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Be Smart About Upgrades
Reducing the time for a common task from 2 seconds to 1 seconds, or from 1.5 to 1 seconds is worthwhile, but the same is rarely true of 1.1 vs 1.0 seconds. An extra 10% performance gain might cost considerably more money.
Whether the speed difference matters has to do with interactive use: a threshold effect can make a slightly slower response feel slow when working interactively at a fast pace. Generally speaking, a 10% faster response can hardly be noticed so focus upgrades on things that cause irritating long pauses in operation.
Be realistic about what “faster” actually means: some people might spend an entire day upgrading their machine, yet the actual time spent doing that upgrade might never be recovered by actual time savings!
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Enough is enough
Beware of diminishing returns: enough is enough:
In general, it’s not worth spending extra up-front to “future proof” your Mac, because after a year or two things have changed so much and/or prices have dropped that the money you saved initially can go a long ways towards a new system.
Some upgrades are not machine specific, and thus a solid ongoing investment even if you buy a new Mac, because you can move them to the new Mac: internal and external drives, displays and peripherals, PCIe cards, etc. In most cases, memory cannot be moved forward.
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Get help when you need it
I occasionally encounter potential consulting clients who can’t bring themselves to pay for an hour of consulting (“not in the budget”), but quickly explain they’ll just max-out the RAM or ______. The total system cost might be $6000 or more, yet they’re just guessing at whether a $9000 system or a $4000 system will be needed.
Ironically, the wrong choices can result in both sub-optimal performance or even lower reliability while costing thousands more. Good advice is not cheap, but the free alternatives can be very expensive.
Choose a vendor carefully
Mix 'n match parts are a recipe for headaches. Buying your stuff at one vendor that knows their products means you’re likely to have fewer hassles and more options. And should an issue arise, it’s a lot easier to make one call than two or three. Choose a vendor like OWC, that stands behind its sales with service and support.