2017 21.5-inch 4K iMac memory upgrade kit includes 32GB of RAM, tools to take it apart

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Repair advice and spare parts supplier iFixit is capitalizing on the discovery that the memory and processor inside the new 21.5-inch 4K iMac can be removed and replaced, by creating a RAM upgrade kit that can allow users to open up their iMac and boost the memory up to the maximum capacity.

In the teardown of the 2017 21.5-inch 4K iMac on Thursday, iFixit found Apple had used SO-DIMM slots for the RAM, instead of soldering the memory modules onto the logic board. This decision to make the memory removable may have been to allow Apple to install the user's requested RAM capacity at the point of sale, or to make replacing the memory easier if the iMac is sent in for repair.

The Max RAM Upgrade Kit from iFixit includes a pair of 16GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM SO-DIMM modules that are compatible with the new iMac desktops, bringing the memory up to 32GB. Apple currently sells the cheaper 4K iMac with options for 8GB or 16GB of RAM, while the more expensive model goes up to 32GB, leaving a third-party upgrade kit as the only way to bring the lower-specification version up to the higher capacity.

As noted in the teardown, despite being held in memory slots, the RAM itself is not meant to be a user-upgradeable part, due to the need to remove the back cover and other components to access the hardware in the first place.

In the kit, iFixit has included the tools required to gain access to the memory, following the repair instructions the firm also provides online. Aside from the memory, the kit includes a an iMac Opening Wheel, an iMac Service Wedge, plastic cards, a spudger, tweezers, four screwdriver bits, and a driver handle, as well as extra display adhesive strips to replace glue strips damaged as part of the procedure.

The iFixit iMac Intel 21.5-inch Mid 2017 Max RAM Upgrade Kit is available for purchase at $299.95, but the online store advises customers may experience a two to three day shipping delay. By comparison, it costs $200 to upgrade from 8GB to 16GB of RAM on all 4K iMac models, and $600 to move from 8GB to 32GB on the higher-priced variant.

The 2017 27-inch 5K iMac does not require a collection of tools or lengthy instructions to follow, as Apple includes a small hatch that users can open for accessing the memory directly.