Upgrading 24″ iMac with SSD and memory

Following a series of annoying ‘happenings’, late last week I decided in my wisdom that I was going to upgrade my 24″ iMac to unleash a new lease of life. After some digging around and faffing with serial numbers (and eventually digging out the original packaging) I managed to identify my mac as being a 2.8Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo (24″ – 800 Mhz) (early 2008) model, or an iMac 8,1.

Next I went onto the web to check out who’d been doing what – and discovered various posts of people upgrading their iMacs. I couldn’t find anyone who’d done specifically what I was after. Finally I decided to go with the maximum memory my iMac would allow and a chunky 240Gb SSD drive. Here’s what I eventually went for (and the locations where I bought them)…

It’s worth mentioning that Crucial have a tool which you can run on your Mac just to check what exactly is required for your specific machine.  Give it a run to be sure you’re buying the right thing.  So I ordered late last week (memory on Thursday and the drive on Friday) and both luckily turned up on the Saturday – sweeeeeeet.  I got to work…

Replacing the hard drive

So first off I needed to get my iMac apart.  As it happens, this turned out to not be too complex a job using some of the various tutorials which are out there.  You’ll need some stuff before you start though – so you may want to collate it first.  Stuff such as….

  1. A Phillips head screw driver (or a set of them would be useful)
  2. A Torx T8 and T6 screw driver
  3. Some kind of sucker to pull off the screen
  4. Patience.  Lots of patience.

So I got a bit lucky as far as most of the above tools went.  I had both the correct size Torx screwdrivers from having opened up my XBox 360 (exactly the same kit!) and also had some suckers from having replaced screens in iPhone before.  Any kind of sucker will do though as long as it’s not a plunger or something.

Anyway, I then followed some of the following tutorials….

All of the above helped me to navigate my way to getting the disk replaced.  I suppose if I learned anything, it would be the following…

  1. This is a fairly easy upgrade to perform as long as you’re steady and careful.
  2. Don’t lose patience and FORCE anything.
  3. I didn’t really need to remove the two screws holding the camera in place.
  4. There is usually more than one way to skin a cat (see below)

I found that it was all pretty easy, however the only bit that snared me was actually removing the screen.  In my opinion it makes perfect sense to remove the screen completely – you never know when something will slip or whatever.  Now, the tutorials above will tell you there are three connectors coming from the screen.  This is true.  There are two lower down in the machine which are connected to the motherboard, and there is one behind the screen that connects to a card about two thirds up the machine. This third one is the tricky one to get disconnected.  However, I’d strongly suggest that you ignore the tutorials on this one and disconnect it from the screen end.  It’s covered with some black sticky tape which is very easy to remove and replace – but the access to the connector is MUCH easier.   So to clarify…

  1. Disconnect the two connectors lower down in the machine (one has two screws holding it down)
  2. Lift the screen up from the bottom (where you disconnected the cables) enough to gain access.
  3. Peel back the black sticky tape covering the connecting cable on the SCREEN end.
  4. Disconnect it (much more easily than the other end which is under the board!)
  5. Place the screen to the side.

Job done.  Now, my next tip would be that the hard drive itself is locked in with a strange caddy thing.  You’ll see it – it a black plastic clip a few inches long.  Now, before you jump in and start unscrewing things – TAKE A CLOSER LOOK!!  You can squeeze this clip to detach it from the case – something I didn’t realise originally.  Once you squeeze it, you can lift out the drive and disconnect the other cables.  Then simply move the screws over to the new drive and replace as you found it!

Remember to give the screens a bit of a wipe when you put it all back together though – use non-abrasive cloths for the job.

Replacing the memory

This bit probably didn’t need a section of it’s own – replacing memory is pretty easy on the Mac.  Remember when you’re buying memory (certainly for the model I stated above) that (a) it can only hold a maximum of 4Gb and (b) it’s only got two slots which are both filled initially.  The only real upgrade you CAN get is 2 x 2Gb.

So yeah, just a case of opening up the memory bay on the bottom edge of the mac screen.  Pull out the two tabs (and consequently the memory) and pushing in the new stuff.  If you were doing the hard drive upgrade (above) then it’ll already be out.

Performance

I read so many articles about how SSD drives in Mac doesn’t really do that much.  Well I’m telling you here and now that the performance increase is STUNNING.  I recently installed OSX Lion onto my Macbook Pro and it took between 30 – 40 minutes to install. Keeping that in mind, here are some rough times for my new (and certainly improved) iMac…

  • Time to install OSX Lion : Around 10 minute
  • Time to boot (from seeing activity indicator) : 10 seconds to login.
  • Time to launch Photoshop CS5 : 2 bounces, around 3 seconds.
  • Time to launch anything else : 1 bounce, less than a second.

I’m really not exaggerating these results!  I was expecting *maybe* a bit of a performance upgrade but this has easily sped my machine up by 3 – 4 times as much as original.  I’d expect this is in part because of the memory upgrade too – but this OCZ drive is fast man.

The drawbacks of the upgrade

The only drawback from this upgrade is simple…  I now have no good reason to buy a new 27″ iMac.  I’d recently quoted one up at around £2200 for the I7 model.  No longer required!  🙂

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