New 21.5-inch iMac least repairable yet due to lack of RAM, hard drive upgradability


iFixit has performed its ritual teardown of Apple’s newly refreshed 21.5-inch iMac, and while the machine might be one of Apple’s best yet for specs on the low-end desktop, it gets its worst score ever when it comes to repairability.

Earlier this week Apple officially launched the refreshed entry-level 21.5-inch iMac alongside a new Retina 4K 21.5-inch iMac after upgrading its 27-inch model with the new display tech and refreshed internals last year.

While the previous generation iMacs had many of the same issues resulting in a low repairability score, iFixit notes that the new iMac has a number of the same downsides and then some…

The publication notes that tape must be replaced after every repair, the RAM and Fusion Drive won’t be upgradeable even with the usual required DIYing, and the “CPU is soldered to the logic board, and cannot be replaced or upgraded.” In addition, iFixit points out that the “glass and LCD are fused together, increasing the cost of replacement.”

The previous generation 21.5-inch iMac scored a slightly higher score due to the ability to upgrade RAM and hard drive components. This time around, however, iFixit confirms that the RAM is “soldered to the logic board,” and that the Fusion Drive “connector is again missing from the logic board, killing all hope of storage hacking.”

Something else potential new iMac buyers should keep in mind: it was discovered earlier this week that Apple reduced the amount of flash storage in the device’s 1TB Fusion Drive from 128GB down to just 24GB.

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  1. nrose101 - 7 years ago

    So everyone gets to pay Apple RAM prices now. UGH

  2. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    That is excellent news! Even less likely to fail this way.
    […in with the whiners on the NUR RAM & HDD]

  3. “It was discovered this week that Apple reduced the amount of flash storage in the device’s 1TB Fusion Drive from 128GB down to just 24GB.” Discovered by reading Apple’s spec sheet…

  4. rogifan - 7 years ago

    IFixit whining about upgradability in Apple products. Yawn. I think by now anyone that needs/wants to do their own upgrades know what Mac to buy.

    • myke2241 - 7 years ago

      not true and a foolish statement at that. Since this is a entry level computer the people who buy this machine will be switchers and won’t realized the limitation till they find they a need to upgrade. Additionally simple upgrades to ram and storage are expected on even low end desktops. this is discerning because consumer choice is taken away. if ram or storage drive fails after 90 day you can go pound sand. Even more discerning is Apple doesn’t make it clear that these options can not be changed or are extremely costly to do so after purchase.

      iFixit is trying to inform the consumer about these issues.

      • louiethelug72 - 7 years ago

        Your Right, iFixit is just trying to help the consumer educate themselves…

      • alfredprunesquallor - 7 years ago

        It’s even more disconcerning that you don’t know the difference between “disconcerning” and “discerning”.

      • mechanic50 - 7 years ago

        “if ram or storage drive fails after 90 day you can go pound sand.”
        Wrong. All macs have a 1 year parts and labor warranty, it would be replaced if it fails in the first year, and if you have applecare 3years.

      • theronster - 7 years ago

        Or even ‘disconcerting’.

  5. eldonchew - 7 years ago

    The one that they tore down is the non-Retina one.

  6. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

    Most of the hardware problems I’ve seen are typically with 3rd party memory, 3rd party drives, so I think this is a way for Apple users to have less problems. I see a lot of problems on Apple’s Support website and the culprit is 3rd party hardware. Even on a personal level, I used to use 3rd party memory and in just about every case, it led to app and OS problems. I’ve seen posts at the 3rd party memory companies where they supplied either faulty memory or incompatible memory.

    • myke2241 - 7 years ago

      ya doesn’t really doesn’t matter since one could just remove affected part and replace it… now they can’t. and for the record i use a lot of third party hardware with no issues. Apple just made a throwaway that just so happens to be highly recyclable! you can call that move forward if you would like

  7. Sad…building throw-aways when they can’t be upgraded to prolong their life. That’s a helluva spendy throw-away. I don’t like this road I see them going down.

  8. Magnolo Bugarin - 7 years ago

    Dear iFixit, instead of tearing stuff apart please let me have it. Thanks!

  9. cdavenport4 - 7 years ago

    This might push some people to create Hackintosh’s. I’ve considered it. If I want more RAM or an extra hard drive or a blu-ray player, why do I have to buy a more expensive machine right away? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Apple fan but this is getting ridiculous.

  10. LiQuid__tr (@LiQuid__tr) - 7 years ago

    So this mac is basically a laptop in a desktop case.. I can think of a fair number of pros and alot of cons on this design.. Ive been a build it yourself pc guy for 20 years, i recently got a 2015 mbp as my daily driver for laptop, cant be happier with it, but for desktop.. this design raises my left eyebrow.. this feels like too much of an investment upfront for future proofing.

  11. mashdots - 7 years ago

    Good to know. FYI, the title makes it sound like the there is a lack of RAM and a lack of hard drive upgradability. To me, “New 21.5-inch iMac least repairable yet due to lack of RAM/hard drive upgradability” or “New 21.5-inch iMac least repairable yet due to lack of RAM & hard drive upgradability” is less confusing.

  12. One thing to keep in mind is that with thunderbolt, adding high speed storage is very simple. Get a $150 rocketstor thunderbolt dock and you can plug any 2 hard drives you want (SSDs even) into the computer, and it is very close to the speeds of an internal drive. On the other hand you should max out your ram when you order the computer, as there are no options for upgrading that.

  13. I think its important to separate the two issues here:

    1 – Repairability: as the owner of at least ten iMacs at work and home, I can say that spending time worrying about repairability is a waste of time. We’re still using a January 2006 iMac and I’m typing this on an August 2007 iMac running El Cap. I’ve never needed to repair an iMac. Most people never will.

    2 – RAM and Storage upgradability: Because they last so long you may wish you could do upgrades. I do.

  14. dcj001 - 7 years ago

    “New 21.5-inch iMac least repairable yet due to lack of RAM”

    This Mac has no RAM? Wow!

  15. John Saxon - 7 years ago

    Well, I’d say that the fact that the case is hard to open is irrelevant since there’s nothing you can upgrade inside. It is a bit sad to have to pay $300 for an extra 8GB of RAM since this would usually cost $50-100. So the $1499 starting price is deceptive; try $1799. When you look at the expensive RAM and the 24GB of flash storage this starts looking like a really expensive computer, even with the 4K screen.

  16. Gavin Pope - 7 years ago

    My 2014 imacs power board needs to be replaced, any one like to comment. is it worth it? any other problems that would or could arise?


Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.