iMac Upgrade Guide

Upgrade Your Intel iMac With Memory, Storage, and More

Apple emloyee Jason Roth (L) and his son Tyler Roth, 3, play with an iMac
Brian Kersey/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When is it time to buy a new iMac? When is it time to just 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

In this upgrade guide, we'll look at just the Intel-based iMacs that have been available from Apple since the first Intel iMac was introduced in early 2006.

iMacs are typically considered one-piece Macs, with few, if any, upgrades available. You may be surprised to discover that you do have some upgrade options, from simple upgrades that may boost your iMac's performance, to somewhat 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:

From the Apple menu, select 'About This Mac.'

In the 'About This Mac' window that opens, click the 'More Info' button.

The System Profiler window will open, listing your iMac's configuration. Make sure the 'Hardware' category is selected in the left-hand pane. The right-hand pane will display the 'Hardware' category overview. Make a note of the 'Model Identifier' entry. You can then quit the System Profiler.

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 bottom of each iMac.

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 supports user upgrades. You can also use this link to Apple's RAM upgrade guide for each specific iMac model.

And be sure and check out Upgrade Your Mac's RAM Yourself: What You Need to Know, which includes information about where to buy memory for your Mac.

iMac Memory
Model IDMemory SlotsMemory TypeMax MemoryUpgradeableNotes

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, your iMac can access 3 GB of the 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, your iMac can access 3 GB of the 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, your iMac can access 3 GB of the 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 motherboard.

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 motherboard.

iMac 16,2 Late 2015

0

PC3-14900 (1867 MHz) LPDDR3

16 GB

No

8 GB or 16 GB soldered on motherboard.

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 wasn'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. It's possible to upgrade the hard drive yourself, but I generally don't recommend it except for experienced Mac DIYers who are comfortable taking apart something that wasn't designed to be easily taken apart. For an example of the difficulty involved, check out this two-part video from Small Dog Electronics on replacing the hard drive in an early 2006 iMac.

First-generation iMac hard drive replacement video part 1

First-generation iMac hard drive replacement video part 2

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

In addition, later generation iMacs have displays that are laminated and glued to the iMac frame, making gaining access to an iMacs interior even more difficult. You may find a need for special tools and instructions like those available from Other World Computing. Be sure and check out the installation video in the link above.

Another option is to forgo upgrading the internal hard drive, and instead, add an external model. You can use an external hard drive that you connect 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 with an internal drive. If you use Thunderbolt, your external has the potential to perform faster than an internal SATA drive could. 

iMac Models

The Intel-based iMacs predominantly used Intel processors that support a 64-bit architecture. The exceptions were 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 late Intel processors. These early Intel-based iMacs are probably not worth the time and cost to update.