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Model A1311 / Mid 2010 / 3.06 & 3.2 GHz Core i3 or 3.6 GHz Core i5 Processor

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Is it worth upgrading these components?

Hi there,

I’m thinking of upgrading some of the components in my machine and want to check if they’re worth doing / viable.

I currently have a mid 2010 21.5 in iMac

  • processor 3.06 intel i3
  • 4gb 1333 ddr3 ram in 2 gb sticks
  • ati radeon hd 4670 256mb
  • 500 gb hdd

Changes I want to make

  • replace the cpu with the i5 version
  • add 2 more 2gb ram sticks to give 8gb total
  • install a 1tb ssd, either replacing the original hard drive or using the disk drive to house the ssd for a dual drive set up

I have already decided I want to upgrade the ram and install the SSD. Is it worth upgrading the cpu? Will there be a noticeable improvement in performance or will replacing the cpu in combination with the other components just overclock my power supply?

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When it comes to the CPU, it can help but the effort to performance gain ratio isn’t as great as you think. It’s not something I’d personally do, especially with the Mac being so old further limiting any gains. It’s often a completely different question in a system with easy access to the CPU, but you especially need to be at the top of your game to not screw the CPU swap up on an iMac. Remember, this isn’t like my custom desktop PC where if I got a good deal on a 9th gen i7 without the IGP, I can swap it in 10 minutes so the effort to performance gains are easier to justify, even if I’m coming from a 9400f and it isn’t much better and I need a Hyper 212 EVO as my Intel stock cooler will not cut it. This is because I’ve done it, my install risk is basically zero and if it doesn’t help much it wasn’t hard to swap out, so there’s less “upgrade regret”. The “professional rate” to get this done will total it out, so the CPU on an iMac is firmly a DIY job once it’s a few years old (unless you know someone who will take it on at a rate that isn’t machine totaling).

As far as SSDs go, you need a SATA II compatible SSD due to the chipset in these - if you had a 2011/12 at the bare minimum you wouldn’t need to worry about this! Yes, the RAM will be a upgrade worth going for.

The most I would upgrade on a machine like this is the RAM and installing an SSD - the CPU gains vs risk of destroying the machine are not worth it unless you get the CPU super cheap (due to the extreme PITA factor on an iMac, 10-20%, with a 10% buffer at most. If it fails here, it’s not worth pursuing).

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Ram and ssd then. I was thinking changing the cpu looked like a lot of work for minimal gain. Looks like you can get second hand chips on ebay for cheap but who knows how good they are, whether they're the right kind of chip ect... Sounds like the amount of work and the risk of bricking the machine just isn't worth it.

I'll make sure the ssd is sata 2 - If I didn't have such a sentimental attachment it would probably be better getting a new or refurbished one.

How would you recomend changing the ssd - 1 for 1 replace the hdd or do the dual drive set up by replacing the cd reader?


@Jack Curnow I've heard of people deleting the DVD drive for a 2nd drive but beyond doing it that way it isn't really possible to have 2 hard drives in this iMac.


yeah thats what I'm talking about doing. replacing the hdd or the disk drive with the new drive


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As long as the i5 has the same TDP as your i3, it should not overload your power supply. It will allow you to do more multitasking before your system bogs down and speed up tasks as well. Going from an SSD would also lower power draw in addition to greatly improving your system responsiveness and speed. Upgrading the RAM is also quite a good idea as 8GB is beginning to become new the new bare minimum nowadays. If you do these upgrades the system should be able to last for much longer without the feeling that it is too slow.

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if 8GB is the new minimum would I be better buying 2 4gb sticks? I know its better to keep them all the same but I don't really want to buy 4 new 4gb sticks.


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Jack Curnow sarà eternamente grato.
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