A Necessary Upgrade for my iMac
I’ve had my 27″ iMac for about 6 years and it has served me well. At the time I used my Mac as my PC gaming machine so I bought the top end model with a 2.93 GHz Core i7, a 1 GB ATI Radeon HD 5750 GPU, and a 2 TB hard drive. It was a great system for gaming and had a beautiful screen. As I started using my MacBook Pro for internet browsing and writing, the iMac became relegated to Lightroom editing and gaming. A few years later it couldn’t keep up with current games so I bought a dedicated gaming PC. Since that time the iMac has acted as a wonderful 27″ display for the PC (via Target Display Mode) as well as my main Lightroom system.
I’ve considered replacing it several times over the years but there is no need. Target Display Mode makes it a great monitor for both my PC and my MacBook Pro and its CPU is still powerful enough to chew through my Lightroom photos. Even though it has a first generation Core i7 it still outperforms the fourth generation i5 in my MacBook Pro. Unfortunately it had been getting slower over time to the point where it wasn’t very usable. Apps took forever to open and the hard drive spun and clicked for no reason. I suspected the hard drive was dying and planned to replace it with a new drive and an SSD to make a Fusion drive but put those plans on hold when I went out to L.A. last year. I never did it when I got home.
Unfortunately my iMac forced my hand this weekend. It became so slow and unresponsive that I couldn’t even shut it down without pulling the plug. A trip to Recover Mode resulted in an endless loading indicator. I bought a hard drive at Staples and dragged my OWC SSD install kit out of the basement. The iMac is not designed for user repair, so it took me about 2 hours to get everything in there on Saturday. I had to take off the screen glass, remove the display, take out the memory, unscrew the logic board, and then shove a bunch of extra wires inside. I also found out that Apple uses specialized temperature sensors for the hard drive that didn’t fit my new drive. As a result the fans will run at full speed all the time until I buy and install a special sensor that OWC developed specifically for this issue.
Shoving the SSD into the case with all of its cabling was a pain, but I got all of it in there and was able to successfully boot up and create a Fusion Drive. I installed OS X, restored my data from Time Machine (which took 12 hours over WiFi) and am back up and running. It’s like having a brand new Mac! It boots in under 30 seconds, apps open nearly instantly, and I don’t see the spinning beachball of death anymore. Once the temp sensor arrives I’ll have to take the screen out again, but I feel like I’m a pro now. It may not have a recent CPU or GPU, USB 3, Thunderbolt, Wireless ac, a super thin chassis, or a 5k display like current iMacs, but it still works as an external monitor and chews through Lightroom. Not bad for a 6 year old Mac.