Adding more RAM after purchase on new 21.5 iMac is practically impossible

“The electronics website iFixit on Friday downgraded the new 21.5-in. iMac’s repair score to 3 out of a possible 10, calling servicing the computer ‘an exercise in disappointment,'” Gregg Keizer reports for Computerworld. “Explaining the iMac’s low score, iFixit cited the copious amounts of ‘incredibly strong’ adhesive that bonds the LCD and front glass panel to the frame. Earlier iMacs fixed the display in place with magnets rather than the hard-to-dislodge glue, which is even harder to replace.”

“Just as damning was an Apple design decision that makes it practically impossible for users to upgrade the iMac’s RAM. The 21.5-in. iMac comes standard with 8GB of memory — and can be upgraded to 16GB — but because the RAM is buried beneath the logic board, owners must ‘take apart most of the iMac just to gain access,’ iFixit said,” Keizer reports. “Apple mentions the impracticality of memory upgrade only in a side note hidden on the iMac’s options page. There, Apple said: ‘Every 21.5-inch iMac comes with 8GB of memory built into the computer. If you think you may need 16GB of memory in the future, it is important to upgrade at the time of purchase, because memory cannot be upgraded later in this model.'”

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Keizer reports, “The not-yet-available 27-in. iMac will continue to sport four external memory slots.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: These are entry-level iMac models. If not maxed out at purchase, how many of these will ever be used in a manner requiring more than 8GB of RAM? How many entry-level 21.5-inch iMac users upgrade the RAM post-purchase (or guess would be it’s a negligible number). The type of user who’d put 16GB RAM into a 21.5-inch iMac would likely be tech savvy enough to know to order it upfront from Apple. It’s unfortunate those users have to pay Apple’s inflated RAM prices, but that’s the price of buying that machine and how Apple keeps the price of these sleek new desktops affordable. Obviously, if you want post-purchase RAM upgradability, get the 27-inch iMac model.


  1. Listen, iFixit: An iMac is an All-in-One, simply not made for upgrades. 8 GB will be fine for regular use. If you need more, buy it when you buy the iMac. If you need an upgradable Mac, get a MacPro like I did.

    1. iMac’s have had user accessible memory slots for ever.

      Only ignorant fan bois would laud this development and make excuses for it. Design for design sake, customer be damned.

      WTF is the point of making it so thin you make the most upgraded components inaccessible? Apple sells ram at 2-3 times the going rate, I am not going to be extorted for a thin housing.

      Being as how I make purchasing decisions for my org, I will see to it these are never in our facilities.

      1. Only a cheapskate would not buy enough RAM in the first place or try to find a cheap source later. Only a few people constantly tinker with their under purchased computers and the vast majority are well served by computers that just work and don’t need constant futzing.

        1. Wrong, Institutions buy iMacs and down the road upgrade the ram and operating systems.

          A school cannot justify buying ram at 3 times market value on hundreds or thousands of macs. Often schools will buy at basic spec and upgrade a year or two into ownership.

          This is not about “tinkering” or “futzing” it is lifecycle & budget management 101.

          Outside of your priveledged world exist many things you do not know or understand, your ignorance of these matters does not negate their existence, relevance or need.

          1. I was an instructor in a large polytechnic school for 13 years and I never once saw them upgrade a single computer. It was only the departments who might find a way to sneak in an upgrade on an individual basis. Upgrading just isn’t done by IT.

            1. So you worked at a facility with an lazy and inept IT department, and how does your assessment of the lack of professional competence answer the original argument? Limiting consumer ability to upgrade RAM, install a new drive, or replace an old video card is ridiculous. Apple pretends to believe that it is environmentally friendly, but has done little to ensure that some of its Macs are nothing less than disposable devices. Failure to allow users to upgrade is also economically unreasonable. Apple charges exhorbitant fees for installing RAM.

            2. So you as an instructor in a single large school never saw IT upgrade your mac’s so it doesn’t happen? Your IT experience = all others because they are all the same right?

              I have worked just about every position within IT in schools, worked for Apple in the edu market and have worked as a consultant to schools. I am currently the IT director for a private school.

              Let me assure you MANY, MANY schools operate as I asserted.

              K-12 edu is perpetually in funding crunches. Budgets change dramatically year to year. It is essential that dollars be maximized. Many years ago I worked for a district with 13 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, three pre-k schools, a high school (4K students there alone) an alternative high school, and two administrative buildings. Nearly 5K macs.

              The District tech budget rotated each year, year one: elementariness, next year: junior high, next year: high school. We would upgrade as many macs as possible each year. The shear numbers of machines was staggering. We could not turn over all of them, Essentially machines were on a six year lifecycle. At year three we would usually upgrade ram to max specs. (at a fraction of the Apple ram price from purchase)

              That is just one instance, it is very common in K12. I know dozens of schools who upgrade their own ram in their Apple kit.

              So yeah, it does happen, it happens at scale and it is not some isolated guy whining.

              I’ve explained my position, now tell us why you are such a compliant mouth piece for Apple? Tell me how they have improved the customer experience with this move? Tell me why it is so important that iMacs be razor thin at the expense of user upgradable ram?

            3. I work at a graphic design firm and I also worked in Apple retail for 8 years and we bought our Macs with base ram and then purchased all the ram upgrades from Crucial because of the inflated price for ram that Apple charged. The cost difference is staggering when you have to upgrade many machines.

            4. Have you ever done ram upgrades in a Mac? The upgrades took no more than 15 minutes to do and none of the machines failed because I purchased a better quality ram than most people. Micron and Crucial were the only 3rd party ram chips I would use and they happen to be the brands we recommended at the Apple store for those that wished to add ram later.

            5. 15 minutes plus user down time of 15 minutes plus time to get to the location in the business gives at least 35 minutes plus ordering time to buy the RAM of 5 minutes gives around $100 for the business alone (not including the cost of the RAM).

              What was the true cost of that ‘cheap’ RAM?

            6. Seriously, what is with the attitude? I worked in sales for Apple.
              RAM upgrades for iMacs – 10 mintues. TOPS. Most savvy customers knew the deal and said they could do it themselves.

              You, my friend are arguing a very weak case.

            7. I don’t have an attitude here. I am asking serious questions to which you did not offer any answers. I have replaced and upgraded memory in several of my Mac computers/laptops and it does take time. No one here has calculated the total cost of installation for a company. I suggest that your time at Apple was very low level and you did not deal with corporate customers.

            8. I dealt with many types of customers, including corporate. Even within the range of “corporate” customers, from design studios to film companies to SMBs. In my experience, each business handles corporate purchases and upgrade paths differently based on their budget and approach. Schools are another animal.

              Just because you worked as an educator for 13 years at a school doesn’t qualify to make blankets statements as calling them “cheapskates”.

              In fact we would make our margins by selling Crucial or Kingston RAM instead of Apple’s because we all knew their price would be inflated from the onset.

              You don’t know what the heck you are talking about.

            9. “How much was your time worth to do the upgrades?”
              Obviously his time must’ve been worth at least $10,000/hour! My time spent replying to your ignorant, out-of-context questions is worth about $0/hour (1 ‘fun’/hour), I’d imagine his was ‘worth’ the same. (Based on the statement he/they did it themselves) The saying ‘Time is money’ is just that, a saying.

              “Did you include the down time too?”
              Of course he didn’t! Or maybe he did. Or maybe he/they waited for an already scheduled downtime (We’re not talking about servers here, but even servers have this fabled ‘downtime’ don’t they?), then did the upgrade. That aside, obviously they waited till all the machines were in heavy use/for the most inopportune time, then tripped the circuit breaker. Yeah! That’s gotta be it!?

              “How many machines developed RAM failures after the upgrade?”
              Probably as many as what you’d have after any Ram upgrade. Close to zero, probably zero though. Ram does get shipped faulty even though it’s tested, BGA chips are like that. However it’s rare and cheap to rectify/test/plan for. So maybe you’re trying to allude towards them installing the RAM improperly, thereby static frying the modules? (Here’s a hint, it’s generally designed to be easy to upgrade/hard to screw up. Also, I doubt there were any significant screw-ups, as Jim would likely not be posting)

              “I guess you missed a lot there huh?”
              I guess you missed some context there huh?
              I guess you have little respect for others intelligence, huh?
              I guess you’re the only one whom knows how to run a business?
              I guess you guessed wrong there, huh?
              I guess your questions aren’t all that serious huh?
              I guess I could go on but, time is money and all that.

            10. So what your saying is your filthy rich and will buy a new imac every year because a small component like your hard drive which can be considered a consumable item cannot be replaced. I say put your money were your mouth is pal because on a teachers wage your going to be looking for a cheaper alternative.

              This move is as much about creating less competition for the Apple Store from 3rd party Apple resellers than it is about smart design. Which smart car manufacturer has welded the rims of the tyre to the car?

              Love to see Samsung make an iMac because the hackintosh boys would have that baby up and running in no time and there would be a good $500 in your pocket on a 21″ and $800 on a 27″ for the base model. Processor would come with a 3 year warranty along with your hard drive and not fork out another $400 plus for extortion insurance. Designed with a J.I. brain it would be thin with a removable hard drive and ram.

            11. The word is you’re and not your. I know that teachers in the public high schools in the US are not paid well but in post secondary institutes in Canada, we are paid well after a few years. I made a bundle on AAPL stock and pay for what I get now.

            12. It is not enhancing your online persona to show that you don’t have a very in-depth education. Try paying attention to the little details like Apple does and you will come across much better.

          2. I understand both points of view on this. I like how I could upgrade my iMac 3 years ago. And i did it with non-apple pricing! But, just for the sake of knowledge, I looked at how much 16GB is at apple. 200 bucks! How much is 16 GB at newegg that is the same speed and DDR? Corsair is 100, some others are 75. Now, don’t get me wrong…i can be a cheapskate sometimes. But, I probably would just go ahead and spend the extra 200 bucks on the 16 GB from apple. Are they 2 times the price of competition…hell yah. But, that 2 times is not all that bad, considering they use to be 4 times more expensive.

            1. That’s fine for a single user spending his or her own money.

              My company would never pay Apple’s prices for RAM upgrades. They buy computers in lots off 100 or so, and do additional RAM installations as part of the normal setup. They buy the RAM in bulk, and the installation only adds a few minutes to the setup time.

            2. Yes and interns, volunteers, students can be quickly given instruction on how to do it. Further reducing cost.

              This is how I have tackled it at schools I’ve managed. It works out great!

            3. Except for $100 you now have new RAM sticks totaling 16 GB AND stock sticks totaling 8 GB. You can sell the 8GB or keep them as backup (good idea for warranty work, that’s one thing Apple will check for).

            4. I wasn’t quite clear–warranty is not voided, but they’ll sometimes make noises about non-Apple-installed RAM and want to put back in the original as part of the warranty troubleshooting steps.

            5. You’re right about removing the non-Apple ram. If you didn’t by quality 3rd-party ram like Micron or Crucial you got an inferior product which did not work well and caused many kernel panics. The genius team would recommend those two brands if you wanted to go the 3rd-party route. Free ram upgrades at places like PC Connection or Mac Warehouse regularly used PNY as the free ram and it failed the memory test most of the time.

        2. Only an idiot who likes being taken advantage of would pay Apple’s high prices for RAM upgrades, if they could avoid it.

          Adding RAM several years later is not “constant futzing.” The iMac I got for my parents in ’07 came with 1 GB RAM. Five years and several OSX updates later 1 GB doesn’t cut it, so it’s getting a RAM boost.

          And don’t say “get them a new iMac”–it serves them quite well the way it is. I only just replaced my ’06 Macbook a few months ago, and it had a RAM upgrade when it was 4 years old. Macs are supposed to run for years with minor maintenance, they aren’t cheap ass throwaway PCs.

          And yes, I got the Macbook Pro, non-Retina, in order to keep the ability to upgrade RAM in a few years.

        3. Cheapskate? Or, perhaps, someone who is smart with their money? And this isn’t about those who “constantly tinker”… they don’t use Macs, anyway. I’ve been a Mac user for a decade and always upgrade the hard drive and the memory; nothing more, no constant tinkering. My brother, who has been a Mac user since the mid-80s, does the same.

        4. A ridiculous viewpoint. Many people who buy new iMacs will find 8GB of RAM entirely adequate at the present time. But already we’ve seen the standard RAM configuration go from 2GB to 4GB to 8GB in just a few years time. Many of today’s buyers will quite logically think about adding more RAM a couple of years down the road, but they will be sh*t out of luck.

        1. Not true. Apple refurbs can be a great value. But refurbs always come with the base RAM configuration. So anyone interested in saving money on a refurb must make do with 8GB RAM for the life of the machine. This makes absolutely no sense.

    2. Mac computers are supposed to last significantly longer than PCs. I upgraded my father-in-law’s 2008 iMac from 2 GB to 4 GB, and then to 6 GB of RAM. I upgraded my own MacBook Pro 15 from 4 GB to 8 GB, and then to 16 GB in the space of 1 year.

      It’s ridiculous to put the burden of guessing how much memory one will need for the unspecified time you will own your computer, on the customer.

      I’d say Apple should only sell computers with max RAM and resist the temptation to extort their customers over it.

    3. Apple is all about ripping people off folks with memory prices.

      8gb of Crucial iMac compatible memory cost $49 with free shipping. Apple will charge you $200 for that same amount of memory.

      Apple knows that all Mac users or potential Mac users are likely Moronic zombies that are so into the prestige of owning an Apple product they don’t mind being ripped off a few hundred dollars or few. (Going slighty off topic here) Hey! Have you notice that iTunes movie rentals are now $4.99? For digital downloads???

      The reason why Apple is so focused on building that cash reserve is because they know it’s just a matter of time before the good times comes crashing down. when that time comes and apple begins to struggle don’t be surprise if apple puts Facebook to shame with privacy issue incidents.

      IMHO apple seems like another Mohamed Morsy in disguise.

      1. Holy crap! Hate much? People tend to listen to rational reasoning more than name calling and angry rants. Get ahold of yourself, it’s just a damn computer. Use whatever the F you want to use and let others do the same. If they want to fork over cash to Apple for an arguably better overall experience, then let them – if you’re happy using a Windows or Linux PC, then do it, but shut the F up about whatever you’re ranting about and let people do what they want.

        Saying all that, it IS really ridiculous that Apple would rather make the iMac so razor thin (deceptively so – it’s still got a giant hunchback) to make it non-upgradable for something so simple as a RAM swap.

      2. Mac users or potential Mac users aren’t, as you describe, moronic zombies. For the most part they are creative individuals that have used or need to use a computer that was geared to this category. Apple is not a coop but a corporation that is here to make money just as all companies are. You should happily use whatever computer you like and stop trolling around for crap to rant about.

    4. Wrong….no reason for Apple to build the device this way. No reason magnets couldn’t hold the screen in place, no reason for the ram and other removable parts to be on the underside of the board opposite of opening for repair. Apple designed it this way and its wrong. They need to redesign the next version properly!

    1. I’m with you on that, Arnie.
      I have upgraded/worked on G3, G4, G5, CoreDuo, Core2Duo, my current I5 iMac, I5 MacBook Pro, and my 2010 Mini.

      First thing I do is max the RAM, clean out all the vents and blow out the innards.

      I’ve also helped repair my sons iPhone 4 (smallest screws I have EVER seen [thats what she said])

      My point is, other than the adhesive crap, this iMac is much easier to access than a Core Duo (for things other than RAM).

      None compare to the ease of the first G5 iMac. Man that was a great design for repair.

  2. That’s fine about the RAM, I get it. What is frustrating me to no end is that no one can give me a good answer regarding the mountability of the 27″ model, not reviews, not Apple. I dig form over function to a degree to if the 27″ cannot be VESA mounted, I guess I will buy the Mac Mini and a 27″ VESA mountable monitor. If anyone knows about the 27″/VESA mounting, chime in!

      1. What’s so silly about it? I did it to two of mine. One is an older model being used as a home automation center, and I didn’t want to set it on a desk in the smaller bedroom. It’s wall mounted over small shelf that holds the keyboard and a USB hub. My other (primary) iMac is VESA mounted over my desk, along with a secondary monitor, in order to keep the desk space clear and make it easier to clean.

        Just because you don’t want to do something, don’t think other people can’t come up with good reasons to want to.

        1. I guess you are right. With two people who want a feature, Apple should get right on it and manufacture something into the iMac that will cost the ‘rest of us’ because two people want something.

          1. That’s 2 people (xil and BSabre) who want this feature, and only one (you) who claim it’s useless.

            From your (flawed) statistical sampling method, 67% of users want this feature.

            1. You don’t represent AAPL nor do you have any more chance of being CEO for them any more than I do. If you did you wouldn’t be posting comments on MDN.

              You aren’t wrong for thinking Apple shouldn’t do a VESA mount. You’re wrong for dismissing the perfectly valid opinions of others on the matter.

              How valid? Valid enough that Apple themselves made VESA adapter kits for the aluminum 24″ and 27″ iMacs all the way up to the 2011 models


      2. Apple had always mad that feature available including selling the VESA adapter in stores and online. It may be a thing of the past but Apple thought it was a good idea.

    1. I am also sad about the lack of a VESA mounting on the new 27″ iMac. The VESA mounting on previous iMacs made it easier for me to use at desk level and use at a standing level with complete adjustment of angles. The clean lines of the new iMac are indeed stunning with the traditional display … and would be stunning on VESA mount, too, if it were possible like the previous generations. On a separate note, there were many design tradeoffs when the new models adapted the ultra thin edges.

    2. I have just screwed a vesa mount directly to the stand in the past, either by drilling holes or using the hole in the middle to facilitate clamping. The bottom of the stand makes a hand shelf or you can just cut off. This does not void warrant and this was passed by Apple business and service in the past.

      My last iMac was drilled and bolted to the desk as I got sick of having it stollen.

  3. Form over function.
    What a bunch of BS.

    I couldn’t give a sh*t about the thin edge of the new iMac as it in no way adds anything to function. Apple needs to get out of the fashion business.

    I’m not anti-design, but there is a difference between form follows function and style for the sake of style.

    1. I couldn’t agree more.

      Other than the designgasm aspect (which I am wholly unimpressed with) there is no consumer benefit whatsoever. If anything, Apple shaved a few points off material costs.

      Pretty clever really, they reduce costs to themselves and then rape buyers on ram and external optical drives. So thin is really just a shiny baubble to distract you while you are being hosed.

    2. Form over function is fine, as long as there is a purchasing option, such as a Mac Mini, Mac Pro, or the long-wished-for intermediate-size tower. One doesn’t HAVE to purchase an iMac.

      1. When your org has been buying, using and upgrading iMacs from the launch of the iMac, the mac min or especially the pro is not an attractive “upgrade” option for obvious reasons.

        When your org has been happily and successfully upgrading their ram just as long as they have been buying macs, yes the recent “changes” provide reason for concern.

        When this change seems arbitrarily forced on you for nothing other than eye candy effect, it provide reason to question the decision making at Apple.

        It isn’t about “having” to purchase an iMac, it is about Apple senselessly taking a product line (people were happy to upgrade) and changing it negatively, thus making it a poor value.

          1. What would you suggest instead? A bulky box with separate monitor? Just so RAM (and only RAM) can be upgraded to extend its lifespan?

            Why the heck do some supposed Apple supporters keep *insisting* on driving long-term Mac users away from Apple?

  4. First Apple cripples the new 21″ iMac with a 2.5″ 5400 RPM laptop drive, cripples it some more by having a discrete GPU with a measly 512GB of VRAM, and then turns around and doesn’t offer user upgradable RAM.

    I suppose their ultimate intention is to shrink their share of the PC market to less than 2%.

  5. The article laments, comparing an iMac to an automobile, that you can’t upgrade the size of the fuel tank.

    Consumers aren’t dumb. People who know they will run audio, video and Boot Camp, etc. know which options & machines they will have to buy if need professional output.

  6. Taking form over function just a step too far? I consider this two steps too far, as I consider user-accessible hard drive and memory a requirement, and not too much to ask, frankly. But that’s just my preference, and a lot of us computer nerds are in the tiny minority on this. It will do just fine for the vast majority of users, including power-users, and complainers like me. I guess it would be less painful if the cost of memory-upgrade and hard drive upgrades from the “factory” were more in line with actual market costs.

    1. This is the reason I opted for Mac Mini instead of the new iMac line. The only thing with the Mac Mini is the onboard GPU. However, it runs Portal 2 perfectly fine and I’m not planning on playing Crysis.

  7. I am fine with non-upgradeable RAM, I am just not fine with the price. We all know that RAM doesn’t cost the 4x factor Apple like to charge, so if Apple must make a computer that is not upgradeable, then charge a reasonable amount for the RAM, simple. This just reinforces the viewpoint that Apple likes to gouge the customer, it will come back to bite them.
    BTW Apple is already starting to see margin compression on the iPhone line-up with more people wanting 4 & 4S instead of 5. This will compress their margins on the iPhone, since the iPhone is the mainstay of their revenues, this is bad for the share price going forward.

  8. The mdn take is such arrogent bs. Can you people honestly tell me you have never upgraded the RAM of an older Mac for yourself or someone else or that a 5400 spin drive is worth a crap in the modern day and age

    Did you dudes get lessons in this type of pr spinning from gobbels?

  9. Apple is truly doomed. They say that nobody buys Mac products anymore because the stores are too packed.

    What’s funny is that despite all the Wintel machines being easily upgradeable, consumers don’t seem to be buying them in the expected numbers. I guess not every consumer cherishes upgradeability.

    1. Of course, you might be overlooking the effect of all those Wintel users who CAN upgrade a hard drive and RAM (or even replace a monitor, logic board, power supply or fan) and who therefore get more mileage out of a computer before they have to replace it.

      In Apple’s thinking, when the AppleCare runs out in one year (or three, if you pay extra), they are counting on you having to buy a whole new computer at the first hiccup. This is what’s called ‘planned obsolescence’, and once upon a time Apple wasn’t felt to follow that philosophy. I find it disappointing. I’ll be curious to see what happens to the new Mac Pro. More glue as well? They won’t make many friends that way.

      1. Gee that’s interesting. I have 6 G5 Power Macs that are still running and have been upgraded. They run fine and are over 7 years old. The argument shouldn’t be Apple vs. Wintel but standard desktop vs. all-in-one.

  10. Personally I don’t care about being able to upgrade things, what I do care about is being able to max things out at purchase for a reasonable price, or having top end options (faster HDD) at purchase.

    You can get RAM for a quarter the price elsewhere, and that doesn’t factor in what you’re paying for the RAM you’re going to discard.

    I don’t mind paying for quality, but for RAM especially Apple just charge more regardless of the quality.

  11. SO buy your 21″ iMac at an independent dealer and bring it back when you want more memory or pay them to max it out and service it at purchase. They’ll give you a deal on the RAM. This reminds me of my first MacMini purchase. That was hell to upgrade the memory, so much that I never tried it again.

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