I need to replace my iMac but Apple's options aren't suitable

Me three. Currently on a 2019 iMac and it will be replaced eventually…and if mini performance is as good as the iMac I will go that route and get a separate monitor.



Yes, I agree, to wait and see is best. That is unless my iMac decides to crap out on me (I’m just getting lots of beach balls lately and getting nervous about its age). The Mac Mini would be a viable option but the M1 has “unified memory” and maxes out at 16 GB according to current specs. And its not user upgradable. I have upgraded my own RAM on every Mac I’ve owned since the 90’s as I don’t care to be fleeced by Apple’s RAM prices.

I haven’t heard any complaints about the RAM in the M1 Macs. Because the RAM is tied in with the processor, it works far more efficiently.

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A lot of us are comparing the x86 to the ARM and that doesn’t work. Getting an Intel Mac with less than 16Gb of memory is a guaranteed pain. Even people who do nothing but web surfing and emails find their Macs grinding to a halt.

However, people have been amazed with the new M1 Macs even with just seven cores and 8Gb of memory. The Useful Tech Blog reported:

I have the 8GB M1 Mac mini. I have been using it for the past couple of days, and not once did I experience any performance issues or slow down, even when I had more than 20 browser tabs open with 4K videos running in the background, was typing a 5000+ word blog post with over 60 high-resolution images, and was running several systems and third-party apps in the background and a 1080P 144Hz external monitor and speakers connected.

That type of workload would slow down most Intel based Macs with only 16Gb of memory. Yet, this blog reports that they had no problems with the hobbled M1 with 1/2 the memory.

Reports like this are all over the Internet. The minimally configured M1 Mac is still an extraordinarily capable system.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need more power. There’s a reason Apple kept around the i7 and i9 Macs with up to 64Gb of memory and Radeon Pro graphic cards. There are people who need that type of raw power. But unless you’re rendering video or complicated images all day, the low end M1s are pretty capable systems.

And it will be interesting to see the new Macs that will be announced in a few days.

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While waiting seems like your best bet at the moment, I would just like to say I am loving my Mac Mini with a Samsung monitor.

5 posts were split to a new topic: Waiting with bated breath

Look for used/refurb models. Apple presently (1 June 21) has a refurbed 27" iMac Pro (32GB/1TBSSD/5K display) on sale for $3820.00. That should suffice for a couple years (IMHO) until the new iMac M1(2?) situation settles.

Lots of good advice here. An alternative is to get a MacBook Air and external monitor, but budget your purchase with the intention of buying an iMac with an improved Apple Silicon chip later. Then keep the MacBook for mobility or sell it. That is if you need to buy something right now.

At least wait for WWDC to see if Apple is announcing any new hardware. It is the right venue but the hardware might not be ready enough to announce.

Re external monitors. I still have a few 30" monitors (> 15 years old) that used to be connected to a Mac Pro (to a Power Mac before that). I then connected those monitors to a 2011 iMac and a 2012 Mac Mini. In 2017 I had to get a new iMac 27", and it was not possible to connect those wonderful and still working 30" monitors to the iMac, because they had only Thunderbolt connectors, which were not compatible with the 30" monitor DVI connector. The same happened to me with the even older Cinema Displays that had power and signal all in one cable. They were not supported any more by new Macs. I’m not amused with these Apple policies.

SuOakes wrote: “I’m just getting lots of beach balls lately and getting nervous about its age”

This is a common symptom of a failing hard drive, and if your internal drive is a spinny disk, it’s past it’s expected lifetime. The slow down is because the disk has to retry reads and writes, sometimes several times, before it succeeds and it doesn’t report that to the OS–it only reports failures.

Download something like SMART Utility (free full featured demo) that can read the full smart data from the drive. It will show you how many hours the disk has been in use, how many sectors are getting errors, and much more. (The S.M.A.R.T Verified thing that Disk Utility shows is completely useless.)

SMART Utility | Volitans Software

If the drive is failing, get an external SSD with a USB 3.0 enclosure. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy the internal system drive to the external then reboot from the SSD. That should give you a fair bit of leeway to wait for a suitable replacement. It will also keep the older Mac running as a spare, to run older software if you need to, or a platform so you can recover a new Mn mac with Configurator if it ever needs that.

Rarely you need to eject the bad internal drive to completely stop the mac from trying to access it, so if things are still slow even from the SSD, try that to see if helps.

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SMART, if used as documented - which is (I believe) what Apple does, only reports when a drive has already failed. It does not attempt to predict a future failure.

Basically, SMART reports a large set of numeric properties and a set of threshold values. The threshold values are device-specific. A device should be treated as failed if any of the reported properties cross the threshold (either higher or lower - each one reports whether “normal” is high or low).

Software like SMART Utility uses the reported values and attempts to predict future failures based on various values that have not crossed the failure threshold. In order to do this, the publisher collects data from large numbers of working and failed drives in order to determine which are good predictors and what values/trends are more serious than others.

It’s not perfect, but it can be useful if you can replace an likely-failing drive before it actually fails, when you still have a good chance of being able to clone it to a new drive or make new backups.

If the drive is already acting flaky, then I wouldn’t even bother checking SMART status. The flakiness itself is enough of a hint that it’s time to replace it.

That having been said, replacing an internal drive in an iMac is a difficult process. There are a lot of things to look out for. If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself and you don’t want to pay a repair shop to replace it, then your best bet may be to get an external SSD (or possibly two devices - an SSD and a hard drive, if you can’t afford an SSD of sufficient size) and clone your system to it. Then just start working from the external drive(s) instead of the failing internal hard drive.

The only problem with this approach is that the failing internal hard drive might still cause the Finder to hang from time to time, even if you’re not doing anything with it, so you might want to remove (or at least disconnect) it even with external drives. But give the external drives a try first - if the internal drive doesn’t cause problems, then you can ignore it until it does.

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I have successfully extended the life of an iMac (circa 2011) by booting it from an external drive. It was not straightforward and the steps are no longer applicable to newer iMacs but it is worth trying. If it doesn’t work it is easy to revert to booting from the internal drive.

Actually, it shouldn’t be a problem to connect Thunderbolt 3 to DVI. If the cable is NOT permanently attached to the monitor, then a cable like this should work. If the cable is permanently attached so that it is meant to be plugged directly into the computer, then you need to add a gender changer like this.

Note these simply came up high in the list when I searched on the web for ‘Thunderbolt 3 to DVI’ and ‘DVI Gender Changer’. There may be others that are better or cheaper.

I’ve got a 30" Dell monitor attached to a 2017 MacBook Pro. Recent thread:

As @foo wrote, if your display requires dual-link DVI, then you need an active adapter that can generate signals for both links. You can get DisplayPort/miniDP adapters for dual-link DVI, but since they are not passive cables, they tend to cost a bit more and may also require a power supply.

With a single link, DVI is going to top-out at about 1920x1200, which is a much lower resolution than Apple’s 30" display and is probably lower than most 30" displays.

Apple’s ADC connector (which combines DVI, USB and power onto one cable) can be used, but again, it’s not a cheap adapter. In order to connect an ADC monitor to a modern computer, you need an adapter that can supply the display’s power and connect its USB (since the display’s controls are adjustable via software over this connection). Apple once made the adapters, but they may be hard to find today.

If you have 30" displays from other vendors with other ports (e.g. HDMI or DisplayPort), then you can probably connect it with a cheap passive cable because these technologies support the higher resolutions using a single link.

i’m also grimly hanging on a 2014 imac hoping it survives until the mooted release of the 27in+ imac. its screen has all sorts of artefacts (mostly burn-in from gmail). certain things no longer work as expected but that i’ve got 6+years of service from this machine is most excellent (its predecessor failed after only 4years).

got my fingers crossed that @dave6 is correct about the fall. earlier would be better but as long as it’s the fall, okay …

For me the one key differentiator between iMac vs Mac Mini+external monitor was the availability of decent graphics cards for the iMac.

The relationship between the M series processors and graphics cards is still emerging of course, the initial release is a clear replacement for Intel processors + intel graphics. Whether and how more advanced processors work with external graphics cards is yet to be seen.

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I would recommend using an external SSD … but not the common USB 3.0 type (commonly known as SATA connection).
I now use the Crucial P1 1TB 3D NAND NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD with a Simplecom SE503 M.2 NVMe SSD to USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C Enclosure. (It comes with 2 cables, one USB, and the other for Thunderbolt/USB-C connection).
The Thunderbolt 2 slot on your iMac is 20Gbps. The common external USB 3.0 connected SSD is 5Gbps. Basically Thunderbolt 2, using a PCIe SSD, is 3-4 times faster for Read & Write operations compared to an external SSD connected to USB 3.0.
(Both of those are faster than your spinning internal hard drive).
The cost for these two items is about USD$100-$120 total. You can pay more for a similar thing on OWC etc, but you should be able to order these from a PC components supplier.
You have enough RAM. Adding more would not benefit you much on that iMac. However, using an SSD would be a huge benefit.
TIP: Clone your hard drive onto the new disk using Carbon Copy Cloner. Then boot from the SSD connected into the Thunderbolt port.
When (in a year or so) you have purchased a new iMac to replace the 2014 one, the external SSD can be used as a very fast “transporter” disk.
Note: Getting a higher spec’d NVMe is a waste of $$$$ as the throughput of the port can’t handle the higher speed of those SSDs.
As Steve Jobs used to say … “One More Thing….” Your longevity in the tutoring arena may benefit from also becoming an instructor in the Affinity suite of apps (Affinity Photo; Affinity Designer; Affinity Publisher).
The Affinity apps run “buttery smooth” on Intel Macs and the Photos & Designer app run on iPads. The price is unbelievably low … and no subscription required. Check it out on the App Store. (Photos also has been featured in some recent Apple Event Keynotes).


Perhaps someone already said this, but you don’t have to use an Apple display with a Mac. Apple displays look nice but they are too limited for many purposes–not enough inputs or different connections, and some only turn on when triggered via TBolt. There are plenty of great displays out there that will work just fine with any Mac (and be generally more useful). Don’t let the display limit your options!

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My thinking is that, like LaserWriter printers and Airport routers/storage, Apple never wanted to be in the freestanding display business. They only develop unique products, and they only do so do so when they recognize a demand that isn’t being met. That’s why there’s only a super expensive Pro Display XDR display and an an equally super expensive and very unique fancy stand. There are only two high end LGs that are not nearly as high end as the Pro for sale at the Apple Store. High quality, and products and services that work well together are hallmarks of Apple’s brand image.

My husband and I both have Samsung monitors we bought at least a decade ago and we have been very happy with them.