How to Get More Out of an Old iMac

Whether you’ve had an old iMac just sitting around or bought one for really cheap, here’s how you can breathe new life into it and get more out of an old iMac.

As technology advances and software requires better and better hardware, older Macs begin to naturally slow down. Plus, with added use and files piling up in OS X, performance can take a hit, but you can luckily rejuvenate an older iMac and give some of its old fire back. In fact, if you take advantage of several software tweaks and upgrade the hardware, you could essentially make your old iMac perform like new again.

Even with all of the improvements and new features in OS X Yosemite, older iMacs still suffer. OS X Yosemite was released back in October to much fanfare, and while many users were excited to install the new operating system and try out the new features, there were quite a few Mac users who had a less-than-stellar time with OS X Yosemite

While OS X Yosemite can run on older Macs as far back as 2007, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it runs adequately. We’ve heard of many issues affecting users who installed OS X Yosemite on their Macs and had an awful time with it. Apps were slow, the boot-up time was abysmal, and overall performance was simply lacking.


However, it doesn’t have to be that way, as there are a few tweaks you can make to OS X and your old iMac to make it perform better overall, from toning down the eye candy to disabling a handful of resource-hogging features, and even updating some of your iMac’s hardware.

Install a Fresh Copy of OS X

Honestly, the best and easiest way to get maximum performance out of your old iMac is by starting fresh and installing a clean copy of OS X. A fresh and clean install means your computer’s hard drive is completely erased and OS X is installed to factory settings. This also means that no apps are installed and no files are stored — just the default apps and files that come with OS X.


Personally, I always do a clean install every year or so, because it’s nice to start fresh. After a while, you have a ton of apps that you never end up using, and those apps create a bunch of temporary files that take up space and slow down your machine. Sure, you could use a cleaner utility like CCleaner, but nothing works better than an old-fashioned clean install.

Be warned, though: Performing a clean install of OS X requires you to make a bootable install drive using a USB flash drive, and using with Terminal. If this isn’t something you’re comfortable doing yourself, we’d suggest leaving it alone or grabbing a friend who can help you perform a clean install.

Tone Down the Fancy Effects

All the stuff that makes OS X Yosemite look pretty is probably just slowing down your old iMac, but you can disable most of it:

  1. Open up System Preferences.
  2. Click on Accessibility.
  3. Place a checkmark next to Reduce Transparency.

While you’re there, you can place a checkmark next to Increase contrast to make folders and windows easier on the eyes.

Many users have had success by simply just disabling the transparency feature. Overall performance increases and the speed at which apps and Finder windows open is a lot quicker.

Disable Notification Center Widgets

The new widgets in Notification Center are awesome, but if it’s a feature that you probably will never use, it’s a good idea to just go ahead and disable all of the widgets so that they’re not constantly using up resources, especially if they’re just going to be sitting there.


To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Notification Center icon all the way in the upper-right corner of the screen in the menu bar. This open up Notification Center.
  2. Click on the Today tab if it isn’t there already and then click Edit down at the bottom.
  3. Click each of the red delete buttons next to each widget to remove them from the Notification Center.
  4. Click Done at the bottom to save the changes.

This will speed up the Notification Center as a whole, and should boost the performance overall just a bit on your iMac.

Adjust the Minimize Window Effect

This feature goes back several versions of OS X, but it’s still a good one to change if you need to squeeze out some extra performance from your iMac.

  1. Open up System Preferences.
  2. Click on Dock.
  3. Find Minimize windows using and change it from Genie effect to Scale effect.

This will get rid of that fancy swoosh minimizing effect of windows and change it to something more basic. It certainly won’t give your iMac a huge speed boost, but it can help make windows open and close a lot quicker.

Upgrade the Hardware

While the above methods don’t require spending any money at all, one change that you can make to your iMac that will seriously boost its performance is upgrading the hardware. It does take a bit of money in order to do this, but for as low as $100 (give or take), you can seriously speed up your iMac and make it perform like a brand-new computer.


Older iMacs let you open it up and replace the RAM fairly easily. I boosted the RAM in my 2008 iMac to 4GB from 2GB and it has helped quite a bit, especially with OS X Yosemite running the show.

You can also replace the internal hard drive with a much faster solid-state drive, which is probably one of the best hardware upgrades you can perform. It will make boot times faster and opening up applications will be quick and smooth. However, it does require you to dig into your iMac quite a bit, but iFixit has great guides on how to do it.