iMac Upgrade Guide

Upgrade your Intel iMac with memory, storage, and more

When is it time to buy a new iMac? When is it time to upgrade your iMac? Those are difficult questions because the right answer varies from individual to individual, depending on needs and wants. The first step in making the right decision about whether to upgrade or buy new is to become familiar with the upgrades that are available for your iMac.

Intel iMacs

iMacs have been available from Apple since the company introduced the first Intel iMac in early 2006.

iMacs are considered one-piece Macs, with few upgrades available. You may be surprised to discover that you have some upgrade options, from simple upgrades that boost your iMac's performance to advanced DIY projects that you may or may not be willing to tackle.

Find Your iMac Model Number

The first thing you need is your iMac's model number. Here's how to find it:

  1. Select About This Mac in the Apple menu.

    Apple menu on iMac
  2. Click System Report to open the System Information window, which lists your iMac's configuration. (Click More Info instead on iMacs running older operating systems.)

    Catalina System Report
  3. Select the Hardware category in the left pane.

    iMac Hardware listing
  4. Make a note of the Model Identifier entry located in the right pane, which contains the Hardware Overview.

    iMac system information screen
  5. Close the System Information window.

If you aren't sure how much RAM is currently installed in your iMac, you can find the information by selecting About This Mac in the Apple menu and selecting the Memory tab to display the current configuration.

RAM informational screen on iMac

RAM Upgrades

Upgrading RAM in an iMac is a simple task, even for novice Mac users. Apple placed either two or four memory slots in the base of early iMacs and in the memory bay on the back of later models. The key to performing an iMac memory upgrade is selecting the proper RAM type. Check the iMac Models list below for the RAM type for your model, as well as the maximum amount of RAM that can be installed. Also, check to see if your iMac is upgradeable at all. You can also check out Apple's RAM upgrade guide for each specific iMac model.

Memory is not upgradeable by users on these iMacs:

  • iMac 19,2 (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2019)
  • iMac 18,2 (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2017)
  • iMac 18,1 (21.5-inch, 2017)
  • iMac 14,4 (21.5-inch, Mid 2014)
  • iMac 14,1 (21.5-inch, Late 2013)
  • iMac 13,1 (21.5-inch, Late 2012)

Model ID

Memory Slots

Memory Type

Max Memory

Upgradeable Notes

iMac 4,1 Early 2006

2

200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM

2 GB

Yes  

iMac 4,2 Mid 2006

2

200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM

2 GB

Yes  

iMac 5,1 Late 2006

2

200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM

4 GB Yes

Using matched 2 GB modules, the iMac accesses only 3 GB of 4 GB installed

iMac 5.2 Late 2006

2

200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM

4 GB

Yes

Using matched 2 GB modules, the iMac accesses only 3 GB of 4 GB installed

iMac 6,1 Late 2006

2

200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM

4 GB

Yes

Using matched 2 GB modules, the iMac accesses only 3 GB of 4 GB installed

iMac 7,1 Mid 2007

2

200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM

4 GB

Yes

Use matched 2 GB modules

iMac 8,1 Early 2008

2

200-pin PC2-6400 DDR2 (800 MHz) SO-DIMM

6 GB

Yes

Use a 2 GB and 4 GB module

iMac 9,1 Early 2009

2

204-pin PC3-8500 DDR3 (1066 MHz) SO-DIMM

8 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 10,1 Late 2009

4

204-pin PC3-8500 DDR3 (1066 MHz) SO-DIMM

16 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 11,2 Mid 2010

4

204-pin PC3-10600 DDR3 (1333 MHz) SO-DIMM

16 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 11,3 Mid 2010

4

204-pin PC3-10600 DDR3 (1333 MHz) SO-DIMM

16 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 12,1 Mid 2011

4

204-pin PC3-10600 DDR3 (1333 MHz) SO-DIMM

16 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 12,1 Education model

2

204-pin PC3-10600 DDR3 (1333 MHz) SO-DIMM

8 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 12,2 Mid 2011

4

204-pin PC3-10600 DDR3 (1333 MHz) SO-DIMM

16 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot

iMac 13,1 Late 2012

2

204-pin PC3-12800 DDR3 (1600 MHz) SO-DIMM

16 GB

No  

iMac 13,2 Late 2012

4

204-pin PC3-12800 DDR3 (1600 MHz) SO-DIMM

32 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 8 GB per memory slot

iMac 14,1 Late 2013

2

204-pin PC3-12800 (1600 MHz) DDR3 SO-DIMM

16 GB

No

 

iMac 14,2 Late 2013

4

204-pin PC3-12800 (1600 MHz) DDR3 SO-DIMM

32 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 8 GB per memory slot

iMac 14,3 Late 2013

2

204-pin PC3-12800 (1600 MHz) DDR3 SO-DIMM

16 GB

No

 

iMac 14,4 Mid 2014 0

PC3-12800 (1600 MHz) LPDDR3

8 GB

No

Memory soldered on moperboard

iMac 15,1 Late 2014

4

204-pin PC3-12800 1600 MHz DDR3 SO-DIMM

32 GB

Yes

Use matched pairs of 8 GB per memory slot

iMac 16,1 Late 2015

0

PC3-14900 (1867 MHz) LPDDR3

16 GB

No

8 GB or 16 GB soldered on moperboard

iMac 16,2 Late 2015

0

PC3-14900 (1867 MHz) LPDDR3

16 GB

No

8 GB or 16 GB soldered on moperboard

iMac 17,1 Late 2015

4

204-pin PC3L-14900 (1867 MHz) DDR3 SO-DIMM

64 GB

Yes

Use matched 16 GB modules to achieve 64 GB

Internal Hard Drive Upgrades

Unlike RAM, the iMac's internal hard drive isn't designed to be user upgradeable. If you want to replace or upgrade an internal hard drive in your iMac, an Apple service provider can do it for you. Experienced Mac DIYers who are comfortable taking apart something that isn't designed to be easily taken apart can update the hard drive, but the process isn't recommended for most users. For an example of the difficulty involved, check out this two-part video from Small Dog Electronics on replacing the hard drive in the2006 first-generation Intel iMac:

These two videos are only for the first-generation Intel iMac. Other iMacs have different methods for replacing the hard drive.

Later-generation iMacs have displays that are laminated and glued to the iMac frame, making gaining access to an iMac's interior even more difficult. You may find a need for special tools and instructions like those available from Other World Computing.

Another option is to forgo upgrading the internal hard drive and add an external model instead. You can connect an external hard drive to your iMac by USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt, as your startup drive or as extra storage space. If your iMac is equipped with USB 3, an external drive — especially if it is an SSD — can achieve speeds almost equivalent to an internal drive. If your iMac has Thunderbolt, your external has the potential to perform faster than an internal SATA drive could. 

iMac Models

The Intel-based iMacs predominantly use Intel processors that support 64-bit architecture. The exceptions are the early 2006 models with the iMac 4,1 or iMac 4,2 identifier. These models used the Intel Core Duo processors, the first generation of the Core Duo line. The Core Duo processors use a 32-bit architecture instead of the 64-bit architecture seen in later Intel processors. These early Intel-based iMacs are probably not worth the time and cost to update.