Productivity

Convert a 27" iMac into a standing desk

By Nicholas Gracilla  ·   January 13, 2014  ·  3 minute read

Topics: Productivity

You can free yourself from sitting all day—even with a large format, older 27" iMac. But, be ready for some drawbacks, too. 

UPDATE: April, 2018: we have moved, and we’re selling this Ergotron WorkFit-S Sit-Stand Workstation. Contact us if you’re interested!

Sitting all day at work is the new bad-posture-will-kill-you, the new smoking, the new sugar and gluten. There’s quite a lot written that suggests it’s unhealthy. Like everyone else, we work at computers pretty much all day, so sitting—and ergonomics in general—presents a real issue.

Having workspace variation is critical. We have different spaces within our office to facilitate getting up, moving around, meeting, and collaboration—and this has  only increased in our new office space. We also have great quality chairs. But it’s also always good to experiment. So, I thought I’d try out a sit-stand desk. 

Installation

I researched a wide range of products, and settled on the Ergotron WorkFit-S Sit-Stand Workstation. It features an internal counterbalanced adjustment that can accommodate a lot of weight (important for the relatively heavy 27” iMac).  It has adjustable hight and screen sizes, and it’s modular and not terribly expensive.

Installation is fairly straightforward; check out the photos for a step by step on the removal of the iMac’s stand and installation of the VESA mount. I’d recommend referencing YouTube for videos on the correct angle for the provided credit card to release the latch. I definitely gained a new appreciation for Apple’s hardware manufacture by doing this — it’s incredibly precise and made with well-crafted materials that are thoughtfully put together.

Given the weight, you’ll need to really crank up the tension on the Ergotron to support it without sliding down. 

Disadvantages to the Ergotron sit-stand iMac desk

The disadvantage to the desk is that the 27” iMac is really large. Of key importance is its screen height — while the Ergotron supports vertical movement of the mounted computer, there’s very little room for the iMac to move before it hits the integrated keyboard tray arm. This becomes a problem at seated heights. If your body mechanics are such that the screen height and keyboard height work for you, then you’ve got no problems. But if not, you can’t adjust the relative height of the screen to the keyboard in a way that’s satisfactory. 

Another disadvantage is vibration. I’m a fairly heavy typer, and as I used my keyboard, I’d notice the screen vibrating. You may have a lighter touch. 

Uhoh. I lost the iMac mounting bracket.

Probably the most exciting part of the experiment was attempting to re-attach the iMac stand after removing the VESA mount… and hearing the flange “click” back into place, deep inside the iMac. Because of the weight of the machine, the flange cannot be simply flipped back out with ease. After some cursing, sweat, and actual blood, I searched on YouTube to see if anyone else had done the same, and came across various solutions involving pipecleaner wire and other similar solutions. 

In short, you’ll need to thread a wire through each of the screw holes—needlenose pliers are a must—and bundle the lot into a single, strong cable. Then, pull. I used plastic zip ties. It took much, much more effort that I imagined it could to pull the flange back into place. So, be careful from the start! This was a one hour penalty. 

Too Long; Didn’t Read:

You can easily convert an old iMac into a standing desk, but the height of the monitor restricts relative distances between the keyboard and the center of the screen. Be careful mounting and dismounting the VESA bracket. If you lose the flange into the iMac, you’ll need to fish it back out creatively.