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Kenneth Cohen1 Level 1 (70 points)

I'm contemplating buying a new iMac to replace my 2010 27 inch iMac, which was the top-of-the-line model at the time and has a 7200 RPM 1TB internal hard drive. I've found that it's no longer fast enough for me at my office where I have typically 12 to 15 apps running simultaneously (yes I use them all, all day long, about half are utilities such as HoudahSpot, Text Expander etc., the remainder include Word, Excel, Parallels, Devonthink PO, Acrobat, Mail, Safari etc.


The problem is that my existing computer is slow starting up, and often at other times - it takes several minutes to boot into 10.8.3, then another 10+ minutes to initiate about 10 apps that start up automatically.


Essentially, when any drive-intensive work is taking place, I can count on a slowdown. When Dropbox and Crashplan are both working, the computer will also slow down considerably. Dropbox and Crashplan of course both involve constant reading of the internal hard drive during their backups. Apps such as MS Word which use very old code are prone to 5 to 10 second "freezes", especially when Dropbox and Crashplan are both working. To make things worse, occasionally Carbon Copy Cloner (yes I keep three separate backups)


So I'm considering a new top of the line iMac with a Fusion Drive. I know from reading various sites that the Fusion Drive itself is very fast due to the SSD part of it. That's great.


However, here is my question for which I haven't found an answer: When disk reads and writes are going on, I believe that during the rest of the time, the OS is transferring files back and forth from the Fusion Drive to the 5400 RPM hard drive. That's what I need to know about - with multiple file backups taking place at the same time as I'm working and the Fusion Drive is busy doing file transfers, can I expect the same kinds of slowdowns?


Also, regarding startup times, can I expect a significant improvement?


Thanks for everyone's input.

intel iMac, Mac OS X (10.4.10)
  • Shootist007 Level 6 (16,660 points)

    The fusion drive reads and writes to both drive at the same time. It is not like they are 2 independent drives. They are combined into one Logical Storage Volume so it could be writing to the SSD and the spinner at the same time.


    The OS and Fusion drive software system selects what files are placed on each drive is not in any way User accessible.


    Not sure the spinner used with a Fusion drive Mac is only a 5400RPM model. I've never read that it is or isn't.

  • MichelPM Level 6 (11,428 points)

    Welcome Kenneth,

    I Am just wondering, part of your slowdowns maybe other issues.

    How full is your internal hard drive?

    If your internal hard drive is nearing full , this can slow down the drive's performance, as well.

    If you purchase an external hard drive, you can copy a lot of data off the internal drive and free up more internal disc operating space.

    How much RAM memory installed?

    If you run that many apps simultaneously and leave a lot of them open to run in the background, this can cause a lot of slowdown issues.

    Your iMac can take a total of 32 GBs of RAM.


    You can purchase an external SSD in a FW800 enclosure and run your iMac from the external drive.


    The reason, I am bringing up all of these options is I feel the new slimline iMacs are, somewhat a step backwards and Apple has,,actually, removed features to accomodate the new ultra slim line design.

    I an finding the new design hard to recommend as a replacement for the immediate past iMac designs.

    The iMac you have now is still a capable Mac, if it hasn't been expanded out to it's max. specs.

  • Shootist007 Level 6 (16,660 points)

    Actually I would not buy a Fusion drive system. Since it needs both drive to function if either of those drives fail in any way you lose all your data and the system is dead in the water.

  • MichelPM Level 6 (11,428 points)

    So far, I am not a fan of the new Fusion drive.

    I think this hydrid style drive is just a way for Apple to sell a cheaper alternative to a full blown SSD drive which, in my opinion Apple has overpriced anyways. Just like they overprice RAM.

  • MichelPM Level 6 (11,428 points)

    Also Kenneth, what type of drives are the backup drive's and do you access these from the iMac, as well.

    If these are USB 2.0  drives, FW800 drives would be better. FireWire 800 is, at least 1-1/2 times faster than USB 2.0 plus FireWire drives and connection protocols are designed to give a more consistent, continuous data throughput. USB tends to send data in burst packets of data instead of in a long, continuous stream of data.

  • ssls6 Level 4 (2,865 points)

    " I have typically 12 to 15 apps running simultaneously (yes I use them all, all day long, about half are utilities such as HoudahSpot, Text Expander etc., the remainder include Word, Excel, Parallels, Devonthink PO, Acrobat, Mail, Safari etc."


    How much ram do you have?  When you are running all these apps, if you go into activity monitor and look near the bottom, are you paging in and out?


    10 minutes to boot is not normal in my experience.  What items are you starting when you boot?  You can find out by looking at system preferences, users & groups, then login items.

  • Kenneth Cohen1 Level 1 (70 points)

    Thanks for the replies. More info:  2010 iMac 27 inch Core i5 @ 2.8 GHtz, 16 GB RAM, external WD 2GB 7200 RPM Firewire 800. The internal 7200 RPM WD hard drive @1 TB is 50% empty.


    I already have too many background processes accessing the hard drive at the same time. I nearly lost 100% of my data about 10 years ago when a hard drive failed, so I have been paranoid about backups ever since, which is why I use Dropbox, Crashplan, Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner. Each performs a slightly different function. They all access the hard drive, the first three going all day long.


    Reading everyone's comments has me thinking that it would cost lot less to have my Mac dealer install a large internal SSD to replace the existing 1 TB hard drive, or maybe the superdrive.


    Or I could buy a new stock iMac, install my own RAM upgrade, have my Mac dealer install a large SSD to replace the internal stock hard drive.


    I too have doubts about the Fusion Drive. Apple markets it well and most of the commercial web sites do a great job of promoting Apple products in order not to offend a major advertiser. But I haven't found anyone on the web who has addressed my question - isn't the Fusion Drive, while definitely fast, adding to the burden of a 5400?? RPM hard drive which will end up having to do more than than it can keep up with?

  • Frank Caggiano Level 7 (25,722 points)

    The 5400 rpm drive is only in the 21in models. The 27in model has a 7200 rpm drive (with ot without fusion)

  • MichelPM Level 6 (11,428 points)

    You can install 32 GBs of RAM. With all of the applications and processes you are running, it sound as if you need to install the entire 32 GBs.

    The reason applications and processes are accessing the hard drive is because you may not have enough physical RAM in your system. So, these processes use your hard drive as additonal RAM storage.

    Using hard drive space as RAM makes those processes run slower because a hard drive runs slower than actual RAM!

    I think you'll see an improvement in your system response and less hard drives activity if you increase you physical RAM amount to 32 GBs.

    Purchase correct and reliable Mac RAM from online Mac RAM vendor OWC ( macsales).

  • MichelPM Level 6 (11,428 points)

    Also, if you do not use the SuperDrive and /or want to replace the internal hard drive, you can get an Apple Store or Apple authorized reseller/repair center to install a full blown SSD into your iMac if you don't like the idea of an external solution. Get the largest SSD you can afford to install. They are still pretty expensive, presently.

  • Frank Caggiano Level 7 (25,722 points)

    Also bear in mind you can only add ram to the 27 inch models. The 21in models are sealed so if you go 21in you need to buy it with all the RAM you will ever want.


    In addition neither model has a superdrive (no more DVD) so there is no lace to add an internal SSD unless you remove the HD.


    But I agree with the other posters you should be checking to see if you are paging out and/or swapping. That will really put a crimp in performance. Look at Activity Monitor if you see an increase in swap out (not in) or paging activity you are short of memory.

  • dwb Level 7 (22,625 points)

    Fusion Drive: as far as the user is concerned, the fusion drive is an SSD. In the background where you don't notice it data is moved from the SSD to the hard drive. My new iMac starts even faster than my MacBook Air and even large programs like Photoshop and Word launch in a couple seconds.


    But do you need a new computer? Running as many programs as you do, running out of memory is likely to be a problem. The 2010 iMac can address 32GB of RAM and it sounds like you should be running with at least 8GB and probably 16GB. You might also consider adjusting your schedule so that CrashPlan runs only when you aren't using the computer. It would be easy to set it up to launch at a specific time in the evening or morning. With DropBox backing up your important data do you really need CrashPlan running 24/7?

  • MichelPM Level 6 (11,428 points)

    The OP is using 16 GBs of RAM, now and still experiencing lots of hard drive activity.

    Obviously, the OP needs to install even more RAM.

    With all of the apps the OP is running concurrently and probably some running processes in the background, I think just installing the max. 32 GBs of RAM will really take care of a lot of the hard drive paging activity.

  • Frank Caggiano Level 7 (25,722 points)

    Obviously, the OP needs to install even more RAM.

    Not obvious, just likely. But it is easy enough to check. If Activity monitor show page out or swap activity then the OP's machine is memory starved if not then no amount of extra memory will make a difference.

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