Viability of a 2009 iMac in 2019

Balloonman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 8, 2019
4
0
I recently came across an ad for an early 2009 20" iMac version 10.10.5 with 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. It has 2GB of memory. As you can probably tell I don't know much about Macs. I currently just have an hp laptop and am looking to upgrade to a more powerful desk computer. Is this mac something that can be upgraded into a more useable computer? Is this something I'm going to happy with or will I constantly be wishing it was better lol.
Thanks
 

rafark

macrumors 65816
Sep 1, 2017
1,052
1,503
You will be wishing you had something better.

If you add more ram (I beileve it supports up to 6gb) and an ssd it'd be a nice computer.
 

Balloonman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 8, 2019
4
0
You will be wishing you had something better.

If you add more ram (I beileve it supports up to 6gb) and an ssd it'd be a nice computer.
[doublepost=1554788739][/doublepost]what does it typically cost to upgrade to 6 gb? And is that something I can do myself?
 

racoop

macrumors member
Oct 13, 2012
86
36
I still have a 2007 iMac in my research lab. Upgraded that to 6GB, SSD and Mavericks a couple years ago. It sill runs very fast and the students use it over the brand new crappy Dells from the university. That said I would not get the 2009 unless it was free.
 
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mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,602
392
The Sillie Con Valley
[doublepost=1554788739][/doublepost]
what does it typically cost to upgrade to 6 gb? And is that something I can do myself?
Yes, it's an easy DIY. These can take 8G. From OWC it is $45.
https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/iMac/DDR3_2009

Replacing the HDD with an SSD, likewise, is very easy. Plenty of instructions online. These do not require a temp sensor.

All you need is a SATA SSD, an inexpensive bracket and some tools. You ca get a kit with everything. Price depends on the size of the drive.
https://www.amazon.com/OWC-2006-2009-AdaptaDrive-Converter-Installation/dp/B076KZTN49/ref=sr_1_20?keywords=ssd+tool+kit+suction+cups&qid=1554790580&s=gateway&sr=8-20

Replace the NV RAM battery. The original is a BR2032 but a CR2032 medical battery is a perfect replacement. It's under the bottom of the screen. There's a trick to replacing it without breaking the lip on the holder—plenty of videos on that.

The latest OS it can run is El Capitán. My daughter keeps one and dual boots into OS 10.6 to run a language program that can't run over anything later.
[doublepost=1554791597][/doublepost]
Do not consider a Samsung SSD in that model iMac.
I've installed a few hundred Samsung 850 EVO in 2009 iMacs in classrooms. No problems at all. They run great and let the school district get a couple more years of use.
That said I would not get the 2009 unless it was free.
Well, now that El Cap is no longer supported with security updates, I expect to be recycling a large number of them soon. Yea... I'll be giving them away. Most are 24".
 

pwm86

macrumors member
Oct 23, 2016
30
43
Austria
Well, now that El Cap is no longer supported with security updates, I expect to be recycling a large number of them soon. Yea... I'll be giving them away. Most are 24".
You could use dosdude1's tool
https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/macos-10-14-mojave-on-unsupported-macs-thread.2121473/
to install Mojave on them. For the 2009 iMacs with SSD it is best to install the version 10.14.3 which runs stable and reasonably fast. 10.14.4 still has sometimes weird problems on these machines.
 

mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,602
392
The Sillie Con Valley
You could use dosdude1's tool
https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/macos-10-14-mojave-on-unsupported-macs-thread.2121473/
to install Mojave on them. For the 2009 iMacs with SSD it is best to install the version 10.14.3 which runs stable and reasonably fast. 10.14.4 still has sometimes weird problems on these machines.
Does the GPU work ok on these? With the 2010-2011, Mojave is absolutely useless. I tested it — easy to install but performance was hideous.

I should have one of those 24" 2009s on my bench next week. Now you have me curious.
 

pwm86

macrumors member
Oct 23, 2016
30
43
Austria
Does the GPU work ok on these? With the 2010-2011, Mojave is absolutely useless. I tested it — easy to install but performance was hideous.

I should have one of those 24" 2009s on my bench next week. Now you have me curious.
I run one of these 24" 2009 in my University office (and a 2015 iMac at home).
Since I am emeritus, the University does not give me a new one.
For what I do (TeX: not a huge difference; sagemath somewhat slow) it is completely sufficient.
But you need 8GB RAM and an SSD. Without these it is incredibly slow.
 
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Cisto1983

macrumors member
Jan 29, 2015
35
16
Italy
I recently came across an ad for an early 2009 20" iMac version 10.10.5 with 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. It has 2GB of memory. As you can probably tell I don't know much about Macs. I currently just have an hp laptop and am looking to upgrade to a more powerful desk computer. Is this mac something that can be upgraded into a more useable computer? Is this something I'm going to happy with or will I constantly be wishing it was better lol.
Thanks
I have a 24’ early 2009. You can run high Sierra on it using dosdude1’s tool, it runs fine but expect it to freeze from time to time (the screen doesn’t turn on; it happens once or twice per month). Mojave is laggy on this unsupported machine and has major graphics glitches on the 2009 video cards, I’d suggest you to stay away from this it. The ssd is fairly easy to install, yet the sata controller works only on sata 2 mode and often falls back to sata 1 - this is a known glitch of the nvidia mcp79 controller. It’s still far better than the default hard drive, but don’t invest in a fast ssd, you won’t be able to get the best of it.
I’m replacing my iMac this month, it still works fine for basic stuff but absolutely not for anything multimedia related - for example, you can’t watch Netflix on it because the cpu is not compatible with the drm deciding needed; you can using chrome, but it will be software-decided and laggy as hell
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,392
5,627
OP:

You didn't tell us about the most important thing.... your budget.
Do you want a Mac just to experiment with, or are you looking to move the bulk of your "computing needs" over to it?

If the latter, and if you can afford it, don't waste money on a 10-year-old Mac. It's just "too far behind" now.

If you want something that's going to "carry you into the future", then either look at a new 2019 iMac, or perhaps at an Apple-refurbished 2017 design iMac.

If you have a brick-n-mortar Apple Store nearby, go to it.
Or... a lot of Best Buys also have an Apple section.

Look at both the 21" and the 27" models.
If you can afford it, buy the 27" and don't look back.

DON'T get ANY iMac with only a 1tb fusion drive.
Get at least a 2tb fusion drive model.

Or, get one with an SSD inside. Be aware that you cannot buy these in stores -- they must either be special ordered "as new" from Apple, or you can also get them from the Apple online refurbished store.
 

Balloonman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 8, 2019
4
0
OP:

You didn't tell us about the most important thing.... your budget.
Do you want a Mac just to experiment with, or are you looking to move the bulk of your "computing needs" over to it?

If the latter, and if you can afford it, don't waste money on a 10-year-old Mac. It's just "too far behind" now.

If you want something that's going to "carry you into the future", then either look at a new 2019 iMac, or perhaps at an Apple-refurbished 2017 design iMac.

If you have a brick-n-mortar Apple Store nearby, go to it.
Or... a lot of Best Buys also have an Apple section.

Look at both the 21" and the 27" models.
If you can afford it, buy the 27" and don't look back.

DON'T get ANY iMac with only a 1tb fusion drive.
Get at least a 2tb fusion drive model.

Or, get one with an SSD inside. Be aware that you cannot buy these in stores -- they must either be special ordered "as new" from Apple, or you can also get them from the Apple online refurbished store.
Yea that's a good point. My budget is extremely tight lol. I'm just out of high school with my own place so I don't need it for an office or anything like that but I do a lot of writing so I would like to have decent writing software on it that won't be lagging and such, and then just the typical stuff- Netflix, Spotify, youtube all that stuff. i live way out in the booneys the nearest bestbuy is five hours away lol so everything has to been sold online.
 

pshufd

macrumors 65816
Oct 24, 2013
1,366
917
New Hampshire
I have a 2010 iMac with a dead video card. I asked a shop if they could repair it and they could. But they couldn't guarantee the video card. They indicated that I would be better off just getting a new one. It has a dual-core Merom processor which used to generate a surprising amount of heat. Too bad as the monitor is beautiful. I have not decided what to do with it but I will likely recycle it or give it away if anyone will take it. I just have to wipe the hard drive before doing that.

I like an old Mac as much as anyone else but some hardware failures make it not worth the effort to restore them.
 

mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,602
392
The Sillie Con Valley
but don’t invest in a fast ssd, you won’t be able to get the best of it.
SATA III SSDs are what's being made these days. I understand that not all are backwards compatible with SATA II (these) and SATA I (PPCs) but the ones I've been using are. I just haven't had a problem.

But yes, they're old and obsolete. That said, they run El Capitàn and older versions of iLife. Office 2011 and many other recent apps install and run on these. Office 2008 (my favorite still). Chrome and Firefox runs but must be installed over Mavericks and then you update the OS.

TurboTax 2018 is a no-go on these machines as they require Sierra.

I'll know for myself how well these run Mojave in a few weeks — only because I'm curious and getting one for free. Then I'm giving it away if I can find any takers.
 

rychencop

macrumors 65816
Aug 17, 2007
1,090
3
South Carolina
Don't do it. I just got a 2019 iMac after having my 2007 MBP. The MBP was maxed out on RAM and I installed an SSD a few years ago, but it was just anemic. It worked fine, but just tired.
 

mj_

macrumors 6502a
May 18, 2017
563
281
Austin, TX
How much is the seller asking for? Personally, I would only get a 2009 iMac if it was free and in mint condition. It's a 10-year old computer, ad you shouldn't expect too much. It will most likely not be any better than your HP laptop, most likely even worse.
 

pshufd

macrumors 65816
Oct 24, 2013
1,366
917
New Hampshire
I'm running two heavy programs on my 2014 MacBook Pro 15 and it would probably run circles around a 2009 iMac. I was having issues with CPU performance and RAM usage. I normally run an additional large program. That's why I'm looking at a 2019 iMac 27 - the six cores with much higher frequencies should provide a good CPU boost and it would be easy for me to add RAM to get it to 40 GB. Sometimes your applications dictate what kind of hardware you can run on.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,392
5,627
OP:
Give us a dollar amount (limits of your budget) -- then we can better advise you.