A step-by-step guide to upgrading Mac RAM

One of the cheapest ways to boost your Mac’s performance and extend its life is to upgrade your Mac’s RAM. On older Macs, this process is simple. It takes about an hour and only requires a handful of tools that you can get at Walmart if you don’t have them at home.

We’ll help you figure out which Macs can be upgraded and what RAM you should buy before walking you through the process.

A step-by-step guide to upgrading Mac RAM

Can I upgrade the RAM on my Mac?

A Mac RAM upgrade isn’t possible on all Macs. Older Macs came with RAM that could be removed and upgraded, while newer models have RAM soldered into the motherboard. If you have one of the older models listed below, you can upgrade your RAM:

  • macbook: 2008 to 2011 models only.
  • MacBook Pro (Retina): RAM cannot be upgraded in any MacBook Pro Retina.
  • Macbook Pros (13 inch, non-screen): 2009-2012 models only.
  • Macbook Pros (15 inch, non-screen): 2008-2012 models only.
  • Macbook Pros (17 inch, non-screen): Any model can be upgraded.
  • MacBook Air: RAM cannot be upgraded in any MacBook Air model.
  • macbook: RAM cannot be upgraded in any MacBook.
  • iMac: Most iMacs can be upgraded except the Mid 2014 and Late 2015 21.5-inch iMac, both of which have RAM soldered in place.
  • Macmini: 2010 – 2012 and 2018 models only.
  • Mac Pro: You can add RAM to any model.
  • iMac Pro: RAM is not user accessible. You must contact Apple if the RAM needs to be replaced.

If your Mac isn’t on the safe list above, you can’t remove the RAM without professional-grade soldering tools and experience. Again, you will likely damage your Mac.

How to find the right RAM for your Mac

You should buy your RAM online from a provider 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 be able to purchase the correct RAM for your specific model.

Crucial website

If you don’t know your model, some memory retailers even have a system scan tool that can do the hard work for you.

Performing a Mac RAM upgrade

Before you can remove RAM for your Mac, you need to open up your computer and find where it is. Some desktops like the iMac have a specific flip cover that you remove, while others like the Mac mini and MacBook Pro require you to remove the bottom case.

Once you have access to RAM, it’s as simple as undocking the old RAM modules, removing them and inserting the new ones. Below are the MacBook Pro instructions as an example:

Remove existing RAM

  1. Shut down your Mac, unplug the power cord, and wait for the computer to cool down.
  2. Turn your Mac over, so the back cover is facing up.
Bottom case removal diagram
  1. Remove the 10 screws that secure the bottom of the case. These screws have different lengths, so be careful to keep track of which screw goes where.
  2. Gently lift the back case and set it aside.
  3. Touch a metal part of the notebook to discharge any static electricity.
Diagram of a finger touching a metal part of the computer
  1. Find the existing memory and remove it by pushing the levers on the sides of the RAM module. The levers push outward and the RAM chip should pop up at an angle.
Schematic of memory module removed
  1. Look for the semicircle notches that appear when the RAM is lifted from its slot. If you don’t see the notches, try pressing the lever again.
  2. Grasp the RAM module by the notches and remove it from its slot. Try to avoid touching the gold connectors.
  3. Repeat the previous steps to remove the other memory module.

Install new RAM

  1. Remove the new RAM module from its packaging, being careful to hold it by the notches and not the gold connectors.
  2. Align the notches on the new memory with the notch in the memory slot.
Diagram of the inserted memory module
  1. Tilt the RAM module and slide it into the memory slot at an angle.
  2. Using two fingers, press down on the RAM module so it is flat. There should be an audible click when inserted correctly. The gold contacts should be inserted almost all the way into the connector.
  3. Repeat this procedure to install the second RAM module.
  4. Insert the case into the back of the Mac Pro.
Scheme of the bottom of the case being closed
  1. Replace the screws, noting their original position.
  2. Tighten the screws.

Check your installation

  1. Turn on the computer to make sure it boots.
  2. Select the apple logo in the upper left corner.
Apple menu
  1. To select About this Mac.
Learn about this Mac option
  1. The right amount of RAM should appear in the file Overview form.
Overview tab in Abut This Mac

Why Mac RAM Upgrades Are Necessary

Random access memory (RAM) is a temporary storage place used by the CPU to store data. It aims to keep short-term data used by apps and processes running on your computer. The more RAM you have, the more data you can store in this quick-access storage spot.

If you want your Mac to run smoothly and reliably, you need to have enough RAM. This is especially important in older Mac models that may have shipped with only a small amount of RAM. As applications get bigger and more complex, you need more RAM if you want them to run smoothly or crash.

Installing RAM is simple and inexpensive, so it should be one of the first steps you take when your Mac starts to slow down.

Cost to upgrade RAM

In most cases, doubling your Mac’s RAM will cost less than a hundred dollars. Even if you have a more expensive model to replace, you likely won’t need to spend more than $200 on an upgrade.

If you can’t afford a RAM upgrade on your Mac, there are a few things you can do to keep your computer running as good as possible. The most effective trick is to limit the number of apps you have open at the same time. If you’re writing a document in Microsoft Word and want to check your email, first close Word and then open Mail.

Try to keep as few apps open as possible. If you’re not sure which apps are running, you can check which apps are running by opening the Activity Monitor app and following these instructions.

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