Everyone knows that Apple products tend to be on the expensive side of things. The MacBook Pro, while not actually the best in its class, is still pricier than a Windows-based system with the same specifications. To make matters worse, upgrading though the Apple Store will also stretch out your pocket even further.
This is why some Mac enthusiasts out there opt for a cheaper version of the Mac and perform their upgrades on their own. Case in point is Snazzy Lab’s Quinn Nelson.
Throw away that warranty
Upgrading an iMac is not an easy task. In fact, anyone thinking of doing it need to consider two caveats: warranty and easy of upgrade. Let us talk about warranty first.
The thing is, when you bought your iMac of MacBook Pro form Apple, you are automatically covered by a warranty for at least a year. If you paid for an Apple Care plan, then you effectively stretched that coverage into something better.
Unfortunately, if you do the upgrade on your Mac on your own, you effectively void any warranty that you have for it. That means, if something fails at a later date, Apple will not cover the repair or replacement of the failed part. You would have to pay for it yourself.
The second caveat is the complexity of the upgrade itself. Unlike the Mac Pro, the iMac is a sealed system. The display is glued onto the chassis with very strong adhesives. Taking the display apart from the chassis requires a specialized tool that you need to buy yourself. Apple, of course, will not provide the tool to you.
On the flip side, you can easily buy the tools that you need online either from Amazon or directly from sellers like iFixit and OWC.
What parts of the iMac can you upgrade?
There is actually not a lot of things you can upgrade on the iMac. However, that does not mean it is not worth upgrading. For instance, if you require a lot of memory of RAM in your day-to-day work, then upgrading the existing RAM of the iMac can prove to be beneficial. Luckily, out of all the things you can upgrade on an iMac, the RAM is the easiest.
Beyond the RAM, anything else you want to upgrade on you desktop requires hard work and patience. Things like the hard drive and the processor require an upgrader to open the desktop and actually remove all the boards from their mounting brackets.
Tools the you need for the job
As mentioned, if you want to upgrade your iMac, you will need specialized tools. Tools like a spudger, an iMac opening wheel, and Torx drivers (T5, T8, T10, T15, and T25) are quite important to do the upgrade.
In addition to the tools, you will also need some third-party components if you want to upgrade the hard drive or the processor. For the hard drive, you will need a temperature sensor that will go in between the hard drive itself and the connecting cable. This is quite important because Apple has installed a proprietary firmware on its hard drives that enable the System Management Controller to detect the drive temperature internally. Without the third-party temperature sensor, your iMac’s fan will run at full speed all the time. The good news is, the sensor is readily available from OWC for $40.
As for the processor, you will need some thermal paste for it. Finally, you will need a set of adhesives to put the display back. You can find them Amazon and other shops like OWC and iFixit.
Doing the actual upgrade yourself
There are various sources online that you can check for upgrading you iMac. iFixit has a detailed teardown for every iMac in existence. On the other hand, there are videos on YouTube that shows the actual process of disassembling an iMac. You can check Quinn Nelson’s video below. As for the iFixit teardown, you can follow this link.
A word of advice
It takes a bit of courage and a lot of patience to upgrade an iMac, whether its the older, thicker version, or the new sleek 5K display, you will encounter some annoyances during the disassembly. To make matters worse, the hinge the locks the displays position is quite fragile and easily breaks if given applied with enough pressure. Make sure you take this into consideration then yo open up you iMac for upgrade.
How much do you actually save?
Getting the upgrades on you iMac done from the Apple Store can get pretty expensive. For instance, the 32GB RAM kit from Apple costs an extra $600. For $50 more, you can get the 64GB kit from OWC. Also, for a 1TB SSD, you will need to shell out an extra $700. While if you buy you SSD from third-party sellers, including the sensor itself, you will only need around $450.
Lastly, the processor. If you intend to upgrade an iMac with a better processor, make sure you get the cheapest one from Apple Store. This will save you a ton of cash since you are not paying extra for the processor itself.
On Quinn’s video, he showed that he saved nearly $2,000 for his upgrade. Now, your mileage can vary depending on the components that you want on your soup-up iMac. Nevertheless, that same amount of savings can easily get you another system. Furthermore, if you sell the parts that you took out from the original iMac, you will be saving a lot more.
For more tech updates, be sure to check us out at The Bitbag.