suggestions for very sluggish imac? 2011

Discussion in 'iMac' started by trellaine, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. trellaine macrumors regular


    Jul 24, 2009
    West Coast
    I have noticed my imac (mid 2011) to be very sluggish the past month. I get the spinning colored ball quite abit. Web pages won't load sometimes...browser gives me errors re: page not loading, quite or ..... I also notice even when I try and open and run a program it seems to take quite awhile. Internet speeds seem fine. Over the 5-6 yrs of use I have done LOTS of reading/writing on the hdd. Currently I am running El Captain 10.11.6, 4gb RAM ( i suppose i could add RAM if need be) but its become quite frustrating. I wonder if its time for a new computer?

    Is there maybe any cheaper alternatives to find out if there are issues occurring? What about doing a clean install and having everything cleared? How would I do that considering the original OS was from 2010-11.

    Any help is appreciated.
  2. wordsdrawnigh macrumors newbie

    Feb 22, 2017
    A clean install would be a good idea. Perhaps booting from an external SSD with Thunderbolt? That should definitely help if you want to add some speed to your aging iMac.
  3. padams35 macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2016
    Add more RAM. Yosemite convinced me to add more ram to my mid-2011, and with 12GB installed El Capitian ran smoothly too.

    A clean install can be performed from a recovery partition with the relevant OS. If you use time machine there may be a recovery partition on that volume. Just make sure you have an up to date backup (or two) before erasing and reinstalling.

    I've also heard good things about for generating aggregate performance summeries.
  4. ahostmadsen macrumors 6502a

    Dec 28, 2009
    The same thing happened with my mid 2011 iMac, top of the line with 8Gb RAM. Unbearably slow. My theory is that these kind of slow downs are due to the spinning HDD. You could replace the internal HDD with an SSD, or buy an external HDD and make that the startup disk.

    I did in fact order a replacement internal SSD for my iMac. But then the video card broke (a known issue). Then I faced a $800 repair cost for that + the SSD, so I just put the whole thing on the scrap heap and returned the SSD. That is the risk with upgrading older hardware: something else could break.
  5. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    It sounds like your hard drive is dying. Back up immediately while you still can. Then replace the hard drive, I always reccomend an SSD because then the computer will be faster than when you bought it, 15 secs boot up time and apps open instantly. As others have said an external SSD can be quite good but on USB 2 as are in the 2011 model it's not worth it, you want it connected using the internal SATA 3 connection to get the fast speeds.
  6. ahostmadsen macrumors 6502a

    Dec 28, 2009
    It also has thunderbolt, and there are some thunderbolt SSD drives.
  7. neliason macrumors 6502

    Oct 1, 2015
    I've got a 2011 iMac. I upgraded the RAM to 16 GB years ago. That is easy to do and will help. I find booting and opening apps to be slow, but otherwise the machine runs decently fast. I'm very confident the best way to boot and open apps faster is having an SSD for the OS. As others point out an external SSD will be fine, if it is via Thunderbolt. I have a Thunderbolt docking station with USB 3 ports and an SSD with USB 3 would also be faster. I think with the higher end 2011s an SSD upgrade will make it usable for most people for several more years.
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Add an external thunderbolt SSD of modest capacity (say, 240-480gb, depending on your budget, it doesn't have to be high-capacity).

    Then, put a copy of the OS, apps, and your accounts on it, and make it your "external booter".

    It will then boot and run much MUCH faster.

    Leave large libraries of pics, music and movies (if you have them) on the internal hard drive.
    You DON'T want to "clog up" the external SSD with those libraries of seldom-accessed files. The object is to keep the external booter "lean and clean".

    An external thunderbolt SSD will cost more than a USB3 version of same, but because you have a 2011 model, all you have is USB2 -- too slow.

    Do this, and it will breathe new life into the iMac.
    You can probably count on 2-3 more years of good use (unless you get "upgrade fever" in the meantime!)

    At least 8g of RAM will help, too.
    But the new drive is the biggest factor.
  9. MichaelDT macrumors regular

    Aug 18, 2012
  10. rworne macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I can speak from experience on this - 2010 iMac i7.

    It was always reasonably fast, then it went in for the Seagate HDD recall. After a while, it got unreasonably slow and the OS reported no disk errors.

    Grab a copy of DriveDx (it's shareware, but has a 30 day trial) and give it a spin. It reads the SMART data off of the drive and reports any errors. I had tons of drive errors. Then I got an SSD upgrade to replace the failing drive and the 2010 iMac is like awhile new machine.

    Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with DriveDx, but I own a license.
  11. gottafly macrumors regular

    Aug 26, 2008
    THANK YOU FOR THIS!! Worked feels like a brand new computer again!
  12. Malus120 macrumors 6502

    Jun 28, 2002
    Yeah SSDs have a way of doing that :)

    They also remind us just how little Intel has done in the last few years (on the desktop) when a simple storage upgrade makes an almost 6 year old computer feel almost indistinguishable from a brand new one for casual use and even certain types of professional use... :(

    But hey congrats on your revitalized 2011 iMac, as a previous owner, I'll definitely say those were/are great machines.
  13. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Intel have reached the limit of silicon speed wise its all down to extra cores parallel processing and efficiency gains these days. In everyday use you won't see too much difference but fire up FCPX on them both and see which one is faster at rendering video....
  14. Malus120 macrumors 6502

    Jun 28, 2002
    Perhaps I should have been clearer, as a former owner of a maxed out 2014 RiMac, I was in no way implying that an almost 6 year old, mid 2011 iMac was ACTUALLY as fast for the most demanding tasks with the mere addition of an SSD. I was just trying to point out that, for a lot of use cases (obviously not FCPX, CPU intensive tasks, or anything overly dependent on the GPU) even a fairly old Mac can perform just about as well as a new one with an SSD added to remove the storage bottleneck.

    As for your claim that "Intel have reached the limit of silicon speed wise," I wouldn't be so fast to give Intel the benefit of the doubt. They've had a near monopoly on Desktop/Laptop/Server CPUs for the past 8 years, and its obvious they've been riding the coat tails of what began as Sandy Bridge for the past 6 years. The fact that AMD, with a fraction of the R&D budget Intel has available, was able to fit an 8 core 3.7Ghz (Turbo) chip into a 65W TDP, says volumes about just how hard Intel's REALLY been trying lately. Remember, we all thought Moore's law was dead when the Pentium 4 hit the clock speed wall back in the mid 2000s, only to see massive gains through the improvement of micro architectures over the next decade (and that's before we take into account the move from single to multiple cores). With real competition in the marketplace again, who knows what kind of advances we'll end up seeing over the next few years.
  15. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    It's not about giving Intel the benefit of the doubt it's about physics we have reached the limits of silicon speed wise some 4.0ghz is it without serious cooling, adding extra cores has nothing to do with that.

    If you are using one core on a single threaded process it's all about the speed many of the simple things we do use this system and are limited by speed, if they were recoded for multiple threading etc then they could make them faster but that's down to software not hardware.
  16. Malus120 macrumors 6502

    Jun 28, 2002
    But you are giving Intel the benefit of the doubt. My whole argument (perhaps poorly stated), was that we always assume we're hitting the limits "physics," when often we're really just looking at the problem the wrong way.

    It's true that if we look strictly at frequency, we've been "stuck" in the realm of 4Ghz CPU frequency wise for most of the last decade until very recently. That said, in that same decade we've still seen multiple large increases in SINGLE THREADED performance. Consider that today's 1.XGhz laptop parts destroy the 4Ghz Pentium 4s of a decade ago in single threaded performance. When the pentium 4 made it obvious that (in 2005) we'd taken a design heavily reliant on frequency scaling for performance to its practical limits (again in 2005), everyone suddenly realized that we could still improve single threaded performance via improvements in micro architecture (IPC), while also adding more cores for better overall performance, and we could do it all while reducing CPU power consumption significantly. I don't think too many people would have predicted that just a few years prior.

    I'm not saying it's not getting (significantly) harder engineering wise to achieve process shrinks, improve IPC, and increase CPU frequency. I'm just saying that given the Intel monopoly we've had, taking Intel's word for it when they say "It's hard," might not the best measure of reality.

    Regarding frequency, the i3 7350K, i5/i7 7600/7000, and 7600K/7700K all have boost frequency's well above 4Ghz that are easily sustained on fairly standard air cooling even across multiple cores. You don't even have to get crazy with cooling to hit 4.5Ghz (the 7700K does that at stock). As for your comment that "adding more cores has nothing to do with that," that's flat out wrong, accommodating additional cores within the same TDP has everything to do with how (well) a CPU is designed. The fact that AMD can get 8 cores in a 65W TDP, while the best Intel can (publicly) do with 65W (and even 95W) is 4 cores says a whole lot.
  17. Samuelsan2001, Mar 16, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017

    Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    And Intel has done all of those things so that's not a problem for Intel I don't see what your point is...

    Within the limits of silicon Intel (and to a certain extent AMD and there is your confirmation of how difficult it is AMD have struggled to come close to Intel if it was easy they'd smash them) have done amazing things in the last decade. They have not let it stop them from getting better and better performance out of smaller lower power and multi core multi threaded chips and different architecture, producing cool fast chips.

    Intel have the best performance available whatever the core count and their chips are better anything currently AMD make. It's the same with arm design chips Apple use less cores often clocked slower and get better performance than anyone else as well. If all you are looking for is performance gains then they have done well when we pretty much hit the speed limits of silicon a decade ago!!

    So what is your problem with them?? They have done what you are asking for. That was to get the best performance with the lowest thermal design and power envelope. We now have cool silent laptops that smoke a massive water cooled desktop from a decade ago so what is your point??

    Xeons go up to 24 cores for pity's sake is that not enough???
  18. Malus120 macrumors 6502

    Jun 28, 2002
    I'm not saying the market hasn't done amazing things with low power chips over the last few years. I'm also not trying to undersell what Intel has accomplished. They've done a lot of amazing things.

    I'm just trying to say that, last time the industry looked like it was hitting the limits of single threaded performance, it managed to break out in a new direction for massive single threaded performance gains. While it may well be that we actually have hit the limit this time, I don't trust that an Intel that hasn't had to really compete with anyone except itself for the last six years to be the best judge of that.
  19. ozreth macrumors 65816


    Nov 5, 2009
    You REALLY need to swap the old HDD for an SSD and add the RAM. I have a mid 2010 13" MBP and I was having similar issues, especially when Yosemite hit. I upped the ram from 4gb to 8gb and bought a 500gb Samsung 850 EVO SSD. The thing flies now. It really makes such a difference. In 2017, especially with older machines, there is no way to move forward without an SSD. They have almost become the norm in most new computers and are a necessity in older ones trying to run newer operating systems.

    SSD and 8gb-16gb of RAM will give you another several years out of your iMac.

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18 March 2, 2017