The iMac has always been my favorite Mac, since I got the very first one. Apple really made it a power horse when it allowed you to upgrade it with an i7.
Lifecycle – How long to keep your iMac
So how long should one keep an iMac before your should get a new one? When the first Intel iMac am ame out I upgraded quite regularly to a new iMac. I was a student, so every year I bought a new model via Apple on Campus, just when it was announced and instantly sold the old one on eBay.
Since the value loss was low and you get 13% via Apple on Campus it was almost without a loss. I paid about 100€ per year to always have the latest device.
The two things changed. The iMac got the mentioned i7 Upgrade and I was not a student any more. So I kept my 2nd generation i7 iMac from 2011 till today. I do have a new retina iMac but the 2011 is still here and it's still amazingly fast – more over it feels faster than my Retina iMac simply because of a SSD I installed instead of the drive.
So my recommendation for the cost cautious Mac buyer: Get an iMac with i7 and the fastest graphics card available for that model and upgrade it yourself with a 1TB SSD. You will enjoy using it. Keep this Mac as long as it still gives you joy and as long as it's supported by the latest macOS.
How to Upgrade
Get the hardware
What you need is a suction cup
[tkp_image width="320" shadow="no" alt="Suction-Cup" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TEADT5A/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8&fpl=fresh&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=&pf_rd_r=MM8RJJ1ZJ7FNFQMKRFWN&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=6aad23bd-3035-4a40-b691-0eefb1a18396&pf_rd_i=desktop&linkCode=li2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=a0356f68366ef0378c115864461e6f91"]Suction-Cup.jpg[/tkp_image]
and a phillips screw driver.
[tkp_image width="320" shadow="no" alt="Phillips-Screw-Driver" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007ISYR6K/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B007ISYR6K&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=2cf97ad254d9d7134bb3222fc3c63853"]Phillips-Screw-Driver.jpg[/tkp_image]
And maybe a pair of tweezers. Me being there from the first 8086 PC I always had a Mosquito Halstead.
[tkp_image width="320" shadow="no" alt="Mosquito-Halstead" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EUTGAEC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00EUTGAEC&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=06628d7e454c6a37d35902f57a15b96c"]Mosquito-Halstead.jpg[/tkp_image]
Btw. if you ever get package protected by egg foam as shown below, keep it and use it for the screws while disassembling complex electronics. With an egg foam you can place the screws exactly parallel to where you took them out and know exactly where to put them back to – no more extra screws when you are done :-).
[tkp_image width="320" shadow="no" alt="Egg-Foam" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002ZPLP2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0002ZPLP2&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=c2bdd24930dfdb84d57bd72ee43e6320"]Egg-Foam.jpg[/tkp_image]
About the SSD I honestly considered size/price over durability, the reason is simple: The times where SSD make problems are over. Yes some are more reliable than others, but if you leave enough space unused then the built in algorithm to redistribute will keep your drive alive for a long time. So from my perspective it's better to buy a cheap 1TB then a great 512GB.
|[tkp_image height="200" shadow="no" alt="Samsung-SSD" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OBRFFAS/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00OBRFFAS&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=55c2070c4dfe6a07c06e15af9a2d04bb"]Samsung-SSD.jpg[/tkp_image]||[tkp_image height="200" shadow="no" alt="SanDisk-SSD" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0195B30KG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0195B30KG&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=3dda13387a91d644f4ea5ca869edce2b"]SanDisk-SSD.jpg[/tkp_image]||[tkp_image height="200" shadow="no" alt="Crucial-SSD" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IAGSDUE/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01IAGSDUE&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=b2f3053801ae509a13278633a2499f04"]Crucial-SSD.jpg[/tkp_image]|
Installing the SSD
First of I recommend attaching the SSD externally and installing the software on it. Just pick a connection cable or housing.
[tkp_image width="320" shadow="no" alt="SSD-2,5-Enclosure" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IHBUCOM/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01IHBUCOM&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=57ac3100f1f0b3da2e2b6e78114e6c56"]SSD-25-Enclosure.jpg[/tkp_image]
Install macOS from the App Store of your running Mac. All you have to do is simply select the external drive as target in the beginning of the installation. Then when macOS is started from the external disc you can migrate everything for the existing drive. To me this way is a bit cleaner and give you more options on what to migrate then a simple disk copy.
As for the disassembly there are many videos on YouTube, simply search for "replace hard drive" or "upgrade SSD" and your model of iMac e.g. "replace hard drive iMac 2011"
Note that many iMacs have two spaces to place your SSD either where the hard drive was with a mounting bracket
[tkp_image width="320" shadow="no" alt="Drive-Mount" zoom="no" link="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0090UG55A/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0090UG55A&linkCode=as2&tag=vogelb-20&linkId=555de6028b090fc52fa43fe01ea8ae7c"]Drive-Mount.jpg[/tkp_image]
or in the actual place for the SSD, normally used for a fusion drive's SSD.
Control the Fan
For me I placed the SSD where the SSD belonged, with a sad surprise: The iMac suddenly was super loud. The HD fan uses the temperature it get's from the HD so if it does not get a temperature it assumes the worst. I have never felt an iMac being to cool on top 🙂 just a huge gapping hole with air blowing through for no reason. Since the noise is quite annoying I was glad do have found a solution.
I am using Macs-Fan-Control. A cute but powerful app, that allows you to control any fan in any way you want. For the HD-fan the best solution to me is use the temperature of the SSD and be quite temperature sensitive – it still does not create much noise, especially compared to the noise from before when the HD was installed.
This is what my setup looks like:
[tkp_image width="960" shadow="no" alt="Setup-Macs-Fan-Control" zoom="no" link=""]Setup-Macs-Fan-Control.png[/tkp_image]
There you have it: A fast, cheap and quiet iMac 🙂 what more could one want!
P.S.: Links are all Amazon.com associate links, but basically only to legally use their images 🙂