Upgrade iMac RAM: Expand RAM in models 2012-2015

Upgrading the iMac memory is not that difficult on most models. If you want to expand the RAM of the Apple desktop computer, you will find the appropriate steps and recommended DIMM bars in this guide. Because a larger memory in the iMac can only be used if the hardware used is compatible with the system. So just look for your iMac model in these instructions and see what you can install and how - and upgrading the iMac memory will be a breeze!

Apple iMac RAM upgrade 32GB 64GB

Right from the start: Expanding the RAM on the 21,5 incher is not possible

If you have an iMac from 2012 to 2015 with a screen size of 21,5 inches, then this model from Apple is not intended for replacing or expanding the RAM. And that doesn't just mean that access to the corresponding slots is complicated - no, the built-in RAM is firmly soldered. So if you are considering buying an iMac with a 21,5-inch screen diagonal, you should order the one with more RAM directly from Apple and pay the corresponding surcharge.

Upgrade iMac memory: models from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

First of all, I would like to show you which RAM upgrade is possible with the Apple iMac. For this I list the individual models, the standard RAM and the expansion options:

iMac model Installed RAM Possible RAM
iMac Late 2012, 27-inch 8 GB Up to 32 GB
iMac Late 2013, 27-inch 8 GB Up to 32 GB
iMac Retina 5K (Late 2014 & Mid 2015) 8 GB Up to 32 GB
iMac Retina 5K (Late 2015) 8 GB Up to 32 GB (64 GB *)

* Note: According to Apple, the iMac Late 2015 is designed for an expansion of the RAM up to 32 GB. However, the manufacturer OWC has brought out a 16 GB RAM bar, which, when used in all four slots of the iMac, delivers a functioning 64GB RAM - at a high price, of course.

Hardware specifications

According to Apple, of course, you shouldn't use just any RAM to make the iMac more powerful. For the iMac Retina 5K Late 2015, Apple recommends RAM bars with the following specifications:

  • PC3-14900
  • without a buffer
  • without parity
  • 204 pole
  • 1867 MHz DDR3 SDRAM

For older models from the end of 2012 to mid-2015, the manufacturer recommends these data for expanding the RAM in the Apple iMac:

  • PC3-12800
  • without a buffer
  • without parity
  • 204 pole
  • 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM

How do you mix different RAM sizes?

If you want to use different RAM, for example two each with 4 GB and two each with 8 GB, then you should proceed in a structured manner when distributing them. Because it is ideal if you have banks (slots) that belong together with memories of the same size - ideally also from the same manufacturer; best of all the same model - stocked. On the iMac, Banks 1 and 3 and Banks 2 and 4 belong together.

What about the Apple warranty?

Before I get to the handicraft instructions, I would like to briefly note: If you solder yourself to an iMac model with built-in RAM, the guarantee will of course be void. In the case of models with the Plug & Play RAM described below, the Apple guarantee for the computer is retained even if the RAM is replaced or expanded privately.

iMac RAM expand: here's how

Here are a safe step-by-step guide (which I of course copied from Apple). If you want more details and instructions for older iMac and Mac models, you can find the corresponding support article from Apple at the end of this guide. First of all, here are the instructions for replacing the iMac RAM:

  1. Shut down the computer completely - it must be off for this process.
  2. Remove all cables, including and especially the power cord.
  3. Place the iMac on its display; it's best to put a soft and clean cloth underneath so that the screen doesn't get scratched.
  4. On the back there is a small flap under which the RAM slumbers. Below or above the power connection is a button that opens the flap - press it.
  5. Then remove the RAM compartment door.
  6. In the storage compartment you will now find a lever on the left and right. Push both outwards and then pull them upwards - this will free up the memory spaces.
  7. Now you can replace the memory modules (called DIMMs) or add / remove them. The recess on the bottom is on the left of the 2012 model; on the 2013, 2014 and 2015 models on the right.
  8. To remove: pull carefully upwards / insert: insert straight until the DIMM engages.
  9. Finally, reset the levers and put the flap back on.
  10. Now set up the iMac, connect the cables and benefit from better performance!

Examples of compatible memory bars

While it can be difficult for the layman to expand the memory for operations and processes on the Mac and MacBook, this is kept rather simple with the iMac. That's why there is more such hardware for this Apple computer than for Mac or MacBook. So if you want to expand, swap or replace the RAM in the iMac, then these DIMM models are compatible for the iMacs shown up to mid-2015 (prices accessed on May 26, 2017):

And here are some other models that are intended for the iMac 5K Retina late 2015:

If you want to bring a total of 32GB into your iMacs, then you buy two 8GB double packs and occupy each of the four memory slots with 8GB each. In total you have 32GB of RAM; a very powerful upgrade;)

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2 comments

  1. Jo says:

    Right from the start: Expanding the RAM on the 21,5 incher is not possible

    If you have an iMac with a 21,5-inch screen, then this model from Apple is not intended for replacing or expanding the RAM. And that doesn't just mean that access to the corresponding slots is complicated - no, the built-in RAM is firmly soldered. So if you are considering buying an iMac with a 21,5-inch screen diagonal, you should order the one with more RAM directly from Apple and pay the corresponding surcharge.

    You can not say it like that. what makes you think that? According to apple, all 21,5 "models are expandable.

    • Johannes Domke says:

      Hi Jo,
      the paragraph refers to this statement from the Apple support document HT201191:

      The following models cannot remove memory from the iMac by the user: iMac (21,5 ″, Late 2012), iMac (21,5 ″, Late 2013), iMac (21,5 ″, Mid 2014), iMac (21,5 ″, 2017) and iMac (Retina 4K, 21,5 ″, 2017). If any of these models of computer memory needs repairs, contact an Apple Retail Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider. If you want to upgrade the memory in one of these models, an Apple Authorized Service Provider can help. Before making an appointment, make sure that your Apple Authorized Service Provider also offers memory upgrades.
      The following models cannot upgrade the memory: iMac (21,5 ″, Late 2015) and iMac (Retina 4K, 21,5 ″, Late 2015).

      Although the same document also states that 21,5 inch RAM can be expanded or replaced, this refers to older models - and this article is about the generations from 2012 to 2015.
      Best regards
      John

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