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Why upgrade your RAM?

There are a few reasons why upgrading the RAM on your MacBook Pro can make it even more, well, pro. RAM is your computer’s brainpower for on-demand tasks. Your computer uses RAM to temporarily store information for anything it’s currently doing — like loading web pages, sending emails, running apps, and more. That’s why RAM stands for “random access memory” — it’s where your computer keeps the info that it needs for whatever it’s working on.

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    Upgrading your RAM lets your computer perform more demanding tasks or handle more tasks at once without suffering any performance hiccups. When it comes to speeding up your Mac, a RAM upgrade is one of the best ways to do it.

    But choosing to do it yourself is not without risks. Any time you open up your computer to tinker around with its guts, you risk damaging sensitive components. And if you do cause any damage, you’ll probably void Apple’s warranty.

    If you’d prefer to sidestep those potential challenges, optimize your computer with a tuneup instead. AVG TuneUp will boost your Mac’s performance with no RAM upgrades required. Free up disk space and get automatic maintenance to have your Mac running like new.

    Can you upgrade RAM on any Mac?

    Not all Macs are eligible for RAM upgrades. In general, the newer your Mac, the less likely it is to allow RAM upgrades. Many new Macs have their RAM chips soldered directly to their motherboards, so you won’t be able to swap them out yourself. Others require intensive disassembly to reach the RAM.

    So, can you add RAM to a MacBook Pro? How about a MacBook Air? The following Macs can receive DIY memory upgrades at home:

     MacBook

     Models from 2008 to 2011

     

     MacBook Pro

     13” models from 2009 to 2012

     15” models from 2008 to 2012

     All 17” models

     

     

     iMac

     All models except for the following 21.5” ones: 

    Retina 4K, 2017 & 2019

    2017

    Mid-2014

    Late 2013

    Late 2012

     Mac Pro

     All models

     Mac Mini

     All models from 2010 to 2012

     It’s also possible to upgrade the RAM in the 2018 Mac Mini

    Any Macs not mentioned above aren’t able to receive RAM upgrades without specialized equipment, if at all. For example, you cannot upgrade the RAM in any MacBook Air models, any iMac Pro models, or any MacBook Pro models with a Retina display or Touch Bar.

    If you’re not sure which type of Mac you have, it’s easy to find this information. Just open the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen, then click About this Mac. The Overview tab displays basic information about your device, including its model type and year.

    Your Mac may have multiple RAM slots, and if it does, you’ll always get the best results by using RAM modules with the same capacity. In other words, don’t mix, say, 2 GB and 4 GB RAM modules.

    How to check your RAM

    To check the RAM on your Mac, open the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen, then click About this Mac.

    Viewing device information in macOS Catalina by clicking the Apple menu and selecting "About This Mac"

    The Overview tab displays basic information about your device. You’ll find your current amount of RAM listed as the Memory.

    Viewing system information in macOS Catalina inside the Overview tab of the "About This Mac" menu

    Here, you can also check the model type and the year of your Mac. This will help you determine whether or not it’s even possible to upgrade your RAM yourself, or at all. Every computer has a fixed amount of RAM slots, and once these are filled, you can’t add any more. At this point, you can increase the amount of RAM — measured in gigabytes (GB) — only by exchanging the RAM chips you currently have for ones with more capacity.

    But you can push things only so far, because each Mac model also has a maximum amount of RAM that it can handle. So, before you go through the trouble (and expense) of buying new RAM, check the maximum RAM for your Mac. For example, a 15” MacBook Pro from 2019 can hold up to 32 GB of RAM, but if you bought your MacBook Pro two years earlier, you’d be limited to 16 GB. And none of that would matter at all, since all MacBook Pro laptops with Retina displays (like the examples just mentioned) are unable to accept aftersales RAM upgrades.

    Also be sure that you’re buying a RAM chip that’s usable in your Mac device — not all RAM types work in all computers. You don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of RAM that you can’t use.

    How to upgrade RAM on your Mac

    The following sections will walk you through the process of upgrading the RAM on various Mac models. While the specifics may vary from one year’s model to the next, you should be able to generally follow along if your Mac falls into one of these categories.

    After adding your new RAM, check that you installed it successfully. Turn on your computer, then follow the simple procedure described in the previous section to check your RAM.

    Upgrade RAM on an iMac

    You can add memory to any iMac except the newer 21.5” models. In most other cases, Apple has made it very convenient for iMac users to upgrade RAM on their own at home.

    An iMac powered up and displaying information about its storage and hard drives

    27” iMac models from late 2012 and onward store RAM behind a small door on the back of the unit, while older 27” models and smaller models store RAM in slots along the bottom edge.

    Upgrading RAM on a 27” iMac from late 2012 and onward

    1. Shut down your iMac and let it cool completely.

    2. Disconnect all cords and cables.

    3. Place a soft towel or cloth on your work surface, then gently lay the computer facedown on it.

    4. Press the button underneath the memory storage door to open it, then remove the door and place it somewhere nearby.

      The memory storage door on an iMac

    5. You’ll see a diagram on the bottom of the door that displays the memory cage levers as well as the correct orientation of the RAM modules.

    6. Push the two levers outward to unlock the memory cage, then pull them up. You’ll now be able to remove each module.

    7. Remove a module by pulling it directly upwards, then insert a new one. Be sure to orient it correctly according to your iMac model, then push it down into the slot until it clicks into place.

    8. When you’ve finished exchanging your old DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules, or RAM sticks) for new ones, push the memory levers back down until they click.

    9. Put the memory compartment door back on and close it.

    10. Return your computer to an upright position, then reconnect all your cords and cables.

    11. Start up your iMac. It may remain dark for 30 seconds or more while it initializes its new memory. Don’t worry — that’s normal!

    Upgrading RAM on all other eligible iMacs

    Pre-2012 27” iMacs, eligible 21.5” iMacs, and older 20” and 15” iMacs store RAM in slots along the bottom of the unit. The specific shape and alignment of the RAM slots differ between models, but the replacement process is similar between them.

    1. Shut down your iMac and let it cool completely.

    2. Disconnect all cords and cables.

    3. Place a soft towel or cloth on your work surface, then gently lay the computer facedown on it.

    4. Remove the memory access door with a Phillips screwdriver, placing it nearby.

    5. Depending on your iMac model, you’ll see either a set of pull tabs or ejector clips. Untuck and pull the tabs, or open the clips. Doing so will eject the current RAM module.

    6. Remove the old RAM module, then insert your new one. You’ll feel it click into place.

    7. If your iMac has pull tabs, tuck them back above the new RAM module. If it has ejector clips, close them.

    8. Reinstall the memory access door with your Phillips screwdriver.

    9. Return your computer to an upright position, then reconnect all your cords and cables.

    10. Start up your iMac. Some pre-2017 iMacs will beep if they detect RAM problems. If this happens, try reinstalling the RAM. Make sure it’s compatible with your iMac.

    Upgrade RAM on a MacBook

    If your MacBook or MacBook Pro allows RAM upgrades, you’ll follow the same basic procedure from one model to the next. You’ll need to remove the computer’s back cover to access the memory module and add RAM to your MacBook Pro or MacBook. (There’s unfortunately no way to perform a MacBook Air RAM upgrade.)

    Flipping over a MacBook Pro in order to open the casing

    1. Turn off your MacBook or MacBook Pro and let it cool completely. Disconnect all cords, cables, and accessories.

    2. Flip the laptop over so it’s lying face down.

    3. Remove the bottom case by unscrewing it. Be sure to note which screws come from which ports, as they may not all match.

      The underside of a MacBook Pro, showing the screws that hold the casing in place

    4. Touch a metal surface inside the computer to discharge any static electricity from your body.

    5. Find the RAM module, then eject it by using the ejection levers.

    6. Pull the RAM module out without touching the gold connectors.

    7. Repeat for the other RAM module, if present.

    8. Insert your new RAM module, again without touching the gold connectors.

    9. Push the new module down until it clicks, then insert the second one.

    10. Replace the bottom case and screw it back in.

    Upgrade RAM on a Mac Mini

    We’ll focus on Mac Minis from 2010 to 2012 here, since the 2014 models don’t have upgradeable RAM and the 2018 models are difficult to modify.

    1. Turn off your Mac Mini and disconnect all cords and cables.

    2. Turn the computer upside down and unlock the bottom case by rotating it counterclockwise.

    3. Press down on one side of the cover to tip the other side up, then remove it.

    4. Open the clips on either side of the RAM module so it can pop up.

    5. Remove the RAM module from the slot, then repeat this process for the module underneath it.

    6. Insert new memory modules into bottom slots, taking care to properly align the notches. Press the raised edge down until it clicks into place.

    7. Repeat for the upper module.

    8. Replace the bottom cover, then reconnect all cords and accessories.

    Upgrade RAM on a Mac Pro

    The Mac Pro has undergone several drastic overhauls during its existence. Here, we show you how to add memory to a Mac Pro with the most recent model. If you have the “trash can” Mac Pro from 2013, you can follow this same basic process: remove the case, replace the RAM, reattach the case, and go.

    1. Shut down your computer and let it cool completely.

    2. Disconnect all cords and cables.

    3. Touch the Mac Pro’s metal casing to discharge any static electricity from your body.

    4. Unlock the case by rotating the handle 90 degrees counterclockwise.

    5. Pull up on the handle to remove the case.

    6. Toggle the RAM cover switch to the left to open it, then remove the RAM module covers.

    7. Push your new RAM module into the slot until it clicks into place. Hold it by the edges or corners, and be careful not to touch any of the gold connectors.

    8. Replace the RAM module covers.

    9. Replace the computer case then return the handle to the locked position by rotating 90 degrees clockwise.

    10. Plug in all your cords and cables.

    Where to buy more RAM

    When it comes to upgrading your computer, there are certain areas where it’s OK to err on the cheaper side — but RAM is not one of those areas. For safe RAM shopping, you’ve got three options: buy direct from Apple, from an aftermarket supplier, or from a certified refurbisher. In all three of those cases, you’ll be assured that you’re buying RAM that works with your computer, and that you can return if something goes wrong.

    While you could buy secondhand RAM, you likely won’t be protected by similar guarantees. The last thing you need after shelling out for a RAM upgrade is to be saddled with something you can’t use and that you can’t send back.

    Buy more RAM from Apple

    Sourcing your RAM directly from Apple is both your safest and most expensive option. You’ll get an official Apple component that’s protected by Apple’s warranty and return policies. You can also contact Apple’s customer support before you buy to confirm that you’re selecting the correct RAM for your device.

    If you’re buying a new Mac, configure it up-front with the total amount of RAM you want. Many new Mac models can’t receive RAM upgrades, so whatever you buy is what you’ll have for as long as you use the computer.

    Buy more RAM from aftermarket suppliers

    You’ll find a lot of trustworthy options for buying RAM online. Spend some time reading reviews to see what other shoppers have to say. Look for established vendors with healthy and positive reputations, so you’ll feel safe with their warranties and return policies.

    That way, you’re covered in the event that you buy the wrong type of RAM, or if it doesn’t perform as it should.

    Buy more RAM from a certified refurbisher

    Apple refurbishes older devices and resells them at discounted rates — and you’ll sometimes see them doing the same with RAM. Other companies offer this service as well, and if they’re a “certified refurbisher,” it means that Apple has approved their techniques and professionalism.

    RAM modules purchased this way will also come with warranties and return policies, though the coverage typically won’t last as long as what you’d get with new items. That’s the trade-off you’ll make in exchange for getting cheaper RAM.

    Improve performance without new RAM

    RAM is expensive, and many newer Macs don’t allow you to add or replace RAM at all. Fortunately, a RAM upgrade isn’t the only way to boost your computer’s speed and performance. AVG TuneUp keeps your Mac running at optimal levels by eliminating everything you don’t need — say goodbye to junk files, useless bloatware, and other performance-sapping digital trash. And even if there’s a RAM upgrade in your immediate future, AVG TuneUp ensures you’ll get the most out of that shiny new memory.

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