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How to Add Memory to Your iMac

written by: Alan Ramos•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 9/28/2008

Whether extending the life of your older flat panel iMac or augmenting a brand new model, Apple has turned adding RAM to your computer into a simple task that just about anyone can do.

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    When Apple introduced the flat panel LCD iMac they originally allowed anyone with a phillips head screwdriver access to the internal workings of the computer.  The way to tell what you had access to remove or replace was by the different color of the screws holding down the parts.  Hard drives used brass screws and the logic board used another type.  If you wanted to upgrade your RAM you had to expose all of these delicate parts which understandably turned a lot of people off. The iMac was and still is a ‘new user friendly’ computer that should instill the feeling of accomplishment or productivity and not fear.

    The last batch of PowerPC iMacs were released in 2005 (the first one with an iSight cameras built into the front bezel).  These and all subsequent iMac models have had their internals effectively locked away from the user except the system RAM, which is a user serviceable part, now located behind an easy access panel that can quickly be unscrewed to reveal only the parts to be changed.

    Before we get started there are a few tools you’ll need to complete a RAM upgrade. Tools needed for this job:
    • #2 phillips head screwdriver
    • a soft cloth or towel
    • ESD-safe workstation and/or mat (recommended but not absolutely necessary)
    • a pencil with a clean flat eraser still intact (may not be needed)

    Replacing the RAM:
    First, unplug your iMac and clear away enough workspace on a flat surface and place a clean towel or cloth down to accommodate the iMac being laid flat with the screen facing downward.  If you have a newer 2008 model Intel iMac pay special attention to the glass LCD cover as it is very delicate.

    With the bottom of the iMac now facing you, you should be able to see the bottom of the stand showing the model of the computer, serial number etc..  Lift the stand upward to reveal an access panel being held in place by one or two phillips style ‘captive’ screws.  Depending on the model iMac you have there may be only one in the center of the access panel or two, one on each end of the panel.
     
    Unscrew the panel using a #2 phillips head screwdriver and set it to the side.  Touch your finger to the bare metal meshing to discharge any static electricity you may have collected before touching anything else inside the computer.  You should see one or two previously installed RAM chips nested into the compartment.   A diagram is visible that shows the correct positioning of the RAM chips.  Take note of the direction of the small notches on the chips and their direction in the diagram.  You MUST position these notches in the same fashion upon replacement or they will not seat into the slots properly.  Forcing the chips to seat into the computer will damage both the RAM and the computer so be mindful.

    Depending on the model iMac you have you will have to use built in finger sized rings, nylon latches or plastic tabs to properly unseat and release the RAM from the computer.  Whichever your model iMac and its method of releasing the RAM, be gentle when pulling as very little force is required to do the job correctly.  Breaking a part here may make it difficult to remove RAM later on and may necessitate a repair by a certified Apple technician or facility- and we don’t want that.

    Gently remove the RAM modules and being careful to only touch the edges of the RAM chip, place them into a static resistant bag (your new RAM should have come in an anti-static bag) and as stated earlier observe how the RAM should be positioned then place one finger on each side of the new module and firmly press into place.  The new RAM should now be snug in place leaving no space for any movement.  If you like, you may use a pencil with a flat eraser to help insert the module into the slots by pressing the eraser head in and against the RAM.

    The Cleanup:
    Confirm that the RAM is properly seated in its slots and replace the access panel door using your #2 phillips screwdriver to secure it, then lift your computer back to its upright position.  Plug in the iMac and press your power button.  If you followed these instructions your computer should chime normally and boot to the login screen or desktop.

    Congratulations!  You’ve just upgraded the RAM in your iMac.