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Marianne

Advice Needed Please! Would You Add RAM to an Old iMac?

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I've got a mid 2011 27" iMac that is still zipping along nicely - since I do just about everything on my laptop other than work requiring a large monitor. It has 8GB RAM 1333 MHz DDR 3 and a 3.4 GHz i7 Intel processor ADM Radeon HD Graphics Card, and dual hard drives, a 251GB Intel 6  SSD and an Intel 6 1TB HDD. That SDD was pricey at the time but best decision I ever made. Anyway, I'm thinking of upgrading to a 24MP camera so much larger RAW files and wondering if I should get two more 4GB RAM cards (or whatever they are called) to fill in the two empty slots and upgrade it to the max 16GB RAM. It looks fairly easy to do.

 

Will I see a big increase in processing speed and is a machine this old worth upgrading? I'd love thoughts from the tech minded and anyone else who has done this sort of thing before. I believe all the other components are conducive to the max speed I can get from this machine, and it was designed to take up to 16GB RAM.

 

I run my LR catalog off the HDD (the SDD is too small) and have a 4TB (soon to be replaced by a 6TB) external drive for my photos attached via thunderbolt cable - v 1.0. Has been fast though working on my 500GB SSD MacBook Pro with 8 GB RAM and a 2.8 GHz Intel i7 is a bit faster - the RAM on that is 1600 MHz - so thinking the SSD and the faster RAM both help but I'm really clueless as to what does what and I read conflicting things on the Internet, so pro advice is welcome.

 

Any thoughts on how I'm running my LR catalog welcome too. 

 

Thanks much!  B)

Edited by Marianne

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I would do it, Lightroom likes RAM. I doubt you will see a massive increase but it will help with multitasking.

 

I have my catalogs on my laptop SSD and the photos on the secondary drive as it is 4tb, having catalogs and the cache on a faster drive is probably the best way to run Lightroom.

 

I would advise finding the exact model you have (the A****) code, eg A1406 and searching Google for that code and RAM. Crucial have a useful site for picking RAM and its usually competitive prices.

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Thanks James. I was reading that Crucial was the best place to buy it from.

 

I wish my internal SSD was larger - Since I'm using iCloud, it now decides what really goes in the cloud and what stays on my SDD, so it's just impossible to load the catalog there - besides, with Smart Previews my Catalog is huge. I could get a large external SDD with a thunderbolt cable for my catalog (my iMac doesn't have the much less expensive USB 3.0 unfortunately). Just worried about buying pricey thunderbolt drives because I've heard that the thunderbolt to thunderbolt 3 adapters (which I'd need for a new machine eventually) don't work very well.  Alternatively, I could set up separate catalogs for each shoot and run that off my SDD and then import them into a larger catalog later. 

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I don't use smart previews so I can't say how much space they use. I'm limited to a single machine I bought a few years ago, a Thinkpad T430. I primarily bought it as I could swap the DVD drive for another internal drive for storing images. I then have the OS and applications on a 256GB SSD. I put all my Lightroom catalogs, previews and cache on the SSD (which I limit to around 20GB within Lightroom). I edit D800 36mp and D3300 24mp files on it, which it does OK with for its age. My catalogs are primarily by year with subfolders based on date and location within that, I prefer that over lots of smaller catalogs. If you are an organised person then smaller working catalogs to start with could help you.

 

Lightroom is not the most optimised program, it doesn't use all the CPU most of the time. It also eats up RAM so I often restart it to stop it bogging down. But having 16GB means I can edit in Lightroom and if needed in Photoshop at the same time (Nik filters and things).

 

You can always change the Import settings to produce 1:1 which would help, it will take longer on imports though. 

 

I only use external drives as backups over USB3 so I can't give much opinion on Thunderbolt, maybe this will help:

 

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/11/the-complete-guide-to-living-a-new-fangled-usb-c-and-thunderbolt-3-lifestyle/

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You should see an increase in performance for sure. Just check how many slots you have for RAM and check how many are filled. You should have four, filled with 2 x 4 GB. Best to buy the same type of memory, this is same capacity and speed.

 

I have, my lightroom catalogue and latest pictures I have shot, on an SSD, then I archive them to a HD.

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Thanks. Yes, I have two empty slots left for 2 x 4GB RAM. 

 

I have my catalog on the 1TB second internal hard drive and with the photos on an external 4TB thunderbolt drive, processing my 16MP photos in LR and working with Photoshop open as well, using Nik filters and other plug ins in both LR and PS at the same time, and it's been blazing fast with 8GB RAM. The internal hard drive has a SATA internal connection so it's the fastest place to keep my catalog since I don't have enough room on the internal 251GB SSD. An external SSD hard drive would be fast, but doesn't seem to be necessary. The programs all run off the SDD. I think upping the RAM to 16GB (for about $80) seems like a pretty inexpensive solution to speeding up my work once I upgrade my camera. Thunderbolt is faster than USB 3, and my iMac doesn't have a USB 3 slot - it's the old TB1 with USB 2 and firewire 800. 

 

I think that having kept all my photos on an external drive from day 1 probably also helps keep my computer humming along, I'd guess less wear and tear on the hard drive though I really don't know. Desktops are much more stable than laptops, so I'll probably be replacing my MacBook before my iMac.

 

I might experiment and make a small single shoot catalog on the SDD for what I'm working on and see if the speed is better. i know working on my MacBook with its 500GB SDD is faster than my iMac - though not drastically so, but it also has faster RAM - both 8GB but the MacBook has 1600MHz vs 1333MHz. It's certainly fast enough now for my 16MP D5100 and OMD-E1 and my 12 MP D700 and other assorted small cameras. 

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Just to say I added loads more RAM to my ageing Mac (not an iMac BTW) plus, an SSD on which I put all my apps. Huge difference although the main problem I have is that the OS is now so old, many new versions of apps no longer work.

 

Rgds,

Richard.

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I'm more limited- maximum 8GB on a PC- but I used to find that LR5 could slow to a crawl when FF, a notorious memory hog, was running. Adding just 2GB to the existing 4 made the difference- it doesn't run faster as such but it doesn't bog down anymore.

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Thanks for starting this topic Marianne.   After reading the comments, I've decided to add some RAM to my 2011 imac (21.5 inch).  It''s got the original 4 GB RAM 1333 MHz DDR 3.  It's been running pretty slow these days and this may be a solution.

 

 

Maria

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Just to mention, you don't specifically need 1333 Mhz RAM, if faster is cheaper (eg 1600 Mhz) and compatible then you can use that, it will just run at the slower speed.

 

Dual channel will give an increase in speed, so opt for 2 x 4GB over 1x 8GB etc depending on slots available.

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If you go to the Crucial site it will offer to analyse your system. The main benefit is it will see how your RAM slots are configured. The most likely configuration will be all four slots with 2 GB so that to upgrade you will have to lose 2 x 2 of your existing RAM That takes you down to 4 GB and adding 2 x 4 GB only increases you to 12. But if you have 2 x 4 GB and two empty slots, your new 2 x 4 will take you up to 14. My 27" iMac is a little earlier than your fusion drive model and it will take a maximum of 32 GB. I would be surprised if your model won't take 8 GB RAM chips. I replaced just two of my slots with 8 GB chips taking me to 20 GB and have never had any problems. My guess is that the cost in The US would be about $100. Kingston is one of the other main brands. The main benefits will be the ability to keep lots of applications open and ability to work on huge files if you have a big sensor and use lots of layers. General speed is less likely to show a big boost.

 

In the 27" iMac you open a little panel just under the apple symbol and pull out the chips and slide in the new ones. It's not such an easy DIY task on the 21" and you may have to take it to a repair shop. Apple don't like you doing it yourself as they charge a LOT more for these upgrades. The term "Rip-Off" springs to mind.

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Very helpful thread - I'm also using a mid 2011 imac that's running slow.  I've used the Crucial scan and have just ordered more RAM :)  Feeling hopeful!

Many thanks

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1 hour ago, Robert M Estall said:

If you go to the Crucial site it will offer to analyse your system. The main benefit is it will see how your RAM slots are configured. The most likely configuration will be all four slots with 2 GB so that to upgrade you will have to lose 2 x 2 of your existing RAM That takes you down to 4 GB and adding 2 x 4 GB only increases you to 12. But if you have 2 x 4 GB and two empty slots, your new 2 x 4 will take you up to 14. My 27" iMac is a little earlier than your fusion drive model and it will take a maximum of 32 GB. I would be surprised if your model won't take 8 GB RAM chips. I replaced just two of my slots with 8 GB chips taking me to 20 GB and have never had any problems. My guess is that the cost in The US would be about $100. Kingston is one of the other main brands. The main benefits will be the ability to keep lots of applications open and ability to work on huge files if you have a big sensor and use lots of layers. General speed is less likely to show a big boost.

 

In the 27" iMac you open a little panel just under the apple symbol and pull out the chips and slide in the new ones. It's not such an easy DIY task on the 21" and you may have to take it to a repair shop. Apple don't like you doing it yourself as they charge a LOT more for these upgrades. The term "Rip-Off" springs to mind.

I've got the same problem and need to get some more RAM for my 27" iMac.  An earlier reply seemed to suggest that if there are 2x4GB already, it's best to stick to anther 2x4GB, but other information I have read suggests you can put whatever you like in, as long as they are the same, eg 2 x8GB.  Which is best, or does it simply depend on cost/speed needed?

Edited by Sally

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22 minutes ago, Sally said:

I've got the same problem and need to get some more RAM for my 27" iMac.  An earlier reply seemed to suggest that if there are 2x4GB already, it's best to stick to anther 2x4GB, but other information I have read suggests you can put whatever you like in, as long as they are the same, eg 2 x8GB.  Which is best, or does it simply depend on cost/speed needed?

 

All the info specific to your machine will be in the manual (available online and sometimes comes as an electronic version with the Mac if you don't have a paper version). You can see what is already installed by going About This Mac in the Apple Menu and choosing Memory. The type of memory and the speed is specific to each model. If there are say 4 RAM slots, then you will have them in pairs and the two sticks in a pair have to match exactly. For example, if you already have 2x4GB, you should have two empty slots so you can put an extra 2x4 or 2x8 in but you have to put in pairs and they have to match (in other words you can't put one 4GB and one 8GB). How much you can have in total will be determined by the machine.

 

There is a company called Mac Upgrades based near Cambridge who have excellent for customer service. They sell parts for all ages of Macs, many of which are difficult to get. They have a facility on their website where you can type in the serial number of your Mac and it will tell you what is compatible. Alternatively I would recommend Jigsaw 24. They are a Mac dealer in Nottingham and they also have excellent customer service. I buy my stuff from them rather than direct from Apple. They were way cheaper than Apple for buying extra memory at the time I bought the Mac.

 

 

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That pairing is a peculiarity of Macs, is it? My PC will take whatever fits in the slots. So I went from 2x2 to one 2 and one 4.

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9 hours ago, MDM said:

 

All the info specific to your machine will be in the manual (available online and sometimes comes as an electronic version with the Mac if you don't have a paper version). You can see what is already installed by going About This Mac in the Apple Menu and choosing Memory. The type of memory and the speed is specific to each model. If there are say 4 RAM slots, then you will have them in pairs and the two sticks in a pair have to match exactly. For example, if you already have 2x4GB, you should have two empty slots so you can put an extra 2x4 or 2x8 in but you have to put in pairs and they have to match (in other words you can't put one 4GB and one 8GB). How much you can have in total will be determined by the machine.

 

There is a company called Mac Upgrades based near Cambridge who have excellent for customer service. They sell parts for all ages of Macs, many of which are difficult to get. They have a facility on their website where you can type in the serial number of your Mac and it will tell you what is compatible. Alternatively I would recommend Jigsaw 24. They are a Mac dealer in Nottingham and they also have excellent customer service. I buy my stuff from them rather than direct from Apple. They were way cheaper than Apple for buying extra memory at the time I bought the Mac.

 

 

Cheers, ordered and awaiting them.

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Thanks again to everyone who replied - and glad the topic was helpful to others. 

 

It looks pretty easy on the 27" iMac and I'm thinking that since the Apple site says the max is 16GB for my particular machine with a max of 4GB in each slot - and since I checked my memory slots before starting this topic and saw that I have the top two filled with 4GB each (rather than 2 in each of four slots), I'll get another 8 - I think 16GB RAM should be good for the remaining life of my computer. Apple says they need to match and it looks to be around $80 from crucial. 

 

I just wish the 8GB RAM in my MacBook Pro was upgradeable - it's 4 1/2 years old and under memory it shows two slots and says under Memory upgradeable: "no" so I'm guessing that it means that it isn't, even if I got someone to open this machine up. With a 500GB hard drive on this one, it runs pretty fast, and I do my major editing on the iMac anyway. If anyone knows something different, lmk. 

 

Thanks again!

 

Edited by Marianne

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I had a check on current RAM prices and they seem to have crept up again. They used to be ruinously expensive ten years ago but came down to really cheap five years ago. But they are still the cheapest way to get more grunt out of your computer. We have heard much of Apple upgrades deliberately slowing down iphones a few years old citing twaddle about allowing aging batteries  to continue to run the devices; I have to wonder if the same thing might be happening to older Macs users who are pretty well forced to upgrade their operating system under cover of security concerns and browser function ability.

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These days OS updates for Mac are free so unless the hardware doesn't meet the minimum spec then its a good thing to get the choice of updates.

 

Unfortunately laptops these days and to some extent PCs are being sold with very little user upgradeable parts, Macs especially. If people keeping buying them then manufacturers will keep going down that route. And if you don't spec it well enough to future proof it when you buy it then you're out of luck.

 

It's one reason I bought (at the time) a 2nd hand 1 year old T430 as I can upgrade RAM and disks as well as battery, also I can have 2 x 2.5" drives and a smaller mSata in the future. All these I can upgrade with just one screwdriver. I looked at newer machines but they didn't offer those options.

Edited by JamesH

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1 hour ago, Robert M Estall said:

But they are still the cheapest way to get more grunt out of your computer. We have heard much of Apple upgrades deliberately slowing down iphones a few years old citing twaddle about allowing aging batteries  to continue to run the devices; I have to wonder if the same thing might be happening to older Macs users who are pretty well forced to upgrade their operating system under cover of security concerns and browser function ability.

 

I learnt the hard way many years ago that the best way to get more grunt is to buy twice as much RAM as I think I am ever going to need when buying the computer. My first ever RAM upgrade was from 4 to 6 MB (not GB) back in the early 90s and it cost a fortune for the 2MB. In the case on Macs, it is definitely best to buy 3rd party RAM at the time of purchase as Apple charge very high prices for additional RAM above the standard which is invariably way too little, especially for photographers and anybody else using Photoshop and other RAM hungry programs.

 

Older computers don't need help to slow down and I don't  really buy the conspiracy theory. New versions of operating systems take advantage of hardware developments and new versions of software (e.g. Photoshop and Lightroom) take advantage of hardware and OS developments with the result that older computers can't cope. This is not just a Mac thing, it happens with Windows machines as well. These developments are often beneficial. A case in point is the ability of Photoshop to use much larger amounts of RAM with the advent of 64 bit operating systems which brought about dramatic speed increases when working with large files (PSCS5 in the case of Macs). I have never upgraded a computer because of browser problems but I have done to work comfortably with larger files generated by new cameras which in themselves represent major jumps in image quality. 6MP cameras were great in their day but I would  not want to be using one now.

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thank you thank you thank you! Have just put an extra 8GB into my mid 2011 imac (only had the original 4GB in) - it's made an amazing difference!  :) 

Edited by kay

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I can’t wait for mine to arrive and see the difference.

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6 hours ago, JamesH said:

These days OS updates for Mac are free so unless the hardware doesn't meet the minimum spec then its a good thing to get the choice of updates.

 

Unfortunately laptops these days and to some extent PCs are being sold with very little user upgradeable parts, Macs especially. If people keeping buying them then manufacturers will keep going down that route. And if you don't spec it well enough to future proof it when you buy it then you're out of luck.

 

It's one reason I bought (at the time) a 2nd hand 1 year old T430 as I can upgrade RAM and disks as well as battery, also I can have 2 x 2.5" drives and a smaller mSata in the future. All these I can upgrade with just one screwdriver. I looked at newer machines but they didn't offer those options.

 

That's why I build my own desktop workstation (Windows) it is like the proverbial woodman's axe that has had multiple shaft and heads, but is the same axe! (Or Trigger's broom for Only Fool's and Horses fans). Can't really do it with laptops but they are a disposabl;e items these days as getting an OEM battery after a feew years is often impossible; a problem I will have shortly with my otherwise perfectly serviceable Samsung Book9 ultrabook. The battery life is down by a third and I can only find third party batteries of unknown provenance :(

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