My first Apple iMac has been running for more than 6 years and is still doing its very best to support my day-to-day works. To be honest, 6 years is a very long time for the life of a computer and my iMac starts to show its deficiency – start up very slowly and unable to handle those resources intensive works like multimedia editing and program development.
I have once considered to let my iMac has an early retirement and get a more powerful 27-inch iMac. However, for a retired person with no income like me, it is extremely difficult to justify the high equipment cost. As such, I have to look for other upgrade alternates for my old iMac.
My desktop is Mid-2011 iMac with 4GB main memory, 1TB hard disk and no high-speed USB 3.0 support. Few years ago, I upgraded my iMac’s memory to 12GB. In addition, I also bought a Kanex Thunderbolt adapter to provide high-speed USB 3.0 and eSATA support. The USB 3.0 adapter is being used by my 5TB external hard disk and the eSATA is currently idle.
Kanex Thunderbolt to eSATA + USB 3.0 Adapter
The objective of my planned upgrade is to shorten the processing time of my iMac in supporting those resources intensive multimedia editing software like iMovie, Photoshop and system infrastructure software like VirtualBox and Docker. My target is to achieve the best overall performance with the lowest upgrade cost. Furthermore, those new hardware equipment bought for the upgrade should also be reusable (whenever possible), in case I luckily get a new iMac in the near future.
One more point to note is that my upgrade solution will not help in those CPU bound processing as the iMac processor has not been upgraded.
今次升級主要是針對iMac處理時間的提升，以應付一些需要較多資源的多媒體編輯軟件如iMovie, Photoshop; 及一些系統基建的軟件如VirtualBox, Docker等。目標是以較低的價錢而改善整體的運行速度。另一方面，即使日後可能會添置新一代的iMac，也希望今次新購買的硬體亦可重用，以減少浪費。
Upgrade Solution 升級方案
With those considerations in mind, I have worked out the following upgrade solution:
- Increase main memory to 24GB – iMac comes with four memory slots. Mine is running with two 2GB and two 4GB memory modules. Despite official specification only accepts highest capacity memory module of 4GB, the actual highest support module size is 8GB. Since iMac 8GB DDR3 SODIMM memory module is still a hot item in the replacement market and comes with a high price tag, I have adopted a more cost-effective configuration by only replacing the two 2GB modules with two 8GB modules.
- Install external SSD and transfer OS X boot disk from the internal hard disk to the SSD – The slow system startup and long multimedia editing time are mainly limited by the physical characteristic of the internal hard disk. SSD will be used to speed up those physical disk read/write operations and improve the disk storage response time. There are a number of approaches:
- Replace the internal hard disk with SSD
- Install SSD using the built-in second internal SATA interface (currently idle)
- Connect external SSD via built-in high-speed interfaces, eg. Thunderbolt
The first two methods require removal of the iMac screen, internal components and cables which are quite complicated and prone to error. As my Kanex Thunderbolt adapter has an idle eSATA interface that supports 6Gbps SATA devices, I will follow the third approach and connect an external SSD via the Thunderbolt/eSATA interface.
- 記憶體增加至24GB – iMac主機提供四條記憶體槽，而我的iMac是由兩條2GB及兩條4GB記憶模組所組成。雖然2011年記憶模組的官方上限是4GB，但實際每條槽均可支援最大8GB的模組。由於現時8GB DDR3 SODIMM在升級市場仍然熱賣，模組價錢頗高，我作了一個更高性價比的選擇，只把兩條2GB模組換成16GB。
- 安裝外置SSD並把OS X系統boot disk搬至SSD – 漫長的系統起動及緩慢的多媒體編輯工作主要是受限於硬碟的物理特性。為了提高儲存裝置的讀寫反應，會用SSD代替硬碟。方法有以下幾種：
前兩種方法需要拆除iMac顯示屏冪、零件及接駁線，步驟頗為煩複，亦容易出錯。由於我的Thunderbolt轉接器有提供eSATA插口，並且支援6Gbps SATA SSD裝置，所以我會選用第三種方法。透過外置eSATA儲存盒來接駁SSD。
Hardware for field upgrade 購置的升級硬件
Currently, all of the external disk enclosures available in Hong Kong only provide USB3.x or Type-C interfaces. As such, I have to get my eSATA external disk enclosure via Amazon US. Ordering was simple and the item was shipped to Hong Kong in 8 days.
Memory installation is straight forward and no preparation is required. On the other hand, transferring the existing system boot disk to the external SSD requires quite a lot of planning works.
My iMac comes with built-in 1TB hard disk and I only have less than 100GB of free storage. Since I have bought a 512GB SSD, I have to move or clean up at least 500GB of data from my existing boot disk.
Notice that basic configuration for some selected iMac or Macbook Pro models only come with 256GB SSD. This implies that 256GB should be sufficient to run the OS X system, other data can be moved to external storage without any issues.
I take the following approach for the storage relocation and housekeeping works:
1. Backup the internal hard disk (OS X boot disk) with Apple Time Machine
2. Relocate those big folders to my 5TB external disk storage, eg.:
- Documents – Personal files, approximately 45GB.
- Movies – iMovie database (imovielibrary*), approximately 140GB.
- Music – iTunes folder, approximately 35GB。
- Pictures – Photos (or iPhotos) database (Photo Library 2.photoslibrary), approximately 180GB. I had switched to Lightroom for photo management years ago and the mentioned Photos databases contained all my old photos.
- VirtualBox VMs – I’m using VirtualBox to setup virtual machines for running Windows and Debian Linux. Those virtual system images occupied approximately 170GB.
3. Housekeep obsolete hard disk data:
- Mails – Obsolete email, approximately 500MB.
- Google Drive / iCloud Drive – Files in Cloud storages but synchronised to local hard disk, approximately 8GB.
- iOS Files – iPhone/iPad’s backup images, iOS installer files, approximately 130GB.
It is hard to imagine that I have got so much “rubbish” residing on my system boot disk!
With patience and great efforts, I managed to reduce the system boot disk size down to around 294GB, ready for copying to the SSD.
4. Run Apple Time Machine again to backup the “housekept” system boot disk again for the subsequent SSD boot disk rebuild.
1. 利用Apple Time Machine先把舊系統硬碟備份
- Documents – 個人檔案，約45GB。
- Movies – iMovies的資料庫 (imovielibrary*)，約140GB。
- Music – iTunes的文件庫，約35GB。
- Pictures – Photos(或iPhotos)的資料庫 (Photo Library 2.photoslibrary)，約180GB.。我早已轉用Lightroom作相片的資料庫，這個Photos的舊資料庫儲存的全是舊相片。
- VirtualBox VMs – 我有利用VirtualBox建立虛擬機器來運作Windows及Debian Linux，系統檔案約170GB。
- Mails – 過時的電郵，約500MB。
- Google Drive / iCloud Drive – 同步在硬碟上的雲端檔䅁，約8GB。
- iOS Files – iPhone/iPad的舊備份檔案、升級用的安裝檔案，約130GB 。
4. 再利用Apple Time Machine為準備好的舊硬碟備份，用作建立升級後的SSD系統。
By the way, it is a good practice to regularly monitor and clean up the system boot disk using the following steps:
About This Mac → Storage → Manage (Macintosh HD)
Hardware Upgrade 硬件升級
It only takes 5 minutes to carry out the main memory replacement/upgrade. You may refer to the procedure available in Apple’s support website.
Installation of external SSD is also a simple task. Just connect the IDsonix external storage enclosure to the Kanex Thunderbolt adapter (eSATA interface is on the right in the following image) using eSATA cable. Power on the external storage enclosure followed by power on of the iMac.
IDsonix eSATA External disk enclosure/SSD installation 外置儲存盒及SSD連接
System Reconfiguration 系統配置
Power on the iMac after memory and SSD installation. Verify the hardware status.
Memory configuration 記憶體配置
External SSD configuration 外置SSD配置
Noticed that the ADATA SSD supports 6Gbps transfer speed (Negotiated Link Speed: 6 Gigabit), higher than the original built-in 1TB hard disk (3Gbps).
Use the following procedure to rebuild the OS X boot disk onto the SSD:
1. Run “Disk Utility” to create a Partition on the SSD. You may use the same partition name “Macintosh HD”. Format must be “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” and Partition Scheme is “GUID Partition Table”.
2. Restart iMac. Press “Command-R” during the restart and the “OS X Recovery Partition” will be started.
3. Click on “Restore from Time Machine Backup”.
4. Select the Time Machine Backup images that previously created in the last step of the preparation. Target disk of restore is the newly installed SSD.
5. After the “Restore’ processing was completed, restart iMac.
Congratulations, all the upgrade works were completed and you are ready to verify the final system configuration.
留意新的ADATA SSD支援6Gbps的傳輸速度(Negotiated Link Speed: 6 Gigabit)，比內置的1TB硬碟(3Gbps)更高速。
1. 利用Disk Utility為SSD下目建立一個Partition。名稱可用回”Macintosh HD”，格式必須是”Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”。Partition Scheme是”GUID Partition Table”。
2. 重新起動iMac及按著”Command-R”，系統會啟動”OS X Recovery Partition”。
3. 選擇”Restore from Time Machine Backup”。
Upgraded iMac System Configuration 升級後的iMac系統配置
From my previously attached screen capture of the ADATA SU800 SSD configuration, you may find that TRIM support is not enabled in the latest Mac OS X High Sierra (TRIM Support: No) for my SSD. This is not the same for the latest Macbook Pro which also runs High Sierra. I believed that since Apple has no way to ensure all the third-party SSD devices have TRIM support, they just leave the option as disabled for all non-Apple SSD devices.
According to product information available in the ADATA official website, SU800 SSD is equipped with TRIM support. I will manually turn on TRIM support with the “trimforce” command after my upgraded iMac has been running successfully for a while.
如果大家有留意先前貼上的ADATA SU800 SSD配置，會發覺TRIM在最新的Mac OS X High Sierra上是沒有被啟動(TRIM Support: No)，這與同樣運行High Sierra的Macbook Pro不同，相信這是因為Apple沒法肯定第三方的SSD是否支援TRIM。
After spending more than a week’s time, working day and night in upgrading this “old dog”, what are the results?
Let’s take a look at the performance benchmark:
iMac Power up until logon screen is displayed 開機至登入畫面 5 min 20 sec From logon until Facebook startup 登入至開啟Fackbook網頁 3 min 2 sec Virtualbox Windows 10 startup until ready for logon 起動VirtualBox內Windows 10虛擬系統至登入 17 min 42 sec iMovie startup 起動iMovie 3 min 5 sec Lightroom startup 起動Lightroom 5 min 6 sec
And the associated upgrade cost:
Upgrade Cost (HKD)
16 GB RAM Upgrade 記憶體 1,160 IDsonix eSATA External Disk Enclosure 外置eSATA儲存盒 216 ADATA SU800 512GB SSD 1,340 Total Cost 總計 2,716
Is this iMac upgrade solution a cost-effective one? I will leave it to the readers to comment.
Copyright © MyNewChapterInLife / MyNewChapterInLife/mynewchapterinlife.blog, 2020
All Rights Reserved.Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to ‘MyNewChapterInLife’ and ‘MyNewChapterInLife/mynewchapterinlife.blog’ with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Categories: Information Technology