Improving Mac Performance by Upgrading RAM


Many people over the last two years have chosen to purchase one of the best computing solutions on the market today: a sleek, sexy, and fun iMac.  These puppies are not cheap by anyone’s standards, but they represent a total computer package that nobody in the market can come close to.  The computer is built into the gorgeous monitor and it comes out of the box ready to work.  For most of the public, that would be just fine and there would never be a need to touch it again for upgrading purposes.  However, there are many of us who use our iMac for more than just checking email and reading Al Gore’s official blog.  We’re gamers (yes, that is possible on a Mac) and poker players who run a wide variety of programs that can bog down our Mac and decrease its impressive performance level.

When running programs that emulate the Windows XP/Vista environment like many Mac poker players do in order to use programs like Hold’em Manager or PokerTracker 3, the dependence of both operating systems on the system’s RAM becomes extremely important.   For example, it can get very tiresome for your system’s resources when you are doing all of the following simultaneously:

  • Final Cut Pro Studio 2
  • DVD Studio Pro
  • Parallels
  • Garage Band
  • Firefox
  • Hold’em Manager in Parallels
  • Screen Capture 3.1
  • iTunes

Although some of the programs listed above do not natively require a lot of system resources, Firefox can get bogged down if you are visiting a data-intensive website such as a super slick Flash site.  What will happen is that you might see the computer slow down (depending on the available CPU processor and RAM), which will become very frustrating in a short amount of time.

The bad news is that there is really no way to upgrade the iMac in terms of hard disk drive or CPU, but the good news is that you can double the amount of RAM in the computer and see a nice performance boost – especially for poker players who run Parallels or a similar program.

The first thing you should know is that if you order from the Apple Store, expect to get gouged on price.  Upon purchasing the iMac, you’ll be asked to make this simple upgrade.  Back when most of us purchased our iMac, the process involved us going from 2GB to 4GB, which is definitely a nice upgrade to get.  The problem is that the smiling people at the Apple Store will use whatever scare tactics they can to avoid having you purchase the RAM elsewhere.  A year ago, they wanted approximately $250 for the single 2GB memory stick and currently in the Apple Store the memory chip is $150, which seems somewhat reasonable.  If you mention you might get the RAM on the internet or your local electronics superstore, an Apple clerk might say things like, “Your iMac might DIE if you don’t use our approved RAM!” or “You’ll VOID your Mobile ME platinum standing if you upgrade it yourself!”  In fact, you aren’t voiding your warranty and plenty of people out there have used RAM outside of the ones sold in the Apple Store with great results.

The good news is that some of the top memory manufacturers in the world make iMac compliant RAM with a full warranty.  The better news is that you don’t need a technician to upgrade it yourself, either.  Doing a little price comparison shopping on the internet revealed that a single 2GB memory stick from a major memory manufacturer with a lifetime warranty cost a shocking $36.99!  That’s a far cry from the $150 our friends from Northern California wanted us to spend!

Now that you’ve purchased RAM for a much cheaper price than what Apple wants you to pay, it’s time to install it onto your iMac.  We’ve taken some jabs at our favorite company, but there’s no denying that upgrading your RAM is an extremely easy process.  First, make sure you turn off your iMac (unplug all of the cables) and follow these easy instructions:

  1. At the base of the screen of your iMac is a little panel held on by two tiny screws.  Using a Phillips screwdriver, remove the RAM access door.
  2. Remove the DIMM ejector clips/tabs by pulling on them out and towards you.
  3. Pop in your new RAM chip.  Make sure it’s in there nice and snug!
  4. Re-attach the memory access door.
  5. The end.

It’s that easy.  Just boot up your iMac and you’ve just doubled the amount of memory in your computer for less than $40, a very small investment for a huge gain in performance.


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