Looking at the iMac configuration page, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that RAM is an expensive upgrade, best handled only at the factory, at the time of purchase.
That’s just want Apple wants you to think.
Installing your own RAM is one of the easiest, most cost effective upgrades you can perform on your iMac. It’s also the only hardware upgrade you can do on your iMac without special tools.
Installing RAM beyond the criminally-low 8GB that Apple provides standard on new iMacs will net you an immediate performance upgrade. Applications will launch faster, you’ll be able to find things quicker, in general, your computing will just be better.
It’s ironic that the company that championed “It just works” as a motto keeps the one bit of hardware that could easily make this a reality behind a prohibitive paywall.
Thankfully, there are some old friends out there that feel differently.
OWC (ne Other World Computing, ne Mac Sales) is one of the first companies to offer aftermarket RAM upgrades for the new 2019 iMac. It’s not surprising, since upgrades are one of the things they do best.
It was their efforts that gave my 2011 iMac a new lease on life and kept it powering through until Apple stopped supporting the hardware. For my old iMac, I let them take care of the upgrades, since it required getting into the case and installing SSDs as well.
But for the 2019 iMac? All I need is RAM since I’ve got the SSD squared away already.
Only 250% More
The 27-inch iMac ships with just 8GB of RAM installed, which shouldn’t be allowed in 2019. I consider the minimum acceptable amount of RAM to be 16GB.
But then I’m not interested in the “minimum acceptable amount.”
Between image editing (and the occasional game of Civ IV), I want 64GB of RAM to keep things from slowing to a crawl. The only problem is that, in order to do that, I’ve got to drop an extra $1,000 to get the memory installed at the factory.
Luckily, OWC has a kit to upgrade the 2019 27-inch iMac to 64GB for just $424.99. That’s roughly 250% less than Apple’s factory upgrade.
I dropped them a line and they sent a kit my way so that I could show how easy it is to take advantage of the savings.
The Last Unicorn
First off – don’t install your OWC RAM without first booting up your new iMac to make sure it’s fully operational.
With that out of the way, gently place the iMac face-down on a soft surface. I used the protective sleeve and the front of the retail box.
RAM remains the one last thing that users can easily upgrade on their iMacs and the implementation is so slick, you’ll be mad that they haven’t engineered more aftermarket possibilities.
In the power cord socket, there’s a oval button. Using something hard, but non-metallic, press it until you see the RAM door start to pop open. Then get under the edge of the panel and pry it off.
Press the arms of the RAM sockets inwards to unhook them and they’ll all slide upwards, ready for you to install the new RAM.
You can leave the factory RAM installed. In fact, unless you’ve sprung for the 128GB RAM upgrade and need all four slots, I’d recommend it. My new iMac wouldn’t boot without the factory RAM also being installed (I talked to OWC and they weren’t able to replicate the issue, so it could just be something wrong with my machine). At the end of the day, 8GB more RAM is always helpful.
If you do decide to remove the factory RAM, take note of where they’re installed and install your new RAM in the same sockets. Otherwise, slot the new RAM in-between the installed sticks. Use a bit of pressure to make sure the new RAM is seated in the socket properly. You might have to use a little more force than you’d expect.
Then click the bay back into place, press the panel down, and boot your iMac! You should see your new RAM accounted for in the About This Mac window. If not, pop everything open again and make sure your new sticks are actually seated properly in the sockets.
Why Stop At 64?
Especially if you kept the factory RAM in place, you’ll notice that your iMac has no problem registering and using more than the arbitrary maximum amount of RAM Apple’s said the iMac can use.
So what if you really, really want to spend $1,000 on RAM? If you have your heart set on the fastest possible iMac (that isn’t an iMac Pro) and you’re willing to spend the money, then by all means spend it.
Just don’t spend it on Apple upgrades.
As I mentioned above OWC has a 128GB RAM kit available for just under $988 before tax and shipping. That’s double the amount RAM you can get from Apple for $12 less.
If you do go with the maximum amount of RAM you can fit into your new iMac, OWC even has a buyback program where they’ll take those factory sticks off your hands. I’ll talk about that more in a future installment.
With your RAM installed and your new SSD plugged in, you could stop right here and have a fully functioning, super speedy iMac for around $1,000 less than if you’d purchased all your upgrades through Apple.
But there’s even more we can do. I’ll be back soon to talk about how to make your new iMac even more efficient, some fun accessories, and how to get rid of your old machine to offset costs even more.
Did you miss Part 1? Click here to check it out!
Thanks to OWC for supplying RAM and technical advice for this article. Opinions are my own.