My trusty 27" iMac is starting to lag performance wise (beach balls, slow to open programs). I'm willing to put $300-$400 into some upgrades (SSD?), but don't know what kind of ROI I can expect performance-wise. Looking at newer gen iMacs but having a tough time justifying the investment in a new unit unless it brings significant performance improvements. Any suggestions on how to breathe new life into my 2009 machine?
Here's what I'm running as my daily work machine:
Late 2009 27" iMac
2.8 Ghz i7
12 GB Ram
1 TB HD (about 30% full)
Primary tasks include graphic design (Photoshop, InDesign Adobe CC apps) and some light video editing in iMovie etc.
Mac mini 1.83 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
17" G4 iMac 800 Mhz
G4 Cube 500 Mhz
17" Cinema Display
40 GB Apple TV
If performance is degrading with the same apps that you've always used (no major upgrades), then you should be able to spruce it up a bit without doing anything drastic. Perhaps a re-install of OS 10.8.5 and/or reinstall of your apps. Or a cleaning out of caches, deleting preference (.plist) files and re-setting parameters... a good run of Onyx to clean things out.
Your iMac can also easily (with 12gb RAM) run Yosemite (10.10). For me at least - and user opinions vary widely - 10.10 was a massive improvement over 10.8 and 10.9. But I'm also using a newer laptop with an SSD for speed (and 8gb RAM).
It's also possible that your HD - now 6 years old - could use an upgrade to something newer / faster (if it's a 5400 rpm drive, go to a 7200rpm or an SSD). The SSD would be the fastest option, if you can swing the $$ for the equivalent amount of storage.
EveryMac.com has the following warning (and more details here) on problems with upgrading the internal HD (to a larger HD or an SSD), to do with the temperature sensor:
OWC also discovered that the "Late 2009" -- and subsequently introduced "Mid-2010" -- models use a "connector that seems to use the drive's internal sensors" rather than an external sensor like earlier 20-Inch and 24-Inch Aluminum iMac models.
This means that the most straightforward way to upgrade the hard drive is to "replace the drive with another model from the same manufacturer that [OWC or another third-party has] confirmed works properly with this thermal sensor cable". OWC provides a list of compatible drives. Readers have shared reports that taping an external temperature sensor to a hard drive or SSD that does not have an internal sensor will work in these models, but this method could be risky when data is important.
You've got a potentially faster 27" iMac than my mid-2011 2.7GHz i5 20GB RAM iMac (Mavericks 10.9) that shows very little speed loss, at least for my use.
From a suggestion a member supplied some time ago, and my apologies for not recalling their name, their method has worked for several Macs I've used it on.
Bacisally, clone you existing volume to a backup drive, and CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner) is strongly suggested, boot from the clone, (that tests that everything works), then use Disk Utility to nuke and erase the old drive volume.
But also wipe the volume with a zero-out, or one pass secure erase. CRITICAL!!! Do not skip this step!!!
Then use CCC to clone back the clone to the clean boot volume and set it to be the Startup Disk, and boot from it and you're done.
But also use Disk Utility to do any possible repairs first and maybe run the basic default Onyx, but I find that's overkill.
I'll buy you a few beers if you iMac isn't sustantially faster after doing the above.
Plus, you'll have a good bootable backup if you keep using CCC.
I have the same machine, except mine is 3.0 GHz Core 2 Duo with 8GB of ram, running Yosemite, recently my HD crapped out on me and what I ended up doing was putting an SSD in place of the optical drive and upgrading the 1TB to a 2TB drive in the drive bay....I love the response i get from opening up apps and the reboot.
so I would recommend getting an SSD drive and use that to boot from.
Now I just have to get the same amount of ram as you.
When Hell is full, the dead will walk the earth.
I had intended, but forgot, to add the CanadaRam.com links for upgrades in SSD / HD. Always good to go with a Canadian supplier, and CanadaRam - besides being a longtime ehMac member & supporter - has always given me good service. They also keep OWC units in stock, if you'd rather get your thermal sensor kit from a Canadian source.