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How you can add more RAM to your Mac

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Upgrading your Mac’s RAM can provide a significant performance boost, as well as equipping the machine to run demanding software in the future.

In older models, this procedure is very simple, and if you use third-party RAM from companies like Crucial, you will also find the cost quite affordable. Modern Macs are a different story, and there are many dangers to avoid, which is why we put together this guide.

Should I upgrade my RAM?

Random Access Memory (RAM) is a temporary storage medium used by your Mac’s CPU. Essentially, it is a short-lived storage space where process data is stored while you run it. 

The CPU can access data stored in RAM much faster than it can access information on the hard drive, for example. This makes it vital for the proper functioning of your Mac.

So is it a good idea to upgrade your RAM? Well, in many cases, yes. Simply put, RAM upgrades are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to breathe new life into an old Mac. And for many models, the only tool you’ll need is a small screwdriver.

However, if your Mac is a newer model, there may be no way to upgrade the RAM, or it may be theoretically possible, but risky.

Before upgrading your RAM consider if there are other ways to solve your memory problem. You may want to review these tips on how to free up memory on your Mac.

There are also a number of risks associated with upgrading your Mac’s RAM, which we describe below:

1. You could mess up your Mac

There is a possibility that if you don’t take proper antistatic precautions (which we’ll cover later) you could damage the sensitive electronic components inside your Mac. 

If you work carefully and follow the instructions you should be fine, but you perform this work at your own risk, and Macworld accepts no responsibility if you short-circuit the motherboard or experience similar problems.

2. A RAM upgrade may void the warranty

As a general rule, RAM is considered a “user-usable” part and as such will not invalidate your warranty by upgrading.

However, in the case of many modern Macs – in particular Mac laptops – Apple may specify that the memory (RAM) is not removable by users and indicate that if the RAM is to be updated it must be done by an Apple Authorized Service Provider. .

With this in mind, it may be worth checking your Mac manual for the term “user-usable” to confirm. Of course, if your Mac is out of warranty, you don’t have to worry about invalidating anything.

3. RAM might not be accessible

On some Mac models the RAM is soldered into place (eg 21.5 on the 2015 iMac) making it impossible to upgrade, and trying to do so would probably damage your Mac.

Do I need more RAM?

There are two other factors to consider before you consider upgrading your Mac’s RAM: how much you have and how much your Mac uses. Here’s how to find the answers to both questions.

How much RAM do I have?

Today’s Macs ship with no less than 8GB of RAM, in many cases you’ll find 16GB of RAM as standard. It’s been a long time since Apple sold Macs with anything less than that, although if you have a MacBook Air from 2015, or a Mac mini from 2014, you may only have 4GB of RAM. 

Even older Macs ship with less RAM than that. On the other hand, iMacs and MacBook Pro drives have offered 8GB or more for much longer.

 
 
 

The first step will be to find out how much RAM you have inside your Mac. It’s easy to find out.

  1. Click on the ‘Apple’ menu at the top of your screen.
  2. Click on ‘About this Mac’.
  3. Click on ‘System Report’.
  4. In the ‘Hardware’ overview look for the ‘Memory’ section. It will tell you how much you have.
  5. For more information, click on ‘Memory’ in the left column. 

How much RAM am I using?

The next step is to find out how much of this RAM your Mac is using at its peak use. This is the best way to find out if you need more RAM.

  1. Open Activity Monitor on your Mac by pressing Command + Space and typing Activity.
  2. Select the Memory tab.
  3. Look in the section at the bottom for the Memory used.

As you can see from the screenshot above, we have 8GB of RAM and we’re using 6.5GB, but we’re not doing anything particularly burdensome at the moment. If we start editing video or something equally energy hungry we might see a different story.

Can I add more RAM to my Mac?

Having established that some extra RAM can help your Mac, the next big question to answer is whether you will actually be able to add RAM to your Mac. 

In some cases, a Mac’s RAM is user-upgradeable, in other cases it may be upgraded by a service center, and in some cases (unfortunately) it is not possible to upgrade the RAM at all.

The biggest problem is that in some models, particularly in MacBooks, the RAM is soldered in, which makes its removal almost impossible and dangerous for the computer. It may be possible to upgrade the RAM on these models, but it is a risky business.

Next, we’ll go into more detail on how to add RAM to various Mac models. But in summary, you can add RAM to the following Macs:

MacBook : 2008 to 2011 models only.

MacBook Pro: 2009-2012 13-inch, 2008-2012 15-inch, and any 17-inch model can be upgraded. If your MacBook Pro has a Retina display the RAM cannot be upgraded.

MacBook Air: You cannot upgrade the RAM on any MacBook Air model.

iMac: The RAM is upgradeable in most iMacs, with a couple of exceptions: the 21.5-inch models from mid-2014 and late 2015 had the RAM soldered down.  

Mac mini: 2010 – 2012 models can be upgraded, as can the 2018 Mac mini. 

Mac Pro: You can add RAM to any model.

iMac Pro: RAM is not accessible to the user. If you need to replace the memory in your iMac Pro, Apple suggests that you contact an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

New MacBook 201518

How much RAM do I need?

Hope you found out that your Mac’s RAM is upgradeable. In that case, you wonder how much to get. 

As a general rule of thumb, 16GB is probably the most that anyone who isn’t interested in video editing or running multiple virtual machines needs. But this is for today – a better question, perhaps, would be how much will you need in a few years?

The basic tenet behind protecting the future of Mac is to make your current hardware powerful enough to handle the inevitable increase in software demands in the years to come. And it’s always better to have a little more of what you need than less.

Our advice would be to always keep this in mind when buying a new Mac. There are several on-demand build options when you buy a new Apple Mac, and you should get all the RAM you can afford.

What RAM is compatible with your Mac?

This is the next challenge. Not all RAM is the same. Before updating, you should find out what type of RAM your Mac supports.

Non-upgradeable soldered RAM

As we said before, some Macs, in particular MacBooks, have RAM that is soldered on, which means that it is impossible to remove it and trying to do so could damage your computer. In these models you really want to buy as much as possible at the point of sale to “test yourself in the future”.

Theoretically it is possible to upgrade the soldered RAM, but it is an extremely difficult process that could most likely result in the irreversible destruction of your Mac, and we certainly would not recommend it. You can see how REWA technology updates the RAM of a 2015 MacBook Air in this video.

RAM types

Now, assuming your Mac’s RAM is upgradeable, there are a number of technical figures that are used in describing RAM, two main pieces of information you need are the “double data rate” variety (ie DDR3 ), and the frequency (i.e. 1600 MHz). It can also help to know the model identifier of your Mac (ie ‘MacPro6,1’)

When in doubt, ask yourself: If you’re not sure before you buy, ask your potential RAM supplier to confirm that the components in question are compatible with your Mac. That way, you’re covered.

The first method, and probably the easiest, is to use ‘About this Mac’.

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the upper left corner and choose ‘About this Mac’.
  2. Look at the figure given for memory in the “Overview” tab (for example, 1866 MHz DDR3). This will tell you the type of RAM you need
  3. Then click on the system report.
  4. Now click on ‘Memory’ in the left column. It will tell you how many memory slots you have available and how they are being used.
  5. You can also see if the memory is upgradeable – in the case of the MacBook Pro above it is not.

An alternative method of identifying the correct type of RAM is to use Crucial’s free scanner. You will need to download the tool and then go to ‘System Preferences> Security & Privacy> General> Click Open Anyway to open the tool’.

The Crucial tool will then scan your computer and let you know if your Mac is upgradeable, and if it is not. If the RAM is upgradeable, it will direct you to the RAM you could buy.

Where to buy RAM

Besides Crucial there are many ways to buy RAM. Keep in mind the general rule: cheaper = riskier.

Method 1: Direct from Apple (the most expensive)

You can buy your RAM directly from Apple. It is usually the most expensive option by far, and considering that there are compatible aftermarket versions that work just as well and are cheaper, it is not our recommended option.

Apple does not currently have a RAM section in its store, so your best option may be to go to Apple Spain and search for 16GB of RAM or 32GB of RAM, depending on how much you want to buy.

If you read the description of each product, you will notice that the company does not always tell you which Macs the RAM in question is compatible with (usually only if it is for a current Mac). So be very careful to make sure it is the correct type of RAM before purchasing.

As we said before, it is best to buy the RAM the moment you buy your Mac, as it will be built to order with the RAM you need installed.

Method 2: Reputable Parts Supplier (Less Expensive)

This is our recommended approach: purchasing your RAM from a reputable replacement supplier. There are many places to buy RAM online, but, as with most things, established and reputable companies with guarantees and return policies are your best bet.

In Apple’s hardware aftermarket world , some names have stood the test of time. MacUpgrades, Crucial, and OWC (via Megamac) are three of our favorites.

Method 3: Certified Refurbished (cheaper still, but with a shorter warranty)

RAM memory refurbished by Apple or another company (presumably approved by Apple) is often referred to as “certified.” Restored RAM is much less common than, say, restored Macs, but it does exist. Certified Refurbished RAM is typically backed by a warranty, although this is typically shorter than Apple’s warranty.

Method 4: Second-hand (much less expensive, but more risky)

We do not recommend this. Done right, it is usually the cheapest method. It is also the riskiest, as there is often no warranty and no returns. You could save hundreds, or you could end up wasting money on something that doesn’t work. Caveat emptor.

There are many places to shop second hand, but when it comes to choosing, eBay is probably the undisputed champion. You can also try AliExpress (which also has many options), eBid or Gumtree.

What to do before replacing your RAM

While RAM upgrades are straightforward (upgrade wise) there are still some basic precautions to take when handling sensitive electronics and accessing the interior of your Mac.

The goal is to prevent any damage caused by static electricity. This can happen when you touch an object that conducts electricity with a different electrical charge than yours (yes, you conduct electricity too).

First, turn off your Mac and wait at least 10 minutes for the internal components to cool down.

MacBook 2015 Gold 15

Make sure to keep your RAM in its antistatic packaging until you need it. When you’re ready to get started, touch an unpainted metal surface on your computer to discharge any static on your body. Try to make sure your workplace is as static free as possible, remove plastic bags or other objects that can cause static build-up.

Keep your Mac plugged in, but off. This can help ensure that the case is grounded, reducing the possibility of any shock. Demanding users may consider using an antistatic wrist or heel strap to minimize load build-up, but this is not essential.

When mounting your RAM, make sure the small notch cut in the gold contacts on the front matches the bulge on the receiving bay. If assembled correctly, it will fit together like a puzzle. If mounted incorrectly, the bulge will prevent the RAM from fully plugging in.

How to upgrade your MacBook Pro RAM

After the advent of the Retina display, upgrading your Mac laptop, be it MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro became almost impossible. If that’s the Mac you have, then updating will be difficult or, more likely, impossible.

However, if your MacBook Pro was originally purchased before 2012 then it should be able to upgrade the RAM.

A more extensive list of updatable MacBooks would be:

  • MacBook: 2008 to 2011 models only.
  • MacBook Pro: 2009-2012 13in, 2008-2012 15in, and any 17in model can be upgraded.

Models produced before 2012 are relatively easy to upgrade, although there are some obvious structural differences in the design of the Air, Pro, and the original MacBook.

MacBook Pro RAM upgrade

If your MacBook Pro is from 2009 to 2012, please follow the steps below:

Turn off your Mac, unplug it, and wait a while to make sure all the components are okay.

Remove the bottom of the case while keeping track of all the screws (there are 10 screws of different length, so it’s worth sticking them to a sheet of A4 paper in the right places).

Before proceeding further, you must touch something metal to discharge any static electricity you have collected.

You should be able to see the existing RAM. Remove it by pushing the levers on both sides. Before removing the memory, locate the notches – if you cannot find them, press the levers again. Lift the memory (hold it by the sides and be careful not to touch the gold connectors).

To insert the new RAM, position the notch on the module with the memory slot – the gold side should be facing up. Push the memory in.

Push the memory down to snap it into place.

Now replace the bottom of the box with your carefully marked screws (you have followed them well!)

Looking for instructions for a different model? Take a look at our Mac upgrade guide.

How to upgrade Mac mini RAM

Until late 2014, the Mac mini was a very easy device to update. You just have to unscrew the plastic base and there are two pop-up RAM slots in which you can put the new chips. If you have one of these models, it is probably equipped with 4GB of RAM, as it was the Apple standard.

Sadly, the 2014 Mac mini removed the manual update feature from its predecessor. It was only possible to upgrade at the point of sale, otherwise it came with 4GB installed, which can be increased to 8GB for $ 100 or 16GB for $ 300. The top two models come with 8GB of RAM, which can also be increased to 16GB.

In the following years, the Mac mini was not “easy to upgrade the RAM”, with quite a bit of variation in the internal layout of the various models, which meant that some required more disassembly than others. Sometimes logic board components need to be unplugged, which can end badly if you’re not careful.

Fortunately, when Apple updated the Mac mini in 2018, changes were made that made it more upgradeable, although Apple indicates that the update must be done by an Authorized Service Provider (although that won’t stop smart updaters). That machine can accommodate up to 64GB of RAM.

Here’s a list of the upgradeable Mac minis:

  • 2018 Mac mini – not officially user upgradeable, but you can get the memory upgraded by an Authorized Service Provider.
  • 2010-2012 Mac mini – user upgradeable.

Today on the Crucial memory chip shop website you can buy an 8GB kit for £ 59.99 or a 16GB kit for £ 91.19 (both for the 2012 generation Mac mini) or a 16GB kit for £ 92.39 and a 32GB kit for £ 179.99 (for the 2018 Mac mini).

Depending on the model you work with, you will likely need some kind of flat implement to remove the top cap (blunt, not sharp). But don’t let that stop you – our colleagues in the US managed to do it in just 6 minutes, but it was a very old Mac mini model.

Mac mini RAM upgrade

If you have a 2010 to 2012 model the following steps should apply to you:

Start by turning off your Mac mini and unplugging it from the power.

Turn your Mac mini upside down so you can see the bottom cover. Turn the cover counterclockwise to unlock it.

If you press the cover, it should pop out.

Remove the existing memory: you will have to push the clips at each end of the memory to be able to remove it.

Now you can install the new memory.

Replace the cover – you need to match the points before you can screw it back into the locked position.

How to upgrade iMac RAM

Upgrading an iMac’s RAM is, at least for the 27in model, easier than upgrading its other components, as it generally doesn’t involve removing the screen.

It is much easier to upgrade the RAM in a 27-inch iMac than a 21.5-inch because the 27-inch model has a convenient memory access door, located in the center below the screen, where you can access the RAM (as shown in the following image). In that case, upgrading the RAM is simple, you just have to make sure that you buy the correct RAM and you are all set.

However, the 21.5-inch iMac’s RAM can be a bit more difficult to upgrade, and on some generations (namely the mid-2014 and late-2015 models) it is impossible to upgrade due to being soldered on instead.

Fortunately, Apple has stopped soldering RAM in place in recent years. Now even 21.5-inch iMacs can be upgraded, but it’s a challenge best left to an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

Here is our list of upgradeable iMacs:

  • 27 on iMac: RAM can be upgraded.
  • 21.5 on iMac: RAM can be upgraded in most 21.5-inch iMacs, with a couple of exceptions: the mid-2014 and late-2015 21.5-inch models had the RAM soldered on.  
  • iMac Pro: RAM is not accessible to the user. If the memory in your iMac Pro needs to be replaced, Apple suggests that you contact an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

27 on iMac RAM upgrade

In this example, we upgrade the RAM of a 27-inch iMac. It is a fairly easy process.

  1. Place the iMac flat screen on something soft (like a towel or blanket) to protect the screen.
  2. Press the little button on the top of the outlet, and choose the memory hatch door above it. This is very possible to do with just your fingers.
  3. Try to avoid using something to help open the door, as it could scratch your Mac. Find someone with longer, stronger nails if that helps. You don’t need a lot of pressure to open this door.
  4. You will now see the two 4GB memory DIMMs that Apple ships as standard with their iMacs. The company illustrates how the RAM should be placed in the back of the memory hatch door.
  5. Now pull out your little arms to lift up the iMac’s RAM slots.
  6. Add your two new DIMMs in the empty slots. It is not necessary to remove the existing memory chips, unless you add four new 8GB DIMMs for the maximum 32GB memory installation.
  7. Press the small levers to bring the DIMMs flat again.
  8. Put the door back in place. You don’t need long nails for this!

21.5-inch iMac RAM upgrade

In this example we upgraded the RAM on the iMac from mid-2010. As mentioned earlier, the RAM on the 21.5-inch iMac between mid-2014 and late 2015 was not upgradeable.

As long as a 2014/2015 model is not updated, the process should be similar to the one described below.

Place your iMac face down on a clean, smooth surface. We recommend that you put a towel under your Mac and the work surface, so as not to scratch the screen.

Find the RAM access door on the bottom of your Mac. Loosen the three screws that secure it, they should remain inside the access door, then remove the door.

Carefully slide the black RAM tab out of the slot.

Firmly push this tab to eject the module on this side of the RAM bay.

Slide the RAM module out of its slot in the bay and set it aside. Repeat this process to remove the RAM modules from other bays.

Make sure the replacement RAM modules are oriented correctly, and then gently slide them into the iMac. Make sure they are mounted using your thumb.

MacBook 2015 Gold 0006

How to upgrade iMac Pro RAM

It may look like the same exterior design in most respects, but the iMac Pro doesn’t have the same user-accessible hatch as the iMac, so you can’t upgrade its RAM yourself.

The good news is that you can update your RAM, you just have to go to a service center and ask them to update it for you. Rene Ritchie says this doesn’t have to be an Apple store, it can be an independent store.

How to upgrade Mac Pro RAM

The Mac Pro used to be Apple’s most “upgradeable” product. Even the 2013 Mac Pro had a memory bay, although it’s a bit difficult to access.

The RAM inside Apple’s new Mac Pro that was released in late 2019 is also user-upgradeable.

Mac Pro RAM Update (2013)

It is worth noting that the memory latches are not very strong and tend to bend if you are not careful. OWC provides a “nylon pry tool” (AKA “Spudger”) for this, but it’s not entirely necessary – a little finesse and a little patience go a long way.

Apple provides an illustrated guide to memory upgrades: just click on ‘Apple> About this Mac’, then on the ‘Memory’ tab and then on the ‘Memory upgrade instructions’ link.

Slide the lock switch to the right, to the unlock position, and then slide the outer case up and out of the Mac Pro.

Push the RAM release tab up (in the direction of the white arrow). This will release the RAM slots outward, allowing you to access the modules.

Gently but firmly grasp the top and bottom of the RAM module and pull it out of the slot.

To install the new module or modules make sure it is oriented correctly, and then push the ram into the slot, make sure to apply pressure to the top and bottom of the chip, to make sure it is fully assembled.

Slide the tray back into the body of the Mac Pro, then replace and close the tray 

Case.

Mac Pro Tower (Pre 2012) RAM Upgrade

Lift the lock lever on the back of the case to unlock the side panel, and then remove the side panel.

Locate the RAM tray in the bottom corner of the Mac Pro.

Simultaneously push down the ejectors on each side of the RAM lever; this should free up the RAM. Then carefully lift the stick.

Make sure the new club is oriented properly, then carefully push the club down into the bay with both hands, making sure you put some pressure on both ends of the club. You should hear a click when the ejectors lock the stick. Make sure both ejectors are secured.

What to do after replacing your RAM

Once you’ve completed the update, it’s a safe bet to do a memory test on your new modules, to make sure everything really works.

Why? It’s often not obvious if a piece of RAM isn’t up to the mark. Sometimes a bad chip makes its way through manufacturer’s quality tests, and a memory test can help prevent problems before you start experiencing crashes and similar calamities.

Recommended: Memtest

One of the most popular pieces of software for this is Memtest, which is freely available from here.

It’s easy to use. First, download the project folder as a zip.

Then unzip it, and run the Memtest unix executable.

The software will run in a test sequence in a terminal window. Close as many applications as possible before running the test – this gives Memtest as much RAM as possible to work with.

Some alternatives

If for some reason Memtest is not for you, there are several alternatives in the App Store: look for the “Memory Test” software, but check the reviews first. We haven’t tested any of them and we can only vouch for Memtest.

You can also use your Mac’s built-in memory tests. Restart or boot your Mac, and hold down the D key as it boots – this should take you to the diagnostic screen. 

What appears at this point will depend on your operating system, but somewhere in the options there should be a section called “Hardware tests”, where you will find the option to test your memory.


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