Model A1311 / Late 2009 / 3.06 or 3.33 GHz Core 2 Duo processor

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What is the best (processor) upgrade for my iMac?

Hi there!

I use my iMac for music production, and my CPU is having a very hard time lately with all the programs having to run at the same time. I don't want to go buy a new iMac directly, but would like to know if upgrading my iMac is worth the investment.

I own a 21,5 Inch iMac from late 2009, with a 3,06 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, (upgraded) 12GB 1067 MHz DDR3 memory, and ATI Radeon HD 4670 256 MB graphics card.

My question is: can I achieve strong improvement with a processor upgrade, and if so, what processor is the one to go for?

I just assume that upgrading my memory any more or graphics card won't do much, but if not I would like to hear some advice!

Thanks in advance!

Update (09/05/2015)

Thanks guys!

@mayer: Thanks for the clear numbers! I do not know much about these benchmarks, but I assume the improvement won't be very impressive? Is it worth the money?

@Dan: Great tips, thanks. I will upgrade to 16GB. The SSD solution seems pretty cool. My HD is 90% full, so I will try to do something about that. Defragging scares me a little, especially because I don't know how to make a proper back up. I'm not too much of a technician, but I will take a look at the guides. One last question: will a faster hard drive decrease my CPU load when I'm producing music? I have CPU meter in my DAW (Ableton) and that thing is tripping...

Thanks!!!

Answered! View the answer I have this problem too

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To your last Q: Yes! It will help your Apps & your data storage. You really need a dual drive setup (SSD & HD) to get the most bang here. The other option I didn't talk about here is upgrading the system to a newer model. Here a 2011 iMac system would be ideal. It has three SATA ports internally and offers two Thunderbolt ports externally.

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Chosen Solution

I would put my money into upgrading the memory up to the max here of 16GB and upgrade your storage. Your HD is likely holding you back given what you are working on. To make this baby sing you'll need to swap out your HD for a SSD, then place your HD in an external FireWire case to have externally. The only rub here is the HD has a thermal sensor which you'll need to substitute with the SSD swap out. You'll need to order the Apple Optical drive thermal sensor as its replacement Apple P/N: 922-9229.

Or, mount your SSD in this: 12.7 mm SATA Optical Bay SATA Hard Drive Enclosure and replace your optical drive with it. But then you give up the optical drive.

Here are the two IFIXIT Guides:

Update (09/05/2015)

Wow! You do have a very full drive!

Here's a free Log & cache cleaner from the Apps Store: iBoostUp. Give this a try first it should free up some space your system is starving for.

You really need to leave 1/4 to 1/3 of the disk free. Smaller drives need more space. Clean out as much as you can of junk you don't need any more.

As far as backing up your files:

TimeMachine does a good job! All you'll need here is an external drive, FireWire being the best you could also setup a NAS box which would be a good idea given the amount of stuff you have.

Even if you don't do anything more here you don't want to loose all of your work! Make that your 1st priority after cleaning out the junk.

Moving Forward:

Given your trade craft (music production). You should consider getting two drive systems here. One for working, and the other for backing up.

While you could use the same drive system (buying a pair of them) I would recommend a different slant here. Remember you want something fast while you are working but you don't need speed in the backup system. Lets look at what RAID drives are: RAID systems. Here we want a RAID 1 for its speed for your production drive and a non-RAID'ed drive for backup. Both of these drives would be external and ideally be FireWire 800 interfaced. Sadly, getting FireWire drives are getting harder ;-{

If you need to consider future proofing your self consider a NAS Drive while slower it is still faster than the USB interface your system has.

So far we've been talking about traditional HD's. As you clearly need to grow your storage as well as improve your systems performance.

As for the SSD don't go crazy with a large unit. While size is important the idea here is to leverage the speed of the SSD for the OS, Apps & scratch area your apps use. So look at your application & OS folders this is what will be on your SSD. Your Home folder stuff will be on the external drive. In most cases a 512GB SSD is more than big enough to service you.

OK getting back to whats needed to clean things up:

Once the backup is done get a USB thumb drive (16GB or larger) to create a backup boot disk. Using the OS installer off of the App store delete the current FAT32 format and then format the thumb drive with GUID & Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Use the OS installer to install the OS onto the thumb drive once done reboot your system holding the Option key and select the thumb drive as the boot drive. Launch Disk Utility to repair the permissions & disk.

This will make migration less painful when you install the new drive as well as move your data over to the new external drive setup.

I covered a lot here I hope it makes sense. Let us know if you have any more Q's and how it all ends up.

Good Luck!

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You may want to also look at your space usage of your HD now. You should try to leave 1/4 to 1/3 of it free. Try cleaning out the old junk and trash the old log and cache files. Lastly, make sure to make a good backup and then defrag your HD you'll likely see improvement just doing this.

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Don't forget to check your systems firmware: About EFI and SMC firmware updates for Intel-based Mac computers make sure you have the newest.

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Most Helpful Answer

About the only thing you can go to on this machine is the E8600, 3.33 GHz, LGA 775 (Socket T).

This gives you:

Geekbench 2 (32): 4647 Geekbench 2 (64): 5189

Geekbench 3 (32): 1824 Geekbench 3 (32): 3199

Geekbench 3 (64): 1908 Geekbench 3 (64): 3271

vs

the 3.06 of

Geekbench 2 (32): 4221 Geekbench 2 (64): 4628

Geekbench 3 (32): 1641 Geekbench 3 (32): 2882

Geekbench 3 (64): 1782 Geekbench 3 (64): 3128

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