Model A1311 / Mid 2011 / 2.5 & 2.7 GHz Core i5 or 2.8 GHz Core i7 Processor

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Upgrade to Ivy Bridge CPU?

Is it possible (or worthwhile) for one to upgrade the Sandy Bridge CPU currently in the EMC-2428 iMac to Intel's newly released Ivy Bridge unit?

Whilst no doubt the physical dimensions of both processors would be the same, I worry that the unique architecture of Intel's so-called '3D-Transistor' may preclude the processor from being installed into pre-2012 machines. Is my concern founded? And should I even bother with the expenditure and the surgery on my iMac?

Feedback is appreciated in advance.

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Processor Upgrade Experiment Results

Knowing how the processor is mounted in a particular Mac only is half the battle. Determining whether or not a processor upgrade will function originally required experimentation by brave souls.

HardMac was able to successfully upgrade an iMac "Core i5" 2.66 27" (Late 2009) -- equipped by default with a 2.66 GHz "Core i5" I5-750 processor -- to a 2.93 GHz "Core i7" I7-870 processor. It is worth noting that this model also could be equipped with a 2.8 GHz "Core i7" I7-860 processor at the time of purchase via build-to-order configuration.

Although no details are provided, multiple third-party forum readers also reported that swapping the stock 3.2 GHz "Core i3" I3-550 processor in the iMac "Core i3" 3.2 27" (Mid-2010) with a 2.93 GHz "Core i7" I7-870 processor worked without a problem. By default, this model was available via build-to-order with a faster 3.6 GHz "Core i5" I5-680 processor.

However, there are limits to the processor upgrade options, as well. In response to a request for reader input, Jason Riley of Sydney, Australia kindly shared the results of his efforts to upgrade a iMac "Core i3" 3.06 21.5" (Mid-2010) with an LGA 1156-socketed 2.93 GHz "Core i7" (I7-870) processor. He discovered:

The new processor physically fits fine but the computer wont boot with the new chip. I tried swapping the CPUs back and forth a couple of times just in case I missed anything but each time the i7 CPU failed to boot.

I suggest there are one of three possibilities:

Apple have restricted the logicboard firmware to specific CPUs.

There is not enough power for the i7 (95W as opposed to 74W).

The logicboard requires the graphics capabilities of the FCLGA 1156 Socket chips.

Additional readers -- in particular the very helpful Andy Hucko of Bratislava, Slovakia -- were able to confirm that there are not logicboard firmware restrictions, and the above upgrade was restricted only by power, or specifically, the TDP (Thermal Design Power), which refers to the heat dissipation capability of a particular CPU cooling system.

Andy was able to successfully upgrade the entry-level iMac "Core i3" 3.06 21.5" (Mid-2010) with a 3.6 GHz "Core i5" (I5-680) processor, which is the fastest available CPU with the same TDP as the original processor in this model.

Processor Upgrade Summary

From the above experiments, one can safely conclude that thankfully there are not restrictions on processor upgrades in firmware for any of the Aluminum iMac models.

However, one only can upgrade the processor in an Aluminum iMac with a socket-compatible processor that has the same, or lower, TDP as the originally installed processor.

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I'd like to add to this by saying that I have been able to upgrade 2011 iMac 27" Base i5-2400s processor to sandy bridge i7-2600k without any problems. It has been a year since the upgrade, and there have not been any problems to report (e.g. heat related, or power related issues).

I would love to see someone try to put a ivy bridge processor inside the 2011 iMac to see if it would work. My feeling is that the EFI support and other kernel based tweaks would probably prevent it from working properly.

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Aman,

Is your 2011 iMac 27''s EMC No. 2429 (i5 2.7GHz)?

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Dkhyun, Yes. It is the EMC no. 2429, or MC813xx/A model.

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@ Events Lewis: Here's the specs for your system and the chip you put in and the correct one:

Core-i5 2400S

Core-i7 2600K

Core-i7 2600S

Note the TDP value of your chip is too high (95 Watt). This system requires a 65 Watt chip which is the S series chips.

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Confirmed: Mid 2011 imac 21.5 2.5GHz i5-2400s NOT compatible with i7-3770 ivy bridge cpu :( Wont start. Just finished a procedurally and mechanically successful cpu upgrade process without the computer booting up, not a single beep, hard drive and fans seem to start though.

Tips and ideas? Dismantling this baby soon and putting back the i5-2400s instead.

Lars Ohlsson

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Dude. Ivy bridge on this computer requires a whole new chipset. Should have googled some more to figure that one out! You can only upgrade to the fastest sandy. Also don't go with unlocked processors as they won't work with lion onwards.

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From what I've seen around the web people can upgraded their 27" 2011 imacs which have 2400S and other S processor to non-S processors like the 2600 or 2600K with no problems, but I'm still not sure if this is also possible to do on a 21.5" imac. My dad has the 21.5" imac mid 2011 with 4GB RAM and 2400S and 6750M but he's upgraded to 8GB of RAM and now going to get an SSD upgrade and he says might as well upgrade the processor but I don't know if he can get the 2600 to work in the imac. Like I said, I haven't seen anyone tried a non-S processor in the 21.5" imac so if anyone knows if this will work please tell me. Also sorry for bringing this thread back up but this is urgent. Thanks in advance.

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Owen, The OP's Q was upgrading the current Sandy Bridge to a Ivy Bridge CPU (the systems chip set {north & south bridge} needs to support the CPU chip) in this case it doesn't. If you are working with a compatible chip set based system: There are two issues one has to deal with here you got one which is the CPU needs to fit the socket the system has, the other is the Max TDP the current CPU has can't be exceeded by what the new one has. Here's a good resource: Intel CPU feature filter. I should point out jumping up a few MHz in speed within the same series chip makes the endeavor expensive with little gain. On the other hand jumping to a different compatible series often can be i.e. an i5 to i7 not worth the jump, but a i3 to i7 is worth it. Lastly, the given system may require a dual CPU/GPU chip which makes swapping of chips very iffy as the firmware of the system will be expecting a given internal graphics engine.

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No but my dad ALWAYS opens a lot of applications at once so the i7 whichever 2600S or 2600 will definitely help with more threads, but if you're saying as long as TDP and other stuff are same why can people upgrade their 2400S (65W) 27" imacs from 2011 to 2600 (95W) then? So what I want to know is if this kind of upgrade (lower TDP CPU to higher TDP CPU) is possible on a 21.5" imac. Oh and sorry if my answer is more of a question in this thread and is much different than what the OP meant.

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Dan, the CPU in the iMac doesn't need a CPU/GPU chip either and even though the 2600 has a higher TDP the iMac cooling can certainly handle it because right now with the 2400S it loads maximum to 54C. But I do not know if the motherboard of the iMac can handle a 95W processor though and I'm afraid of burning it. But please reply as fast as you can.

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Owen, when you drop a question in with someone else's I tend to answer very generically as I'm never quite sure what the person has. True the '11 iMac does not have an internal graphics engine. A i5 to i7 swap out doesn't really add that much (review the differences here: i5 vs i7 Hyper-threading needs to be programed into the app to be leveraged so while it may look good in a benchmark test suite in real life not much of a difference. We have both i5 & i7 systems and I would be hard pressed to see which was what system. I might add we do CAD, image & video processing where Hyper-threading would be the most useful.

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Well my dad does heavy work stuff, he opens a lot of apps all at once like I said and usually has itunes running. He also edits some photos and such so I think the i7 would be worth it, plus I do know that i7 wouldnt be useful in lightly threaded environments.

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David Markham will be eternally grateful.
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