2017 21.5-inch 4K iMac memory upgrade kit includes 32GB of RAM, tools to take it apart

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in Current Mac Hardware
Repair advice and spare parts supplier iFixit is capitalizing on the discovery that the memory and processor inside the new 21.5-inch 4K iMac can be removed and replaced, by creating a RAM upgrade kit that can allow users to open up their iMac and boost the memory up to the maximum capacity.

RAM from the 2017 21.5-inch iMac, via iFixit
RAM from the 2017 21.5-inch iMac, via iFixit


In the teardown of the 2017 21.5-inch 4K iMac on Thursday, iFixit found Apple had used SO-DIMM slots for the RAM, instead of soldering the memory modules onto the logic board. This decision to make the memory removable may have been to allow Apple to install the user's requested RAM capacity at the point of sale, or to make replacing the memory easier if the iMac is sent in for repair.

The Max RAM Upgrade Kit from iFixit includes a pair of 16GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM SO-DIMM modules that are compatible with the new iMac desktops, bringing the memory up to 32GB. Apple currently sells the cheaper 4K iMac with options for 8GB or 16GB of RAM, while the more expensive model goes up to 32GB, leaving a third-party upgrade kit as the only way to bring the lower-specification version up to the higher capacity.

As noted in the teardown, despite being held in memory slots, the RAM itself is not meant to be a user-upgradeable part, due to the need to remove the back cover and other components to access the hardware in the first place.




In the kit, iFixit has included the tools required to gain access to the memory, following the repair instructions the firm also provides online. Aside from the memory, the kit includes a an iMac Opening Wheel, an iMac Service Wedge, plastic cards, a spudger, tweezers, four screwdriver bits, and a driver handle, as well as extra display adhesive strips to replace glue strips damaged as part of the procedure.

The iFixit iMac Intel 21.5-inch Mid 2017 Max RAM Upgrade Kit is available for purchase at $299.95, but the online store advises customers may experience a two to three day shipping delay. By comparison, it costs $200 to upgrade from 8GB to 16GB of RAM on all 4K iMac models, and $600 to move from 8GB to 32GB on the higher-priced variant.

The 2017 27-inch 5K iMac does not require a collection of tools or lengthy instructions to follow, as Apple includes a small hatch that users can open for accessing the memory directly.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,982member
    Does opening a brand new iMac affect Apple's warranty? What happens when/if the DIYer messes something up while adding the memory? Do they expect Apple to cover the repair under warranty?

    62 steps before you get to the RAM, including removing antenna cables, which I've found to be the most difficult part to reconnect on iPhones. Push a bit wrong and you've bent the connect and you're SOOL. Once you've gone this far, you might as well break out your pneumatic grinder and cut out your own access door for future changes. It's unfortunate the HDD is attached from the screen side so cutting another access panel won't work. (last two sentences sarcasm)

    It appears iFixit is using Hynix RAM. 
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 2 of 33
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Apple should allow to open a door on back to upgrade RAM and SSD. That is customer care.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 3 of 33
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    appex said:
    Apple should allow to open a door on back to upgrade RAM and SSD. That is customer care.
    They don't want you doing that. They'd rather have you pay Apple prices and upgrade at time of purchase.
    tallest skil
  • Reply 4 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,982member
    appex said:
    Apple should allow to open a door on back to upgrade RAM and SSD. That is customer care.
    I agree about the RAM but I'm not sure the SSD for a Fusion drive is even available from third-parties. Apple uses a blade SSD, not the typical 2.5" enclosed SSD like OWC sells and I believe the location for that SSD is not in an easy place to get to.
  • Reply 5 of 33
    stevehsteveh Posts: 480member
    appex said:
    Apple should allow to open a door on back to upgrade RAM and SSD. That is customer care.
    They don't want you doing that. They'd rather have you pay Apple prices and upgrade at time of purchase.
    They're also not enthused about the costs related to  users mucking about inside the machine, screwing up things in new and amazing ways.
  • Reply 6 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,484administrator
    rob53 said:
    Does opening a brand new iMac affect Apple's warranty? What happens when/if the DIYer messes something up while adding the memory? Do they expect Apple to cover the repair under warranty?

    62 steps before you get to the RAM, including removing antenna cables, which I've found to be the most difficult part to reconnect on iPhones. Push a bit wrong and you've bent the connect and you're SOOL. Once you've gone this far, you might as well break out your pneumatic grinder and cut out your own access door for future changes. It's unfortunate the HDD is attached from the screen side so cutting another access panel won't work. (last two sentences sarcasm)

    It appears iFixit is using Hynix RAM. 
    1) Opening up a 2017 iMac violates the warranty.
    2) From experience, they generally demand it be repaired under warranty
    3) See #2.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 33
    rob53 said:
    Does opening a brand new iMac affect Apple's warranty? What happens when/if the DIYer messes something up while adding the memory? Do they expect Apple to cover the repair under warranty?

    62 steps before you get to the RAM, including removing antenna cables, which I've found to be the most difficult part to reconnect on iPhones. Push a bit wrong and you've bent the connect and you're SOOL. Once you've gone this far, you might as well break out your pneumatic grinder and cut out your own access door for future changes. It's unfortunate the HDD is attached from the screen side so cutting another access panel won't work. (last two sentences sarcasm)

    It appears iFixit is using Hynix RAM. 
    Given Apple's design choices - which I am neither defending nor denigrating - there's no way they should honor warranties after the monitor is pried off.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 8 of 33
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,120member
    The 21 inch going back to non-soldered RAM is a nice reversal of Apples trend. Though, on a computer that large, a RAM hatch like on the 27 would have made sense too, but it's a start. 

    Hopefully this trend continues, and, say, they remove the stupid steel plate on the bottom of the Mac Mini, whenever that gets an update. 
    GeorgeBMacjbdragonargonaut
  • Reply 9 of 33
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,111member
    appex said:
    Apple should allow to open a door on back to upgrade RAM and SSD. That is customer care.
    They don't want you doing that. They'd rather have you pay Apple prices and upgrade at time of purchase.
    So then why is there a panel on the 27" model? Oh yeah because it's about engineering, not paranoid delusions about Phil Schiller twirling his mustache and laughing maniacally at getting to screw 21" customers. 
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 10 of 33
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,111member
    And this is the true motivation of iFixit criticizing sealed devices -- they can't sell you upgrade kits, which is their actual business. Thus they bag on ipads and whatnot for not being user serviceable. 

    I've performed some iphone repairs, most recently replacing the battery on a 5s, only to accidentally damage the TouchID cable in the process, permanently disabling it. Oops. Between that and the PITA of the tape strips, I'm done with that. (I used to build my own PCs as well, for decades. Done now)
  • Reply 11 of 33
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,270member
    appex said:
    Apple should allow to open a door on back to upgrade RAM and SSD. That is customer care.
    They don't want you doing that. They'd rather have you pay Apple prices and upgrade at time of purchase.
    So then why is there a panel on the 27" model? Oh yeah because it's about engineering, not paranoid delusions about Phil Schiller twirling his mustache and laughing maniacally at getting to screw 21" customers. 
    Well engineer it then. And while they are at it, design it so the back plate can be removed for easy access to components that users may want to upgrade. Where there is a will there is a way.
  • Reply 12 of 33
    toddzrxtoddzrx Posts: 241member
    tipoo said:
    The 21 inch going back to non-soldered RAM is a nice reversal of Apples trend. Though, on a computer that large, a RAM hatch like on the 27 would have made sense too, but it's a start. 

    Hopefully this trend continues, and, say, they remove the stupid steel plate on the bottom of the Mac Mini, whenever that gets an update. 
    A start on what?  Apple's computers used to be very user-upgradeable, same as PC's back in the day.  But those days are mostly long gone.  The only reason they came back to non-soldered RAM is most likely because it's cheaper to repair/replace non-soldered RAM than having to replace an entire MB should there be a problem with the RAM itself.  It was done to cut the cost of repairs, not to help out the DIYer.  IMHO.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    bigmikebigmike Posts: 262member
    That'd be great if the new iMac Pro would be upgradeable like this – to 128GB RAM. Working with heavy imagery and 3D, that would be the dog's bollocks. At least a brother can dream...
  • Reply 14 of 33
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,991member
    I’ve actually watched some of the iFixit videos showing how to do this and they’re pretty scary. Lots of glue and tiny, delicate cables to overcome. Not for the faint-hearted at all. And obviously such surgery would void any warranty. Apple would know immediately if you screwed with it.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 15 of 33
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,270member
    It's not something I would do in warranty but having the option down the line to give the machine a boost could tempt me. That together with the possibility of substituting defective RAM via warranty repair or not is a plus.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 16 of 33
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,771member
    I see no point in most user upgrade options. By the time one feels the need to replace a CPU, things will have changed enough that the RAM and motherboard will probably need replacing too, so either it becomes a major exercise or the benefit of the upgrade is minimal. And who actually adds RAM after a build? You max it at the start and never touch it again.

    The one exception is storage in portable devices. On a desktop you can just plug in an external drive and forget about it, but having to lug around extra storage with a laptop is a pain.

    Storage capacity limits have gone up in five years while prices have dropped significantly. I may not be able to afford Apple's "holy shit" price for maximum storage when the computer is new, but maybe could when a third-party alternative pops up at a much lower cost a couple years down the road.

    Maxing out storage on this 15" Touchbar cost me $1500! Wanna bet the same coin will buy 1.5-2 times as much capacity in a couple years? It would be really nice to be able to pop in a new, bigger (and maybe faster) storage device down the road.
    edited June 2017 macxpress
  • Reply 17 of 33
    I heard someone who said they worked at an Apple Store say that since Apple has begun offering fewer ways to open up the case, people coming in for hardware failures has gone down proportionally. Which is frustrating. Personally I have damaged my 13 inch MacBook Pro accidentally, I was gluing back on one of the black footies, and a drop of glue went in through the little circular opening under the footy (not sure why it's even there) and somehow managed to snake it's way halfway down to the jumper for the sensor that detects when the lid is closed. I didn't realize this until months later when I had an HDD failure, and I had to open up the computer, and the jumper came off glued to the bottom of the case. It's not a huge deal I just hit sleep before closing it. It's actually kind of fun to be able to leave it closed but still hosting torrents. At the same time though, that sort of thing was already not warrantable. Though I suspect there have been a number of instances of family friends offering to trick out their friends macs and then screwing things up. Personally though I think there should be some sort of RAM door on the iMac Pro, or even just have the whole back unscrew and slide down the back of the stand, and be able to be put back. It is entirely reasonable on a professional device that a device owner might want to install more RAM, SSD capacity, or something else, at a later date. Also they should really abandon the fusion drive on the iMac Pro, just give it an SSD and allow users who want more storage to buy external drives.
  • Reply 18 of 33
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    "You need special tools..."


  • Reply 19 of 33
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,046member
    tipoo said:
    The 21 inch going back to non-soldered RAM is a nice reversal of Apples trend. Though, on a computer that large, a RAM hatch like on the 27 would have made sense too, but it's a start. 

    Hopefully this trend continues, and, say, they remove the stupid steel plate on the bottom of the Mac Mini, whenever that gets an update. 
    It's a start? Lol. Don't expect Apple to do this with cheaper devices. Remember it's the same for Mac Pro. I can understand users spend $5000 on a machine should be able to add RAM to make it last 10 years or so, but other than RAM? Nah!
    btw, my 6 years old 2011 Mac Mini is still running like charm after 1 upgrade from 4 to 16 GB of RAM. 
  • Reply 20 of 33
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,046member
    I heard someone who said they worked at an Apple Store say that since Apple has begun offering fewer ways to open up the case, people coming in for hardware failures has gone down proportionally. Which is frustrating. Personally I have damaged my 13 inch MacBook Pro accidentally, I was gluing back on one of the black footies, and a drop of glue went in through the little circular opening under the footy (not sure why it's even there) and somehow managed to snake it's way halfway down to the jumper for the sensor that detects when the lid is closed. I didn't realize this until months later when I had an HDD failure, and I had to open up the computer, and the jumper came off glued to the bottom of the case. It's not a huge deal I just hit sleep before closing it. It's actually kind of fun to be able to leave it closed but still hosting torrents. At the same time though, that sort of thing was already not warrantable. Though I suspect there have been a number of instances of family friends offering to trick out their friends macs and then screwing things up. Personally though I think there should be some sort of RAM door on the iMac Pro, or even just have the whole back unscrew and slide down the back of the stand, and be able to be put back. It is entirely reasonable on a professional device that a device owner might want to install more RAM, SSD capacity, or something else, at a later date. Also they should really abandon the fusion drive on the iMac Pro, just give it an SSD and allow users who want more storage to buy external drives.
    Go buy PC. Everything is upgradable. It's not about Apple not wanting you to upgrade, but an avarage Joe with internet instructions. Apple makes it hard for average folks for a reason: discourages the diy!
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