Mac Daniel's Advice

Upgrade or Replace My Old iMac?

Evan Kleiman - 2001.12.04

Q. I have a revision C (266) iMac. Is it worth it to upgrade mine or should I just buy a new one?

A. That certainly is an interesting question. Right now it is unmistakable: iMacs are cheaper then ever. In fact, you can get a new nice one for US$799. So is it worth it if you have a 266 MHz iMac and you want to upgrade it? or should you just buy a new one and save yourself the trouble of upgrading? Well, today, we'll find out.

The revision C iMac in all four colors came standard with 32 MB of RAM, 6 MB of VRAM, a 24x CD-ROM, and a 6 GB hard drive. The new iMacs have either a 500 ,600, or 700 MHz processor, up to a 60 GB hard drive, 256 MB of RAM, AirPort, and FireWire. All iMacs came with a 15" monitor and USB.

Say you want to upgrade your old system to match the specs of the faster iMac model - 600 MHz, 40 gig hard drive, and selling for $1,299 - and you have a Revision C iMac. First, you'll need to figure out what it will cost for the upgrades, so you'll need to figure out your possible budget lists the current price for the revision C iMac at roughly $500. eBay shows them as selling for somewhat less, but remember, it is the holiday season, so these things go pretty cheap. Of course, we will be considering that you are going to sell your older iMac, this way your budget will be more balanced.

Also, some sites (such as MacResQ) will buy your old iMac or pretty much any other older Mac and resell it.

Now that we know what we need, let's get started. Since the price of a new iMac is $1,299, and you can sell your old one for $500, so our budget is around $800 for this little project.

The first thing is the hard drive. Six gigabytes was a lot three years ago, but now it's not a whole lot. Most people can get by on a 20 GB drive, but with all of the MP3s and other things such digital video (which you won't really be able to do that well anyway, since the Rev. C has no FireWire), you can get a 60 GB drive for around $150.

Total Upgrades: 60 gig hard drive. Total spent: $150. Money remaining: $650.

The next thing is memory. At today's memory prices, you can replace the stock single 32 MB module with two 128 MB chips for a mere $55 or so.

Total Upgrades: 60 gig hard drive, memory. Total spent: $205. Money remaining: $595.

Next up is the CD-RW drive that most newer iMacs have (all but the $799 model). Here you have two options. In theory you can replace the internal CD-ROM drive inside the iMac if you like to mess around inside your computer, but there's too good of a chance of messing something up or worse, just killing the whole system (or even worse, yourself), so it's better off you go with option two, an external USB drive. Places such as Best Buy and eBay offer USB external CD-RW drives for under $150 - and they're even cheaper used. Just make sure you know why they're selling it used; most people are usually selling there's because they got a new iMac and replaced it. However, the external CD-RW drives are around 4-8x write, so go for the 8x write if you want some good speed, since the new iMac has one of that speed, and the cost difference between all three of your options here shouldn't be too extravagant.

Total Upgrades: 60 gig hard drive, memory, CD-RW. Total spent: $355. Money remaining: $445.

Next up is the operating system. The new iMacs come with both Mac OS 9 and X installed. MacMall lists OS X for 98.95, and that includes a copy of OS 9.x. Of course, if you look around, you may get it for less at places like eBay.

Total Upgrades: 60 gig hard drive, memory, CD-RW, OS X. Total spent: $454. Money remaining: $346.

Of course you're still running at 266 MHz - new iMacs start at about twice that speed. You can boost a Rev. A-D iMac to 500 MHz and get a FireWire port in the bargain with Sonnet's Harmoni upgrade for $300.

Total Upgrades: 60 gig hard drive, memory, CD-RW, OS X, Harmoni. Total spent: $754. Money remaining: $46.

In the end we've pretty much done all that we can to make your old iMac match the specs of a new one, but it still leaves a lot out, such as the 100 MHz system bus and the newer, even faster processor.

So is the system bus and process speed worth the $46? I think so.

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Not sure if you should upgrade your old Mac or replace it? Check the Mac Daniel index to see if we've already addressed your problem.

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