I recently acquired the base model Mid 2017 5K iMac, and I have a post in the works that explains my reasoning for that decision. In a nutshell, I believe that this machine, at $1799, is by far the best bang for your buck as far as Macs go.

That said, it’s not perfect. One of the weakest points of the base model 5K iMac has to do with its stock RAM configuration. With only 8GB of RAM, the system struggles right out of the gate, and will start writing lots of data to disk in fairly short order. Thankfully, it’s ridiculously easy and relatively cheap to upgrade the 5K iMac’s RAM. In this brief video tutorial, we’ll show you how.

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The 5K iMac features four DIMM slots, and can accommodate a maximum of 64GB of RAM. The entry-level machine comes with two 2400Mhz DDR4 SO-DIMM modules populating two of the slots with 2 x 4GB DIMMs. Feeling like 64GB is probably overkill for this machine, I opted for a 2 x 16GB DIMM package from Corsair. This provided me with a total of 40GB when combined with the pre-installed RAM, which is more than enough memory for Final Cut Pro X, and whatever else I decide to throw at this 5K iMac.

I ordered the 32GB of Corsair RAM from Amazon, and as you can see, the price is a bargain compared to the exorbitant prices that Apple charges for RAM upgrades.

RAM requirements

Apple says that RAM for the 2017 5K iMac must meet the following requirements:

  • PC4-2400
  • Unbuffered
  • Nonparity
  • 260-pin
  • 2400MHz DDR4 SDRAM

Ensure that the RAM modules that you select meet the aforementioned requirements before purchasing. I can confirm that the 32GB of Corsair RAM from Amazon that I purchased works without issue.

Video walkthrough

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How to upgrade RAM on the 2017 5K iMac

Note: This tutorial is for the 5K iMac (Mid 2017) only, although the 21.5-inch model features unsoldered RAM, its RAM is not easily accessible, and not consider by Apple to be user-replaceable.

Step 1: Power down the iMac and unplug all cables, including the power cable.

Step 2: Place a soft towel on a flat surface where you can rest the iMac face down without scratching the display.

Step 3: Press the button underneath the power plug area to eject the RAM slot cover.

Step 4: Remove the RAM slot cover with your hands.

Step 5: Use the levers to unlock the DIMM slots.

Step 6: If you purchased a package of four DIMM models, you’ll need to remove the existing modules. If you purchased two modules, you have the option of keeping the existing two. Depending on your configuration, either remove the existing DIMM modules, or keep them in and insert the new DIMM modules. Pay attention to insert the module correctly, as the notch should be facing towards the left.

Step 7: Use the levels to lock the DIMM slots.

Step 8: Replace the RAM slot cover.

Step 9: Place your iMac back on your desk.

Step 10: Connect all of the cables, including the power cable, and power up the iMac.

Step 11: Once booted, go to  → About This Mac → Memory, and confirm that all RAM is accounted for.

Conclusion

All of the non-built-to-order 5K iMac models that can be purchased in stores come with a paltry 8GB of RAM. Even if you go the build-to-order route via Apple’s online store, the base $1799 model 5K iMac features an arbitrary limit of 32GB of RAM, which will cost you $600. If you even want the option of configuring your iMac with 64GB of RAM, you’ll need to opt for the mid-tier model that starts at $1999.

On higher end iMac models, 64GB of RAM will set you back a whopping $1400. By purchasing RAM on the aftermarket, you can save well over $900 once you factor in the $200 mid-tier model premium. I maintain my opinion that the entry-level 5K iMac is one of the best deals that Apple offers at $1799 considering all that it includes, just make sure you purchase your RAM elsewhere, otherwise, the scales quickly tip back in Apple’s favor.

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