David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

iMac buying tips

I upgraded to a 27-inch iMac. Here are a few tips if you’re thinking of buying one, too.

Before deciding to buy, check the product cycle on the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide. There might be an update about to launch (happens once or twice each year).

If you’re self-employed or will use your iMac for business, ask to meet with someone from Apple’s business team (there’s a team in every store). Business purchases receive a 5% discount, which can easily save you £100. The only requirement for the discount is that it’s your second business purchase from the store, so if you’ve bought something there in the past, search for your email receipt (or ask the store for help). Even if it’s your first Apple purchase, it’s worth opening a free business account for savings on anything you buy in future.

iMac RAM

Don’t buy extra RAM from Apple. It’s extortionate. I bought my system with the minimum of 4GB RAM, then purchased another 8GB through Crucial (arrived next day). Installation is simple, takes ten minutes, and doesn’t affect the validity of AppleCare. 8GB cost me £80 from Crucial. Apple would’ve charged in the region of £500.

I was a little tempted to add a 256GB solid state drive to the 1TB hard drive. It’d improve start-up times. But at £600 extra, no thanks. The i7 is already a powerful machine. More than enough for my needs.

Do you have any buying tips to share?

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52 appreciated comments about “iMac buying tips”

  1. Great advice about checking to see if a new one is coming out, i bought the last one and literally a week later your one came out. Gutted!

    Think i will be getting some RAM from the place you had yours too, much cheaper than apple.

    Great Blog.

  2. I bought my latest 27″ iMac from the Apple refurb store earlier this year. This can save you a lot of money. The model I received looked like it was never used (I don’t know why it was a refurb), but it just came in a plain box instead of the lovely Mac packaging that comes with a new one. But hay, I saved over £350 for a plain box! Seems worth it to me…

    Are you getting a Wacom tablet to go with your new beast David??

  3. always check out the apple refurb store (if you go to the apple store, the link is always on the bottom left of the page).

    Refurb’s can be brand new machines that have been returned for cracked screens on delivery, but most importantly, come to you as new regardless, any faults replaced, apple however can’t sell these products as brand new. You might not get the pretty box, but I’ve bought machines and got by to 30% off the list price and they function just as well as a new machine.

    Plus if you are VAT registered you can get some more claimed back.

  4. Mike, Crucial was recommended at Apple, too. Fast service.

    Andrew, Alan, cheers for that. I’ll be sure to check the refurb store next time I’m buying Apple. Nice tip.

    No plans for a tablet, Andrew. You’ve been using one for a while now, haven’t you?

  5. The best thing you can do is switch to SSD or install an additional one. But don’t buy it from Apple. Instead, go for something like OCZ Vertex II (again, not the Mac version, but the normal one). For your OS you probably don’t need more than 120gb, so it’s like 200GBP (just checked amazon.co.uk, you probably can get a better bargain). You can store big files in the stock 1tb hdd.

    Not the CPU, nor the ram or gpu will give you such a boost in the OS like the SSD. By example, my late 2007 macbook with ssd works just as fast as a mid2010 macbook pro with hdd.

  6. I used to get my ram from Komplett but this seems to be a bit cheaper. Thanks for the post. Nice to know about the business discounts in Apple. I had no idea.

  7. Joey, Mike, if you’re buying from Crucial, use the following discount code:

    CRUPROMO7

    You’ll get 7% off until March 31st 2011.

  8. It’s always nice when you get a new computer! It’s funny because I actually bought the same system you just described from the refurb store. Nicely done!

  9. If you are here in The States I would also suggest Other World Computing. They have a great reputation here, offer a lifetime warranty, and picked up 8GBs for $119.99. Always been happy with their service.

    Also in regards to new releases, I bought my 27inch a week before they upgraded to the I series units that are out now. Apple let me do a straight swap for my current I3, even though mine was already opened and used. According to a couple friends who work for Apple, this is a company policy.

  10. Refurbs are always worth checking out, I got a refurb mid range spec iMac off the Apple site and the one sent was infact a maxed out top spec (At the time) iMac! Happy days.

  11. I have the same computer. I bought it refurbed and upgraded it to a SSD myself. It’s scary taking apart your brand new beautiful machine, but it’s so much faster its ridiculous. Photoshop boots up in 2 seconds! No, I’m not exaggerating, 2 seconds!

  12. strong>David → Been using one for so long (about 6 years) that I can no longer use a mouse very well at all ;)

    The Wacoms are built to last, too. Mines still going strong and should last a few more years yet…

  13. Hi
    I’m looking to buy a Mac powerbook. Where is the ‘refurb store’ mentioned in your comments? I’m not sure whether to go for 13″ or 15″. It’s only going to be used for when I’m travelling around, doing web updates etc. Do you think I can get away with a 13″?

    If I had then cash I would buy a bigger bag to put a 17″ in!
    I am saving for a G5 and Indesign and can’t afford it all!

    Happy New year!

  14. my mac pro died on me after just 2 years, so i was thinking of getting the same iMac, but the only thing that’s stopping me is the glossy screen.

  15. Hi Dave, nice to see your new iMac is working well :)

    Anyway, it is worth noting that in the newest iMac, adding the SSD is not straight forward, though it can be done. Apple has kindly removed the SATA cable and mounting kit for the drive to go in, so the possibility of having to use a Dremel or other means of securing the new SSD is the difficulty, plus having to partially remove the motherboard to get access to the additional SATA connector.

    All in all, I think that if you want to get a good life out of your new mac, buy without the SSD, then in about a year or two when they have came down further in price, and possible brackets are made to allow easy addition of the new drive, then add it. The advantage of this, is your new mac will seem really fast now, then in time when it appears to start to slow, add the new drive which will seem like you’ve just bought the latest model and are back up to full speed for another couple of years…

    If you’ve any further issues Dave, gimme a shout… other than that… start making some money with your new mac and give me a shout for poker so I can take it all off ya haha

  16. Good tips especially regarding ‘Don’t buy extra RAM from Apple.’ I too buy mine from Crucial as its alot cheaper as you mention David.

    One of my tips would be to consider buying a MacBook pro and an adapter to attach it to a larger screen. I do this so that when designing and working during the day I connect it up to my large mac screen and then in evenings or if needing to be more portable I can take the laptop away.

  17. Can I ask why you use a Mac over Windows (or indeed any other OS)? Just curious really. Is it the interface? Ease of use? etc. Would be interesting to know why.

  18. Nightmare! I literally just ordered one with the Apple + £160 upgraded to 8gb, I can get 16gb for the same price if I DIY myself.

    I wonder if they’ll take off the order as its on finance and hasn’t been sent out yet, or will I have to go through the whole sales/signing forms procedure again!

  19. I just bought my very first Mac–21.5″ iMac. I used PC my whole life but realized why designers choose Mac over PC when I started working in the design industry a few years ago. I’m now in love with Mac and will never go back to PC.
    I just saw your post right after I bought my iMac. I almost bought it with 8GB of RAM–I wasn’t sure how easy it is to install extra RAM yourself. When I received my iMac, I noticed that the manual actually explains how you can add extra RAM yourself and I’m glad I stuck with 4GB when I bought it!
    Anyway, thanks for sharing such good info!

  20. Do you have a buying guide on Macbook Pro’s?

    Im taking the plunge mid Jan, but unsure which one to go for… 15″ for portability, but not a clue on the spec!

    Sam

  21. I remember, years ago, purchasing a power Mac to handle opening various applications at once. Ah, it is good to be able to slim down processing needs.

  22. Not a tip so much per say, but more of a frustration. Here in the U.S., the closest Apple Store is 8 hours away and they will not offer a business discount through their web store. They will however offer a student discount (and lucky for me, I am a “professional college student”) who just has an addiction for higher education. But still, if I buy it using a student discount, then I cannot write it off as a business expense when it comes to taxes because it would really be a school expense. Ahhhh if only they would make things a little simpler!

  23. I have this mac, and I love it! Before this, I was a PC gal, but now I couldn’t imagine going back. I agree, don’t think you need any upgrades to RAM. I run multiple things on this all the time, and it’s quite speedy.

  24. No tips to share, just glad to read these tips and it really looks great to!

  25. I always check for refurbished models. They have held up well for me.

    If it’s right before January I wait for a computer because that’s when they introduce the new lines.

  26. Cheers for the info, Justin, and thanks again for your help the other week. Much appreciated.

    Sam, MBPs are listed on the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide. Good idea to check there.

    Neil, everything just seems easier on a Mac. There’s the packaging, sure, but the operating system is definitely better than Windows.

    Gareth, good tip about the external monitor.

  27. I am curious, David. Why did you go with an iMac? Why not a Mac Pro? Is it preference? Cost? Convenience?

  28. I want one!!

  29. The MacRumours Buyer’s Guide is indispensible, but what I could really do with is a tool that tells you the time to buy AND sell. My 24″ iMac still works a dream, but if I wait until it conks out completely it’ll be worthless on eBay. There must be an optimum period when I can get a good return from my investment and put that money towards buying a new one.

  30. I reckon it’s all three, Christopher. The iMac’s more than enough. I read somewhere on the MacRumors forum that if you have to ask if you need a Mac Pro, you don’t need a Mac Pro.

  31. That’d be good, Daniel. Like the “What Car? Valuations” only on a much grander scale. And without the cars.

  32. Hey David,
    It was really very helpful tips for me, coz i was just going to buy a imac.

    Thanks & keep sharing this kind of tips.

  33. One thing i would like to know that ” now i am using windows in my pc when i’ll upgrade to imac can i use the same software product key or serial key in imac. or what should i do, suggest me if you can.

  34. You’re welcome, Vikash. I’m fairly sure that once you’ve used the software serial, you can’t use it on another install (unless you’ve bought a multi-user license).

  35. Thanks David

  36. I done the exact same and bought memory from crucial, cost me £60 for a 4gb upgrade, also if you know anyone who is a teacher or at university they can get education discount when buying a new mac, save you a few pound anyway!

  37. I got mine last september, I was reluctant to go to the “dark side”, since Macs tend to be expensive (especially in Ecuador, mine cost me over $200 over the price in the States) and difficult to work with after spending so much time in windows. My switch wasn’t as hard as I thought, although I still need my laptop to use the microphone plug in, since the iMac doesn’t have one… Macs are picky with everything it seems…

    I really recommend check different distributors, at least in my country I found several and I finally found my 21″ 4 gb for a reasonable price, sice in another store they were charging almost the same price for a 2 gb.

    I love my Mac, and I definitely can see why everything is so much better on it, never crashes, I can work with several “heavy” softwares at the same time. Working on them is delightful!

  38. I’ve heard from some people to have problems with their macs if the RAM isn’t an original one by Apple. But maybe this counts only for Macbooks, I don’t know.

  39. @Rinaw:

    This can be tricky as different Mac products require different types of RAM. iMacs support unbuffered RAM and can handle speeds of up to PC2 6400.

    However, if you are using a Mac Pro like me, you have to get buffered RAM. Not only that, but the buffered RAM has to have a certain type of heat sink attached to it (for releasing heat quickly so your RAM doesn’t overheat) that is ECC certified and fully buffered.

    To answer your question, I have put together a few Mac Pros and use non-Apple RAM. It works fine if you get the right stuff. I don’t know about iMacs or Mac Book Pros, but my guess is, it is the same situation. If you know what you are getting, it should be fine.

    I know everyone doesn’t need to hear the technical stuff, but I wanted to tell you so you will pay attention to what you are buying. I know it’s frustrating to get the wrong thing and have to wait through the process of returning etc.

    Or you could just do what David did and ask the experts. :)

    Hope this helps.

  40. Hey David,
    That’s great about the new purchase!

    I’ve been wanting a 27″ for a while, but dreading the glossy screen.
    I have a Macbook Pro with a highres antiglare screen at the moment.

    How do you find the glossy screen?

  41. The education discount is healthy, Marty, although when it comes to opening a business account afterward, the education purchases don’t count towards it (for those who move into business for themselves).

    Carly, no problems with the screen. Glare isn’t an issue (and I get a lot of daylight in the room).

  42. Thanks for this tip David, I will be sure to remember this when upgrading in the future.

  43. That is extortionate! How can apple justify those prices. I remember when computers had 16mb ram – how things have moved on!

  44. Hi David and hi to everyone who have put some good bits of advice on this site.

    I’m thinking of buying a 27″ iMac as a retirement present to myself and am wondering if it’s worth waiting for the new line to come out so I can then perhaps get a refurbished current model if that makes sense.

    Is there any benefit in buying from authorised resellers or should I go to the Apple Store? Also….is there any real benefit of buying the Apple Care as I will the gte one year warranty anyway and it seems alot to pay for an extra 2 years. Usually electronics either conk in the first year or go on forever don’t they? Thanks.

  45. Hi Michael, I’ve never needed to use my Apple Care, but I’ve read reports from plenty of others who have, and were grateful for it. It depends on how much you trust your computer, and how important it is for your day-to-day use. Clearly as a retirement present any system failure won’t affect your earnings, hence why I’m happy to pay the extra, just in case.

  46. Michael Jackson
    - Just think how much fun you would be missing while waiting for the next one to come out.
    - Why buy from the monkey when you can buy from the organ grinder. Go to the Apple Store. You will get a much better service.
    - The Mac OS is great but if you are new to Apple definitely get Apple Care. Like david I never use it nor do I even buy it but I recommend it to all my clients. Then they don’t have to pay me £120 to come sort out there problems. Apple Care is about more than warranty. The service is not perfect, but you learn to work it and they will talk you through just about any problem.
    - You are right about electronics, but my comments still hold.
    Hope this is useful.
    Steve

  47. Why some designers still choose OS X system over a Windows PC is beyond me. One isn’t better than the other, they are just different, that’s all.

    There is no real need ever to use a mac for editing video, audio, 3D, or design and nobody but the most foolish, people with super ego issues, are going to drop $3000 for a laptop or desktop that has the same components as a tigerdirect quad core kit at $399.

  48. Hi David,

    If you’re considering upgrading the Mac to an SSD there’s a great guide here:
    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=808178

    The key bit, is that you can buy an adapter to make your Superdrive space hold the SSD drive… This little gizmo:
    http://www.ifixit.com/Apple-Parts/12-7-mm-SATA-Optical-Bay-SATA-Hard-Drive-Enclosure/IF107-081

    I’ve done this myself and am made up with how quick boot up and program loads times are now!

  49. Thanks for the tip, Marcus. I’ll come back to this post next time I’m in the market.

  50. @Jake,
    Why you feel the need to unfairly bash folks who buy Apple as “foolish” with “super ego issues” is beyond me. No one here is bashing Windows or Linux–they are merely stating a preference. Do a search for “why macs cost more than windows” and read what you find.

    I also find it disingenuous to compare a Mac (lets say a base 15″ MacBook Pro) to a $500 laptop from TigerDirect. You and I both know that those two machines are not going to be similarly spec’d. In fact, I recall an old blog article that compared 3 Windows laptops to a MacBook–all spec’d out as similar as possible–and the resulting conclusion was: the prices were about the same (except a Sony cost $400 more than the Macbook). If you want to attempt to keep a silly argument about which brand costs more, at least compare apples to apples (pun not necessarily avoidable), not apples to kumquats.

    Another factor that is rarely discussed in these matters is cost of ownership. Because let’s face it, we do not stop spending money on our machines after we purchase them. Another factor is the time we spend maintaining our machines. In that area, I have a feeling the Mac would win out. Even IT professionals agree:

    New research finds Macs in the enterprise easier, cheaper to manage than Windows PCs & IT pros: Macs cost less to manage than PCs.

    “According to the survey, Macs were cheaper to troubleshoot and required fewer help desk calls; system configuration, user training, and servers/networks/printing were all cheaper for a Mac environment than a PC environment.”

  51. I did the opposite – I went from Mac back to PC just so I could upgrade anything I wanted to – the freedom of choice! I also dumped Adobe for the CorelDRAW suite – works great and costs so much less and does more!

  52. If you’ve got time take a look at the setup I’m thinking of getting, and let me know if it’s ideal for designers.
    http://brodieprice.com/switching-from-pc-to-mac/

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.