Noob investigation: How difficult is it to upgrade the RAM in Apple’s new iMac?

“I am a disorganized person. One of the ways this manifests itself is in my browser tab usage, which has been described by colleagues and loved ones as ‘anxiety attack-inducing,'” Jason Koebler writes for Motherboard. “While I am comfortable having 100 tabs open at any given moment, my computer often isn’t.”

MacDailyNews Take: Cripes, and here we thought we were bad with the tabs!

“My behavior is beyond repair. And so I recently decided to be better to my computers, in the form of buying one that could actually handle the abuse I put it through,” Koebler writes. “Because browser tabs use a lot of RAM, I decided to get one that had a lot of it. I wanted to stick with an Apple computer because I like TextEdit and iMessage… The obvious catch is that I would have to open my brand new, very expensive, very fragile computer and remove almost every single part from it. While the 27″ iMac has a ‘RAM Door’ in the back of it — which means RAM upgrades take 30 seconds — the 21.5″ iMac has RAM located in perhaps the least convenient portion of the computer.”

“For the first time since 2012, the new 21.5″ iMac has upgradeable RAM slots as opposed to soldered-down RAM. To support my tab habit, I decided to buy a (relatively) cheap iMac and soup it up with as much RAM as possible,” Koebler writes. “Apple overcharges for RAM. To an offensive degree… The mid-tier [21.5-inch] iMac can handle 32GB of RAM, Apple just won’t sell it to you that way. And you can buy 32GB of RAM from any number of places online for about $300. This is all a long way of saying that it’s possible to upgrade a new iMac to 32GB of RAM for $300 instead of $600.”

“I’ve done simple iPhone screen replacements and swapped the batteries in old MacBook Pros, but this was an entirely new level of upgrade,” Koebler writes. “The iFixit RAM upgrade guide notes there are 64 steps, says it should take ‘1-3 hours,’ and notes that the repair is ‘potentially dangerous.'”

Read how Jason upgraded his 21.5-inch iMac’s RAM here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yes, Jason, having a ton of RAM most certainly is great!


  1. 64 step? 2 to 3 hours? Who designs these machines? Satan? Rube Goldberg?

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo di Vinci

    “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs (remember him?)

    1. Yeah, I remember him. The guy that had to be convinced that computers shouldn’t be sealed up appliances. 🙂

      In his view, the simplicity would be that everything is soldered and you “simply” don’t ever open it!

  2. Wow, that’s a real pain. I only got a 512GB SSD in my new 27″ 5K iMac and plan on possibly installing a larger one after the warranty is over. There is a good video at Other World Computing that shows it’s a fairly easy process. Of course I ordered the minimum 8GB of RAM.

    1. The upgrade steps on a 21 iMac to upgrade RAM are way longer and potentially more risky than installing an SSD or a second hard drive on a 27 iMac. Although removing the screen is the same process or even longer because its bigger. But you don’t have to deal with too many small wires and connectors or have to remove a lot of small screws. Anyway watch the videos from OWC first

      1. It’s the 27″ iMac with four RAM slots. I’m just stating that it’s much easier to work on that version as opposed to the 21.5″. I remember my old iBook took two RAM sticks but one was soldered in, and that really sucks.

  3. There are only two possible reasons why the smaller iMac is like this:
    1- Apple does not want you to be able to do this and this forces an up sell.
    2- Incompetent staff at Apple don’t give a shit and just put it wherever they want.

    This is one of many reasons I will not be buying an iMac. And I am expecting the iMac Pro to have a second function as either a space heater or a thin line toaster oven.

    1. Wow, DavGreg, that’s a whole lot of negativity.

      I can only imagine your comments at a social gathering: “The wine was not properly chilled to 3 degrees below room temperature, none of the music being played is up to my esoteric standards, and I can’t eat any of the hors d’oeuvres here because they’re not locally-sourced, sustainable, AND organic. Waaaaah!!!”

      They must love you at parties.

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