(cont..) Photoshop, Lightroom, and Bridge with excellent performance. I also use this for digital music production using a mix of Logic Pro X, Ableton Live 10, and FL Studio 20. I’m planning to invest in Final Cut Pro X for some video production - which is why I upgraded this iMac in the first place. So far, I’ve been pretty happy and relieved that the upgrade process went (mostly..) smoothly and I can move on to actually using the applications to get something done.
(cont..) clothes. I also replaced the CR-2032 button battery while I had everything open.
So, if I had to do it all over again, I think I would:
- try to find a good used/refurbished late-2013 27” iMac with the i7 CPU and (if I were really lucky) the GeForce 780M with 4 GB VRAM - you might troll eBay and keep an eye out for one of these. Keep in mind that the base model 27” had a 3.2 GHz processor and the GeForce 750M GPU with only 1 GB of VRAM - the 3.4 GHz model had the 755M GPU with 2 GB VRAM - these could be upgraded at the time of purchase to the Core i7 CPU and the GeForce 780M with 4 GB VRAM. If you could find one of these upgraded models at a reasonable cost, maxing the memory out at 32 GB and upgrading or replacing the system drive with an NVMe PCIe M.2 (2280 type) SSD would give you a very competent unit
- philosophically, I suppose I might consider building a Hackintosh..
Anyway, good luck to anyone still messing around with these old iMacs. I’m running the latest version of Adobe (cont..)
(cont..) well. The problem is, that once you touch the heat sink to the CPU, the thermal paste “glues” the CPU to the heat sink unit. Reinstalling the heat sink requires screwing down a tension plate that requires a LOT of force to bend the metal arms down so that the screws line up with the holes. If you put even the slightest torque on the heat sink, you end up torquing the CPU, and risk bending the delicate socket pins - which I managed to do. If this happens, you’ve borked your entire system. It won’t boot and you now have a very expensive door stop. I managed to “fix” this by tearing everything back down, scraping the (new) thermal paste off, removing the CPU, and using a pair of very fine tipped tweezers to gently bend the half-dozen pins back into place. I was extremely lucky - this worked and I now have a functional system. I’m not sure that I would attempt this again.
Oh - while I had the system open and completely torn down, I gave it a good cleaning using compressed air and clean, dry (cont..)
(cont..) decided to go with a middle-of-the-road Sabrent Rocket Q 1 TB drive. I’ve had no problems with it and am using as my boot drive. I also replaced the mechanical 1 TB HDD with a Crucial MX-500 1 TB SSD drive (for data). With these two drives I’m getting Read/Write speeds of about 750 MB/s with the PCIe Sabrent drive and about 460 MB/s with the Crucial SSD. For this reason, I decided to use the PCIe drive as my boot and application drive.
I also decided to upgrade the CPU from 3.4 GHz Core i5 to the max Intel 3.5 GHz Core i7-4771, which I found new on Amazon. In retrospect, I’m not sure that I would recommend this upgrade. It requires a complete system tear down, removing the logic board, removing the heat sink, cleaning up the old thermal paste with isopropyl alcohol (or something similar), and then installing the new CPU and thermal paste. Here’s the problem - the Haswell socket used in the logic board lacks a locking mechanism for the CPU - it simply sits on top of the socket in a shallow (cont..)
(cont..) display by doing this. Do yourself a favor - get the CORRECT tools. You can buy one of the “pizza cutter” type tools for less than $10. Also, I’d recommend using the suction cups to help lift the glass display up while you’re disconnecting the video cables. Once you have the front glass off, the rest is generally pretty easy - no single step is particularly difficult. You just need to take your time and relax. Don’t pull hard on anything and be sure to keep yourself organized. Personally, I found the OWC youtube video on replacing the PCIe drive for this iMac to be absolutely the best.
The biggest bang for the buck - hands down - is to upgrade or add an NVMe PCIe drive. You’ll have to remove the logic board to get at it - so it’s a full tear down - but definitely worth it in terms of speed. Apple uses a proprietary PCIe slot, so you’ll need to use an adapter. I used a Sintech NGFF M.2 nVME SSD Adapter Card, which made the upgrade trivial. Since the PCIe slot is only 2-lane (PCIe x2), I (cont..)
it’s late summer 2020 and having *just* finished a complete upgrade of my late-2013 27” iMac, I thought I’d add a few comments in case there are any stragglers left who still want to mess around with this model. I started with a refurbished 3.4 GHz (Core i5-4670) with 1 TB HDD (7200 rpm), 16 GB RAM, and the nVidia GeForce GTX 775 GPU with 2 GB VRAM. I made the following upgrades (in ascending order of difficulty):
- 32 GB RAM
- 1 TB Crucial MX-500 SSD drive (replaced the HDD)
- 1 TB Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD drive
- Intel 3.5 GHz Core i7-4771 CPU
Upgrading the RAM is absolutely trivial. YouTube it if you aren’t sure of the details. Everything else requires removing the display, which is less difficult than many make it out to be, but still requires a bit of care and finesse - oh, and the right tools. I’ve seen videos showing how to remove the glass displaying using old guitar picks and leftover credit cards. I’ve also read a LOT of whining from people crying about ruining a good $600 (cont..)
(cont.) and it’s where a detailed walk through would be the most helpful. Anyway, if you keep these precautions in mind, you should be able to get through this - but be prepared. And, as a side note, the upgrade from the Core i5 3.4 GHz (4670) to the Core i7 3.5 GHz (4771) didn’t exactly set off fireworks in terms of benchmarks. I saw a 15-20% increase in the Geekbench 5 Multi-Core Score and a nice 30% increase in performance with the Cinebench 20 Score - so, it’s probably going to be worth it in the long run to have upgraded the CPU. If you have a base Core i5 3.2 GHz CPU, you should really see a difference. If you have 3.4 GHz system, you may or may not want to risk going through the upgrade process, as the benefit is much more modest. Your call. I found the biggest bang to be upgrading the 7200 rpm HDD to a PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD drive (I used a Sabrent Rocket Q 1 TB 2280 drive). Personally, I’d do that first and make sure that you have at least 16 GB of memory. You might be happy at this point. Good luck! J
(cont.) chips and hit the power button again. Nada. I started cursing Steve Jobs in his grave. After a couple minutes, it suddenly chimed and in a few seconds the Apple logo appeared and all was well. I’m writing this on my freshly upgraded iMac. What I learned was that as soon as the heat sink touches the CPU, the thermal paste “glues” it to the heat sink - if you twist or hog on the heat sink, the CPU goes with it. The trick is to make sure that the CPU is firmly seated in the socket and then KEEP it there. It takes a good deal of finesse. As “aboucher” pointed out - it is helpful to insert the first screw *just to the point of catching” - then start adding the others in an “X” pattern. Also, I found that removing the “hood” over the adjacent RAM bay (remove the three T5 screws) gives you just a bit more exposure of the CPU and heat sink. I am still amazed that there isn’t a single decent video tutorial that walks you through this step - this is where you’re at the greatest risk of damaging your system..
OK.. I nearly borked my system upgrade at this step. I have a 3.4 GHz Core i5 system and wanted to upgrade the CPU to a Core i7-4771. I found a new one on Amazon last week. Everything went very smoothly until I got to the final “Then, reinstall the heat sink over the top.” step. As others have pointed out - this is really difficult. I had a heck of a time getting the four screws in the tension plate back in. And, after reinstalling everything and hitting the power button, NOTHING happened. Nada. So, I tore the system back down and removed the heat sink. The CPU was stuck fast to the heat sink and it took a lot of twisting and pulling to dislodge it. The CPU looked OK, but when I checked the Haswell socket, I discovered that several of the delicate pins had been bent and were touching. I used a pair of fine pointed tweezers to VERY gently bend the pins back into place. Then, it was “lather, rinse, repeat”.. This time, when I plugged the iMac back in, I got the 3-chime error signal, so I reset the RAM (cont…)
Interesting comments.. personally, I didn’t find the cables particularly difficult to detach and reattach. You do have to be patient and gentle. Personally, I found that a rolled up beach towel gently wedged between the unit and back of the display helped keep the glass up. Also, a small flashlight can be helpful to see the cables and connectors if you’re lighting isn’t perfect.
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