Cars, tech, games… You name it, I’ll probably love it.
Cardiff, South Wales, UK
If there is that stands out as the pinnacle of Apple’s creations, I would say it is the iMac. It was one of those machines that made you think, “wow, computers don’t have to be boring?”. Least to say, they’ve improved on that thought to this day.
So, how does this relate to me? In short; I’m a bit of a nerd.
I first got into Apple and their products shortly before going to college. In fact, my first Apple computer was a PowerMac G4. But, my induction to college is where I came across the iMac, of course, it wasn’t long before I got my own.
Since university hit, the days of my iMac were short-lived and it was innevitably sold for a Windows alternative. But, it has to be said, if it wasn’t for the iMac then I certainly would not know as much as I do about design & technology.
Nostalgia has hit hard recently. Whether it be remembering the good old days or just missing that computer… I don’t know. But I’ve been watching the likes of Strange Parts, Marques Brownlee, Linus Tech Tips and other tech enthusiasts and I’ve been reminded of my first computer repair.
I’ve devised a somewhat stupid & expensive idea…
Building an iMac From Spare Parts
Parts are never hard to come by. You’ll see them everywhere – Facebook, eBay, Gumtree, your nan’s shed. But, a majority of the time you’ll find the most common parts are usually always Apple parts. And I think I know why…
Apple computers are notoriously easy to work on.
Which is weird. Flashback to the Right to Repair movement. Apple doesn’t really like anyone working on their machines. And this is probably the number 1 reason why I think this is such a stupid idea. I’m making a computer from spare parts from a company that does not approve of its user base tinkering with their computers.
With that said, which model am I making? Well, straight up it’s the A1312 iMac. Better known as the Mid 2011 27″ iMac. Why this one? Well, It was probably one of the last of the “simpler” macs to work on. There’s no adhesive holding in the glass, no obscure placement of the internals, and as a somewhat “bonus“, it was the last iMac to include an optical drive.
But more to the point, it was these exact models they were using during my time at college. Considering I studied interactive media & design and I’ve been even more into web design recently… making this machine seems like a somewhat decent idea.
There will be issues along the way, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. But it’s the learning curve that counts. For the record; I’m not a soldering expert, so don’t expect any attempts at fixing broken boards. I’ll leave that to the experts.
What Have I Got So Far?
My initial investment started with the chassis of the iMac. Pondering & wandering through the deepest reaches of eBay I stumbled across this:
It may not seem like much to some, but to me, this was perfect. It wasn’t a completely empty shell, it included many parts that will help me save money in the future.
This part set off a chain of events – making me think of how much I could get these parts discounted, and what would the results be like? If I was looking to save, then the only place I could think of was none other than the computer parts trading capital – China.
The LED Inverter Board
AliExpress, probably the most well known source of Chinese goods. You’d think it’s a gold mine for parts for computers like this. Especially when you see what their flea markets are like. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong for thinking that. Almost all the parts are if anything, similarly priced to that of what you’d see sold on eBay. Although, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t find something…
The LED Inverter board is something of a mystery price here in the UK, I’ve seen some around the price of £40, and others for around £70. Thankfully, it only cost a measly £16.14 with shipping costs included. The best part, from start to finish it only took around a week to be shipped.
But, there’s no knowing just yet whether it actually works or not… but we’ll find out in due time.
Logic Board & CPU
The steal of the century – to me, at least, definitely has to be the logic board & CPU. Thanks to eBay and the wonders of buy it now offers I was able to get a mid-2011 logic board for just £65. The best part; the 3.1GHz core i5 was included.
Just to sum this up: I have essentially just got a crucial part of the build for half the price.
Let me explain. These parts usually retail for around £100 – £120. This is an incredible saving and I’m still astounded now.
Anyway, these are just some of the many parts needed. And as much as I’d love to buy them all at once, it’s never really that easy when you’ve got other priorities.
As mentioned earlier, there are likely to be a few hurdles on this trip. Stupidly, some could have been avoided early.
Starting with the most obvious, and one of the parts that could have saved me more time and money; the chassis. These parts were mostly the same. That is, until the mid-2011 updated version came out. Why is this so stupid? Well, silly me didn’t check the EMC number. Little to my knowledge, I found out that the chassis I bought was in fact a 2009 edition.
The main obstacle here? The mid-2011 has an additional cut out in the I/O. This is absolutely necessary as the motherboard make use of that additional thunderbolt port.
Can It Be Fixed?
Strictly speaking, yes, anything is possible here. It just means I’d have to become well acquainted with a Dremel tool. It would be a very make-shift approach to making sure the logic board fits correctly in the iMac.
However, I want to keep this as original as possible.
At this rate, my best bet at success would be to acquire a whole new rear chassis and transfer all of the contents from my current chassis.
The Dreaded Graphics Cards
I can tell you exactly how this went when I found out about this issue. I stared at my monitor and just exhaled for a good half a minute. Yep, the sigh of disappointment.
The graphics cards used in the A1312 iMac are troublesome to say the least. I’m not just talking about general faults either, they’re expensive. This is largely due to most problems in iMacs relating to the graphics card.
There’s another hurdle; there aren’t many supported card for the machine, either. This leaves me with two options: Get a supported AMD Radeon card at roughly £150… or get an unsupported Dell/Alienware Nvidia card.
This is proving to be quite the headache.
There’s no other way about it. I’m going to finish my shopping list of parts to get. At the point of writing this I’m just waiting on the graphics card, power supply, rear chassis and the glass casing.
If you are looking to keep up with the news of the project then you can always follow me on Twitter: @alexoliverdean and if you’re eagerly anticipating the video log then you can follow Scoopd on YouTube.
I’m going to try my hardest to document the whole process. Be aware, there may be a couple of continuity errors. I am in the process of moving, so naturally, different clips will be shot in different places.
I’ll probably look to do an update with a follow up article once all of the parts arrive. I intend on taking a look at the parts individually and explaining – to the best of my knowledge – what the parts do. See it as a kind of, “let’s learn together” thing.