The future of a 2011 iMac?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by gogogut, Jan 5, 2015.

  1. gogogut macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2012
    I have the opportunity to purchase a used 2011 iMac (12,1) i5 quad core 2.7GHz with original 1TB (7200RPM) and upgraded to 12GB ram, running Mountain Lion. It appears it can be updated to Yosemite and I would do so immediately upon acquisition. And the 2011 models allow for user ram upgrades, so I could (if I ever wanted to) upgrade the ram from 12GB up to 32GB.
    But before I pull the trigger, I was wondering what people thought of the future prospects for this computer. Do you envision it lasting many more years? Will upcoming operating systems leave this in the dust? Is the upgradable ram a huge plus? Might the HDD even be upgradable to a SSD down the line?
    Any advice would help in my final decision on whether to make the move or not.
  2. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    They'll have at least one more year of OS X updates. It's very possible that they could receive many more updates as well. Even the much older 2007 iMacs are still getting OS X updates.
  3. SmallDane macrumors member


    Dec 23, 2014
    It depends on the price. You can get a brand new with similar specs for $1,300.

    In my opinion the iMac doesn't age well. Upgradability and maintainability are very poor. At least for the average user. For the tech-savvy it is possible to replace the HDD. But it's not easy. Judge for yourself from the repair guides here:

    Memory is the only thing that is designed to be user upgradable. But in that model, I'd say that 12GB is plenty and you probably won't get much benefit from upgrading.
  4. Count Blah macrumors 68040

    Count Blah

    Jan 6, 2004
    US of A
    I have a 2008 iMac running 10.9.5 at the moment. I think you have the potential to be fine on that machine for a good many years. It all depends on what what you were going to use it for.

    I swapped storage in the same 2008 iMac. It's not as simple as upgrading the ram, but it's doable to upgrade storage. And that should buy a couple more years of usefulness.
  5. StE823 macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2009
    I have the same iMac running 32gb ram and ocz ssd... I'm hoping to keep it for another 3 more years.

    Will replace the SSD to Angelbird and swap the 1tb to 3tb soon.
  6. gogogut thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2012
    That is good to hear. I certainly don't feel comfortable doing the HDD swap on my own, but getting some tech to do so down the line. I am glad it already has the 12GB ram.
    For now, my needs are just to have the iMac be the central hub for my family stuff. My family uses a Macbook Air, iPad 2 and 1, and 2 iPhone 5s. So the iMac would serve to backup from and stream to these devices. It needs to hold all photos, music, video, etc. since my main computer is a work MacBook Air.
    I currently have a 2007 Black Macbook C2D running Snow Leopard with a SSD. It serves as the family hub with several external HDDs. But now it is slowing down and not upgrading to the latest software/browsers, so I can't get everything to work as it should. For example, my password manager extension won't work and neither will my wife's work email service. She was considering a Surface tablet to allow her to work at home and to replace her iPad 1. But if I can score this iMac, then maybe I can repurpose the old Blackbook to purely address her work needs. Maybe I can strip it of everything and update it to Mountain Lion to see if then it could update other software. Worth a shot before she introduces a Microsoft product into our Apple ecosystem:)
    Alternatively, I could buy a Mac Mini (preferably 2012 if I can find it) for $600-700 to serve the same purpose. That is why I was wondering if this iMac would last. The Mac Mini would be at least one generation of processor newer and the 2012 is user upgradable. I already have a monitor and peripherals, so the screen of the iMac is extra (though nicer than mine).
    Thanks again,
  7. Coldmode macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2010
    The only thing I would be slightly worried about at all would be that a component in the iMac might fail since it's already going to be 3 years old when you get it, but you'd be worrying about the same thing with a used Mac Mini.
  8. bassjunky macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2009
    Just to post my recent experience, I recently bought my first iMac, mid-2011 i5 27". Not wanting to pull apart the screen yet and install an internal SSD, I went the external route over Thunderbolt with a Transcend 256GB SSD. This is used as the boot drive and the internal 1TB HDD just for media storage. I also upgraded the iMac from 4GB to 12GB of RAM.

    Having been using an SSD on other desktops and laptops for a while, I was used to the speed and the internal HDD was dog slow (in comparison). Since upgrading the RAM and SSD, this iMac flies now. I'm pretty happy with it.
  9. gogogut thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2012
    bassjunky - Thanks for this information. I have been wondering if I could use an external SSD as the boot drive. Does it need a special external enclosure? Or can you use the same ones as HHDs? Do they need their own power?
    Thanks in advance,
  10. SirYossi macrumors regular

    Jan 4, 2012
    Some are having video card issues with OS X 10.10 i have same computer and have no issues with 10.10 other then a glitch now and again. Issues are mainly with the 27" line but some are happening with the 21 inch line as well. There is a larger then normal graphics card failures - it mainly depends on if the computer originally shipped with 10.6 or 10.7 the 10.6 the ealier of the mid 2011 editions are the ones having the most issue. So far the main fix is have transparency turned off. Apple is warranting some of them for 4 years if the graphic card fails. I would do a full clean install of the OS with first zeroing the drive from the former owner before installing as just erasing does not remove everything then do a clean install of mac 10.10 from a flash drive as to install from the recovery disk takes too long. Once that is done turn transpancy off and do all the updates then reinstall the software u bough from the app store. After the OS is updated boot in the recovery disk mode and check the hard disk for errors and repair permissions before moving further this will cause less issues if this is done early on. Note the imac will be a little sluggish after the clean install as spotlight will be doing a indexing after that is done restart the computer and u should be good to go.
    The issue i hear is with 10.10 driver issue that should be addressed in 10.10.2 or a firmware patch will be issued to fix the graphics card issue that is causing the OS to overheat the graphics card causing failure. I also observed that most of the graphics card issues are with those who leave there imac on 24/7 and have the computer in an area were it is not getting proper cooling.
    I love the computer for doing photo editing and working with final cut pro x
  11. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    I would steer clear of it, as it may be one of the duds with the AMD GPU. My father had one and it died quite suddenly.
  12. bassjunky macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2009
    Nothing special for the enclosure, I just chose to use Thunderbolt since the mid-2011 iMacs do not have USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 would be way too slow to boot from. You could use any Thunderbolt enclosure and put your own SSD in, though the selection is fairly limited.

    I chose to use the Transcend 256GB SSD Thunderbolt drive:

    It looks slick, comes with a Thunderbolt cable and boots up my Mac < 10 seconds. It is bus powered.

    I've read that greater capacity SSDs (512GB and higher) over Thunderbolt do require their own power supply, or at least could be problematic if you rely solely on bus power, but I do not have any experience with that.
  13. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    I'm currently running a 480GB Intel 730 SSD inside an OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro enclosure, and it runs (albeit rather hot at 53° C) fine off Thunderbolt's 10W power...

    I even ran a 750GB Samsung 840 EVO from a USB3 enclosure using just bus power (before I swapped it into an enclosure with a fan in it), so I think the problem might lie with older SSDs requiring more power.
  14. Hrududu macrumors 68020


    Jul 25, 2008
    Central US
    I think any i-series power Mac (iMac, Mac Mini, and MacBooks) should be pretty future proof. My guess is the Core 2 Duo will see future support dropped soon, but I think anything with and i3 - i7 should be safe for at least a few more years.
  15. gogogut thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2012
    Thank you for all this feedback.
    I will certainly do a full swipe of the computer before installing my stuff on it.
    I would actually be purchasing it from my mother so I know its history. She leaves it on 24/7 with dozens of webpages open across both Chrome and Safari. She typically leaves Word, Excel, Skype, Powerpoint, Acrobat, and Real Player open. Her desktop is a mess with dozens of files and folders scattered across the screen. It certainly does not feel fast in comparison to my Macbook Air, but I hope that a thorough cleaning and upgrade to Yosemite will help things out. Am I being naive?
  16. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    It's slow compared to the MacBook Air because it has a regular HDD inside it rather than an SSD.

    If you're not getting it for an absolute song... it wouldn't be worth it. It's already at 3 years old, so the hard drive is on balance ready to give up the ghost within a year, and like I said before, check which video card it has, or you'll be trying to get Apple to repair it outside of warranty...
  17. robk64 macrumors newbie


    Aug 21, 2006
    I purposely sought out a pre-welded-body 27" iMac on eBay with the intent of upgrading everything inside as a hobby. The RAM going up to 32GB was easy, and when timed right, not that expensive. In hindsight, not that great of an investment. I bought a new/used (guy won it at an office party, and didn't want to go Mac) and I was able to get AppleCare on it. I took it to an Apple store and they not only changed out the recalled AMD video card, but replaced the logic board, which they said functioned, but failed several tests and couldn't explain why. Seemed odd, but no cost to me.

    What happened next, well, it could have gone better.
    OWC and iFixit are two great sources of not only information, but pieces and parts.
    I had put an SSD in my 2011 MBP, and things went well. I even used TRIM Enabler successfully with Yosemite in that machine, and tested it with and without, eventually realizing that using a sledgehammer to crack a nut was not necessary. (Side note: Removing stock thermal paste and replacing with the popular alternative helped a little, but not much. No fails, yet.)

    I thought putting an SSD in the iMac would be just as easy. Installing... not that bad. Getting it to run worry-free, not so much.
    Opening the case and removing screws... watch the videos, follow the steps (in this case, preferred OWC's guidance), and take your time.
    The conventional place to add an SSD is behind the CD/DVD drive. It literally sticks there with double-stick foam tape. I found the problem with that was airflow to the cooling fins above that area once complete.
    Not to be outdone, I had a 2.5" 1TB HDD that I could put in a NewerTech Adaptadrive, allowing me to put both the SSD and HDD in the same area (top center). Unfortunately, non-Apple drives (with the exception of some sold by OWC) fail to report HD temperature to the OS, which in turn, causes the iMac's fans to run full throttle. There is software fan control available to answer this, but I found it unreliable, and no substitute to the OS's handling of the fans.
    There's also a hardware connector available that goes between the SATA connector and the drive (SSD or HDD), with a thermal sensor. Recently acquired that cable, so I'll be trying again, later.

    I also used BootCamp and Windows 7 HPrem. Found Winclone touted as the program to get, so I got it. It worked, almost.

    I had both drives in the iMac, buttoned up, and booted holding down the Option key. I had two Macintosh HD's to boot from and two BootCamp partitions to boot from. I booted from each, one at a time, and everything worked. When I pulled the old drive out to let the SSD run on it's own, the Mac drive booted fine, but BootCamp partition did not.
    ** WinClone purchased, registered, and didn't deliver. After following their directions, when I booted up in BootCamp, blue screen came up saying that it was not a Genuine copy of Windows. Have a nice day. **
    I didn't have my Windows disc with me (currently overseas), but didn't think I'd need it because I've download the iso file from Microsoft before, had my activation code (genuine), and as long as I could boot from a USB drive and had an Internet connection, I'd be good.
    Not so much. The option to load from an iso file and any reference to a USB boot drive was gone on the iMac (thank you, Yosemite?). Again, looking online, a YouTube video gave instructions on how to get the option back. Still didn't work even after enabling the missing option.
    Carbon Copy Cloner worked as advertised.

    My next plan, once my wife sends my Windows7 disc, is to put the SSD in the AdaptaDrive, use the thermal cable, and reinstall from Carbon Copy Cloner.
    Then, reinstall Windows7 bootcamp the old-fashioned way.
    If that goes well, I'll use double-stick foam tape (heat resistant, of course) and put a second SSD in place behind the main SSD. Current concerns are the second drive's SATA cable (red) occupying what's left of the small space alongside the heat pipes, and possibly needing another thermal drive adapter cable for the second SSD. The small bottle-neck where the SATA cables come off the logic board and ride up along the heat pipes is probably the hottest part of the machine. I'm not sure the second SATA cable will last long without a thermal sleeve like the OEM SATA cable (black), and I'm not sure there's enough room to use a sleeve and allow any airflow through that area afterward.

    After all that... I guess it comes down to what you really want to do with your iMac. I would guess it'll be good for at least another 3 years. I bought mine at half the cost of a similar new iMac, and I was able to tinker with it. Why a desktop needed to be thinner and lighter I still haven't figured out. Welding was a nifty idea, but not repair/upgrade-friendly.

    Attached Files:

  18. fastlanephil macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2007
    The 2011 2.7 i5 didn't have the GPU issue it was the 3.1 i5 and the 3.4 i7.
  19. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    I stand corrected... I should have read the OP more carefully.

    I still think that such an iMac would want to be priced pretty special considering it's age.
  20. gogogut thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2012
    What if I could get it for $600-700?
    That is comparable to the 2012 or 2014 Mac Minis.
  21. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    After 3 years, it should be worth about 1/3rd of a comparable new one. So $600 should be OK.
  22. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    The AMD gpus are terrible. If it dies, it's around $300 to get it fixed via depot repair, but it's difficult to get a good repair. At this point they're all refurbished parts. I tried it on a 2011 macbook pro, which uses the same gpu. The first repair shows artifacts whenever it switches to discrete graphics. I'm about to send it back again. This started almost immediately after I got it back. The low end ones had some of the same gpus, so I'm skeptical that they didn't have any issues. They were not covered by the repair program.
  23. fastlanephil macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2007
    It looks like a refurbished online store going price for a 2011 iMac 2.7 i5 w/1TB HDD is about $1100 to $1200. I have this iMac with 24GB of memory and got a trade in estimate of $530 from The Mac Store but mine has some minor scratches caused by a thin light fixture falling and shattering into a million fragments on the top of it. Luckily I was wearing reading glasses.

    One of my brothers is interested in it so I'm thinking $700, which includes some user support.

    I've got a flashed to 5.1 2009 3.46 12 core FrankenMac Pro arriving today off eBay.
  24. gogogut thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2012
    fastlanephil: Where di you find that price? At the Apple refurb site, a 2013 21.5" 2.7GHz i5 1TB 8GB ram is selling for $1,100. So I imagined a 2011 of the same level would be at least $200-300 less. So me getting it with 12GB ram at $600 seemed like an okay deal, but not a no-brainer. Especially since I could get a new Mini for the same price.
  25. roberthallin macrumors member

    Oct 25, 2009
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I got myself a 2011 27" with the same specs as the one you're concidering about three months ago and I'm very happy with it. Mine is primarily used in my recording studio and I have yet to encounter a workload it doesn't easily handle. One can only speculate on how long it'll keep reciving updates, but if future OSX-versions spans as many years as Yosemite for compatability, it would have around four years left before being phased out, software-wise. Put a SSD in it and connect your monitor and enjoy the screen-estate and speed :)

    According to mactracker it scores close to 8000 in their benchmark, the current baseline 21" model scores just below 9000. Even though they're coming up on four years, they're still quite fast and potent machines.

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