2013 iMac to be resurrected?

I have been given a late 2013 i5 2.9 GHz running Catalina with a very slow 1TB HHD.I have purchased 480GB SSD to hopefully improve performance.I have no need for any of the data still on the HHD, where do I obtain a copy from a reliable source a copy of a more appropriate version of Mac OS to suit this unit.I would also appreciate a reference to the procedure to follow in installing the OS on the SSD and removeing the old personal data remaining on the HHD. Thanks Holty43

In Restore Mode you can install macOS but IIRC it will only install the version that’s already on that Mac. Not sure which version it chooses if you use Internet Recovery instead. However, the Mac App Store will offer you up the latest legit version of macOS that will run on your system.

If the SSD is formatted and attached, the macOS installer will give you the option to install on that. Once installed there, you can boot from the SSD, and set up your new environment. And once all of that checks out, just use Disk Utility to format the HDD. If you are concerned about personal data on the HDD remaining and not being overwritten, use DiskUtility’s secure erase.

Unfortunately, that 2013 iMac was only supported by Apple through macOS 10.15 Catalina. There are some hacks that may enable you to run newer systems, but that experience is not for everyone.

As for getting a clean copy of macOS, there is an article here on TidBITS that walks through a more official method, but this doesn’t work in all cases. You can get 10.12 and then hope Apple’s software sees you can go to 10.15, but that is at best a 2-install process.

if you do not have an installer file on another Mac (usually in Applications) or cannot download it via one of your AppleID accounts, I use dosdude1’s “patcher” utility to get a full 10.12 - 10.15 from Apple.

I have used these “patchers” for years, but feel free to throw it at VirusTotal. Here is a MacRumors article on the dosdude Catalina patcher from Dec. 2019

The trick is that while dosdude1 wrote these to help people run 10.12 - 10.15 on unsupported Macs, the patcher has the ability to simply download the macOS installer and stop there. The steps are pretty much outlined in the MacRumors article above, unless you download on another computer. In that case you will modify Step 8 by unmounting the USB drive and moving it to the 2013 iMac.

It should also be noted that dosdude1’s patchers for previous macOS versions (10.12 - 10.14) have a “Tools” menu with an option to simply download that version of macOS. No need to use the patcher further if you are installing on a supported Mac.

Again, these macOS downloads are direct from Apple. The dosdude1 patchers simply point to Apple servers and assist with installing on unsupported Macs.


I have a 2012 Mac Mini that I use as a file server. It runs off an external SSD with Catalina with no issues. Your iMac should do fine with a similar setup.

One quick note: Mojave 10.14 is the last macOS to support 32-bit applications in case you need that.

I have seen a few specific 32-bit apps not work even in 10.14 (ie. Xee image viewer which just crashes on launch).

SSD upgrades on older systems do have a significant impact. I upgraded a number of 2011 MacBook Pros for clients and it almost felt like a new computer. Just be sure the SSD you purchase is backwards compatible with the connection standard for that model.

“Quick note” part 2…

I shy away from the “cheaper” brands of less reputation. If you are not scrimping every dollar, it doesn’t hurt to buy from someone who knows and supports Mac well, such as Other World Computing. They provide post-purchase tech support and are very good about returns in many cases.

This is an outdated example, but sometime in the early 2000s we purchased 4 portable drives (non-SSD) for a computer lab. A short time later we began to have failures on a couple (unexpected disconnections, etc.) OWC decided there was a bad batch of controller boards and replaced all 4.

almost felt like a new computer

It will be faster of course…and if budget is the primary concern I might recommend this…but for most people trying to limp along on a 2013 Max isn’t worth spending any money on when an M1 or M2 Mini is available…depending on the cost of the SSD based on size needed and potential installation cost it doesn’t seem economical to me. I’m one of those 2013 Mini guys as well…it’s in my entertainment center and serves as a secondary file server to my Studio…but it’s still running on the spinning drive for macOS and has a Samsung T7 for data. If it died I would probably get a low end mini to replace it or else just do without it as it’s not doing anything else though…and an Apple refurbished one would be even cheaper than a new one.

All good points, Neil. I recently set up a 2014 mini in a similar manner as yours. The new systems are very attractive to be sure, but for some it may be more about getting rid of perfectly functional hardware that can still be serviced. I know someone who loves their 2010 iMac 21" for daily email, web and a litle video. Swapping in an SSD was what they desired. (Internal SSD kit $120 vs external

Also, the newer versions of macOS have a lot of … issues … that some people are not keen on. Not the least of which is the race to integrate every corner of the system with iCloud to the degree that the average Mac user is not up to the constant challenge of keeping Apple/iCloud at bay.

Older systems are less secure (depending on what you use them for), but they gave the owner more control.

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Yeah…my 2013 mini is only doing entertainment center stuff (and precious little of that since there’s an AppleTV there too as well as the cable box)…and it’s one of my two CCC Time Machine to network drives that actually works like it should destinations…and it’s not going anyplace unless it dies and whether it gets replaced at that point is unknown…if it died today I would have to think on it before replacing.

And yeah…the forced iCloud-ization and issues with later macOS versions is a concern…but I would be more concerned about security issues for internet connected machines owned by grandma and the lack of any security updates for whatever older version of macOS they need…the 2013 is on Monterey which is as far as it goes but if it gets abandoned security update wise then I might retire a still functioning machine.

Security issues post-support is the big issue, to be sure. I periodically trade notes with people about trying to publish a decent “how to protect your aging system” document. Unfortunately, while it can be done, it requires a bit of knowledge, awareness and vigilance by the primary user. Additionally, if the tactics are not configured properly, it could instill a false sense of security. Of course there are a surprising number of people out there still running on things like Win XP and OS X 10.6.

I have mentioned elsewhere that I deploy a security-focused package for those who cannot/will not upgrade their system or hardware: 3rd party firewall + Firefox + uBlock Origin + User-Agent Switcher is the bare bones in addition to some strict configuration to macOS and the above software. Other things can be added such as VPN and a good router with built-in security monitors like Synology.

Sadly, all of that still requires some knowledge, awareness and vigilance.