Would REALLY appreciate feedback

Current Situation

  • MacBook Pro (13 inch, Mid 2012)
  • Processor: 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5
  • Memory: 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • Startup Disk: External 512GB SSD

410GB - Photos App
34GB - OS & everything else

Memory runs between between 80-90%, but can go up to 98% and freeze everything when importing large home videos into Photos

For boring/personal/financial reasons I am looking to buy an iMac to last as MANY YEARS as possible…see below

Proposed Situation

  • 21.5‑inch iMac with Retina 4K display
  • 3.6GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor
  • 8GB DDR4 memory
  • Radeon Pro 555X with 2GB of GDDR5 memory
  • 256GB SSD storage
  • Magic Trackpad 2

OS / Apps - Internal 256GB SSD
Photos/Files - External 512GB SSD, to be upgraded to 1TB when needed


Work - Photos - Importing and maintaining family photo and video collection
Work - Safari / Blogging
Play - Plex Server (media collection kept on a wireless hard drive/NAS)
Play - I would like to keep lots of my regularly used apps open…but this is out of luxury not necessity!


  • To maximise the life of this proposed machine should I a) spend £180 to upgrade to 16GB memory, b) spend £180 to upgrade to 512GB Internal SSD or c) do neither and put the £180 in the savings pot for a future external SSD drive purchase?
  • Any other queries from you guys or points to consider?

IMHO 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD are both too small, and as far as I can tell neither are user-upgradeable. However, since you are evidently counting on a large external drive for most of your storage, I would upgrade the RAM with your £180.

1 Like

If it’s either/or, I would upgrade the RAM to 16GB.


This is the inflection point where you might look at an inexpensive Apple-refurb 27" iMac (with full as-new warranty), if only to be able to add your own RAM. The cheapest one currently availablecosts $1600 and has 8Gb RAM in it, with the ability to add more (for much cheaper than Apple charges); I bought this 32Gb RAM, now down to $155, giving me 40Gb RAM in my 27" iMac. Comes with a 1Tb Fusion drive, but these days you can attach an external USB 3.1 Samsung SSD for $168 (or a 2Tb drive for $299)

Thanks guys…just to clarify…I am looking for recommendations to maximise the years I have the machine…so are we saying more memory is more important than doubling the internal SSD to improve future-proofing?

What will help the machine run more smoothly in 5 years time…the extra RAM or the free SSD space? FYI, I can’t see me ever using more than 50-100GB of the Internal SSD all of the time I keep my Photos externally.

Three follow-up questions…

  1. Is there a benefit specifically to the shelf-life of the iMac to have 300-400GB of free space on the Internal SSD rather than 100-200GB free?

  2. Are there any negatives that come with keeping photos and files on an external SSD on a brand new iMac, my experience of using an external SSD as a startup disk for an older MacBook has been 100% positive.

  3. Is the 27 inch the only iMac you can add your own RAM?

Yes, the 27" is the only iMac model in which you can add your own RAM.

RAM is more important to me than storage because USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt are so fast that external storage is a doddle.


Looks like Other World Computing may have upgrades available for your MacBookPro.

16gb ram for $76. Up to 2 tb storage.


Maybe, if you get closer to the 100gb. The extra churning within the free space could possibly contribute to the demise of the ssd. The conventional wisdom is to have at least 200gb available, I believe.


As @bowline sez, yes.

Get the best CPU nd the most RAM you can buy. SSD is always possible to use external.
CPU and RAM give your mac longer life.

21.5" iMac comes standard with a 2.5" 1tb spinning HD that runs at 5400rpm.

27" iMac comes standard with a 3.5" 1tb spinning HD that runs at 7200rpm.

Either model would benefit greatly by upgrading to an SSD. 16gb of RAM would be money well spent upfront on the 21.5" iMac, since it is not easily upgradeable by the average consumer. The 27" iMac will still allow the average consumer to upgrade at a later time. It will also let you install up to 4 sticks of memory compared to 2 sticks in the smaller iMac.

Open storage space on any HD or SSD should be 10-20% for best performance. More is better but external storage can solve those headaches.

I cannot recommend the “Refurbished and Clearance” section on the Apple website enough. Most folks can upgrade to a much better computer for the cost of the base model. You still get a full 1 year warranty PLUS the ability to add AppleCare+ coverage. I write this as someone who has purchased many R&C items in the past and has yet to be disappointed.

I agree with checking the refurb store to see if you can find a 27" with upgradeable RAM. I believe the iMac can take up to like 32 GB of RAM, and you can buy via OWC or a similar vendor in the future.

The HD is replaceable in those iMacs as well IIRC, but it’s a more complicated procedure that involves removing the front panel, which sucks.

Pretty much the only thing you can’t upgrade in the future (practically speaking) is the CPU. So look for a 27" with (in order of priority) the CPU you want, the HD you want, and the RAM you want.

There is a 64Gb maximum for RAM in 2017 iMacs and double that in 2019 iMacs. I added 32Gb RAM to my 2017 iMac’s existing 8Gb, for a total of 40Gb.

I have to say that I did something similar to my '09 iMac! I maxed out the ram to 16 GB and added an internal 2TB SSD. But if it is either or, I’d go with upgrading the ram because storage can always be external and it is getting cheaper by the day.

In my case, I also wanted to remove the optical DVD drive and replace it with an SSD just for storage. But the person helping me with all the upgrades said, “are you sure you want to dump all this money into a machine from 2009?” I finally said, “No” and stuck with the upgrades mentioned above.

This is all true (and as other people have noted the fuller the hard drive the worse the SSD performance), however having insufficient memory will also impact the lifetime of the hard drive. Whenever the computer runs out of RAM it’ll have to swap, temporarily copying some of the contents of its memory to the SSD to free up memory for other purposes. If this gets bad and you end up “trashing” Performance not only goes out the window but all those SSD writes will add up to a shorter drive lifespan.

Ok guys…I’m not great on processor knowledge…

Your opinions on:

How does this compare…


Or is this the bargain of the three?

Thanks for all your support/advice guys…I found this product on the refurb store and have done the deal!

In the end I just didn’t want to go for the fusion drive so…

I still intend to have storage externally as well so I’m fairly sure this should run like a dream for a fair few years…

For what it’s worth, this looks like a solid choice given your requirements and objectives. I hope you enjoy your new Mac. :grinning:

I suggest maximizing RAM, external disks are getting cheaper by the minute and faster so focus on what you can’t add later. I’m still running successfully on my 2013 iMac but it is showing its age now. When I upgrade, probably next year, it will be to maximum RAM I can get and largest hard drive I can afford.

Your solution looks like a good one for you though.

the processor and RAM, but mainly processor are by FAR the most important factors in longevity of a machine. SSD is absolutely no consequence. I’m running my 2012 iMac from an external SSD with no issues, and have been for 3 years now.

go for Processor 1st,
RAM 2nd
SSd / storage last!