Computers & Electronics

Is upgrading a 2013 iMac in 2018 worth it?

  • Last Updated:
  • Dec 6th, 2018 1:32 pm
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 8, 2014
185 posts
68 upvotes
AB

Is upgrading a 2013 iMac in 2018 worth it?

Is there still any point in upgrading a late 2013 iMac (iMac21.5/2.7QC/2X4GB/1TB/IRISPRO?)

Potential upgrades (cyber Monday sale prices):
-16 GB ram ($115)
-500GB SSD ($85)

With the tools and adhesive strip kit, I’d probably be looking at ~$325 to upgrade the iMac (DIY). There are lots of YouTube videos that show you how to do it, but looks like the upgrade will be pretty difficult, although I am up for the challenge.

With that being said, I'm not really a heavy computer user, but right now the computer is too slow (lags a lot using iMovie and light room). I'm interested in doing more videography and photography editing in the future.

Option 1) upgrade and Keep iMac
Option 2) Sell iMac on Kijiji for $700-800 and then buy/build a new PC for around $1000.

I read online that lots of people get night and day differences upgrading to an SSD. I’m kind of worried that the graphics card might be a bit weak, but not sure if this is something I can easily upgrade.

Anyhow, what are your thoughts on if it’s worth upgrading a 2013 iMac in late 2018?
10 replies
Jr. Member
Oct 26, 2008
114 posts
47 upvotes
Toronto
hmm, I guess my first question would be if you want to stay in the Mac eco-system? or do you want to make the jump to windows?

Not to say that it can’t be done, it’s just a matter of how much time you want to spend learning a different OS. Given that you’re looking at the possibility of going the DIY route you may be fine with learning windows.

iMacs (especially the later models) are NOT easy to upgrade… getting into that iMac will require a host of tools and a lengthy tear down process.

If you’re looking to do videography and photography editing then I’d consider pricing out the new 2018 Mac mini’s to see if there’s anything there that could work with your budget. The base model starts at $1000, but you’ll probably want to get a bigger HD.

One nice thing about the 2018 Mac mini is that you can upgrade the ram after purchase - BUT you can’t upgrade the HD, so keep that in mind when pricing things out.

Note: the new 2018 Mac mini model has been the first mac mini upgrade in a very long time, so — as with any new tech — as more people start using them there may be issues that won’t pop up until later. In that sense you may want to wait a bit, for the next hardware refresh.

To date. I have not heard of any hardware issues with the 2018 mac mini… so far so good…





For videography and photography editing you’ll also want to factor in the cost of a good external HD, as you’ll potentially be working with large files — and you’ll need the space.

If you’re going the PC route I’d consider building a hackintosh (PC hardware + mac OS).This option is bit more involved, but you can get a pretty good system out of it - if you’re willing to put in the time. The build/ setup process now is a lot simpler than it used to be.

More on that here:
https://www.tonymacx86.com/buyersguide/ ... ers-guide/

Ultimately you have to decide how long you want this new build or upgrade to last you for?

Do you plan to keep/use this for the next 3-4 years or so?
or is this just a stop gap until you can buy an all new machine?

Ram and an SSD will help, but its kind of a stop gap measure. You can sell the mac and build a PC, but then you’ll have to invest in all new software…
Sr. Member
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May 8, 2007
817 posts
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Fraser Valley, BC
I'd say it's worth it to upgrade your 2013 iMac if you can do the work yourself or find someone (maybe a specialist Mac repair shop) who can do it at reasonable cost.

Using a 2011 Mini here, the base version but upgraded to 8GB ram. It still runs fine for my lightweight workload, I don't have any issues with the original HD but since so many people recommend SSD I got one (but have not installed yet).
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Aug 3, 2006
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- Your iMac 21" 2013 is still pretty good with the i5-4570R processor in there. The only subjectively out of date thing is that it doesn't have hardware support for 4K HEVC video playback like most processors from 2017 onward. The i5-4570R can play 4K@30fps fine with ~70% processor usage, but definitely not 4K@60fps.
- The SSD upgrade will boost performance across the board. If cost is an issue then go for this. The RAM upgrade is less of an issue.
- A 500GB SSD wouldn't be enough if you're really going to go into photo and video editing. But that can be solved by getting an external hard drive as your storage drive. I've used 4TB on my combined 8TB drives storing photos and videos going back ten years. For example, I have hour long 4K@30 videos taken on my iPhone that are 18GB each.
- If you're going to buy all new, I'd budget closer $3000. You can get a new monitor with that budget and your new PC would last many years to come.

My own PC (i5-4570) from 2013 is similar to yours. I have two SSDs and another HDD as my storage drive. I can't even justify upgrading it or buying new because it's still performing so well.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 8, 2014
185 posts
68 upvotes
AB
Mulder and Scully wrote:
Nov 27th, 2018 9:44 am
- Your iMac 21" 2013 is still pretty good with the i5-4570R processor in there. The only subjectively out of date thing is that it doesn't have hardware support for 4K HEVC video playback like most processors from 2017 onward. The i5-4570R can play 4K@30fps fine with ~70% processor usage, but definitely not 4K@60fps.
- The SSD upgrade will boost performance across the board. If cost is an issue then go for this. The RAM upgrade is less of an issue.
- A 500GB SSD wouldn't be enough if you're really going to go into photo and video editing. But that can be solved by getting an external hard drive as your storage drive. I've used 4TB on my combined 8TB drives storing photos and videos going back ten years. For example, I have hour long 4K@30 videos taken on my iPhone that are 18GB each.
- If you're going to buy all new, I'd budget closer $3000. You can get a new monitor with that budget and your new PC would last many years to come.

My own PC (i5-4570) from 2013 is similar to yours. I have two SSDs and another HDD as my storage drive. I can't even justify upgrading it or buying new because it's still performing so well.
Thanks for reply. Do you think if I made those upgrades (SSD + ram), my 2013 imac can handle 4K editing at 30fps?
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 8, 2014
185 posts
68 upvotes
AB
Starmax wrote:
Nov 26th, 2018 7:04 pm
hmm, I guess my first question would be if you want to stay in the Mac eco-system? or do you want to make the jump to windows?

Not to say that it can’t be done, it’s just a matter of how much time you want to spend learning a different OS. Given that you’re looking at the possibility of going the DIY route you may be fine with learning windows.

iMacs (especially the later models) are NOT easy to upgrade… getting into that iMac will require a host of tools and a lengthy tear down process.

If you’re looking to do videography and photography editing then I’d consider pricing out the new 2018 Mac mini’s to see if there’s anything there that could work with your budget. The base model starts at $1000, but you’ll probably want to get a bigger HD.

One nice thing about the 2018 Mac mini is that you can upgrade the ram after purchase - BUT you can’t upgrade the HD, so keep that in mind when pricing things out.

Note: the new 2018 Mac mini model has been the first mac mini upgrade in a very long time, so — as with any new tech — as more people start using them there may be issues that won’t pop up until later. In that sense you may want to wait a bit, for the next hardware refresh.

To date. I have not heard of any hardware issues with the 2018 mac mini… so far so good…





For videography and photography editing you’ll also want to factor in the cost of a good external HD, as you’ll potentially be working with large files — and you’ll need the space.

If you’re going the PC route I’d consider building a hackintosh (PC hardware + mac OS).This option is bit more involved, but you can get a pretty good system out of it - if you’re willing to put in the time. The build/ setup process now is a lot simpler than it used to be.

More on that here:
https://www.tonymacx86.com/buyersguide/ ... ers-guide/

Ultimately you have to decide how long you want this new build or upgrade to last you for?

Do you plan to keep/use this for the next 3-4 years or so?
or is this just a stop gap until you can buy an all new machine?

Ram and an SSD will help, but its kind of a stop gap measure. You can sell the mac and build a PC, but then you’ll have to invest in all new software…
Thanks for the reply. I'm using this computer pretty lightly at the moment. Some basic word/excel, some casual web surfing, and primarily for photography and video editing (a couple hours a week sort of thing). Right now editing in 1080p is pretty laggy so i'm kind of getting discouraged from using the imac. I like the machine, its beautiful aesthetically and I like the ecosystem. I use a PC for work, and have no issues switching.

If I do the upgrades, I would probably keep the imac for another 3-4 years. Right now I am leaning towards just upgrading as that seems like the most economical thing to do.
Member
Apr 11, 2011
311 posts
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Memramcook
damatick wrote:
Nov 26th, 2018 5:25 pm
Is there still any point in upgrading a late 2013 iMac (iMac21.5/2.7QC/2X4GB/1TB/IRISPRO?)

Potential upgrades (cyber Monday sale prices):
-16 GB ram ($115)
-500GB SSD ($85)

snip
I have 8 GB RAM in my Macbook Pro and when I installed a SSD instead of the hard drive, it was like I had a new machine. Don't feel the need to upgrade anymore.

So 8 GB is rough for me but no photoshop or gaming. But I think SSD is optimum upgrade.

Bob
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Aug 3, 2006
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damatick wrote:
Nov 27th, 2018 12:45 pm
Do you think if I made those upgrades (SSD + ram), my 2013 imac can handle 4K editing at 30fps?
Your iMac with its i5-4570R should already be able to handle editing 4K@30fps videos fine. I'm surprised that you're running into issues editing 1080p videos. Maybe this is an issue with the version of iMovie you're using?

The SSD improves performance across the board. Like it's night and day compared to an HDD. The RAM upgrade likely won't make a difference because MacOS is very efficient with memory management. That money could probably be better spent by saving it for now and revisiting a year or two down the road whether or not you want to buy a new Mac or PC. The SSD you buy could also be repurposed if you do buy all new in the future.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 8, 2014
185 posts
68 upvotes
AB
Mulder and Scully wrote:
Nov 28th, 2018 9:57 am
Your iMac with its i5-4570R should already be able to handle editing 4K@30fps videos fine. I'm surprised that you're running into issues editing 1080p videos. Maybe this is an issue with the version of iMovie you're using?

The SSD improves performance across the board. Like it's night and day compared to an HDD. The RAM upgrade likely won't make a difference because MacOS is very efficient with memory management. That money could probably be better spent by saving it for now and revisiting a year or two down the road whether or not you want to buy a new Mac or PC. The SSD you buy could also be repurposed if you do buy all new in the future.
I uninstalled and re-installed imovie and it actually made some difference. I already bought the ssd and the ram, so I might as well install both of them when i have the machine open. I didn't know that ram wouldn't make a huge difference, if I had known that I probably would have spent the money on a bigger SSD. Oh well. Just need to get the toolkit and then I can attempt the DIY (hopefully a weekend project)
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Mar 23, 2009
15775 posts
3166 upvotes
Toronto
The easiest way to upgrade that machine is with a USB 3 SSD. For a boot drive, I'd recommend either a dedicated mainstream brand-name USB 3 external SSD, or else an SSD with external USB 3 enclosure that has external power. The reason for this is if there is any power fluctuation from the USB port, or if the power draw of the SSD + enclosure is particularly high at peak, it can cause issues for boot drives. If the drive has external power, or if it's a purpose built name-brand external drive, this is not an issue. You can get a 500 GB Samsung T5 for $130. It should come with both USB-C and USB-A cables.

https://www.bestbuy.ca/en-ca/product/sa ... 82066.aspx?

Image

However, since you already bought the SSD, you can go out and buy a <$30 USB 3 enclosure with external power support. The only problem with this solution is that most 2.5" enclosures have no option for external power. The ones that do have external power are usually 3.5" enclosures.

You'd keep the internal 1 TB hard drive for either data storage or else backup, or both. For example, you could partition the internal 1 TB drive into to two 500 GB partitions. You can use one of them for data and the other one as a built-in boot backup.

As for the RAM, for many people 8 GB may be enough, particularly if it's light to moderate usage. 16 GB is better, but may not be necessary, esp. if you want to save a few bucks. I know you bought it already, but I personally would have gone with the USB SSD first, and then consider upgrading the RAM later.

---

tl;dr:

Personally, I'd just return everything you bought if possible and get a 500 GB Samsung T5 for $130 and be done with it. You'd keep the 1 TB internal HD.

You can always get additional RAM later if you need it, but if your usage is light, you may not need it.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 8, 2014
185 posts
68 upvotes
AB
I ended up installing the SSD and the additional ram. The machine works much better now, feels like brand new actually. Very snappy and responsive.

I appreciate the comments and helpful tips. The SSD is only 500gb so I might get an external ssd for additional storage.

The ram upgrade might have been overkill, but the imac was a PIA to dissemble, so i figured while I had it open I might as well do both. I was actually contemplating returning the ram for a while. Hopefully I can recoup some of the cost by reselling the old ram and the old HDD>

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