Holy Mother of Mac, the 2017 21.5″ iMac Is Upgradable

Pigs have flown. Hell hath—indeed—frozen over. It’s Christmas in June! Our teardown confirms that the new 21.5″ iMac with 4K Display has both removable RAM and a modular CPU. Of course, Apple would say neither is user-replaceable. Accessing and replacing these components isn’t exactly easy, but we’re saying it’s possible. Maybe even probable. A tinker-happy user (armed with the right tools and guide) could at least double the base 8 GB of memory, turning their new iMac with Retina Display into an iMac Semi-Pro.


An upgradable iMac is a massive shift in direction from Apple. It’s the first time we’ve seen a 21.5″ iMac with expandable memory since 2013. And the first time we’ve seen one with a modular CPU since 2012. Kudos to Apple! At $1299, the 2017 iMac is decent chunk of change for many consumers—and upgradability means they’ll be able to get more use and more years out of their computer.

Removable RAM in the 21.5

21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K Display Teardown Highlights:

  • It looks like Apple has anticipated us and stuck a “warranty void” sticker on the heat sink. (We ripped it off like a bandaid and it hurt so good.) Clearly, someone doesn’t want us to remove that modular CPU underneath.
  • Why the sudden return to CPU modularity? Maybe Apple reverted to a socketed CPU because that’s all Intel has at the moment (we haven’t seen any desktop-class Kaby Lake CPUs in a BGA package). But you’d think with Apple’s famously fierce negotiating skills, they could have gotten a soldered CPU from Intel if they really wanted it. Have you been hearing our pleas, Apple?
  • Despite the upgradable RAM and CPU, we’re still giving this iMac a 3/10 for repairability. Here’s why: the iMac remains distinctly un-fun to open. Everything is buried under a finicky glass panel. It requires a speciality pizza-cutter-like tool to breach the adhesive before any repair. Plus the glass and Retina Display are fused together, fabulously increasing the cost of replacement. But hey, a 3/10 is triple the score of the iMac’s 2015 predecessor.

Check out our complete 2017 iMac teardown for more analysis and disassembly photos.