Suitability of a 2011 iMac for Rack development?

I’m a Windows guy with slightly limited access to a Mac. I’m thinking of buying a Mac for Rack-development-related work, but that’s all I’d use it for and I don’t want it to cost the earth.

I’m looking at buying an iMac A1311 21.5" Mid-2011 Core i5 4GB with a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400.

Is that a suitable machine for MacOS development and testing work? I won’t be using it all day every day. It needs to run the Rack development toolset and Rack itself with small-to-medium patches, nothing too demanding.

I believe it can’t be upgraded beyond MacOS 10.13 High Sierra.

My main concern is whether the toolset will continue to be available and suitable for Rack development for at least the next few years?


might want to see how much it would cost to upgrade - it appears that it’s easy to do on that model. I’d go 8gb minimum if you plan on doing dev on it.

CPU per core performance and 4 cores is ok.
GPU not suitable at all, too slow and only 256mb.
Without SSD combined with 4gb ram, that is too little for macOS would result with writes to swap and slowdown.

it’s a geforce 9400, while not spectacular it’s not an embedded intel gpu from that era: my 2009 Mac mini runs rack reasonably well using rack with the same gpu.

compiling is a little slow, and could improve with an ssd, but ram is the biggest issue I think, given that the gpu works fairly well.

I wouldn’t consider an almost 10 years old computer for pretty much anything)

I use a mbp 2011 15 i7 16gb + 2x500ssd to do everything

My dev machine is a 2012 I5 mbp upgraded with a SSD, it works really good for programming and simple VCV patches as well. Those are more reliable than newer macs IMO, If you can have a good price on it, go for it I’d say

Thanks everyone for the advice.

I looked up the specs of the machine, and the video card listed by the retailer didn’t seem like it was an option on that machine, so I took a gamble and ordered it. Sure enough the video card is actually a 512MB Radeon HD - still not the fastest, but it runs Rack OK with not-too-demanding patches, and the toolchain works nicely.

Aside: I unpacked the machine, switched it on, all was well. Installed the toolchain, checked out and built Rack, no sound. That might be a problem for a machine bought for the development of music software. No sound from any application, not just Rack. Bizarrely, the OS doesn’t even list the built-in speakers as an available audio device.

Long story short, the machine had a broken-off headphone jack jammed into the headphone socket. It turns out that when you plug headphones in, not only does MacOS mute the speakers, it removes them from reality.

Some very careful work with an electric drill and the sound is back. I might just suggest to the retailer that there’s an item missing from their quality checklist. :slight_smile:


Yeah, it’s an interesting little Mac “feature” that I had to research as well :-/

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there is a specific trick to remove broken plugs using a micro dose of super glue on a cut tooth picker

remember the headphone on MAC is also a DIGITAL port if using the correct cable