iMac 24″ Opened and Upgraded

A Fairfax, Virginia customer recently had an iMac 24″ Intel Core 2 Duo 2.16 GHz (the two year old white acrylic plastic model) that had a malfunctioning video card (random lines, ghost windows, static). Otherwise it worked great, so we decided to fix it.

Bad Video Card

Because the iMac was not under AppleCare warranty, we decided not to have Apple fix it for what would probably be $700-$1000.

I ordered a new NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT video card. The GeForce video card for this iMac has a special MXM PCI Express connector. So you can’t just pick up any GeForce 7600 GT or 7300 GT. Only WeLoveMacs.com appears to sell the correct video card.

Screws Galore

The iMac has lots of philips and hex screws of different sizes. I used these baggies and labels so that I could reassemble the iMac. I do the same thing when taking apart a laptop.

Hard Drive Upgrade

While I had the iMac opened, we upgraded from a 500GB to a 1TB hard drive. This required prying off the hard drive’s heat sensor and reapplying it to the new drive with rubber cement.

Not an Easy Job

The video card unfortunately is underneath the motherboard, which Apple refers to as the “logic board”. It is much easier to bring an iMac or MacBook to Apple for repair than attempting it yourself. Even if you are somewhat skilled, the process takes hours. But if you have an out-of-warranty computer, this could save you some money.

Because there are no other photos of the internals of this iMac online, I’m posting a bunch here:

About: Rick


72 thoughts on “iMac 24″ Opened and Upgraded”

  1. I’m not from mactalk.org but it has been one of the best places to find great help on this sort of thing.

    Btw .. did I mention I think I <3 you?

    Thanks for the end of a year long search for all of these photos on an imac that has driven me to the edge of my wits.

    I did find the part before finding your page. Here is the link for anyone who needs it.

    http://www.welovemacs.com/6614180.html

    Ladyhawk on Forums or Arlysil from Executus on The World of Warcraft

  2. I’m in the same boat. Two years into ownership, same card (7600GT) is dying on me, and no Apple Care. Has anyone posted a step-by-step that you are aware of?

  3. I’m having the same problem with my 24″ iMac purchased in Nov 06. I’ve read other blogs that say the video card is soldered onto the motherboard. Is this true?

  4. I’m having the same problems with my 24 inch late ’06 iMac. I do have good news, applepalace.com sells the nvidia 7600 for iMac (mxm connector) for $231, $69 cheaper than welovemacs.com My friend and i are going to attempt gpu replacement this weekend, we are going to take lots of pictures for a step by step tutorial. I’ll post info when complete.

  5. @ Tim: yes, sadly it is soldered, hence the lengthy operation to replace. :-/

    @ Andrew: Please do, as I suspect there are a lot of folks besides Tim and me who are wrestling with this (buying a new iMac simply isn’t an option for the time being, although you can bet I’ll be picking up Apple Care for it when I do).

  6. Hey, thanks for the info and pictures. I had a 2006 Intel 24″ iMac with the dreaded NVIDIA 7300 GT (ROM version 3021) that steadily got worse until it caused daily crashes. Hourly crashes when playing videos, in fact. Once I figured out that the graphics card was to blame, I searched for some reference or walkthrough online for how one might replace this component. Most resources are useless, as they deal with simpler hard drive upgrades or only cover the 17″ and 20″ models. This article, however, gave me the confidence to order a new 7300 GT (ROM version 3022) from welovemacs.com and do the fix myself.

    Boy, you weren’t kidding when you said “Not an Easy Job.” I’ve been a system builder of my own systems as well as professionally and this was a THREE HOUR fix for me. Much like this article, I was able to document the breakdown process into (eleven!) steps, put screws into bags labeled for each step, and take pictures of the pre-teardown state (connectors and such) for quick reference. Despite all of this, it was STILL was a stressful operation.

    What I got out of that, though, was a once-again fully functional iMac. I’ve enjoyed it for nearly three years and hopefully it’ll last another three.

  7. I have a total of six 24 inch iMacs and most are experiencing video card issues. I just purchased a new card on ebay, {661-4180 NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT iMac}. Actually, ripped apart my iMac and am looking forward to replacing the card and seeing how it works. The card itself is actually attached to the card cooling mechanism and can be removed from the cooler. The card is actually about 1/2 the size of a cigarette box. I have looked to purchase the card independent of the cooler mechanism; however, no luck. I will keep you posted as to my success. THANX for all prior posts and I look forward to my iMac again.

  8. If my 7300 GT is failing and since I have to replace it, could I just go with the better 7600 GT? Would the system recognize it on reboot or would I have to change some setting/drivers also? Thanks!!!!!!

  9. I just replaced my 7300 with the 7600GT.

    I was getting some tearing and some horizontal lines while encoding DVDs even with SMC fan control set up about 1/3 on all 3 fans.

    Despite the added noise, I will continue to leave my fans running a little faster than stock in an effort to prevent thermal damage to my 7600GT card.

    My video card swap took 1 hour. This was my second time in the rig, so I suspect prior knowledge spead things along.

    I got my 7600GT card from applepalace. The card was very carefully packaged, but came with 4 severely bent fins on the heat sink. Looks like something was bouncing in a box with it at some time. There was also quite a bit of heat sink paste spread around the GPU. The foam on the heat pipes was devoid of markings where my old card has indentations from cables. I suspect the card was indeed “new” but may have been a refurbished unit.

    Don’t be afraid. Just make sure you have a large, well lit workspace and take your time. There are 4 different kinds of screws to loose and a bunch of tiny cable connections. Document each cable you removed so you can check it off as you re-assemble. Place the screws on a drawing of the system approximately where they go. I recommend having a magnetic screwdriver for replacing the screws on the LCD.

  10. Robert: My 7600gt card that replaced the original 7300 card was recognized and worked without any user interaction at all. I was running OSX 10.6.
    -iStephen

  11. Hi all

    Anyone tried to retrofit one of the newer cards to the white 24″ iMac, ie the ATI Radeon HD 2600 256MB ?
    from the looks of it it should fit, question is if the firmware will allow it.

    Ideas or experience ?

  12. My Late 2006 24″ iMac (White) was dying to. I was getting the NVDA Channel Exceptions in the console and the machine was hanging a lot, although I could always ssh in.

    Yesterday I received my new 7300GT card and put it in, 70 minutes flat.

    @Vidhar and @Tim
    At least on the 2006 24″ iMac – it IS NOT SOLDERED. I repeat, NOT SOLDERED. Sorry to shout, but it’s a huge pet peave of mine that people will read one thing on the internet and then blindly repeat it without any actual confirmation. Usually people do this to show off their geek prowess.

    iSteven’s advice above is great. Don’t be afraid – it’s totally doable and your Mac will be back in top form. The only thing that i can add to iSteven’s post is a) watch out for the LCD connector at the top of the panel, it seems a little delicate to me and b) the DVD’s ribbon cable is released by sliding two mini-tabs on either side of the ribbon towards the DVD drive itself.

    My only regret is that I didn’t get a 7600 as an upgrade – they were back ordered, and I really wanted my machine back in running shape.

    Dave

  13. This is great news.. I’ve been looking into the potential of this for the new 21.5 inch line, but nobody seems to have any word on them :/ I would think with the integrated and ATI options, there would be some chance of replacing the card (say with a better Nvidia card?)

    I’d hate to buy a refurb’d 24 and miss out on the newer machine, mouse, keyboard, ilife package, ect just to get a better video card at a better buy than the teir 2 21.5 inch model 🙁

  14. Hello im wondering if i can upgrade my Graphic Card in my IMAC, think it is
    a “iMac (24-inch Mid 2007)” Model
    EMC No 2134
    Gfx now HD2600

    all in all just wanting to upgrade it to are more “powefull” gamer card…

  15. Hey guys, Also had the same problems with the video card as the others and with the help of this site was able to replace and actually upgrade to the 7600 version. Took about an hour and couldn’t be happier. The computer’s snappier and has a better working performance now than the G5 tower I use at work!
    Has anyone tried to upgrade their CPU Intel chip in this unit??

  16. p.s. I brought my computer, no easy task living in Manhattan and traveling by subway 60 blocks, to Tekserve. After waiting twenty minutes the tech came back to tell me the cost to repair would be $650!! I’m so glad I didn’t leave it with them as the cost of the new card was $106 plus shipping! The only pain in the butt was buying the various torx screw heads as they varied depending on the part removed. #8, 9 & 10 btw.

  17. I was having the same issues as everyone else. Bought the 7600 card and everything went smoothly. Thanks for the web page with the pics! Its good to see what you’re getting into before you actually crack open your own machine. And thanks to you all for posting the comments. That’s a huge confidence builder to know that others have accomplished the fix on their own, especially for someone who has never opened one up before. It IS totally doable! Just take your time and pay close attention to everything as you go. Labeling and keeping the screws in baggies is a definite help. Thanks, George, for the tip about the torx screwdriver sizes. Took me forever to find some, but I couldn’t have done it without them. I upgraded my memory to 3mb while I was at it. Everything’s up and running now. So far, so good.

  18. Does anyone know if it s possible to replace the graphic card of an 24 inch (2009) iMac? It s a Nvidia geforce gt130.

  19. Sombody tried the “Radeon HD 2600, 256 MB – 661-4426” from the Alluminium Mac? will it Work in the old White one… to change the Coolingpipe and so on will not be the problem, if there is a difference…

    The Card cost only half….

  20. I also have a late 06′ Imac with the 7300 graphics card with the same problems (lines, artifacts on screen). I want to upgrade to the 7600. The pictures are helpful up top but does anyone have a step by step of how to do it once you take the cover off? Thanks so much.

  21. forgot to leave the part number

    661-4180 24″ iMac NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT VRAM 256MB Video Card

  22. My 7300 has been steadily dying for over a year now. I received my 7600 card yesterday and will install it tomorrow. I will report back!

  23. Installed the card today, 1hr and I was done. No big deal, just pay attention and don’t get in a hurry.

  24. satch, are your problems now solved on the imac now that you replaced the graphics card?

  25. Hey I have a second gen 24″ white imac too running on NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT, I was wondering if it would be possible to upgrade it to an even more up to date graphics card (like today’s imac graphics card) rather than just the 7600 GT?

  26. I’ve been having the same issues with my 24″ iMac for about a year now. Considering trying the fix on my own. Everyone on here is using the NVIDIA GeForce Cards so far, correct? nobody has tried to shoe-horn something cheaper in its place?

  27. My 24″ iMac has been exhibiting this same behavior for a year and half now. It started happening within hours of installing a major OS update and my immediate thought was, “Oh, they’ve missed a graphics bug…” I calmly waited for the next update to fix the problem… And then the next… To no avail. Started searching the web and discovered smcFanControl and that immediately fixed my problem. My thought then was that Apple had changed the default fans speeds starting with the original OS update I mentioned.

    Now, though, things have gotten worse. I’m running smcFanControl with the fans blowing at maximum speed and I’m still seeing temperatures at 100 degrees and above.

    I went to the Apple store today and talked to them about it. They asked me over and over if I was using graphically intense programs. Nope, just Word, Excel, and other productivity apps. They suggested that I bring my machine in and have the video card swapped out.

    Started search the web to see if I could do the swap myself and found this great thread.

    So here’s why I’m posting… Just moments ago, I realized that while I’m not running any graphically intensive apps, I AM running 9 spaces (3×3) using the Spaces feature that I’m guessing was released in the OS update that I immediately noticed problems. I jumped on Spaces like a fly on… well you know. I don’t know how Spaces is implemented internally, but I’m thinking it could be rendering all 9 desktops off screen and really using the graphics chip.

    I’m going to do some testing by dropping back down to a single Space and see what happens to the temperature, but I’m really curious if the rest of you having problems also embraced the Spaces feature heavily when it was first released.

    – Steve

  28. Reporting back… After running in a single Space for over a day, I didn’t see any drop in the temperature reported by smcFanControl, nor did the graphic problems go away…

  29. Like Steve, my ’06 iMac video went crazy with all the described symptoms after I upgraded from 10.4.9 to 10.6.4. There is an obvious connection…buffer overflows, memory allocation, heat…who knows. But it’s sad to see.

    This is the worse problem I’ve had in 25 years of sticking with Apple since the Mac came out in 1984…I still have my 128k Mac.

    Ah well, thanks for the tips. I’ll replace the video card and cross my fingers!

    David

  30. NICK…..to answer your question YES! My late 06 24″ iMac is running better and faster than ever.

  31. Steve, David, the only solution is to replace the card. I tried, man did I try, to find a solution but the bottom line is the cards are bad. Drop a new one in and you will have a new computer.

  32. Thanks Satch. Just ordered my 7600 GT from WeLoveMacs. Will post my results after the operation.

  33. Just did the operation. It took me 2 hours and 15 minutes from start to finish. Everything seems to be working fine. Watching the video a half dozen times was really worthwhile, and I had the video going on my laptop as I fixed my iMac. I would just play a portion of the video, hit pause, do that step, then start the video again.

    In the video, the guy removes the CD/DVD drive and the hard drive (although the video doesn’t show him removing the hard drive — it just magically disappears at one point). I found I didn’t need to remove either drive… I just needed to disconnect some connectors to the drives.

    I found the process very straightforward with one exception: It took me quite some time to figure out how to remove some of the connectors!

    Thanks to everyone who posted here!

    – Steve

  34. Added bonus! Some PC games I have that wouldn’t run under Parallels with the original 7300GT card now run with the 7600GT card. Wasn’t expecting that, but glad that the upgrade brings additional functionality to my iMac.

  35. thank you bro, you save my life, i have this problem problem, and when apple check my imac told me that this fix is gonna cost me $1200, so they lay me down, i should build you a monument

  36. This is all great but who is to say that the same replacement card wont have the same issues that the original did? Is this the only card that you can put in this rev of machine? I am having the same issues after 3+ years of use, and am skeptical about putting the same card in that might fail 6mos to a year down the road. And at $250 for the card I would rather put something else in it that will last.
    Thanks

  37. I just replaced my old 7300GT (128MB.Ram)on my imac 24″ (2006) For the upgrade version 7600GT (256MB.Ram) The installation was succesfull.
    I reboot the system after I installed the card. And when I click on “about this mac” The system do no recognize the new video card tech update info. Still show the previous video card tech info.

    “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO AT THIS POINT”
    1- I report this issue to the place I bought the car…They told me they sold me the new 7600GT/256MB. But is up to me if I want to reopen the imac and remove the card to chech the serial.# And call them back to verify the video card inventory!
    2- I call mac twice and I get 2 different versions
    a)They told me that my mother board is old and probably will not recognize the update video card version!
    b)Another mac rep.told me that… The place I bought the card. They sold me the older version in stead of a newer version.
    c)I sheer this experience with an authorized mac repair service in my area, And they told me, They don’t know why its not showing the new tech data on my system.

    At this point I had checking with a lot of people regarding about this issue, Without any response or answers!
    If anybody knows the answer, please let me know.
    I hate to paying more money for a new version video card, And get rip off for a less expensive video card!
    creativeimage01@yahoo.com

  38. @tony boy, you could always try zapping the PRAM and see if that gets it to recognize the new hardware. And if it deosnt do it, it doesnt really hurt anything. If still no luck I would prepare yourself for a dis-assemble and verify that you actually installed the larger RAM card.
    good luck.

  39. A great and very informative site! However, the most interesting question is not answered:

    IS AN RADEON 2600 MXM CARD (from the ALU iMac series) COMPATIBLE WITH THE PLASTIC 24″ IMAC’S?

    Physically these are both “fist Generation MXM”, and are therefore electrical compatible:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_PCI_Express_Module

    But, how looks the compatibility in the aspect of the MXM (Apple) firmware?

    The Geforce 7300 / 7600 are NO real alternative, they seems to be buggy as hell and they have
    all not a very long live…

    I own already an Apple Radeon HD 2600 MXM module out of an ALU iMac, should I just test it?

  40. This thread had been a real eye opener for me, I’ve lived with problem for over year now and it been sooooooo frustrating; the graphics card is not something I’d given too much thought. I so pleased to hear a replacement card can relieve me of my woes.

    Its a very good question though, can a card other than the Nvidia be used? Does anyone know where to get these graphics cards in Australia?

    Thanks again people.

  41. Behold… I have returned from swapping out the bad video card with the new one. Everything went really good! And tech tool deluxe proclaims I no longer have bad VRAM!!! the whole system checked out okay, seems to be performing very well!

    I think the worst part was getting the screen on and off, I had my interchangeable bit torx-head driver set, which nearly made it impossible to get the screws in and out from between the gap of the screen and the outer plastic case, there’s not much room there at all and the screws are down a good inch or more from the surface of the screen. I had to innovate a little bit putting them back in, by electrical taping the screws onto a regular flathead screwdriver to get them started, then barely putting the bit of the torx-head driver in the driver tool to tighten them up.

    The tips on how to release the ribbon connection of the DVD drive by Dave was really helpful. For a non-tech I don’t think 2:45 swap time was too bad. I did pick up a handy grounding wrist strap at the local Radio Shack which worked really well, once I was done and set the computer back upright, I took the grounding wrist strap off and touched the metal on my desk and got zapped with static, thank god I had the strap on when I was working. Dry Minnesota winter air and carpet is a bad mix.

  42. Well, well, it seems that the EFI of these iMac 24″ acrylic plastic model series does NOT accept Radeon MXM graphics cards. The iMac does not start up, the start “bing” is hearable, but then the signal light starts to be active constant, and there is absolutely no signal on the display. Whatever, there exist also the possibility that my MXM Radeon HD 2600 card is something faulty, – but that is highly unlikely.

    As mentioned in my first post, every physical aspect is optimal, the Radeon MXM card (out of my broken ALU iMac) fit’s perfectly in that 24″ acrylic plastic model. (The only critical thing is that you MUST use for each MXM card ITS OWN retaining plate, so that means that this one of the original geforce 7600GT card is INCOMPATIBLE to the Radeon HD 2600 MXM card. They have an different PCB “keep out area”.)

    When I have the chance, I will test sometime in the future also that (optional) GeForce 8800 GS MXM card for the 24″ iMac ALU series. It could be possible that this nvidia based card will be accepted by the 24″ acrylic plastic model series EFI…

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