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Here's a fast and affordable way to upgrade the RAM of your iMac



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Apple has made RAM upgrading ridiculously easy on 27-inch iMacs.


Patrick Holland / CNET

When you purchase a new iMac from Apple, it can be expensive to upgrade the RAM. For example, upgrading a new iMac from 8 GB RAM to 32 GB costs you $ 600 extra via the Apple website. However, you have a much more portfolio-friendly way to add RAM to an iMac: do it yourself. Third-party sites such as Other World Computing, also known as OWC and Crucial, sell the same amount of RAM for around $ 1

50. That's a saving of $ 450. All you have to do is install it, which Apple has made relatively easy.

Even if you don't buy a new iMac, upgrading the RAM on your old computer is a fast and affordable way to give your computer more multitasking juice to handle all those open tabs in your Chrome browser .

Watch a step-by-step video of the entire process below, of figuring out which iMac model you have to install the actual RAM modules.

27-inch iMac versus 21.5-inch iMac RAM access

iMacs come in two sizes – 27-inch and 21.5-inch models. Since the end of 2012, 27-inch models have a door behind the standard that gives you easy access so you can add more RAM. If you have a pre-2011 27-inch or 21.5-inch iMac, there is an access panel in the lower grid of the computer.

Unfortunately, if you made a 21.5-inch model after 2011 or an iMac Pro ($ 4,999 for Amazon) there is no way to easily access RAM. Instead, you must disassemble most of the iMac to add more.

Identify your iMac model and maximum amount of RAM

Before you can install new RAM, you must determine what type of iMac you have. Search for the year in which your computer was released or the model number. To do this:

1. Go to the Apple menu .

2. Select About this Mac .

3. Search for the year in which your iMac was released. For example, mine is: iMac (27-inch, end of 2013).

4. Also look at the memory line to see how much RAM your computer already has.

5. Depending on the version of MacOS running on your computer, there may be a Memory tab that you can click to view how much RAM you have and how many slots it occupies.

Go to the main tab About this Mac and click the button System report to find the model number. A hardware overview screen appears. Go to the line with the model ID. In this case, mine is iMac14.2.

View this Apple support page for the maximum amount of RAM that your iMac can handle. Most iMac & # 39; s from the past eight years can handle 32 GB of RAM, and some can go up to 128 GB. A new iMac Pro reaches a top of 512 GB.

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Where to buy iMac RAM and how much

Now that you are armed with more knowledge about your computer, you need to find a place to buy RAM. There are many suppliers, but I highly recommend OWC and Crucial. RAM prices are competitive between the two sites, but can fluctuate. Crucial also provided us with RAM for this article.

Both sites can help you find the right type of RAM for your machine. Probably the biggest choice you have to make is how much you need to add. For example, my 2013 iMac came with 8 GB of RAM (two sticks of 4 GB). The computer has four slots, two of which are filled. I could just buy two 8 GB modules (16 GB in total) and add them to the two empty slots. That would bring my iMac from 8 GB RAM to a total of 24 GB.

Instead, I chose to remove the two sticks of 4 GB RAM that came with my iMac and place four sticks of 8 GB RAM for a total of 32 GB, the maximum supported on my iMac . But the choice really comes down to how old your computer is and how you use it. An advantage of upgrading RAM on an older iMac is that it is relatively affordable. Adding 16 GB of RAM will cost you around $ 80.

I recommend installing RAM in pairs. For example, add two modules of 8 GB RAM instead of a single module of 16 GB RAM. It is not so much about cost savings, but about performance. Intel supports dual channel architecture, which is optimized for memory in pairs. That said, it's not entirely clear how much a performance your computer would cost if you only installed a single RAM stick.

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Patrick Holland / CNET

Installing RAM in a 27-inch iMac

Once you have your RAM and are ready to install, turn off your iMac and give it time to cool down.

1. Disconnect the power cord and all other cables connected to your iMac.

2. Place a soft, clean towel on a flat surface to prevent scratching the screen.

3. Hold the sides and slowly place the computer face down on the towel.

4. Locate the small gray button in the power port and press it to open the memory compartment door. I used a spudger tool to get some more purchases.

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Patrick Holland / CNET

5. The knob raises the edge of the door. So keep it pressed until you can completely remove the compartment door. Once switched off, set the door aside. The inside of the door has a diagram that shows how the RAM pop-up mechanism works and how the RAM modules fit.

6. Locate the two levers on the right and left sides and push them out to unlock the memory cage.

7. Pull the memory cage levers towards you to lift the cage for better access.

8. If you remove the existing RAM from your iMac, pull the module straight up and out. Note the location of the notch on the bottom of the RAM so that you can correctly align the new RAM. Depending on the iMac you have, you may need to point the RAM notch to the left or right. I am installing RAM on a 27-inch iMac at the end of 2013, so for me the notch must be on the right.

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RAM modules have a notch on the bottom. Depending on your iMac model, the notch will go right or left.


Patrick Holland / CNET

9. Install the new RAM by correctly inserting the notch, inserting it into the slot, and pressing firmly until you feel and hear it click into the slot. If you only install two new RAM sticks, place them at a distance from each other. For example, use the first and third slot or the second and fourth slot.

10. Once all of your RAM is installed, put the door back, turn your iMac upright and reconnect it.

11. Turn on your Mac and go to the Apple menu .

12. Select About this Mac .

13. Look at the memory line or memory tab to check if your new RAM appears.

Tone and RAM issues that do not appear

Depending on how old your iMac is, you may hear a tone after you restart it. After installing RAM, pre-2017 iMacs may make a warning sound when you first launch them. If you hear a tone repeating every 5 seconds, it means that no RAM is installed. In this case, check your installed RAM and make sure it is properly seated.

If you hear three consecutive tones that are repeated with a pause of 5 seconds in between, it means that the RAM that you have installed has not passed a data integrity check. If that happens, double-check that the memory you have installed is compatible with your iMac model and try reinserting the memory. If your Mac continues to set the tone, it's time for a Genius Bar appointment.

For more information about Macs, check out our review of MacOS Catalina and all the games you can play on Apple Arcade .


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