Resolved Upgrade HDD to SSD and extra RAM?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by chublet, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. chublet macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    I have a late 2013 iMac - 2.7ghz Core i5, 1tb 5400rpm HDD, 8GB DDR3 1600 Ram.

    Rather than spending a fortune on a new iMac I am looking to upgrade it and I guess my options are to get 16GB RAM and upgrade the HDD to an SSD. I don't use the Mac for anything particularly intensive but would just like it to be a little 'snappier'.

    So, I am looking firstly at what would make the biggest initial improvement compared to cost. I know from previous experience of changing the HDD in my iPod Classic to a Flash drive that I should not be allowed anywhere near an Apple product that needs dismantling so any internal changes would need to be done by a professional.

    In the UK the costs seem to be:

    16GB (2x8GB) Ram £172 + fitting £107 = £279
    Samsung Evo 850 500GB £188 + fitting £107 = £295 (The drop from 1TB to 500GB would not be an issue as my current HD has only got 208GB used.)

    So, as you can see, prices are crazy, and I don't have a lot of spare cash!

    So, would I realistically see value in getting the RAM upgraded - as I sit here typing I seem to have 3.02GB free and I have not noticed it dropping to low levels during usage.

    I am sure I could find the actual SSD cheaper but then I would have to fit it myself but from research everything indicates that installing my OS on an SSD would make a big difference to the Mac's speed so that may be worth the cost, but would there be a noticeable difference in performance if I just got the SSD and installed it in an external enclosure and booted from that? If I got an external drive I would put everything on it - OS, Applications, iTunes etc and it would basically be a full replacement for my internal drive, so I guess I could then use the internal drive for purely data storage.

    So many questions and so much typing, but I guess it can be stripped back to

    1. Would it be worth spending £279 to increase RAM from 8GB to 16GB?
    2. Would it be worth spending £295 to replace an internal 5400rpm HDD with an internal 500GB SSD?
    3. Would there be any difference in performance between an internal SSD or an external SSD?
    4. Are there any issues around booting from an external SSD instead of an internal one in terms of updates etc?

    I would love someone to just tell me that RAM won't make much of a difference and an external SSD would be the best option but am open to suggestions.

    Any and all advice appreciated, I am just a 'casual' user and not particularly technically minded but can certainly deal with installing an external drive, but an internal one strikes fear deep into my heart!
  2. mzeb macrumors regular


    Jan 30, 2007
    So I think you’re hopes for the RAM are true. If you just check mail, browse the web and watch the occasional movie you will be fine at 8GB. The one exception to that is if you are a user that uses chrome and doesn’t close tabs. If you are that kind of user the 16GB will help.

    The SSD will make a huge difference for you and is a worthwhile upgrade. The price for the SSD is a little high but the labor costs look correct as cracking open an iMac to upgrade the drive is a considerable amount of effort. This will make any operations that involve reading from disk (opening apps, reading photos and movies) much much faster. This is worth it.
  3. jgelin macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2015
    St Petersburg, FL
    SSD worth it more than RAM, but if opening it up it is in my opinion to do both at once since you are getting more longevity with more RAM as in you will be able to support newer programs, and web content for more years to come.
  4. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    Thanks for the quick replies, I guess as I just use Safari for a little light browsing then the RAM upgrade would be a little over the top - I haven't contacted the company about upgrades at this point but I can't see anything on their site where they say they would reduce installation costs but I would expect some sort of discount after all, opening it and doing two jobs shouldn't be much harder work than just doing one I guess?

    So, any advantages of an internal over external ssd given the huge disparity in cost? I have checked Amazon etc and should be able to source an external drive for around £150...
  5. spooklog macrumors regular


    Aug 10, 2015
    New Hampshire
    As far as the external SSD vs. internal SSD issues goes, I can tell you that I've used an external spinning HDD as my main boot device and it worked very well, and that was over USB 2.0. Thus, I imagine an external SSD running over USB 3.0/USB 2.0 would function extremely well.
  6. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    You will definitely see a performance improvement with an SSD, and I would prioritize this a few steps above adding RAM in your situation.

    Can you shop around on the SSD/installation upgrade? This seems pricey, though I am several thousand miles away...
  7. jgelin macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2015
    St Petersburg, FL
    the main difference between the external and an internal SSD is the speed of reading and writing operations. You are limited to the speeds of USB3 if you are going external (unless you spend more $$ for a thunderbolt based enclosure) compared to the much faster SATA connection that is inside of your MAC.
  8. doc james macrumors member

    May 3, 2007
    United Kingdom
    Unless I'm wrong, you can fit the memory yourself in this model can't you? Google is your friend. The SSD looks rather more involved and the fitting cost might be worth it. Why not: 1)buy an SSD, secure it in external enclosure (£20) 2)upgrade the ram yourself - it's really about £90 on a favourite auction website 3)If it's still not fast enough, get the SSD "internalised"?
  9. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    Unfortunately I believe the ram is even harder to upgrade in this model than the ssd as it requires all the steps for the ssd plus removal of the logic board!

    After considering your kind replies I have decided to forget about the RAM for the time being, and will get an external SSD. This will allow me to simply and economically test what improvements their are, if I am still not satisfied then I will go down the route of getting an ssd fitted internally - a part of me thinks it wouldn't be too hard a job to do with patience and the correct tools, but another part of me knows how badly I would screw it up!
  10. Moonjumper macrumors 68000


    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    The OP didn't mention if it was a 27" or 21.5" iMac, but from the processor it seems it is 21.5", which doesn't have user-accessible RAM (the 27" has 4 user accessible RAM slots which makes it easy to add RAM in 2 slots and leave the original RAM in there as well).

    As it is the 21.5", only bother adding RAM if you are already opening the machine up, or you are sure you are using software that uses lots of RAM (I find Adobe Illustrator does under certain circumstances, lot of use of Feather for example).

    I mirror what others have said, use an external SSD as your boot drive. It is easy to add, and is reusable when you do upgrade to a new Mac. Thunderbolt would be ideal as it is faster than USB3, but it is also more expensive (but less than getting someone to open up your iMac). USB3 is probably about the same 95% of the time.
  11. jgelin macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2015
    St Petersburg, FL
    I have done it on my 21.5” 2013 before, it was not as hard as it looks online, the hardest part was lining the display up to close it back up. The RAM is a bit trickier to get to, so that I would say if you have any doubts to go to the shop for. Removing the PSU from the case is a B****
  12. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    Ooookay, so having watched plenty of video tutorials I am now feeling confident enough to actually fit the HD myself, it is basically just taking the screen off as far as I can see so how hard can that be with the right tools and a lot of care and patience?! I have built plenty of pcs and worked on arcade machines such as Pacman etc over the years so am happy around electronics.

    My next step is making sure I have everything I need and one thing I am still unsure about is whether I need to get a thermal sensor so the machine doesn't throw a fit and think it is overheating. Is it necessary to get one for this model of iMac (21.5)? Is there a software solution that would save the money, after all, when I am looking at getting one fitted professionally then none of them mention that particular part being fitted...
  13. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "I don't use the Mac for anything particularly intensive but would just like it to be a little 'snappier'."

    Fastest, easiest, cheapest and SAFEST way to upgrade to an SSD:
    Buy an EXTERNAL USB3 SSD, plug it in, and set it up to become your external boot drive.
    This is "child's play" easy on a Mac.

    Something like the Samsung t5 external USB3 SSD would do fine.
    You DON'T need to get a "big" one -- 512gb or even 256gb can do the job, and do it well.

    You'll see speeds that are 85% (or better) as you would see from an internally-installed drive. Not 100%, but close enough to be all-but indistinguishable. And again, you don't risk breaking anything by splitting the thing open.

    I wouldn't bother adding RAM UNLESS you start get errors or crashes that indicate you're running out of memory.

    Again, adding an external is the fastest, easiest, cheapest. And did I mention that it was the safest way to go, as well...?
  14. mzeb macrumors regular


    Jan 30, 2007
    Your USB runs at 5G/bs, your internal SATA runs at 6Gb/s. The theoretical speed difference between an internal and an external would be about 20%. Reality will be greater than that though. The protocol that runs over SATA is built for disk I/O while USB is built as a generic do it all protocol. I would expect an internal disk to run about 50% faster than an external one. That said, an external disk will run much faster than your current internal rotating disk.
  15. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    as this machine only has a usb3.0 rather than 3.1 connection i guess that would limit the speed of an external drive even more?

    anyone got any recommendations for an external 250gb ssd that would be suitable for me without being overkill in terms of paying for speed that my machine can’t handle?
  16. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "as this machine only has a usb3.0 rather than 3.1 connection i guess that would limit the speed of an external drive even more?"

    With a good USB3 SSD (not 3.1) you should see reads in the 430mbps range and writes around 300-340 (write speeds depend upon the drive brand and size).

    Compared to what you're getting from a 5400rpm internal drive, I predict that you'll be VERY pleased with the speeds above. If you try this, please save this thread and let us know what you think...
  17. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    OK, I have taken everyones advice on board and have actually made a decision - I have ordered a Samsung EVO 250gb SSD that I will be mounting externally.

    My reasoning is as follows:
    its cheap - £70 - so therefore if all goes wrong I haven't wasted much money.
    I am not risking opening my iMac up and breaking it - I am sure I would be ok but imagine how annoyed with myself I would be if I broke something!
    250GB may seem a small drive but all I will be putting on it will be my photo library - 30GB, iTunes - 120GB, and my OS and Applications, everything else, such as movies, will be on a 4tb external drive I already have, and as I record from CCTV I will use the 1TB internal drive that the SSD will free-up.
    It should be very easy to fit!
    If I decide to be brave at a later date I can always have a go at fitting it internally but hopefully won't need to.

    Hopefully the improvements I see from this will make the small cost and effort worthwhile, my current read speeds are 97.9MBs and write speeds are 102MBs, will report back later in the week hopefully when all is installed.

    Thanks very much for all the advice and guidance, I am happy with my decision and it was nice to hear so many viewpoints!
  18. gnasher729, Mar 4, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018

    gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    Just saying: With the fitting, you pay £50 to open the iMac, £7 to put in the RAM, £50 to close the iMac. So having two things updated at the same time should be a lot cheaper.

    On the other hand, this is what Apple says about upgrading the RAM. It is really easy, doesn't even require a screwdriver. If you don't want to do it yourself, you should have someone in your family who feels confident doing it.

    Some models can hold 32 GB, so you could check if you can buy a 16 GB chip, and keep one of the 4GB chips that you have. The hard drive speed should then be a lot less important, because the hard drive is used a lot when you run out of RAM, and that would happen a lot less.

    Correction: They have four slots. You most likely have 4 x 2GB, so you can buy 2 x 8GB, replace two of your chips, and have 20 GB.
  19. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    Unfortunately in order to upgrade the ram in my particular model of iMac I have to take the screen off and flip the logic board over which requires removal of pretty much everything else in there! I think I will go down the external route for the moment and perhaps a few months down the line when I feel ready to mess with things again I will open it up to fit the ram and ssd at the same time.

    Right now I am really just interested in what speeds I will get from the SSD.

    Anyone got any recommendations as to either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt enclosures - there are plenty of 3.0 ones about but hard to work out what is a good one, and I can't seem to find any Thunderbolt ones that are not horrendously expensive!
  20. thekb, Mar 4, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018

    thekb macrumors 6502a

    May 8, 2010

    Forgive me, I am not trying to hijack the thread, but this post seemed right on point for my question.

    I have a 2009 24" imac that I made the mistake of upgrading to El Capitan. It's been a dog ever since and has been getting worse. I'd like to squeeze a little more life out if I can for my kids to use for some class projects, but am reluctant to open it up.

    I have a spare 128GB SSD that I could use as a boot drive and I was thinking I might be able to find a fire wire external enclosure to use. I wondered if you could give advice on this proposition and any recommendation for a reasonably inexpensive fire wire enclosure that would work. Bus powered preferred, but not necessary.

    EDIT: Would something like this work?

    Thanks for any advice.
  21. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    Well, I always really knew I wouldn't be able to resist trying to fit one internally, an external drive would have just sat there whispering 'fit me, fit me...'

    So, bought one of those pizza-cutter style wheels to cut the adhesive tape around the screen and some new tape for the end of the job. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it all was, the screen came off no problem, drive went in, and am currently sat here putting all my music over to iTunes, so very pleased with myself!

    I would say though that you really do need the right tools, have watched lots of videos of others doing it, and have a steady hand and plenty of patience.

    Will let your know speeds once I have finished up!
  22. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    Just open it up. It's not hard and you'll be much more satisfied with SATA 2 speeds instead of FW. You need the suction cups (a few bucks at a home depot or equivalent), the iFixit instructions (but DO NOT disconnect the display cable! read the comments!), and about 30 to 45 minutes of calm, undisturbed time. I put an internal SSD into our early 2009 a couple years ago and it's still running OK; in fact, we upgraded it to High Sierra (using dosdude1's patcher) so that it could understand the latest iphone photo format and it even runs that OK.
  23. chublet thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2018
    Well, I am certainly happy with the increased performance, apps open instantaneously, which is pretty much all I wanted!

    Speeds before the upgrade:

    Read: 75.4
    Write: 74.4


    Read: 509.2
    Write: 440.5

    So, well worth the reasonable cost and effort to upgrade, once again, thanks for everyones advice, even the bits I ignored were good!

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22 March 2, 2018