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How to upgrade your un-upgradable Mac.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about Macs is that because of the way Apple builds their systems, with CPU, Graphics and Memory all on a single SOC, non-user replaceable storage, you can’t upgrade them. And, those people are right, but only to an extent.

If one part fails, the whole thing is eWaste, right? In this video, I’ll show you the RIGHT way to upgrade your Mac and stay on the cutting edge of performance for your system. So let’s begin.

I’m iCave Dave and I simplify Apple so that everything just works for you.

So lets just come out and say it, Apple has certainly made some design blunders in the past that have been real issues for right to repair, things like attaching a ribbon cable directly to the display of the MacBook Pros which failed over time, meaning when that cheap cable failed, you needed to replace the entire display. That, was a poor decision. This kind of thing, should absolutely be something that Apple addresses in future so that the cables can be detached at both ends and replaced if needed, and from the way that iPhones are built, we know that this is absolutely possible. So Apple, that one is on you.

Now this video isn’t about Right to Repair, but I do believe that parts should be available to do that and right now the main way that this happens is much like repairing your own car, though the scrap market – buying another Mac that is broken in some way and salvaging the parts you need. It would be great to just be able to buy these direct from Apple, but it does seem that in the past few weeks even, that Apple has started pushing more towards embracing more repair shops being able to get the parts they need. This is most likely due to outside pressure, but it’s a good thing either way.

But why are Macs becoming so much more integrated and having less replaceable parts in the first place? There are a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is actually reliability. The more of the system that is one component, the less chances there are of issues in the first place. Look at the forums where people are talking about older Macs, like 10+ years old, people are having issues where they need to re-seat ram for example. Now, that might sound like a very minor issue, but when the ram is not seated right on a computer, I guarantee you that most “normal” people wouldn’t be able to diagnose the issue. It doesn’t boot, its probably dead, I need a new computer. Not an issue you’ll ever have with soldered memory.

The same goes for hard drives and SSDs, you have one that can be removed, you have another point of failure. And don’t come at me with the M1 SSD wear issue, that’s been shown multiple times by people who’ve actually gathered data to be a non-issue. “What if my graphics fails, the computer’s bricked on M1” – Yes… but when did you last hear about integrated graphics on a CPU failing? My guess is never, its always been an issue of discreet graphics and specifically with Macs, Nvidia chips, again something you see littered across the forums. That was the reason Apple and Nvidia stopped working together by the way and why more recent intel Macs all used AMD whenever they needed discreet chips. But with M1, you have integrated graphics more powerful that a 1050ti, and coming soon around double that performance in M1X.

Again, I understand its annoying that you can’t upgrade ram and SSD yourself, but these things are to limit failures in the system as well as increase the performance. Having the Unified Memory on the System in Package means the traces to it are extremely short, reducing latency, and using the same memory for the CPU and GPUs means it doesn’t have to be copied out to different modules, again increasing performance. The SSDs are some of the fastest in the industry with 3.4Gb/s of read speeds.

So, the point of this video was how to upgrade the un-upgradable Macs. Well, you’re going to need a back up drive.

Macs are well known for holding their resale value very very well. So are iPhones and iPads by the way, and even Apple peripherals like keyboards and trackpads. Magic Trackpad 2 is consistently selling on eBay, Used for over £100 which is crazy. The 2018 Mac mini, i5 which was replaced by the M1 Mac mini, which handily destroys the intel model on performance is still selling on eBay for between £600-800 Used. Now, there are certainly some going for less than that too, but in general those are poorly listed, without packaging and the like. Even the 2014 models, which remember sold starting at £499 instead of £799 are selling for 250-350 comfortably used, and they’re 7 year old machines.

The same applies for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models – and it looks like M1 based Macs will hold their value similarly. Base model M1 minis are selling right now for around the £600 mark on eBay, and when you bear in mind that you can find them new on Amazon quite often for 650, that’s a pretty good deal for the seller. I’d not expect those prices to fall much either even when we get an M1X based Mac mini, as that would come at a higher price point – maybe £50 tops. So then when you look at the cost of owning a Mac, it starts to make much more sense.

Buying a base Mac mini as I did just after the release, even if at full retail (which it actually wasn’t as at least for now my Wife is a student!), and keeping it until an upgraded version comes out, assuming that’s an M1X and it comes 6ish months later, means owning the Mac mini would have cost me £17 per month in depreciation, assuming I sold it to trade up. And when you do, that external hard drive should have a Time Machine backup of your Mac on it, which you can restore to your new machine and carry on with your day. Its so simple.

If you want to keep the best possible performance in a Mac, this is how to do it. Buy the latest one when you need it, and when something better comes along, move on your current system, barely lose any money on it and get something more powerful. Of course, not everyone needs the latest and greatest. Not everyone will need an M1x. My system is fully capable of everything I need it to do right now. If you want to keep your system longer because it does what you need, that’s cool too,

My daily driver until M1 was the 2013 iMac, quad core i5 with a 27” display. A quick look at eBay tells me that these are selling today for around 550 – which again, is kind of crazy, but also that over those 7ish years, this has cost me, wait for it, about £17 a month. It was £1920 brand new. I could sell it today and get another Mac mini pretty much. Now, I would say that in general the base models tend to drop less value over time, so if you can get away with lower storage and memory configurations for your needs, if that’s a major concern for you then go for that. Especially on a desktop, external storage for files is not a bad solution.

Bear in mind here too that there is NO eWaste being generated in this scenario, at least for a few more years down the line. Because the computers stay useful and there should be no major issues hardware wise, there are still people using them way beyond when Apple stops releasing new operating systems, but they do still get security updates so there’s no major issue there.

I hear the argument all the time that if Apple cares about the environment they’d make their Macs upgradable, but honestly, that’s bullshit. The whole of a Mac mini’s internals constitute far less eWaste than upgrading a graphics card in a PC. That’s just a fact. Another fact is that the VAST majority of PCs, even if they CAN be upgraded, never are. They are huge, mainly empty boxes that use way more energy to run, have a way bigger carbon footprint to transport, and don’t last as long in use.

So make the most of your Mac, and when its not quite enough for what you want, sell it to someone who will keep using it and get yourself the next one. It’s an economical way to work, keeps good systems being used longer and keeps you up to date.

Before we get to answering your questions, what do you think? Do I have this completely wrong, or do I have a point?

Marcin Kowalczyk Asks

@iCave – David Eden-Sangwell #iCaveAnswers do You suspect Apple may reuse cooling / power component solutions from previous platforms in m1x imac like it did with M1 mini?

P.S. Happy Easter Dave!

Dot Asks

#iCaveAnswers When do you think Apple will add high refresh rate desktop/laptop screens? They added 120 Hz to a portable device like the iPad and 120 Hz is said to be coming to iPhone 12S Pro. But I really want that on a 32 inch Apple Silicon iMac. If The M1X/M2 Macs can have 16 core models and 32 cores and above in the future, I think 120 Hz should be no issue for them, especially if they move over to miniLED.

#iCaveAnswers Do you see yourself ever going back to reading out the iCaveAnswers questions? I really liked it when you read them out. But I get it, you work really hard every day and reading the growing number of comments is a challenge when you do amazing daily uploads.

Dot Asks

#iCaveAnswers Do you think restructuring the Apple TV system would bring Apple more money if they did the following: Discontinue AppleTV box, sell a 5K/6K TV in their ProDisplay XDR bezel-less design powered by an A14, add AppleTV software into the TV or as a licensed software, sell an optional remote with controls defaulting to the iPhone or as an Android app. Seriously, I think Apple could make a tonne of money if they sold a TV. I don’t want to buy from Samsung or LG. I want an Apple miniLED TV that can be used with a MacBook and all the native features they can come up with.

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