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World's Fastest eMac (21.5" iMac, Late 2011)

This was my sister's computer for a long time. A 21.5 inch 2011 iMac she was given for her birthday one year. She has since built a gaming PC and gotten a 2015 MacBook Pro and has given me the green light to take it and do with it what I please. I don't know whether to upgrade the Mac or convert it into an external monitor somehow.

UPDATE 1: March 4th, 2024

I have been somewhat taken with this thing for a little bit, now. I got sick and bored last weekend and decided to put an SSD in it and upgrade the OS from High Sierra to Monterey using my new favorite piece of technology, OpenCore Legacy Patcher. The install went swimmingly, but when I got to the post-install setup wizard, I was met with a Remote Management screen saying the computer still belonged to a high school district somewhere in the midwest and I was required to sign into it to proceed through the setup process. The next day, when I had had some sleep, I took the SSD back out, put it in my 2012 MacBook Pro, and that let me through the setup process just fine.

Things were fine for about a day. I updated the OS to Sonoma and used it while it was still on the floor near my bedroom door, but then I got a notification in my settings app saying I needed to enroll in the same Remote Management profile. I let it sit and hoped it would go away, but the next morning it turned itself on and showed me the same popup window that the setup had shown me. Nothing I tried was able to make it go away, restarting the machine only gave me about a minute before it returned, so I thought the only solution would be replacing the logic board. I was incredibly demoralized, I honestly wanted to cry about it. I emailed the school district about it without expecting to get much in return, but mostly was just planning to replace the logic board at some point. Eventually...

Then I remembered the tricks that hackintoshes have to use to make Apple services like iMessage and FaceTime work on non-Apple hardware, which is spoofing the serial number of a real Mac. Looking into the settings on OCLP, there it was. Automatically generated serial numbers for every supported Mac model. Just spoofing the serial number didn't work, though, as the Remote Management login had already been triggered, but reinstalling the operating system under a different serial number actually did the trick! I've been using it on my desk ever since, and I've been planning upgrades for it in the meantime.

On Friday, I saw I had actually gotten an email back a couple of days before from a woman named Rose, the system software administrator for the school district this Mac came from, telling me my email was forwarded to her and asking what the serial number on the machine was. I emailed it back to her, received an automated mail saying she was out of the office When I woke up this morning, I checked my email and she had said that the machine was removed from their system. Now, the serial spoof is hopefully not even required! I'll leave it as is just in case, though.

Because it's an Education iMac from 2011, the hardware does have some differences from other 2011 iMacs of the same size. Most notably far lower specifications, and a lack of hardware support for Bluetooth and Thunderbolt ports. Right now the plan has been to add 16GB of RAM to it from my ThinkPad, which I did last night, bringing the total RAM capacity up to 20GB, with an 8GB stick and a 2GB stick in each channel. Next, I bought the fastest CPU this thing's power supply and thermal design can handle, an i7-2600S, which arrives in the mail TODAY! Hopefully in a few short hours I'll go from one of the worst desktop Sandy Bridge CPUs to one of the best. If it was a 27" model, I might be able to get an i7-2600 or even a 2600K, but that's not what this is. After that, the last upgrade I hope to make is the GPU. A 256MB Terrascale GPU is not only incredibly bad, but also prone to failure, so I currently plan to replace it with a 2GB Radeon Pro WX 4130. That will come at some point later, hopefully by the end of the month, but I would need to flash a VBIOS and potentially do some very tiny soldering so well see when the tools for that actually show up from China.