Upgrading iMac 21.5 (Mid 2010)

Discussion in 'iMac' started by 4Infinity, Mar 15, 2015.

  1. 4Infinity macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2015
    Hello Everyone,

    First post here.

    I've been browsing through the forums and have a few questions regarding my Mac.

    I'm currently editing my first independent feature.. and well the budget is out so getting a new computer is not an option.

    Is there any possiblity of finding a way to update the i3 to an i5/i7?
    I'm editing DSLR footage so its not huge files, but i need the workflow to be nice and smooth and render time to be as fast as possible and the i3 seems to be struggling.

    Any information regarding if i can do it myself, how hard it is, how much it would cost ect would be great!

    Thank you
  2. Brian Y macrumors 68040

    Oct 21, 2012
    It should be possible to upgrade the CPU, but it's certainly not easy. The procedure is:

    - Glass off
    - Screen out
    - HDD out (makes it easier)
    - Fans out
    - Speakers out
    - RAM door off
    - RAM out

    - Then you can remove the logic board and access the CPU (be careful removing it as you need to remove cables both in front and behind the logic board).

    If its your first time taking apart an iMac, expect it to take a few hours at least (someone who does a lot of iMac repairs could probably do it in 30-40 minutes). Ifixit has guides which you can follow.

    Here comes the problem - you can't just throw any CPU in there. Firstly, there are firmware locks which means that only CPUs the iMac shipped with will work. Secondly, there's power limits.

    If you have an i3 in the 2010 model, then you have the base or mid model iMac (the 3.06GHz or the 3.2Ghz). These can only support 73w TDP, therefore you are limited to the following CPUs:

    i3 540 (3.06GHz)
    i3 550 (3.2GHz)
    i5 680 (3.6GHz)

    Therefore there's bad news - you can go up to i5, but not i7, and according to CPUWorld, if you have the base i3 right now, you'll only see a 20-27% performance increase. The top end iMac (which shipped with a 2.8GHz i5) supports 95w TDP CPUs (which is why the i7 was only available as an option on the top-end model).

    The cheapest I can find the i5 680 is about £70, which I certainly don't think is worth it.
  3. 4Infinity thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2015
    Thanks for the reply.

    Great information, I also have 12GB ram, so how much of a difference will that make?

    Right now i don't have the budget to spend on another computer so upgrading this one seems like my only option in the current moment.

    If i was going for power vs price i'd probably end up back on windows, although i've recently discovered final cut pro x, which i'd like to use alot more.

    are these my complete and final options in regards to upgrading?

    Once again,

    Great information.

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