Upgrading via replacements parts...is it a viable option?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by ccf, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. ccf macrumors regular

    Jan 14, 2011
    I just recently bought a 27" i3. Let's say my needs change or I just want to get the latest & greatest.

    Would it make sense for me to get a new processor & graphics card (& whatever else) instead of buying a new iMac? I always hear about people getting new iMacs when upgrades come out, but what about buying replacement parts to enhance your machine?

    Is that a common practice? Just curious if it's something I should consider when the time comes.
  2. Detosx, Feb 22, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011

    Detosx macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    In theory. I think you need to thoroughly research whatever model you have and find not only people who have upgraded but whose iMacs are still stable, cool and quiet months after the upgrades.

    Hard drive. I believe with some pre 2010 models swapping out the hard drive was straight forward. With the 2010 model you need a hard drive that has Apple firmware on it or you run into hard drive temperature sensing and fan spin problems. There are a couple of workarounds that I know of but they are both ugly and one in terminal. I would rather avoid those but I have been unable to find downloadable firmware for some of the hard drive models that I am interested in replacing mine with which Apple use in the 2010 line up and reflash with their own firmware.

    CPU. I am still trying to find someone who has changed the CPU in a 2010 model, though encouragingly found a few who had changed the 2009 model's CPU; it involved removing a warranty sicker. Certainly people have speculated that on paper at least it would be possible with the 2010 model but I wouldn't want to try without reading testimonials from others who have tried.

    GPU. I am not sure about changing the graphics card from the point of view of perhaps needing to update the motherboard's bios, for instance. Even then, if it is possible, I would think you would be stuck unless changing from a stock Apple/ATI 5670 GPU to a Apple/ATI 5750. I imagine Apple flash the ROM chips of their ATI/nvidia cards. I need to do more research but am happy with my 5750.

    Connectivity. You will find people who have fitted eSATA. USB 3? I speculated on fitting a USB 3 card via the iMac's mini pci-e socket and at least that way hopefully have USB 3 working under Windows 7 via bootcamp but, again, I have yet to find anyone who has tried to do that and I am not prepared to be the first.

    The future. I think the next iMac is adopting Intel's new Sandybridge chipset; I doubt you would be able to upgrade to anything that is used on the next iMacs without some custom hacks. Another thing to consider is the potential to void your warranty; take a look at some of the videos of people opening up their 2010 models and see if you feel its straightforward or not for you at this stage.

    Risk assessment. The short of it is that any number of things are technically possible with determination, quite a bit of research and care but they are not without risk and I think, at the risk of stating the obvious, that anyone considering purchasing an iMac should, at the time of purchase, get the spec that is right for them, especially if a hard core games player.

    Perspective. The other side is that at a midrange price point it is quite hard to buy a turkey of a computer, these days. If you compare the benchmarks of whatever iMac you go for against a higher spec model, you might fiend that in practical usage situations your choice of iMac is more than fast enough. I can't speak for the iMac on this score but the i3 is a great CPU and only bettered significantly when using multi thread capable applications. Even then, a good few seconds saved here and there doesn't amount to a chore unless you wanted a dedicated video encoder running most of the day or you work as an architect rendering building designs, say.

    Hope that helps a bit. I know a lot of what I have said is just common sense but also know that it is hard to keep perspective when on the exciting cusp of buying a new computer.
  3. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Sell it and get a new one. Could work out to be cheaper and a lot easier.
  4. GadgetAddict macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    As far as I know, it is not common practice at all. It's a tedious task to update the HDD alone in the iMacs. So I agree that the best route would be to sell and get a new or refurb.
  5. Detosx macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    A third but limited option would be to send it to somewhere like OWC and have them fit it with their SSD which intrestingly reviews better than most, maybe have them fit eSATA. I was a little concerned when talking with a tech there that he didn't appear to know about Apple firmware concerns regarding hard drive replacement, re temperture sensing and HD fan speed control.
  6. ccf thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 14, 2011
    Sounds like I'm not skilled enough to do some of the things likely required to upgrade my machine, so I believe I'll go the sell/buy new route when I want to upgrade. :) Another option is to keep my old one & use it as a 2nd desktop (grandkids will be old enough in a few years).

    Much appreciate the info. Thanks, guys.
  7. Detosx macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    I come from a system building and PC modding background but for all my cautious musings above I think Hellhammer's take is by far the best one.

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