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Here's a quick and affordable way to upgrade your iMac's RAM


Apple has made it easy to upgrade RAM on the 27-inch iMac.

Patrick Holland / CNET

When purchasing a new iMac from Apple, upgrading the RAM can be costly. For example, upgrading a new iMac from 8GB of RAM to 32GB will cost you an additional $ 600 through the Apple website. But you have a much more wallet-friendly way to add RAM to an iMac: Do it yourself. Third-party sites like Other World Computing, aka OWC and Crucial, sell the same amount of RAM for about $ 1

50. That's a saving of $ 450. All you have to do is install it, which Apple has made relatively easy.

Even if you do not buy a new iMac, upgrading RAM on your old computer is a fast and affordable way to give your computer more multitasking juice to handle all these open tabs in your Chrome browser.

Watch a step-by-step video below of the entire process from finding out which iMac model you have to installing the actual RAM modules.

27-inch iMac vs. 21.5-inch iMac RAM Access

The iMacs come in two sizes – 27-inch and 21.5-inch models. Since the end of 2012, 27-inch models have a door behind the rack that gives you easy access so you can add more RAM. If you have a 27-inch 27-inch or 21.5-inch iMac before 2011, there is an access panel in the computer's bottom grille.

Unfortunately, if you have a 21.5-inch model manufactured after 2011 or an iMac Pro ($ 4,999 at Amazon) there is no way to easily access RAM. Instead, you have to take most of the iMac apart to add more.

Identify your iMac model and maximum amount of RAM

Before you can install new RAM, you must determine what type of iMac you have. Look for either the year the computer came out or the model number. To do this:

1. Go to the Apple menu .

2nd Select About this Mac .

3rd Find the year your iMac was released. For example, mine is: iMac (27-inch, late 2013).

4th Also, look at the memory bar to see how much RAM your computer already has.

5th Depending on which version of MacOS your computer is running, there may be a Memory tab that you can click to see how much RAM you have and how many slots it has.

To find the model number, go back to the main file About this Mac and click the System Report button. A hardware overview screen appears. Go to the line that has the model identifier. In this case, my iMac14.2.

To find out the maximum RAM that your iMac can handle, check out this Apple Support page. Most iMacs in the last eight years can handle 32 GB of RAM, and some can go as high as 128 GB. A new iMac Pro can be topped at 512 GB.

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Where to buy iMac RAM and how much

Now that you are armed with more knowledge of your computer, you need to find a place to buy RAM. There are many suppliers, but I highly recommend OWC and Crucial. RAM prices are competitive between the two sites but may vary. Also for this article Crucial gave us the RAM.

Both sites can help you find the right RAM type for your machine. Probably the biggest choice you have to make is how much to add. For example, my iMac 2013 came with 8 GB RAM (two sticks with 4 GB). The computer has four locations, with two of them filled. I could only buy two 8 GB modules (16 GB total) and add them to the two empty slots. It would give my iMac from 8 GB of RAM to a total of 24 GB.

Instead, I chose to remove the two pins with 4 GB of RAM that came with my iMac and inserted four pins with 8 GB of RAM for a total of 32 GB, the maximum support for my iMac. But the choice really depends on how old your computer is and how you use it. One advantage of upgrading RAM on an older iMac is that it is relatively affordable. Adding 16 GB of RAM costs you about $ 80.

I recommend installing RAM in pairs. For example, add two modules with 8 GB of RAM instead of a single module with 16 GB of RAM. It is not so much about cost savings as it is a performance consideration. Intel supports dual-channel architecture, which is optimized for memory in pairs. That said, it's not clear how much of a performance your computer would take if you only installed a single RAM.

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Patrick Holland / CNET

Installing RAM in a 27-inch iMac

Once you have your RAM ready to install, turn off your iMac and allow time to cool down.

first Disconnect the power cord and any other cables connected to your iMac.

2nd Place a soft, clean towel on a flat surface to prevent scratches on the screen.

3rd Hold the sides and slowly place the computer face down on the towel.

4th Locate the small gray button in the power port and press it to open the memory compartment cover. I used a spudger tool to get some more buys.

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Patrick Holland / CNET

5th The button raises the door. So hold it down until you can remove the cover completely. When you are off, set the door to the side. The inside of the door has a diagram showing how the RAM popup mechanism works and how the RAM modules fit.

6th Locate the two levers on the right and left sides and push them out to release the memory cage.

7th Pull the memory cage levers toward you to lift the cage for easier access.

8th If you remove the existing RAM from your iMac, pull the module straight up and out. Note the location of the notch on the RAM bottom so that you can orient the new RAM correctly. Depending on which iMac you have, the RAM slot may need to be left or right oriented. I'm installing RAM on a 27-inch iMac at the end of 2013, so for me the notch must be on the right side.

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RAM modules have a notch on the bottom. Depending on your iMac model, the notch comes in either right or left.

Patrick Holland / CNET

ninth Install the new RAM card by orienting the notch correctly, insert it into the slot and press firmly until you feel and hear it click into the slot. If you only install two new RAMs, place them at a distance from each other. For example, use the first and third slots or the second and fourth slots.

10th When all your RAM is installed, reset the door, set your iMac upright and reconnect it.

eleventh Turn on your Mac and go to the Apple menu .

12th Select About this Mac .

thirteenth Look at the memory line or memory tab to make sure your new RAM is showing up.

Troubleshooting Toner and RAM That Does Not Show Up

Depending on how old your iMac is, you may hear a tone after you restart it. After installing RAM, the iMacs can, from 2017, leave a warning sound when you first start them. If you hear a tone that is repeated every five seconds, it means no RAM is installed. If this is the case, check the installed RAM and make sure it is properly seated in the compartment.

If you hear three consecutive tones and repeat at a 5-second interval, this means that the RAM you installed did not pass a data integrity check. If this happens, double-check that the memory you installed is actually compatible with your iMac model and try to replace the memory. If your Mac continues to sound, it's time for a Genius Bar meeting.

For more information about Mac, check out our review of MacOS Catalina and all games you can play on Apple Arcade .

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