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iMac Intel 27" EMC 2309 (Late 2009, Core 2 Duo 3.06 or 3.33 GHz) ID iMac10,1, EMC 2374 (Late 2009, Core i5 2.66 GHz or Core i7 2.8 GHz) ID iMac11,1

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Replacing Graphics Card - Replacement Options

I have a Late 2009 iMac - i7 2.8 with an ATI Radeon HD 4850 w/512MB. I'm trying to extend the life on this iMac. I am been having some graphics issues and would like to replace the card. My question is what card options are there for this (new or used) - if possible I would like to at least step up to a 1 GB card.

Can anyone recommend a suitable graphics upgrade - or, at least a replacement for this? If you have links, even better!


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Here's the specs of your system from EveryMac: iMac 27" 2.8 GHz i7 (Late 2009)


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Technically you are limited to what the system came with in this case:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4670 w 256 MB - Apple P/N 661-5314
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 w 512 MB - Apple P/N 661-5315

The rub is these MXM GPU cards have custom firmware on them so you can't drop just any MXM card into the system, besides the heatsink need to fit the card.

While I commend you are your doggedness here to keep it running. Apple has stated the next release of MacOS won't support these older systems. Believe me I'm not happy either with their direction as of late. So consider this on how much effort and moneys you put into your system.

For now you could try cleaning the old thermal paste and apply a fresh coat (you'll also need to thermal pads for the VRAM). Often refreshing the paste on these older systems does wonders! To prove it for your self get this app: TG Pro I would get the full version for less than $20 its well worth it! Run it for a good week so you have idea on how hot you are running then do a good dust clean and thermal paste redo on both the CPU & GPU's and marvel at the lower running temp!

Even though this will help it still might not fix things. The rub here is the lead free solders Apple and the others were using just didn't handle high heat well.

Some solders grew Tin Whiskers shorting out the pins within the chip to board interconnection. In some the solder degrades (crystalizes) becoming a semiconductor (what we call a cold solder joint).

To fix this correctly you need to completely remove the old solder as the old solder can decompose the new solder! Acting as a seed for recrystallization to start again more quickly. This is what re-balling is all about. Your board may need it. I think this is pushing things and you need the correct equipment to do it. It's not something I would do my self either and it might be too expensive to do here.

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Thanks, I really appreciate the thorough information! I will instead consider an upgraded system via an upgraded GPU! In the meantime, I'll look at the interim solution like a fresh coat of paste and looking into the temp.


What thickness of the thermal pads do you recommend?


Chris - Its best to get a set of thermal pad sheets and then when you're ready, dry fit the heat sink and take some card stock strips stacked up to measure the gap between the GPU and the heat sink, then carefully measure the thickness with a measuring caliper. You want a snug fit, but not too tight either.

100mm x100mm x0.5mm Conductive Silicone Thermal Pad

100mm x100mm x1.0mm Conductive Silicone Thermal Pad

100mm x100mm x1.5mm Conductive Silicone Thermal Pad


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Honestly, I wouldn't bother. All graphics cards for the older iMacs are pulled from used or non-working iMacs. You will pay over £150 (very expensive) for a "new" one, and it will fail again within the year, since it is being pulled from a used Mac where this failure happens often. GPU issues are very common on the earlier iMacs, so I would strongly advise selling your model on eBay for spares, and buying a newer model.

If you do insist in replacing this however, @danj or @mayer are probably the best people to ask, so I will let them answer this :)

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Thank you for the referral and bring some expertise into this thread! I will take your advice on the upgraded system vs GPU!


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I have the 2374. I baked the graphics card two months ago and it restored the computer, but of course it may fail again. If I get a year out of it I'll be satisfied. I agree with the other responses that it's likely a poor investment to sink much money into this model.

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The oven trick is only a temporary solution (as you know). Depending on how hot and how long the GPU stays hot will determine the how long this will hold up. You may want to get a copy of TG Pro to help monitor things.

Basically, you altered the bad solder joints of the solder pads under the GPU back to a conductive state and/or melting back the tin whiskers which are shorting across the pads.


I experimented with TG Pro, which will allow me to do most anything I wish with the fans. But it offers no guidance as to what I SHOULD do. By this I mean, how to cool the computer more than the Mac OS system software will, without running the fans unnecessarily.

I imagine a good rule would be something like, "Apple's fan speed plus XX%." Because Apple at least has some basis for its fan speeds, even if it has failed to keep from roasting the iMac's internal parts. I can make some rules, but I'd be guessing as to whether they'd be enough or too much to achieve my end of keeping the iMac healthy.

Any thoughts?


TG Pro is more of a speedometer of your systems temp than telling you how to use your system.

Lets say a given process ramps up the temp for 2 min's then drops down. So I could use TC Pro's Turbo function to ramp the fans up sooner so the processor/GPU don't go over the threshold I've decided on. The only problems with this is the fact this is just a line in the moving sand ;-{

As you can't really control the systems processing at that granularity. But, you can stop the process to let the system cool down a bit and then continue.

Here's some other examples:

- Lets say you are running a game and the temp is now at the high-water mark you can then pause the game to let is cool down.

- Now lets say you are processing a batch of images (video) and the temp hits the high-water mark you really can't stop things without damaging the work.

Just because you push the fans a bit doesn't solve the root issue as these older systems just weren't designed for the heavy graphics todays games and productivity apps use


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jeff sarà eternamente grato.
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