Upgrading my sluggish iMac?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by musiclvr, Apr 11, 2014.

  1. musiclvr macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    #1
    I currently use a mid 2011 27" iMac with the following specs:
    -Processor 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7
    -Memory 16 GB 1333 MHz DDR3
    -Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1024 MB

    I'm thinking of upgrading to a newer version (maybe a refurbished 2012/2013?) or waiting for the 2014 model. I guess my question is...is it worth it for me to upgrade? Are the newer models significantly faster than the 2011 model?

    Overall I've enjoyed my iMac (converted over from a Windows desktop in 2011) but it just seems to be a bit sluggish at times. I've kept up with the maintenance (installing updates, running Onyx/CCleaner frequently) but it's just not the lightning speed I thought it'd be. My active memory use is usually about 4-6GB and CPU usage is usually less than 15%. And yet I'm almost constantly hearing it running (the hard drive working?), the back panel is warm, I get the "beachball" fairly often when opening apps, etc. Basically just an overall sluggish performance.

    Is there anything I can do to improve performance? Would upgrading help considering the amount of memory/CPU I use on an average day? Any apps out there to "diagnose" any issues/problems my iMac might have?

    It's just frustrating to pay $2000 for a computer and not be completely happy with its performance standards.
     
  2. smithrh macrumors 68020

    smithrh

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    #2
    First inclination is to recommend an SSD - major bang for the buck. It's no big thing to hook up an SSD to the Thunderbolt port, in fact just did that to my iMac. Left the internal drive installed, no it's not totally pretty but that's not what I was after...

    That's a pretty decently spec'd iMac, so it shouldn't be sluggish. I do wonder if there's something amiss, but you mentioned that you don't see your CPU very high, but on the other hand the back side is "warm." That's not necessarily a bad sign, Apple uses the aluminum to dissipate heat.

    One suggestion, don't run Onyx/CCleaner for a while. Some of the caches it might want to delete may be needed by the system for best performance. Things are cached for a reason...
     
  3. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #3
    I had exactly the same problems (2011 15" MBP, 2.3 GHz quad core i7 and 16GB RAM, 1GB 6750M) and also experienced sluggish performance until I threw out the 7200rpm drive in it and replaced it with an SSD (512GB Samsung 840 Pro).

    With that SSD, it booted up in just 11 seconds and had instant app launches. No lag whatsoever.
     
  4. rjbruce macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2011
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #4
    Ssd

    Absolutely agree with the SSD comments. I have a 2011 MBP 13" with 8GB of RAM. Two and a half years in things were starting to get pretty slow with some lock ups waiting for applications to respond. If I restarted with several applications open it would take forever to boot and open everything up. As a last ditch effort I swapped the drive for a solid state and I can not believe the difference in performance. I will never buy another computer without an SSD. It is completely worth the money since it saves me time and frustration. Even after reading so many posts about the night and day performance it is still surprising to me just how much better it is.
     
  5. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #5
    That is by no means a sluggish system. In all honesty, since it has a hard drive I would start with a fresh installation of OS X. Completely erase the hard drive is what I would do.

    It really depends on what you are trying to do really, but really, three years on an OS install is pretty good. I am sure so many people will disagree with me that OS X doesn't need to be reinstalled, but on hard drives it does.
     
  6. Blue Sun macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2009
    Location:
    Australia
    #6
    Check out this thread. I have done this myself and I can tell you that it is an excellent solution.
     
  7. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #7
    I am not saying it is a bad idea. I just think the OP should take some troubleshooting measures to restore his former performance if at all possible before dropping hundreds of dollars on workaround fixes. If a hard drive is simply gunked up and a reinstall would fix it, not only would an SSD suffer the same fate (if cloned) yet just faster.

    People instantly go after hardware nowadays. Granted, I own an SSD and love it, but there is absolutely no reason that a HD based system should be that sluggish. Keep in mind, Apple and most PC manufacturers still sell systems with hard drives.
     
  8. Blue Sun macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2009
    Location:
    Australia
    #8
    Of course, by all means. But still, even a a fresh install on a regular mechanical drive will still be 4-5 times slower than an SSD. If you are willing to start fresh, you may as well upgrade to an SSD, IMO. Especially for a 2011 iMac, as it has Thunderbolt ports which makes this upgrade very easy. Sorry by the way, I meant to quote the original post, not yours.
     
  9. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #9
    Oh no, I totally agree that the SSD is the way of the future. And even at 4-5 times slower, it should never be that sluggish. If we can get the OP running well on the already equipped hard drive, then we can discuss options regarding upgrades.

    For all I know, I have even seen bad HDD cables cause these issues exactly. But a fresh install is always the first step.
     
  10. musiclvr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    #10
    Thanks for all the helpful advice.

    I hadn't thought about the HDD being the problem. The SSD or Fusion Drive sounds like something I might want to explore. If I go the SSD/FD route, I may not need to upgrade until there is a significant upgrade such as retina display. Do you think going this route would be more beneficial to me than upgrading to a newer model with a faster processor?

    Excuse my lack of knowledge but what are the pros and cons of keeping the SSD separate (and using it as the boot drive and to store my apps) vs "fusing" the SSD with my 2TB internal HDD? Which method would you recommend? Any real significant advantages to one vs the other?

    If I decide on going the FD route, would I need to open up my Imac and install it? Or could I use an external SSD? I am not that comfortable with doing that...is it a fairly advanced technique?
     
  11. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #11
    Essentially a Fusion Drive does the work for you. It really depends on your workflow. For me all my data is on the SSD until I don't need it and it gets archived onto network storage. The Fusion Drive puts the OS and most used programs or files on the SSD portion and the data clunkers on the HDD. It is kind of like a hybrid car.

    Start with the fresh install of OS X on a freshly erased drive and go from there.
     
  12. musiclvr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    #12
    I'm thinking about going with a pure 500GB SSD (instead of a FD).

    Now I'm trying to decide between an external or internal SSD.

    Would the internal be a lot faster than the Thunderbolt connected external? I can see advantages to both methods.

    Internal:
    -Much cheaper
    -Faster (but does my 2011 iMac have a SATAIII connection? If not, would it really be any faster than connecting through Thunderbolt?)
    -Potential to convert into a Fusion Drive
    -Adds resale value

    http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Elect...UTF8&qid=1397409336&sr=8-1&keywords=500gb+ssd

    If I go with an internal SSD, I'll probably have to hire someone to do it. I watched a video of the process and that is NOT something I need to be messing with.

    External:
    -Less configuration

    http://www.amazon.com/Lacie-9000449...id=1397409725&sr=8-1&keywords=lacie+500gb+ssd

    Thoughts?
     
  13. macunwired macrumors member

    macunwired

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #13
    Open console and do a search under all messages for Disk. See if there are any Disk I/O errors listed. If there are, your drive is failing. A lot of 2011 iMacs have drives that fail often.

    Most repair shops will charge about $100 for installing an SSD into an iMac, and an external thunderbolt enclosure is about the same price. In my experience resell value isn't helped as much as it costs by upgrades. I would do an external SSD so you can keep it when you sell your iMac.

    Note on Fusion Drives:
    Have 2 backups of all your important data (one onsite constant backup, and one offsite backup) no matter what drive is in your computer (SSD drives fail at a similar rate as spinning drives). Fusion drives are great, but you are combining 2 drives into one, so you are increasing your chance of having a failure. That makes backing up go from 100% necessary, to 101% necessary. Always backup.
     
  14. smithrh macrumors 68020

    smithrh

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    #14
    External Thunderbolt is plenty fast. Is it as fast as an internal drive, no, but it'll be fast enough to blow your socks off coming from an HDD-only environment.

    I wouldn't say that your resale value would be going up; actually, it may go down, people know that opening up the iMac can go bad if done incorrectly.

    I also wouldn't say it's "much cheaper" as you'd have to pay someone to do it, as you note. Apple sells a short Thunderbolt cable for cheap and the external drive caddy is also under $100. I'd think that would be a wash overall.

    Fusion drive is OK and all that, but as I mentioned before, you need to have good backups, if you lose either drive you may very well lose all of the contents in one fell swoop.

    I've gone the external/Thunderbolt route on my 2011 and been happy with it. The internal drive is still there to boot off of if needed as well. A cool thing about Time Machine is that it picked up the new disk with no issue and is now simply backing up all disks - that's cool, I didn't know it would do that.

    The main drawback is the fear that something could happen to the external drive - someone could walk off with it, disconnect it, what have you, but I realized there's no reason to fear that in my environment - make sure that's the case in yours as well.

    As mentioned, do check to see if you're having hard disk issues now, you'll want to correct that one way or the other.
     
  15. musiclvr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    #15
    I opened Console and searched for 'I/O error' and no results. Hopefully that means mine is fine (I noticed that article said they recalled the 1TB, I have the 2TB drive).

    If I get the Lacie Rugged SSD, do I still need an external thunderbolt enclosure?

    This Lacie Rugged 500GB SSD is $500 on Amazon (really more than I wanted to spend). Have you seen them cheaper anywhere else? Or any other cheaper alternatives out there?
     
  16. smithrh macrumors 68020

    smithrh

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    #16
    That LaCie SSD is a bit pricey, but does include everything you need (less a TB cable).

    You are paying extra for ruggedness, which you may not truly need if it's just sitting stationary by your iMac day after day after day...

    Other drives are certainly less expensive, but then you'd have to get a SATA/TB sled or dock as well, the SSD "speaks" SATA but the iMac only "speaks" TB so you need an intermediate device.

    There are SSDs out there (Crucial is one of them) that offer 500Gb of storage for less than $300, there can be some performance tradeoffs - but even with a "slow" SSD it's blazingly quick compared to a HDD.

    You might take a look at your true needs for storage - a lot of very fast options open up for you at the 250Gb SSD level, at nice pricing too. Sure, having everything on the SSD is nice, but you might find out that it's overkill. Do an honest assessment first.
     
  17. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #17
    So long as you stay away from Verbatim SSDs the OP will be fine...
     
  18. GreatDrok macrumors 6502a

    GreatDrok

    Joined:
    May 1, 2006
    Location:
    New Zealand
    #18
    My old Mac mini is a 2009 model and had 4GB of RAM and a 160GB drive. I bumped it up to 8GB but the biggest improvement is the 960GB SSD from Crucial. The thing just flies now. I was borderline on replacing it but now it is so fast it does everything I need. An SSD is a solid investment (no pun intended)
     
  19. musiclvr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    #19
    It'll be stationary next to my iMac so maybe I don't need to pay extra for the "rugged" version.

    So if I decide to assemble one myself (and save on cost), what exactly do I need?
    -The SSD. Would this work? It seems to be a very popular one and highly rated.
    -ThunderBolt enclosure/dock/sled. What is the difference between those 3? Any recommendations for a popular high performance one?
    -ThunderBolt cable
    -Anything else?

    It seems like assembling one myself would be about $100 cheaper. But when you say there could be some "performance tradeoffs", would I notice a difference vs the LaCie Rugged? If so, how significant?
     
  20. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #20

    I have the 120 GB version of the Samsung 840 Evo and it is great.
     
  21. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #21
    I've been using the Delock 42490 Thunderbolt enclosure with a 512GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD for about 2 months now. I bought it here in Japan but it seems to be available in the states as well now. I'm booting both OS X and BootCamp Windows off the SSD and appreciate the fact that it is AC-powered. The Seagate sleds and Lacie Ruggeds are all bus-powered. The Thunderbolt cable is not included with the Delock but you can still get both for under $100.

    I recently did some benchmarks with the Delock compared to an Inateck USB3 enclosure in this thread.
     

Share This Page