iMac RAM upgrade or new 2019 iMac?

I have a late 2013 27" iMac. It has 8 GB RAM & 1 TB fusion drive.

I don’t use it for much processor intensive work. I do bulk OCR’ing of scanned documents, a small amount of image editing and no video editing. Most of my other activities are typical: spreadsheet & document production, research and filing using DEVONthink, storage & enjoyment of photos and music. I don’t use it to serve or watch movies. The 2013 iMac works great except too frequent (several times a day for 20-30 secs at a time) freezing of the OS and display of the spinning beach ball. I recently tried a ‘nuke & pave’ but this made only a small difference to the spinning beach ball. When not frozen, iMac does everything I needed it to do and speed isn’t really an issue.

Aside from missing out on enjoying the fabulous retina screen, I am wondering if upgrading the RAM in the 2013 machine would get rid of the spinning beach ball? If so I am thinking of sticking with this old machine and awaiting Apple’s big iMac redesign in 2020/202.

Would I be right in thinking that a RAM upgrade would most likely resolve this? If so any recommendations as to how much RAM (16 or 32 GB) I should buy, and what brand/model etc.


That sounds like a failing drive to me. More RAM won’t straighten that out. Probably worth having it checked out by an Apple Store or AASP before adding any memory.

2013 models are also capped at running 10.9; you aren’t getting any software or security updated at this point, which is something to consider as well.

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Your choices here depend on how much you rely on the machine.

First and foremost is be sure you are on top of your backup strategy.

Next, consider that the machine is 6 years old, in addition to being limited on software updates as Stephen pointed out.

If your backups are good, and you are sure, then you could just ride it out until the machine dies or the newer iMacs are available. In all likelihood (in my opinion), the new iMacs won’t be a quantum leap above the ones available now. Processors are bumping against design limitations now in terms of speed. It’s a long shot, but there might be an ARM-based iMac in the future. I don’t know what that would mean to the average user – probably not much.

Given the information you provided, I would get a new machine. With an SSD, etc. it will be much faster than what you have, and I’ll bet you’ll be happy. If not, you have 14 days to return it (as I’ve heard).

Very many thanks Stephen. When you say …

… Are you referring to the OS? If so, I am currently running 10.14.4. Maybe you meant something else that I don’t understand?

I was talking about OS versions, but from memory without looking it up. SHAME.


The Fusion drive models from 2013 are starting to show their age when it comes to the Hard Drive. This model pairs a traditional (spinning) HD with a SSD in an effort to give you the “best of both worlds”. I agree with ISMH that the HD is starting to die, since you already did a “nuke & pave” with limited success. Replacing the HD should cost less than $300 thru Apple (US estimate) and adding another 16gb of RAM would cost round $200. This would give you a total of 24gb of RAM which from your usage description would be more than enough. So you are at $500 to keep a 6 year old computer up and running.

Consider this option…
2019 27" iMac starts at $1,799 (US) and has a 5K display, 8th gen Intel processor, 8gb of RAM and a 1tb Fusion HD setup and will be OS upgradeable for much longer than your 2013 iMac. Since you are considering a new iMac as an option, I believe this would be your BEST option longterm.

ISMH was half right about your OS… yours shipped with 10.9 originally :rofl:

I vow to never quote OS specs without looking them up first :raised_hand:


I have been looking at the HDD failing suggestion. I did a Apple Hardware diagnostics test. This gave a clean bill of health (see attached).

I also ran the DiskDX utility. This gave more detailed results but seemed to show no disk problems either - again screenshots attached. This eliminates $300 of cost that @MacGuyMI mentioned.

So if additional RAM won’t improve the instances of spinning beach ball, and it isn’t caused by HDD failings, are there any practical diagnostic/solution options other than a new machine?

I am still a little confused about this. Thanks for any help you might be able to give.

There are some experiences (incl. mine) with rehab of older macs in this thread

I’d replace the HD & keep it…but it does look ok acc. to the diagnostics you posted…

I have a late 2013 21" iMac with 8 GB RAM. It has a 1TB spinning HD. I had the same symptoms as you describe, spinning beachballs - painfully slow. I purchased an external Lacie SSD (~256 GB) with thunderbolt. I use that drive as my startup drive and use the internal HD for documents, photos, etc. Made a huge difference. I have since purchased a new MacMini, 6 Cores, 16 RAM, 256 SSD. My wife still uses the iMac and is happy with it.

My suggestion: If you don’t want to buy a new iMac now, purchase an external thunderbolt SSD and install MacOS on this SSD. Use your current fusion HD for storage. I would not install more RAM. 16 GB should be enough for you. When you do buy an iMac, you can use this SSD for additional storage, etc.

If you purchase a new iMac, I would go for 16 GB RAM and an SSD. Do not buy an iMac with a fusion HD. Increasing the RAM and SSD (256) will cost a minimum of $300 additional over the cost of the standard iMac configuration.

Good luck.

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@stuckagain: I have a late-2013 27" iMac, too. The differences are I have 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. My use cases aren’t that much different from yours. I rarely see a beachball.

My suggestion is add another 8GB RAM.

@ismh: I think my iMac will be OS-upgradeable for at least 4 more years.

The all-SSD setup is what’s making the bigger difference. If even if utilities are saying that spinning drive is ok, in my experience, I’d want to swap it.

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I have then 2013 21” and whenever I save the money I’d like to replace my fusion drive with an internal SSD. I’ve realized most my beach ball moments are when my computer is going faster than my hard drive can go

I am currently running a late 2009 21.5" iMac. But I did pay to upgrade the HDD to a 2TB SSD and I maxed out the ram to 16GB back in December of 2018. I also wanted to remove the optical drive and install another SSD but the person who was performing the upgrades discouraged me from sinking even more money into a 2009 iMac.

I say all this just to share with you the fact that I am trying to hold out for new Mac Pro. If that doesn’t come out, I am not sure what my next machine will be.

Also, I recently purchased a 2010 Mac Mini to run as a Plex Server. The 2010 Mac Mini was the last one to have an internal DVD/disc drive.

I don’t think you mentioned anything about monitoring RAM usage. Keep Activity Monitor open to the Memory tab and glance at it next time you beach ball. If it’s chock full, then you’re probably correct in thinking it is a RAM issue. If not, I’d lean towards the hard drive despite the tests you’ve run.

If upgrading the drive, I’d take the opportunity to switch to an SSD. Judging from the ugrades available and OWC, I don’t think that your model iMac supports an M.2 style SSD, so you’ll be limited to 2.5" SATA drives, but those are still a decent upgrade relative to your Fusion drive even at the same capacity. If you can do the surgery yourself a 1TB SSD only costs $140 at OWC (a little more if you need the surgeon’s toolkit to crack the chest of the iMac). If you don’t trust your mad Mac operation skillz courtesy of iFixIt, obviously it would be a bit more (an authorized repair shop may be a little more economical than the Apple store).

With a RAM upgrade you may need to completely swap it out rather than add to it if your current 8 takes up all the ram slots; but since OWC sells 4 stick upgrade kits for late-2013 27" iMacs I’d guess you have two slots free. OWC’s 8 GB upgrade kit is only $40, so it sounds like a pretty easy decision even if you are also replacing the drive. Their 16 GB kit is $80, so even that isn’t bad.

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An Apple Authorized Service Provider would be his ONLY choice should he decide to not replace the HD himself. Because of the warranty that comes with a repair from Apple, they are unable to offer repair services using 3rd party parts. So if he chooses an SSD or a larger HD for this iMac, his local Apple store would not be able to service it.

Something else to consider is that if you install an SSD to replace the spinning HD, the small SSD that connects to the MLB becomes useless, as you can’t create a Fusion drive from 2 SSD units.

My suggestion is to upgrade to a new 27" iMac with 16gb of RAM and choose the SSD option of his choice for the best “bang for the buck” for the long term. I would also point him to the Apple Trade In program for his old iMac. No one wants to sell a computer and have the buyer come back later saying the HD failed.

For those who have upgraded their fusion or spinning hard drives how much did it cost both the drive and the installation if you had a 3rd party do it?

Thanks to everyone for your help. The suggestion to keep the activity monitor open and keep an eye on it was helpful. I found It was almost always at 6Mb RAM (of 8) usage, and that the beachball freezes were caused by peaks in drive writing/reading. This afternoon I placed an order for a new 27" iMac. I went for the base processor, and base RAM (8GB) but all SSD hard drive. I’ll see how that performs, before deciding whether to add extra RAM. Excited to get the retina screen and make greater use of Better Touch shortcuts with the Magic Trackpad too!