Hell freezes over: Apple’s new 21.5-inch iMac features upgradeable RAM, CPU

“Apple has broken away from the soldered mold by allowing RAM to be upgraded and CPUs to be tinkered with by users in the new iMac range,” Charlie Osborne reports for ZDNet. “In the company’s latest teardown, iFixit discovered the 21.5-inch iMac with 4K display has both removable RAM and a modular CPU.”

“While the upgrade was anticipated and confirmed by Apple earlier in the year, in the words of iFixit, ‘Hell hath — indeed — frozen over’ with the inclusion of components which are possible to upgrade by do-it-yourselfers,” Osborne reports. “It’s not necessarily an easy job to upgrade, but it is now possible. With some time and effort, you could at least double the base 8GB memory of the model without forking out an extra thousand dollars or so for the same performance.”

“iFixit found that the CPU is modular and lifts right off with the heat sink, revealing a standard LGA 1151 CPU socket,” Osborne reports. “While it is not easy to get to — placed on the backside of the logic board and behind many other components, as well as a glued-down pane of glass — it is now possible to change the CPU without a reflow station which requires de-soldering and re-soldering of circuit board components.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: iFixit’s full teardown is here.


    1. It’s sad that the most technically advanced company on earth cannot design Macs that allow users to easily repair or replace memory, CPU, GPU, etc. This would save users money, extend the lives of their machines, and reduce waste. For all of Apple’s self-proclamations of their commitment to green policies and practices, Apple’s failure to allow users easy access to internal components is significant contributor to waste.

      1. That’s the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to reduce the lives of the machines so users buy more of them, and the waste caused is the by-product of the oh-so-loved-capitalism.

        Apple wants and SoC world, for profit-sake. The future will be displays soldered to the board. And your wallet soldered to Apple’s bank account!

        1. If what you say is true, why do Apple products out last their competition in longevity by years? Why is the useful life of an Apple MacBook laptop measured in multiple lifespans of your average PC notebook? Why does an average Mac computer have a resale value at five years three to four times that of any PC computer? It certainly cannot be due to the scrap value of the components and smelt value of the metal in them compared to the scrap value and smelt value of the metal in the PCs.

          No, Consumerist, it is because the Apple products are still going strong and has useful life still for consumers at five years so they command a price that people are willing to pay, while the PCs have value only as scrap.

          So much for your claims.

          1. I used my old iMac for 12 years. Whoop-de-doo. Adios. iMac, too bad you couldn’t be upgraded.

            A machine that lasts for years is only part of the bargain. If the machine is deemed obsolete by Apple because Apple has designed obsolescence it serves no use to the owner.

            Sure, you could buy a Mac II and brag about its lifespan, but you could never use it in a practical sense.

            Too say that that most PCs are shit and Apple products are less shitty is hardly a compliment.

  1. “you could at least double the base 8GB memory of the model without forking out an extra thousand dollars or so for the same performance.”

    Huh? Apple site shows it cost $200 to upgrade from 8 to 16 Gbs on both 4K models.

    1. Why do you say that? According to the teardown guide, the hard drive was reached and “dispensed with” before they were able to get to the RAM, and they note in their conclusion that the 2.5″ SATA drive is fully upgradeable.

      1. After you crack open the case and glued screen. Come on, it takes 11 tools the average person doesn’t own and iFixit scored the repair ability to be 3 of 10. And after you tear into the thing, you have to glue it back together. That is horrible.

        Neither the RAM nor the hard drive are designed for end user upgrades, obviously. Apple expects you to make an appointment at you Apple Store and pay top dollar for repairs. Either up front with AppleCare or otherwise.

        This is definitely a step better than soldered proprietary internals, but Apple is still screwing its users.

        1. A superior design for the iMac would include an easily removable back panel. In the ideal world, the back panel would be completely removable without disconnecting the foot, but that would not be a deal breaker for me.

          In addition, the back panel should be retained using a few simple latches, not a bunch of screws. Anyone who owned a cheesegrater Mac Pro with the removable side panel knows what I mean. The old Mac Pro had the most elegant internal design and the best access panel of any computer that I have ever seen. Everything else pales in comparison.

          1. The G5 iMac used to be a breeze to get into – lay it down, face-first, on a soft towel placed upon a flat surface, and unscrew the whole back cover – complete access to the important parts.

            Apple knows how to do this – but they choose not to, in my estimation.


        2. I’m not disputing it’s terrible. Just that *within the context of this article*, which is that users can (with excess of difficulty) “get at” and replace the RAM and even CPU, the assertion that we “still can’t get at that 5400rpm drive though” isn’t true.

      2. Ugh! They GLUE the screen down? Seriously? My 2007 iMac has elegant industrial design and the screen is held in place with Magnets. It’s a beautiful thing.

        1. The light plastic display *cover* on the aluminum Intel iMac (mid-2007+) is retained using magnets along the edge. all you need is a couple of suction cups to pull it off. But the actual iMac display is attached with about a dozen screws. I know because I have opened my iMac up a few times over the past decade for HDD upgrades. The small port on the bottom that provides access to the RAM is a bit of a pain, but far better than having to crack open the case.

          I believe that Apple uses laminated displays on all of its devices, now, so there is no separate display cover. It may not be practical to retain a laminated display element with magnets. However, if Apple chooses to glue the display on the front, then it should provide easy access to key components from the back.

        2. Yep. And not even all computer techs can handle the glued screen! My HDD died on my 2012 iMac, and we took it to a computer repair place that handles mostly PCs. They were able to replace the HDD, but permanently damaged the screen (a thin vertical red line and a wide solid black bar) in the process.

      1. I care.

        We can all stop pretending Apple is a leader in personal computer hardware design if it takes 3rd party bandaids to achieve the performance and versatility that other companies give you for a lower price.

        This is precisely what hardcore Mac users have been saying for 5 years now. A user friendly machine needs to be repairable and upgradeable without special tools. Apple still doesn’t get it — or worse, they get it but they don’t care.

        Fashion obviously has been the priority. I recall Jony bragging how thin the edge of the iMac is with horror. What an idiot to think that’s what desktop computer users want or need.

        1. I was so *very* glad that there was no Jony Ive video talking about how the process was for designing a new or updated product. Especially recently, after even many long-time Apple fans have decried the balance shifting far too much into “form over function” they’ve come off as rather smarmy and self-congratulatory. I get that it highlights the very many fine details one normally doesn’t notice about a product, but that’s precisely the problem: when you keep dropping important features, your customers really don’t care how you managed to shave off another 2mm in thickness.

  2. Wait a minute, the new iMac tech specs clearly state the memory slots are user accessible:

    • 3.4GHz
    8GB (two 4GB) of 2400MHz DDR4 memory; four SO-DIMM slots, user accessible
    Configurable to 16GB or 32GB
    • 3.5GHz
    8GB (two 4GB) of 2400MHz DDR4 memory; four SO-DIMM slots, user accessible
    Configurable to 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB
    • 3.8GHz
    8GB (two 4GB) of 2400MHz DDR4 memory; four SO-DIMM slots, user accessible
    Configurable to 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB

    So either iFixit went the long way around to access the RAM or Apple has posted inaccurate tech specs or perhaps Apple have a new twisted definition of “user accessible”.

    Which is it?

    1. Those are for the 27″ iMac, but iFixit tore down the 21.5″ iMac, which Apple does NOT claim to have “user accessible” RAM.

      And thank goodness they didn’t claim that, there would’ve been a class action lawsuit for sure for misrepresenting “user accessible” if you had to take apart most of the computer to get at them.

        1. Yeah, it’s upgradable in the VEERRRRRRRRYYY broadest sense. The only folks I see upgrading these are the folks even MORE hardcore than people who build their own PC’s.

    1. The way I understand the situation is to compare it to a spouse who can’t seem to do anything right, and even when he does, it’s too little and too late. You threaten to leave but don’t because then there’d be no one to talk at.

  3. I’m actually OK that it is now POSSIBLE. I can justify bumping up from my current 2010 iMac 27in. The new iMac 27in apparently also has an actual panel on the back to upgrade the RAM…which removes the need to buy 64GB upfront…can wait until the 3rd party prices recede like I did on my 2010 iMac, which is now at 32GB. I’ll have to think about CPU…I think I would just probably BTO w/the Quad-Core i7… Hard Drive is also another question. I will wait to see if iFixit does a tear-down on the SSD version 27in…would like to see how those upgrade options shake out. Worst comes to worst, you can just use a 2.5in SATA SSD. Now if we could just see HD, RMA, and Battery modularity again in the MacBook Pro line…but I’m not holding my breath… My Quad-Core i7 2011 MBP still works great with 1TB SSD upgrade, 16GB RAM, and new battery. I do find that I wish it had Retina resolution and maybe was a (small!) bit thinner and lighter, but that is still not enough to drive upgrading…especially when I have to pick max HD and RAM options upfront with the ridiculous Apple HD and RAM tax.

  4. I think for 21 iMac it’s more designed so that Apple authorized resellers can fix them easier plus aid in recycling (big deal to Apple) and refurbishing (factory refurbished to sell used Macs).

    (with all the flack on user repairable maybe Apple wants to allow more ‘fixit’ type companies? )

    note: I’ve bought CPU’s used from factory refurbishes . I use Xeons and they can cost from $100 – several hundred bucks. You can buy used RAM etc.
    If Apple can strip them cleanly without damage from used Macs maybe there’s money in used components?
    All the news of Apple using robots to recycle stuff as well..

  5. I’ve built many dozens of PC’s over the years. Repaired countless laptops. Replaced a hundred hard drives. Repaired and upgraded many dozens of Macs over the years. This 2012- iMac is by far the most daunting widget I’ve ever faced. One little slip, a little too much pressure and that fancy laminated display is cracked.

    If Apple gave the choice (ha lol to myself as I type it) for the glued display or a quarter inch to half inch thicker unit magnet-attached, making the interior far more easy to get into, I know which one I would choose.

    I know in my sample size of one that Apple hasn’t gotten many thousands out of me the past few years because the hermetically sealed Macs have turned me off. soldiering on with my 2011 iMacs and 2012 MBAs and MBPs.

  6. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that they went with a couple “user upgradable parts” in these new iMacs means we’ll see “easily user upgradable” parts in the Mac Pro due out later this lifetime 😏.

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