How I kept my iMac running for a decade

Yesterday I wrote about the huge conceptual difference between Mac and iPad and mentioned that I still use an iMac 2010. Today, I thought it would explain how I managed to keep it for so long.

Spoiler: It was pretty easy, although from time to time it required a simple surgery at home. The only sad part is that the current line of iMacs surely will not last as long, at least not without professional attention.

This is how I kept my Mac running for a decade.

The George Clooney of Macs [19659005] My iMac is a Core i3 model of 2010. It comes with a DVD / CD drive, a hard drive (1TB, unless I later added the 1TB drive and I do not remember), plus 4GB of RAM. Today it runs the High Sierra macOS, and is incompatible with Mojave and the next Catalina.

But apart from this operating system limit, which is much less paralyzing on the Mac than on iOS, my computer still works fine. You can run Apple's Logic Pro X music software without any problem (though not with 1,000 audio tracks, as the next Mac Pro can do). And it still feels as fast as the day I bought it. Or, in fact, it feels more agile, thanks to the modifications that I have made over the years.

My iMac is updated and repaired

Technically, I've owned this iMac for nine years, so I'm finishing it. And I see no reason for my Mac not to continue working for a while. But things go wrong for a decade of life. Hard drives (and even SSDs) die, RAM deteriorates and CD / DVDs become obsolete. Therefore, here is a list of maintenance and updates that I have done over the years.

  Things can get a little dusty over the years. Use a brush, not hazardous to the environment, and disposable and hard air cans.
Things can get a little dusty over the years. Use a brush, not hazardous to the environment, and disposable and hard air cans.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel / Cult of Mac

The first thing I did was add more RAM. In those days, Apple's RAM prices were outrageous. I bought an extra 8GB (two x 4GB) of Crucial. At that time, that cost me 246 euros, or $ 275. Upgrading to 16 GB would have meant eliminating the RAM modules from the factory and exchanging them in another pair of 2x4GB. I omitted it and stayed in 12 GB.

Over the years, one of those new modules has deteriorated, so I've been running with 8 GB for a long time. Yesterday, I introduced a new 4GB module (again from Crucial). The price was only 25 euros ($ 28).


The next update came a couple of years later. My original hard drive is still inside, untouched. But around 2012/2013, I decided that I wanted an SSD and that I no longer needed a CD / DVD drive. I bought a kit that included a 256GB SSD, plus an adapter to fit in a full-size drive bay. It also included a USB casing for the old DVD drive, so it could continue to be used in emergencies. You have to remove the iMac screen to do this, but apart from getting very nervous, the operation was easy.

Adding an SSD was the best thing I did for that Mac. It felt like a new computer. Last year, that SSD went wrong, so I had to replace it (500 GB this time). Do not worry, one of the best things about a Mac is how easy it is to maintain a local backup.

During all this time, the original 1TB unit was installed inside as a spare storage location. For a long time, I used it to maintain my Photos and Lightroom libraries. Now I do not use Lightroom. And the new SSD, bigger, allows me to keep the photos in the boot drive, which is much faster.

Future updates

In the future, it is possible to change the internal hard drive to another SSD, because the old hard drive is both slow and noisy However, I do, I will not combine them in a Fusion Drive. Fusion is an Apple trick to combine an SSD and a hard drive into a logical volume. That is, it looks and behaves like a single disc. Smart software keeps the files that are accessed frequently in the fast SSD, and the hard drive is used for cold storage.

That's great, but if one unit breaks down, both units fall. Using separate drives means that you can reinstall macOS, for example, without having to restore terabytes of data.

A few years ago, a washing machine technician told my mother that she should hold on to her old washing machine for as long as possible. He said that it was one of the last ones that could be repaired completely and easily. The newer models, he said, were computerized or had sealed control units and other parts that could not be repaired, had to be completely exchanged, or for which there were no replacements available. That sounds the same as the difference between my old iMac and current models.

The disadvantages of an old Mac

There are some things that I'm missing due to the use of such an old Mac. Because I do not use Bluetooth LE, I can not AirDrop to iOS devices. Nor can I use other Continuity functions such as Handoff or Universal Clipboard. Of these, getting lost in AirDrop is the most annoying thing. I really miss that feature to move large, fast files between Mac and iPad. But it's definitely not worth it to throw away a perfectly good computer (and spend about $ 1,000 or more) just to get AirDrop. The iSight camera on my old computer is also horrible, but I never need it anyway.

Also, this iMac only has USB 2.0. For audio, that's more than enough, and for external storage you have FireWire 800, which is also fast enough. So the I / O is acceptable.

In total, my iMac is more than useful. It's fast enough, the big screen is far enough away that I do not need Retina and, best of all, I can continue updating or replacing parts until something crucial is killed.

But since it's made for almost 10 years, and all it does is sit at a desk, I really do not see what could go wrong. Will it do so through another decade? Perhaps! I guess I'll report in another 10 years or so. And if you want to try something similar, buy a Mac mini. It is the last of the Mac that can be repaired by the user.

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