Upgrade or buy new?

Posted on 2004-11-25
Last Modified: 2013-11-13
It's more opinions I'm after here than answers!

I have a 500 mhz, 20 Gb, slot-loading indigo iMac with 192 mb of RAM, bought in 2001. It's running OS 9.1 (and 10.0.4 which really doesn't work). I want to upgrade to Panther and to 9.2. I also need to buy more memory. And I'll need the help of a Mac pro for upgrading because otherwise I'm bound to run into problems. SO... is it worth buying the new Panther software and the new memory and upgrading? Or should I just forget it and buy a new Mac? And if so, which Mac?

The apps I use are: Microsoft Office (which I guess I'll also need to upgrade),  iTunes, iPhoto, Outlook Express.
Question by:clareturpin
    LVL 2

    Assisted Solution

    I would like to know on how much you want to spend on your system. A brand new 512MB RAM stick for an iMac goes for about $100 (PC133) and Panther retails for $60. Upgrades for processors vary depending on who makes them, lets say $300 for that if you want.  

    Your 500Mhz isnt too bad, although the new MS office is a tad laggy in OSX, I would stick to OS9 MS Office 2001 if you can. Its your choice on that, depends if you dont mind some lag.  iTunes, iPhoto, and Outlook work nice in OSX and OS9 (SoundjamMP, Graphic Converter/Adobe photoshop/outlook are equal for OS9 usage). One big deal for me is web browsing, OSX browses faster with safari/firefox and there are not page errors and crap.  Your hard drive should be plenty big enough for all your applications and programs, so an upgrade there isnt that big of a deal. MS Office is best bought if you have academic postion such as a school/college student or teacher because you get major discounts, such as $25 instead of like $250 street price for full package. Your job might even allow in its site liscense for you to have a copy...most likely if your workplace uses MS office.

    My final say in this, if you wanted to eak with low funds then just buy the RAM upgade and keep going. If you do web browsing often then probably go with the Panther upgrade...although I have a G3 333Mhz beige tower and it only can use up to OS 10.2.8 so Panther 10.3 may not be compatible. If you have about $750 to spend, you should probably look into a G4 tower. I think a dual 500Mhz G4 tower with 768MB RAM + a 17" display goes for about that now. The G4s handle hardcore OSX functions better such as Office and Graphics in my opinion. If you can afford a tad more, go with a G5 system. If you do go with a G5 do a dual processor because its only a small bit more for an entire second processor and faster bus speed.


    Author Comment

    Well, I'm in the UK so direct comparisons on price difficult, but I worked out it could cost me as much as GBP 350 for the Panther upgrade, RAM and help from a Mac pro, and extra if I wanted to upgrade to the latest version of Office.

    The cheapest of the new iMac G5s here cost about GBP 920. I wouldn't be averse to buying a lower spec machine second-hand. Will look into the G4 tower idea. Thanks for this and the other helpful thoughts.

    I'm upping the points value here as thoughts from others would also be appreciated.
    LVL 1

    Assisted Solution

    I would go with a 20-inch iMac 1.8GHz.  Apple has a great special today ( $1798) at the web store given to attract customers on this busy holiday shopping weekend.  Considering the features, costs, and what applications you use - I would recommend it.  Good Luck!

    Author Comment

    Sounds like a good deal. I'm in the UK and with the current exchange rate, that would make it almost as cheap as the basic model iMac G5. I don't suppose you (or anyone else) know whether I'd have problems buying a US model in terms of power supply etc - could I just buy a transformer? It would be convenient for me as my sister lives in NYC and is coming over soon...!

    Back to the real world, though: I'd still be grateful for suggestions from anyone about whether I should just upgrade or consider a lower spec, second-hand Mac.
    LVL 2

    Expert Comment

    hmm... power options. With towers I know you just use a different cable for the country because the computer end are all universal and use 110 or 220 volt switch on power supply...if it doent autosense. That applies to the G4 towers...but I never got to mess with the wires on a G5 or look at them.   I think the iMac G5 has an external power supply or weird power cable though.
    LVL 1

    Expert Comment

    The power on that model G5 is "Line voltage: 100-120V AC or 100-240V AC, depending on country of purchase".  I have used mine on 240 without issue.


    Author Comment

    So I could buy one in the US for use in the UK?
    LVL 9

    Expert Comment

    by:Lieven Embrechts
    > So I could buy one in the US for use in the UK?

    Yes but with shipping costs & customs taxes the difference is lost.
    LVL 1

    Expert Comment

    does an ibook fit in your budget?
    also, any trade in value for your indigo?

    the best bet is always buy new if you can make your budget stretch

    but wait until after Dec 20th
    we are currently in a mercury retrograde
    tradtionally not a good time to acquire new electronic
    (upgrade or otherwise)

    you could also check ebay
    there are often great deals
    especially when buying thru paypal


    Author Comment

    I was wondering about an iBook - this would be an easy thing for my sister in NYC to buy and bring over without questions being asked - I mean, she has one herself that she often travels with!

    Any particular model you'd recommend?

    I bought an iMac recently on eBay as a backup for my office and it was a huge success - I got a real bargain. So I'm open to doing this again.

    What's a mercury retrograde?

    LVL 1

    Assisted Solution

    I would recommend purchasing a new machine in your country of origin.
    No problem with voided warranties that way.
    Unless you are prepared to add an AppleCare package the minute it arrives from your sister.

    My iBook (or PowerBook) of choice would be a 12".
    It can always be connected to a larger screen @ home or office.

    The pumped up iBook G4s are a steal for the money.
    $999 USD
    1.2 mhz G4
    builtin firewire

    add 512 mb ram upgrade
    (or 1 gig)

    add a bluetooth dongle
    and sync up with your sony-ericcson phone
    (iCal, Address Book)
    sure is better than lugging a Palm about

    only downside is the size of the hard disk
    (but an iPod would do nicely here)

    If you are in the UK and are near or in London
    check out the Apple Store there

    Then wait until after Dec 20.

    A mercury retrogade is when the planet Mercury
    stops its forward movement in the sky
    about three times a year
    and they last three - four weeks
    (you can sometimes feel them up to a month before they occur)

    during these times its not good to start any new business
    sign contracts, buy electronics
    with anyone new
    people you have done things successfully with before
    are not a problem, as a rule

    machines break down
    lightbulbs pop
    viruses spread
    people talk past or around one another

    its an astrological thang

    one starts on November 30
    and ends December 20

    happy hunting!!
    LVL 8

    Accepted Solution


    If the indigo iMac is your 'work machine' I would unquestionably recommend buying a new Mac. I still use an old 450mhz G3 at home because it's good enough to play around on but if I were to be using it professionally I'd get seriously annoyed with the performance, even using basic apps like you are at the moment. Consider that if you want to get more out of the machine at a later date you have no options. Plus things will only continue to go wrong with it and you'll end up spending a fortune on professional help.

    The bottom line is that the iMac as a range in general was never intended to be upgraded apart from at the most basic level (RAM) - trying to improve anything above that does require the intervention of a professional and even then options are limited. As the first person mentioned, you'd be better off with something like a G4 tower because not only are they relatively inexpensive, you yourself can upgrade all that can be upgraded (display, hard disk, wireless networking capability, RAM, hard disk, CD Drive) with only advice from a pro rather than full-on consultancy. So I would recommend a G4 Quicksilver with at least a 733mhz processor and 512mb of RAM:

    This particular model has a superdrive (can burn CDs and DVDs), 1GB of RAM and lots of hard disk space and for a very good price (you should be able to get one for between £400 and £500). All you'd need to do is purchase a monitor to go with it. This kind of machine pops up quite often so don't worry about missing out on one. I use quite a few of these in my office and they're very good performers. For the kind of wokr you're doing it's more than enough, plus if you need to expand the kind of work you're doing it'll still perform well even before you've upgraded it.

    Only consider a laptop if you would genuinely benefit from the ability to carry your work anywhere you want. Yes it's a nice idea but you'll pay more than you would for a tower and there almost as few upgrade options as with an iMac. If you do consider it, ensure it's been looked after (no scratches, no paint coming off) and go for either the 12" or 15" G4 Aluminium (as opposed to Titanium) Powerbook:

    As you can see, the 15" model tends to go for a lot more so it's a question of how much visible space you need on the move because you can always supplement a 12" screen in the office with an external display.

    I hope this is a useful summary of your options.


    Author Comment


    Brilliant: thank you. I really like the look of that G4 tower, particularly with all that software included. I also like the fact that it's dual-bootable. Am I correct in thinking that most of the Macs now available new are bootable only in OS X with 9.2 available only via Classic? I think you're right about a laptop not being worth the extra money unless mobility is essential - which it isn't for me, in this case.

    Any thoughts about what type of monitor to go for?

    LVL 8

    Expert Comment

    by:Andrew Duffy
    Dual-bootablility is only available on G4 systems and even then the latest G4 laptops won't let you boot into OS 9 so if you'd like the flexibility that is indeed another reason not to buy totally new.

    And while the G4 will be easy to fix most of the time if it goes wrong, monitors aren't. So you're best off buying a new one complete with warranty. Which one you go for is reliant on two things:

    a) The visible workspace you need
    b) Your budget

    From a desk-space point of view, an LCD panel would be the best solution. If this isn't so much of a concern you could go for a traditional monitor (CRT) which would set you back around £100 less than a comparable LCD.

    The smallest size screen you should consider would be 17" to make it easy on the eyes and provide suffient space to be able to see all the necessary toolbars etc. These screens display a max resolution of 1280 x 1024 and cost anywhere between £200 and £300 depending on the brand and where you buy it. Ideally, though, you should consider a 19" panel which, if you can afford the extra money (£100 perhaps - good ones go for £300 and above), will display the same resolution but over a bigger area, making it even easier to see details. To see what I mean you should perhaps get a demonstration - somewhere like John Lewis or any number of shops on Tottenham Ct. Rd. would be happy to demo screens for you. You can get a 19" CRT display for little more than £200, as a comparison.

    Choosing which one to buy is no easy task, however, as there's a myriad of choices on offer and they change by the week. You could get an Apple Studio display and while these are superb (and designed to work with the G4 I recommended), you pay a premium for the name / quality. Just remember that you really do get what you pay for - a good screen will last for years while cheap models will degrade over time, blurring and misting the picture.

    To get an idea of what's good and what's pants, take a look in any of the PC magazines on the shelves in WHSmiths - titles like PC Pro and PC Plus do regular group tests on the latest models and are a good benchmark of quality. And definintely buy online - you'll pay at least £50 more by going to a High Street retailer such as PC World or Micro Anvika. Sites like, or tend to have good stock and good deals.

    I hope this helps.

    Author Comment

    It most certainly does - thank you!

    Extra points going to Deltafix for helping on my RAM question after it was closed!


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