One of the cheapest ways to increase the performance of your Mac and prolong its life is to perform a Mac RAM upgrade. On older Macs, the process is easy. The process takes about an hour and only requires some tools you can buy at Walmart if you don’t have them at home.
We’ll help you figure out which Macs can be upgraded and which RAM you should buy before walking you through the process.
Can I upgrade the RAM on my Mac?
Mac RAM cannot be upgraded on every Mac. Older Macs ship with removable and upgradeable RAM, while newer models have RAM soldered to the motherboard. If you have one of the older models below, you can upgrade your RAM:
- MacBook: Only for models from 2008 to 2011.
- MacBook Pro (retina): Cannot update RAM in any MacBook Pro Retina.
- MacBook Pro (13in, non-retina): For 2009-2012 models only.
- MacBook Pro (15in, non-retina): For 2008-2012 models only.
- MacBook Pro (17in, non-retina): Any model can be updated.
- MacBook Air: RAM cannot be updated in any MacBook air models.
- MacBook: Cannot update RAM in any MacBook.
- iMac: Most iMacs are upgradeable except for the 21.5-inch iMacs from mid-2014 and late 2015, both of which have RAM soldered into place.
- Mac mini: 2010 – 2012 and 2018 models only.
- Mac Pro: You can add RAM to any model.
- iMac Pro: User cannot access RAM. You need to contact Apple if the RAM needs to be replaced.
If your Mac is not on the safe list above, you can’t remove the RAM without professional soldering experience and tools. Even then, you could end up damaging your Mac.
How to find the right RAM for your Mac
You should buy RAM online from a vendor like Crucial or OWC (MacSales), both of which are known for their high-quality RAM and excellent customer service. Both Crucial and OWC have guides to help you find RAM modules that are compatible with your Mac. Follow their instructions and you’ll get the right RAM for your particular model.
If you don’t know your model, some memory retailers even have a system scan tool that can do the hard work for you.
Perform a Mac RAM upgrade
Before you can remove the RAM from your Mac, you need to open up the computer and find its location. Some desktops like the iMac have a specific flap for you to remove, while others like the Mac mini and MacBook Pro require you to remove the bottom part of the case.
Once you have access to the RAM, it’s simple to simply remove the older RAM modules, remove them, and insert the new ones. Here are instructions from the MacBook Pro as an example:
Clear existing RAM
- Turn off your Mac, unplug the power cord, and wait for it to cool down.
- Flip your Mac so the back cover is facing up.
- Remove the 10 screws that secure the bottom part of the case. These screws come in different lengths, so keep an eye on which screws go where.
- Gently lift the back cover off and set it aside.
- Touch the metal part of the laptop to discharge static electricity.
- Find the existing memory and remove it by pushing the levers on the edges of the RAM module. The levers push out and the RAM chip pops up at an angle.
- Look for the semicircular notches that appear when the RAM stick is lifted out of the slot. If you don’t see the notch, try pressing the lever again.
- Take the RAM module by the notches and remove it from its slot. Try to avoid touching the gold connectors.
- Repeat the above steps to delete another memory module.
Install new RAM
- Remove the new RAM module from the packaging, taking care to secure it with the notches, not the gold connectors.
- Align the tracks of the new memory with the tracks in the memory slot.
- Tilt the RAM module and slide it into the memory slot at an angle.
- Use two fingers to press down on the RAM module so that it lies flat. There will be a clicking sound when it is properly mounted. The gold contacts must be inserted almost completely into the connector.
- Repeat this process to install the second RAM module.
- Insert the case onto the back of your Mac Pro.
- Replace the screws, keeping track of their original positions.
- Tighten the screws.
- Power on the computer to make sure it boots up.
- Choose Apple logo in the upper left corner.
- Option About this Mac.
- The appropriate amount of RAM will appear in overview navigation.
Why Mac needs a RAM upgrade
Random Access Memory (RAM) is the temporary storage your CPU uses to store data. It is meant to keep short-term data used by applications and processes running on your computer. The more RAM you have, the more data you can store in this quick access storage location.
If you want your Mac to work smoothly and reliably, you need enough RAM. This is especially important for older mac models that may have only a small amount of RAM. As applications grow larger and more complex, you need more RAM if you want them to work without hiccups or crashes.
Installing RAM is cheap and easy, so it should be one of the first steps you take when your Mac starts to slow down.
The cost of upgrading your RAM
In most cases, it will cost less than a hundred dollars to double the RAM in your Mac. Even if you have a more expensive model to replace, you probably won’t have to spend more than $200 to upgrade.
If you can’t afford to upgrade the RAM on your Mac, there are a few things you can do to keep your computer running as good as possible. The most effective tip is to limit the number of apps you have open at once. If you’re writing an article in Microsoft Word and want to check your email, close Word first and then open Mail.
Try to open as few apps as possible. If you’re not sure which apps are running, you can check which ones are running by opening the Activity Monitor app, then using these instructions.