Hardware

How to upgrade the processor and memory in Apple's new 4K iMac

According to iFixit's teardown of the new 21.5" iMac, the processor and RAM are both removable, but it's a very complicated process.

The desktop star of Apple's 2017 WWDC event was its 18-core iMac Pro, but the standard iMac line got some love too. In addition to getting a bump to Intel's Kaby Lake processors, the new iMacs got another unique update: removable RAM and processors.

The revelation was made by iFixit, which published the findings in a recent teardown article. The fact that both the processor and memory are removable would point to the machine being upgradable (a regular criticism of Mac machines has been their inability to be upgraded), but there are some serious caveats.

For starters, removing these components requires slicing through adhesive to remove the display from the base. To get to the RAM, someone would first need to remove the power supply, the hard drive, and the fan. In addition, they'd need to move the Logic board out of the way just to get to the RAM, the teardown showed.

SEE: Hell freezes over: You can now upgrade your Mac at home

Still, the SO-DIMM modules are accessible. And, as it turns out, so is the CPU. However, that requires voiding the warranty by removing the heatsink and prying the CPU out. It isn't the most accessible component, iFixit noted, but at least users can get to it if they absolutely need to.

"[I]t's flipped onto the backside of the logic board, trapped behind a lot of other components, and buried under a glued-down pane of glass—but for the first time in years it's possible to replace or upgrade the CPU without a reflow station, and that's a big win," the teardown noted.

imac.jpg
Image: Apple

Historically, many iMac models in the past few years have had a processor that is soldered to the logic board and soldered RAM as well. With the new layout, though, it's not clear whether the removable board was intentional or not.

It could just be that there isn't a permanently attachable version of the Kaby Lake processors now, iFixit said, but the teardown report also noted that Apple could have potentially negotiated for one as well.

So, the new 4K iMac is technically upgradable, but only if you want to jump through some serious hoops and void the warranty in the process.

The full iFixit teardown is available here.

Disclaimer: Upgrading some of these components could void the manufacturer's warranty. Any upgrades are done at the discretion of the user and are performed at your own risk.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Apple's new 4K iMac has a removable processor and removable RAM as well, which means it could be upgradable.
  2. Historically, Apple has used soldered processors and RAM, so the new layout could be a shift in direction for the company.
  3. While it's possible that there isn't a permanently attachable version of the Kaby Lake processor available, it's possible Apple could have negotiated for one, the report said.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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