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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Transitioning From Desktop and Laptop to Laptop Only

Transitioning From Desktop and Laptop to Laptop Only
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ghporter
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Sep 22, 2019, 10:36 AM
 
My 2007 iMac is starting to give me real issues. It's shut itself down - or rather tried to restart and failed - twice now, and the logs are dense with messages about this, that, and this other thing erroring, failing, etc.

I am firstly going to open it up and clean out the fans and heat sinks to see if that helps. Frankly, I have never even done more than dusted the outside of the case, so if it's full of dust and pet hair, that's my bad.

While I've considered upgrading the hard drive and CPU, the CPU upgrade is daunting enough for the relatively small amount of benefit I'd get - there's no way to upgrade this machine to the point it could run Mojave, and it's limited to about 6GB of RAM - not too much "bang for the buck" here.

So I'm looking at basically moving anything I really need to use to my MBP. And honestly the only thing I use that's specifically installed on the iMac is some MS Office (2008) apps. This blasphemy is due to the fact that Pages and Numbers lack many of the features of Word and Excel that I sort of depend on. And the couple of spreadsheets I actually use just won't work properly in Numbers because of some of those features.

The big draw for the desktop was, for a long time, that I would back up my phone and iPad to it, and that my iTunes Library (purchased and ripped) lived there too. I don't see a big need for either of these functions anymore. I can back up to the cloud or to my MBP whenever, and I can move my Library to an external or networked drive whenever I get around to it.

I already have an external drive for Time Machine backups and off-line storage, and though I use the laptop unplugged more often than not, it is plugged into the drive overnight pretty much always.

For those who use a laptop exclusively, what extras might I need to go this route?

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Sep 22, 2019, 11:57 AM
 
Glenn, I can't comment on the primary question. On the side ones --

Try the open-source LibreOffice. It's a free equivalent of MS Office, and I've had good compatibility opening / saving MS files.

You will find it full of dust. If it's ever been used around smokers, it'll be a lot harder to clean. A proper cleaning requires pulling the logic board, so you can clean the power board and CPU / GPU heat pipe fins. So you'll end up doing nearly all the steps of a CPU upgrade anyway to stabilize it.

Your iMac 7,1 (2007) is Mojave-compatible if you swap the CPU to a Penryn-based Core 2 Duo, such as a T9300. $15 from China. Then use the usual hacked installer. I've done this upgrade on a 2007 iMac, then installed High Sierra. Expect to upgrade it to Mojave in the next few months. iFixit rates it as a difficult job, but I didn't hit any road blocks. Just set aside an evening, and followed all the steps in sequence.

The main thing that could trip you up is a failing GPU heat pipe assembly. If it's sprung a leak, the refrigerant will have slowly bled away, and the GPU will become prone to overheating. About 10 minutes after initial bootup. If that's happened, you won't be able to sort out the symptoms until after cleaning the inside. The dust will cause plenty of over heating anyway. You didn't mention screen corruption, so odds are you just need dust removal. It's been accumulating for 12 years after all.

note: if you find the heat sink grease on the CPU dried out (likely), pull the GPU heat sink and clean/re-grease it too.
( Last edited by reader50; Sep 22, 2019 at 12:34 PM. )
     
ghporter  (op)
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Sep 22, 2019, 02:58 PM
 
No smokers anywhere around this machine, but at least a couple of generations of pets and their fur. And dust...pets make dust.

I'll look into that upgrade then. Ifixit really does make it sound like rocket surgery, but as long as it's well covered by their procedure, I don't see having a major headache doing it.

Other than the Torx drivers (which I have), I need suction cups for the glass cover (Harbor Freight should have what I need), and I have some spudger tools, so it really looks like it's just a chore, not an ordeal.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Sep 22, 2019, 05:05 PM
 
About the suction cups -- I cheated. Didn't buy any. I used the dash suction mount for my GPS, and the one for my radar detector. The glass magnets aren't hugely strong, you just need to pull it straight off evenly. So as not to break off any of the alignment pins.

The hardest part I had was the screen connections that are behind the screen. Not too bad to remove, but quite fussy getting connected back. If in doubt, check other iMac model teardowns. That part of the design didn't change much across the models, and some of the other guides have more pictures. Also pay attention to the user comments on each step - they often call out points where they got confused.
( Last edited by reader50; Sep 22, 2019 at 05:17 PM. )
     
ghporter  (op)
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Sep 22, 2019, 05:46 PM
 
Thanks again. I’ll look at the user comments when I review next time. I ordered the CPU and I’m happy to wait a couple of weeks for it to get here. I’ll have time to get heatsink paste and such, make sure I have all the right Torx bits, etc.

I may go ahead and transition to an SSD at the same time. The machine has the original HD, a 320GB unit that may be aging poorly as well, and 500GB SSDs aren’t that pricey anymore, so....

Do you have any idea whether the 6GB max RAM limit (officially 4GB but functionally it’ll supposedly use a 2GB SODIMM in one slot and a 4GB SODIMM in the other) is a board-level thing? It would be ever so nice to have a little more elbow room RAM-wise.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Sep 22, 2019, 06:34 PM
 
Yeah, change that 12-yr-old HD.

The 6GB max is a hard limit - the memory controller will not use any more. You can plug in 8GB if you like (2x 4GB), but only 6GB will be used.

After upgrading to the later T9300 CPU, I didn't think to recheck if 8GB would work. If the memory controller is built into the CPU (and firmware is compatible), 8GB may be an option.
     
ghporter  (op)
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Sep 22, 2019, 09:00 PM
 
Good to hear. I’ll start looking for two 4GB SODIMMs too. That won’t be as urgent, obviously, since the RAM is “user upgradable” with a little door on the bottom. But it’s something I’ll pay attention to.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Sep 30, 2019, 06:57 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
For those who use a laptop exclusively, what extras might I need to go this route?
Sorry for an extremely late response on this, but:

* External display. Get yourself a 4K 24" or 27" and run it in Retina mode. If it is a 27", it will be slightly zoomed in compared to what Apple gives you, but it works just fine.
* Mouse and keyboard. Yes, you can do without, but they're cheap, so whatever.
* Some sort of mini-dock, if you can. I use this one with my 2016 MBP. If you don't have any USB-C ports (I forget what model MBP you have), just skip this one.
* Some sort of stand to raise the display of the MBP. It is great to use that second display sometimes, and then it needs to be on a level with the big display.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
christ
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Oct 3, 2019, 09:14 AM
 
... and a DVD Drive.

If you don't go the dock route, get yourself a passel of dongles for things that'll need to be connected.
Chris. T.

"... in 6 months if WMD are found, I hope all clear-thinking people who opposed the war will say "You're right, we were wrong -- good job". Similarly, if after 6 months no WMD are found, people who supported the war should say the same thing -- and move to impeach Mr. Bush." - moki, 04/16/03
     
ghporter  (op)
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Oct 3, 2019, 08:08 PM
 
The external display issue is a challenge for me. I used to plan on a Cinema Display for this sort of setup, but they are no longer made. That makes it substantially less clear what display to get - that will support what my MBP will put out.

My MBP is an early 2015 model without USB-C. I found a USB3 dock with DisplayPort input for a little more than the USB-C dock you linked to. I'll be pondering that. As for a keyboard and mouse, if I don't have a dock, would it be worth the cost to go with Bluetooth devices? I'm leaning toward "no," mostly because of battery and so on.

The display stand is a no-brainer for me. I've actually taught "how you hurt yourself with your computer, and how to do it the right way" classes. Ergonomics is one of Occupational Therapy's more common preventative interventions... My clinical instructor had four of her basic OT texts as her go-to display stand, until she started having to refer to them for terminology while I was her student. She invested in a laptop stand that placed the screen at the right height while allowing her to easily connect externals.

I already have an external DVD drive. I didn't spring the (substantially) extra money for an external BluRay drive, but I'm not going to use a 13" display to watch movies if I can use my 55" TV to do that...

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Oct 3, 2019, 10:19 PM
 
MacTracker says you have an HDMI port. Also TB2 ports. So you can use:

1) HDMI to any monitor with an HDMI input. Your 55" TV even.
2) TB1/2 -> DisplayPort adapter, connect to any monitor with DP input.
3) TB2 to a TB 1/2 monitor.
4) Apple's TB3 <-> TB1/2 adapter, then TB3 to any TB3 monitor. But if memory serves, Apple's adapter does not pass DP signals, so the monitor would have to use an actual TB signal, not just a TB jack. That suggests a monitor with built-in GPU, and I'm not sure if any are on the market today.
5) Apple's TB3 <-> TB1/2 adapter, then TB3 to an eGPU box. With a real powerful video card inside. Then plug HDMI or DP or mDP or DVI monitor into real graphics card. Followed by domination in online games. Followed by numerous hot single ladies showing up at your door. I haven't actually seen that happen, but it's supposed to when you consistently win video games.
     
P
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Oct 4, 2019, 05:26 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
The external display issue is a challenge for me. I used to plan on a Cinema Display for this sort of setup, but they are no longer made. That makes it substantially less clear what display to get - that will support what my MBP will put out.

My MBP is an early 2015 model without USB-C. I found a USB3 dock with DisplayPort input for a little more than the USB-C dock you linked to. I'll be pondering that.
USB 3 docks use something called DIsplayLink to compress the video signal over USB. This works fine in the common case, but has caveats - it is unusable for gaming, sometimes you get weird lag issues when changing large parts of the display at once, and you need to have a driver installed on the Mac. That driver was incomaptible with recent versions of Mac OS for 6 months about a year ago.

A USB-C hub is just Alternate Mode, meaning they redirect some pins in the USB-C port to DisplayPort. This is transparent to the OS, and works better - just beware the max resolution.

As for a keyboard and mouse, if I don't have a dock, would it be worth the cost to go with Bluetooth devices? I'm leaning toward "no," mostly because of battery and so on.
Get wireless stuff. Some keyboards are solar powered now, so you don't need to replace the battery. I'm typing this on one. I charge my mouse about twice a year, and it works while plugged in. I prefer Logitech stuff - they have things in all price classes.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 4, 2019, 05:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
MacTracker says you have an HDMI port. Also TB2 ports. So you can use:

1) HDMI to any monitor with an HDMI input. Your 55" TV even.
Note that if you don't have a USB-C port, the HDMI port does not support 4K @ 60 Hz. 4K @ 30HZ is not an acceptable substitute, so in practice you're limited to 2560*1440.

2) TB1/2 -> DisplayPort adapter, connect to any monitor with DP input.
This isn't so much an adapter as a straight cable, and many displays come with one in the box (my LG did). TB1/2 port is just a miniDisplayPort. This is by far the best option. Max res is 4K

3) TB2 to a TB 1/2 monitor.
Expensive. Are any still sold?

4) Apple's TB3 <-> TB1/2 adapter, then TB3 to any TB3 monitor. But if memory serves, Apple's adapter does not pass DP signals, so the monitor would have to use an actual TB signal, not just a TB jack. That suggests a monitor with built-in GPU, and I'm not sure if any are on the market today.
Correct, Apple's adapter doesn't pass DisplayPort signals, so this will not work.

5) Apple's TB3 <-> TB1/2 adapter, then TB3 to an eGPU box. With a real powerful video card inside. Then plug HDMI or DP or mDP or DVI monitor into real graphics card. Followed by domination in online games. Followed by numerous hot single ladies showing up at your door. I haven't actually seen that happen, but it's supposed to when you consistently win video games.
This should work, but is of course the most expensive solution.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50
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Oct 4, 2019, 12:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
USB 3 docks use something called DIsplayLink ... and you need to have a driver installed on the Mac. That driver was incompatible with recent versions of Mac OS for 6 months about a year ago.
DisplayLink drivers had trouble with High Sierra 10.13.4 - 10.13.6, they ultimately worked for a single external monitor via an AirPlay workaround. DisplayLink works as expected in Mojave and Catalina. Though you have to OK the extension and give screen-recording permission (Catalina).
     
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Oct 27, 2019, 07:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Good to hear. I’ll start looking for two 4GB SODIMMs too. That won’t be as urgent, obviously, since the RAM is “user upgradable” with a little door on the bottom. But it’s something I’ll pay attention to.
I got the iMac taken apart, the HD and CPU replaced, and all put back together without losing any parts or blood or anything!

I did cuss the designers a few times, not because of the electronics, but because of how they routed this or that cable in some awfully bizarre ways. "We'll stick the microphone way up on top so it'll pick up ambient sound as well as the user's voice, and then just snake that cable hither and yon down to the audio board near the bottom of the machine. It's all good." (I did lose the mic cable in the process of reinstalling the logic board, but that wasn't a big problem.)

I'm taking a break right now, and after I get everything picked up and neatened, I'm going to plug it back in and load Mojave on it. At least that's the plan.

The only real snag I ran into was that the fasteners for the hard drive and my 2 1/2" to 3 1/2" drive adapter didn't match, so instead of putting in a 480GB SSD, I put in a 1TB physical HD. I'm not really concerned at the moment, but if I find an appropriate adapter, it's not a challenge (now that I've done it) to open the machine up enough to swap out the drive.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
ghporter  (op)
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Oct 29, 2019, 09:13 PM
 
I started up the iMac with its old hard drive connected through USB. It runs faster, even with the old HDD connected externally. But with only 4GB of RAM, it’s still hobbled.

The primary reason I did it this way was to install a firmware patcher dosdude1 - the Mojave install hack author - calls out as needed, apparently to enable APFS. I ran the package and it completed, but ho do I tell whether it’s actually installed anything? I recall firmware patchers in the past left a trace, like an app.

So what version SMC and EMC am I looking for? It’s an iMac 7,1.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Oct 29, 2019, 09:21 PM
 
The patch enables booting from an APFS volume. To see if it works, attach an APFS drive with HS or Mojave or Catalina. Then hold Option, and see if that volume appears in the firmware boot selector. I don't believe his patcher changes any version numbers.
     
ghporter  (op)
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Nov 1, 2019, 09:51 PM
 
I'll check it out as soon as I can. I'm at a conference out of town at the moment.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Yesterday, 12:17 PM
 
While I was at the conference I ordered a NewerTech 2.5 to 3.5” drive adapter. It’s what OWC sells for its own SSD, so I figured it’s gotta be good to go. Yesterday morning I installed my 480GB SSD in the adapter and this morning I finally got the time to install the SSD in the iMac.

It wasn’t nearly as challenging to swap the drive out as it was to do the whole CPU replacement - obviously it wasn’t nearly as involved a process. But it also went nice and smoothly because I had already done the CPU swap and I knew the insides of the box. I did drop one of the T6 screws that secure the LCD connector into the machine, but it fell out when I picked up the whole thing and shook it a little.

I’m installing Mojave with the installer hack right now from a USB drive. It’s going nicely. So far, I’m glad I’ve gone to the trouble to attempt this project.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
ghporter  (op)
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Yesterday, 10:02 PM
 
Well the clean install of Mojave worked pretty well. I haven’t migrated apps and data from my old hard drive yet, but that looks like it’ll be pretty simple.

The one thing I don’t get is that I didn’t get the drive set up with the APFS format, and the options for converting to APFS are all grayed out. I did reinstall the boot rom update/firmware patcher I mentioned earlier, and it completed and reported success, but I still don’t have the APFS conversion option. I’m not sure that this is a big deal, but it is a curiosity...

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Yesterday, 11:57 PM
 
Mojave installer converts a drive to APFS. The patched installer does not, and Mojave still works ok under HFS+. Main problem is Software Update will not provide updates if you use HFS+. At least, not without further patching.

If you want APFS, suggest you format the drive that way first. Then run the installer.
     
   
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