar system - or knows of any issues 2011 iMacs may have with running slow with a more modern OS.

  2. cerberusss macrumors 6502a


    Aug 25, 2013
    The Netherlands
    Yes, a fast SSD will bring this system to life. I've got a mid-2010 13" MBP, and it still flies with a good SSD. It's an excellent way to prolong the life of your system.
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    An SSD is almost always worth the investment. In a 2011 iMac, I wouldn't hesitate to make the plunge.
  4. tyche macrumors 6502

    Jul 30, 2010
    There are a number of software programs that will allow you to control your fan speed after you've added your own drive. I've used one for 5 years.

    Yes, the SSD will make a nice upgrade. I've run one in my 2010 and my system runs so well I can't justify upgrading. I've never noticed any slowdown as I've went though yearly OS updates.
  5. ScorpionT16 macrumors member

    Dec 1, 2015
    Toronto, Canada
    Yes, it is worth it.

    I had a 2009 HP Laptop with a HDD, when I was a student it started to fail on me, and I couldn't afford a new computer. I put a SSD in there, and I got an extra 2-3 years from the machine! (heavy design use, photographs, CAD Etc) It made it faster than newer computers I used, Programs loaded asap, overall, the best move I made for it. In fact, I still have it today, and its running just as quick.

    Ive opted to never get a spinning HDD again, SSD drives are night and day, speed, noise, reliability etc... You won't be disappointed.
  6. zacster macrumors member

    Aug 15, 2011
    An SSD is always worth it. I've upgraded 3 MBPs and one 2006 iMac, and my kids have been happy, less money for dad to spend, and my old iMac has kept me happy. Up until this week that is. I'm looking at a 27" for myself, the reason I'm on the forum. It will of course have an SSD. I can't understand why they still put spinning disks in these things.
  7. mhafeez macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2013
    Worth every penny you spend. Set up RAID0 configuration and you'll be amazed with 900MB/s+ of R/W.
  8. Dreadnought macrumors 68020


    Jul 22, 2002
    Almere, The Netherlands
    I upgraded my 27" 2010 i7 2 months ago with an 850 Evo 1TB. My iMac flies and is very snappy! Also temps are way down, under full load (gaming), it's 20 degrees celsius less, max temp is now 65 degrees celsius. Just add the ssd next to the HD, then you have both and no problems with the temperature sensor on the HD.

    Also read the thread of last month, is it worth upgrading a 2010 iMac with an SSD.
  9. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000


    Jan 8, 2008
    Tampa, Florida
    I have a 2011 21" iMac that I've used for years now. About a year ago I installed a 240GB SSD alongside the HDD and set the shebang up as a Fusion Drive, and boy is it blazing fast! The 2011s still have plenty of life left in them; BTW, if you're at 16GB RAM, you can push it to 32GB if you ever feel like it :)

    Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 1.46.53 PM.png
  10. Richdmoore macrumors 68000


    Jul 24, 2007
    Troutdale, OR
    I am using a delock thunderbolt enclosure to boot my 2011 iMac, and it makes a huge difference. I paired it with a caldiget thunderbolt station to add USB 3 support, and see no need to upgrade mine at this time. I did max the ram at 32gb as well.

    The great thing is that by using thunderbolt I never had to open the iMac to install either upgrade (except the ram door for the memory.)

    At some point I suspect that lack of metal graphics support will stop any further OS X upgrades, but for now I think it is worth the investment.
  11. santaliqueur macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    A SSD upgrade extended the life of my 2009 iMac by several years. It's still a nice machine, but the SSD made it fast. I just bought a new 5k iMac, but the 2009 is still humming along nicely. If you're interested in keeping this machine, I highly suggest it.
  12. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
  13. RossAdamSF thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 23, 2015
    San Francisco
    Thanks everyone for the feedback. I was hoping to get some confidence that a $500 upgrade would buy me some time. Hopefully I can get another 2 years out of this system - I bout the top of the line back in 2011 for a reason.

    Next up: Researching RAIDs.
  14. zhaoxin macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2015
    Before you buy an SSD. You should know that you can use your iMac 2011 as display monitor with you rMBP with a thunderbolt link.

  15. Cerlak, Jan 23, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016

    Cerlak macrumors newbie

    Jan 23, 2016
    I just made this upgrade and it was definitely worth it. I have the 2011 27" iMac with the i7, 16GB RAM and the 2GB 6970. I replaced the stock 1TB HDD with a 1TB Samsung Evo 850.


    I simply followed the OWC upgrade video. Just bought their tool kit with the thermal sensor (this is very important if you don't want to deal with fan issues) and a 3.5" to 2.5" adapter bracket. I used to build PCs, so this upgrade was pretty simple. If you're not familiar with opening up machines though, I'd try and find someone who is to help you.

    The total price of the upgrade was:
    • $290 - 1TB Samsung Evo 850
    • $53 - OWC Tool Kit and Thermal Sensor
    • $13 - Sabrent 2.5" to 3.5" adapter bracket
    • $12 - SATA to USB cable (don't need this if you're doing a fresh install, I used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my old drive)
    This upgrade will extend of the life of the machine for at least a few years in my case (photo editing, light video editing, and web development).
  16. Lankyman macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2011
    I did this with my mid-2011 iMac. I kept the 500 gig spinner and added a 500 gig Evo SSD. Good pair of tweezers are invaluable plus a steady hand.

    I kept all the heavy data on the HDD e.g. movies, music etc. and put the apps OS and stuff I use a lot on the SSD. I use sym-links for a seamless experience. The stats are very similar to Cerlak's above. I'm hoping to get a few good years out of this machine now I've done the upgrade. It was never as fast as it is now even when it was new.
  17. mhafeez macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2013
    Here's what you get if you setup RAID0 with 2 SSDs

  18. T Coma macrumors 6502

    T Coma

    Dec 3, 2015
    People's Republic of Chicago
    I've got a 2011 i5 dual boot Mavericks/El Capitan (still feeling it out) running on an external Thunderbolt enclosure with an SSD. The stock HD still runs as a data drive. Quite fast. No need yet to upgrade beyond this point, even with El Capitan, AFAICT.
  19. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Definitely, it will extend the useful life of a computer. From what I've read, the 2011's are not as bad to take apart as the current models, so I'd do it.
  20. DoNoHarm macrumors 65816


    Oct 8, 2008
    Hey I just bought an imac and want to do the same upgrade so I was wondering if you (or someone else reading this) could answer a question... Their video is to add a second SSD. I'm coming from owning laptops all my life, so I'm not familiar with having space for two drives. Did you actually replace the stock HD and just boot from one HD or are you somehow able to boot from a second SSD?

  21. ElCani macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2012
    You can add a second drive as detailed in the OWC video below. You can boot from that no problem and use the existing HDD as a separate volume, or combine them both into a Fusion drive. If you choose to replace the stock HDD you need to buy a thermal sensor cable to prevent the fans going mad (or you can use software to control them), but I can't see a benefit to doing that when adding the SSD under Superdrive gives the same performance, no fans issues and more storage.


  22. Cerlak macrumors newbie

    Jan 23, 2016
    I just replaced the stock hdd. As ElCani posted above, you can either a.) add an additional ssd or b.) replace the stock hdd with an ssd.

    I chose with just replacing the stock hdd with an ssd since the 1TB ssd's have dropped in price dramatically and it's a easier upgrade. Simply replacing the drive only took me about 30-45 minutes. Adding the additional drive is a more time intensive process.

    Also, you don't specify what year iMac you bought. Replacing / adding an ssd can be different depending on what model iMac you have.
  23. ElCani macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2012
    This is a good point actually, one I hadn't considered. The HDD is easily accessible so if you can afford an SSD with the storage you need and don't mind dealing with temp sensor issue, that's probably the best route.

    OP's thread subject says 2011. No mention of which size though.
  24. RossAdamSF thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 23, 2015
    San Francisco
    Sorry all for the late response. I did have the work done to upgrade to a 512SSD - and that new user account runs MUCH faster. I haven't pressed it by doing any HD/4K video yet but just the basic responsiveness of opening apps and running Lightroom is a huge improvement.

    Only issue is that the 3TB spinning drive is still set as a bootable drive - and when I restart the system it seems to default back to that one. My guess is that I should just wipe it and that will take care of it? Then I can just use that drive as additional storage - or maybe a Time Machine backup to the 512SSD.

    Next up is transferring and managing all this data on the new RAID :)

    Thanks everyone for your input!

  25. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    It will make your Mac like a new computer.

    That 5xx MB/s sequential read / write is quite meaningless most of the time, because that's almost nothing to do with OS operation. What you need from the SSD is the high IOPS when reading thousands of small files. If all you need is just high sequential speed, then put 4x HDD in RAID 0 can gives your OS a new life because it has the same sequential performance as the SATA SSD. Obviously it is not the case in real world.

    For traditional HDDs, it's very common to have max sequential speed >100MB/s. However, for random 4K read, it's just around 1MB/s (yes, I am not kidding, it's 1MB/s. In fact, it can be as slow as 0.5MB/s). With a typically SATA SSD, 4k (QD1) read usually about 20-30MB/s, that's 30x faster than HDD. And this is the real reason why the user feel their system run 10x faster than with HDD (because it's really >10x faster).

    So, all you need is just the cheapest SATA SSD, then the HDD bottleneck (low IOPS) will be removed. And it will make your Mac 10x more responsive in most OS operation that required HDD access.

    Anyway, for your info, here is some sample hard driver performance.

    2x SATA SSD in RAID 0:
    • Sequential Read : 718.498 MB/s
    • Sequential Write : 777.414 MB/s
    • Random Read 512KB : 160.541 MB/s
    • Random Write 512KB : 838.930 MB/s
    • Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 26.985 MB/s [ 6588.1 IOPS]
    • Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 135.603 MB/s [ 33106.2 IOPS]
    • Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 177.003 MB/s [ 43213.6 IOPS]
    • Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 178.397 MB/s [ 43554.0 IOPS]
    m.2 SSD:
    • Sequential Read (Q= 32,T= 1) : 829.119 MB/s
    • Sequential Write (Q= 32,T= 1) : 677.645 MB/s
    • Random Read 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 744.328 MB/s [181720.7 IOPS]
    • Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 144.876 MB/s [ 35370.1 IOPS]
    • Sequential Read (T= 1) : 785.600 MB/s
    • Sequential Write (T= 1) : 789.973 MB/s
    • Random Read 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 56.585 MB/s [ 13814.7 IOPS]
    • Random Write 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 170.449 MB/s [ 41613.5 IOPS]
    • Sequential Read : 114.988 MB/s
    • Sequential Write : 111.043 MB/s
    • Random Read 512KB : 39.260 MB/s
    • Random Write 512KB : 57.409 MB/s
    • Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 0.546 MB/s [ 133.4 IOPS]
    • Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 0.757 MB/s [ 184.9 IOPS]
    • Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 1.582 MB/s [ 386.3 IOPS]
    • Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 0.700 MB/s [ 171.0 IOPS]
    What define the user's OS experience is mainly the Random read 4K QD1 figure.

    As you can see, a SATA SSD is about 50x faster than the HDD, and the m.2 SSD is 100x faster than the HDD.

    I show you the 2x SSD RAID 0 figure because I also want to show you that 2x SSD in RAID 0 won't help the 4K random read figure. So, for OS operation, RAID 0 won't make it faster, but just create more trouble (most of the time). So, a single proper size (for SSD, it's recommended always leave at least 20% free space) SSD is all you need to remove the HDD bottleneck (If you want to improve your OS experience).

Share This Page