MacBook Pro Upgrade Guide

Boost speed and storage capacity in older MacBook Pros

If your MacBook Pro is underperforming, it may be time for an upgrade. More RAM or a larger or faster hard drive can put the zip back in an older MacBook. If you're considering an upgrade, find out what types of upgrades your MacBook Pro supports. The upgrade options depend on your specific MacBook Pro model.

Here's a look at the history of the MacBook Pro and how to determine what upgrades you can perform on your device.

DIY-ers can upgrade only certain 2015 and earlier MacBook Pro models. Components in newer MacBook Pros are soldered in place, as Apple moved away from products that users can upgrade themselves.

MacBook Pro laptops are seen on display
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

About MacBook Pro Upgrades

Introduced in 2006, the MacBook Pro replaced the G4-based PowerBook line of Mac notebooks. The MacBook Pro was originally equipped with the Intel Core Duo processor. This 32-bit architecture was replaced in subsequent models with 64-bit processors from Intel.

The MacBook Pro lineup has gone through some changes in how upgrades are performed. The 2006 and 2007 models required an extensive, though relatively easy, chassis disassembly to access the hard drive or optical drive. Replacing the memory or battery, on the other hand, was a simple process.

In 2008, Apple introduced the unibody MacBook Pro. The new chassis made memory and hard drive replacements a simple process that users could perform quickly and easily with one or two screwdrivers.

Battery replacement became a bit of a conundrum, however. With the unibody MacBook Pro, Apple uses unusual screws to secure the batteries in place. If you have the proper screwdriver, which is available from multiple outlets, you can replace the battery. However, Apple doesn't cover the unibody MacBook Pro under warranty if the battery is replaced by anyone other than an Apple-approved technician.

The Apple Limited Warranty covers a Mac and its accessories for a year. It doesn't cover damage caused by accidents or unauthorized modifications.

Locate the MacBook Model Number

If you're planning to upgrade your MacBook Pro's memory or storage, you need the model number to determine which upgrades are possible. Here's how to find the model identifier:

  1. From the Apple menu, select About This Mac.

  2. In the Overview pane, make a note of the Model Identifier entry. In this example, it's a 15-inch, 2016 MacBook Pro. Older models have identifiers like MacBookPro 12,1.

    The Model Identifier of a MacBook
  3. If you don't see any model-identifying information, go to Applications > Utilities > System Information > System Report.

    Once you have your MacBook Pro model identifying information, find the possible DIY hardware upgrades.

    Model Identifier of a MacBook

MacBook Pro 2013-2015 Models

During this time period, Apple made a few changes to the MacBook Pro model. In February of 2013, Apple boosted the memory of the high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro model to 16 GB.

In October 2013, Apple updated its MacBook Pros with Intel Haswell processors, integrated Iris Graphics technology, and added PCI3-based flash storage. The chassis of the 13-inch model was slimmed down, matching the 15-inch model. Support for 4K video output using HDMI was also added. The higher-end 15-inch model included an NVIDIA graphics card and integrated graphics. The lower-end model included only integrated graphics.

In 2015, the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros were updated with Intel Broadwell processors, Iris 6100 graphics, more battery life, faster flash storage and RAM, and increased battery life. In May of 2015, the 15-inch models added an AMD Radeon R9 discrete graphics card.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a 2013 to 2015 MacBook Pro.

2013 Retina MacBook Pro
Flickr

Model Identifiers

  • MacBookPro 11,1
  • MacBookPro 11,2
  • MacBookPro 11,3
  • MacBook Pro 11,4
  • MacBook Pro 11,5
  • MacBookPro 12,1

Memory Information

  • Memory is built-in and not expandable.

Storage Information

  • Storage type: Flash drive, 128/256/512 GB (up to 1 TB BTO).
  • Storage supported: 256 GB, configurable to 512 GB or 1 TB of flash storage.

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions for This Era

MacBook Pro Late 2012 Models

In 2012, the MacBook Pro lineup underwent significant changes, including the introduction of Retina versions of the 13-inch and 15-inch models.

All 2012 MacBook Pro versions used the Ivy Bridge series of Intel i5 and i7 processors, ranging from 2.5 GHz through 2.9 GHz. In the 13-inch models, the Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics card powered the graphics. The 15-inch MacBook Pro used the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics card along with the Intel HD Graphics 4000.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a 2012 MacBook Pro.

Apple discontinued the 17-inch MacBook Pro models in June 2012.

2012 Retina MacBook Pro
JJ163 / Wikimedia Commons

Model Identifiers

  • Non-Retina versions: MacBook Pro 9,1 and MacBook Pro 9,2
  • Retina versions: MacBook Pro 10,1 and MacBook Pro 10,2

Memory Information

  • Memory slots in non-Retina models: Two.
  • Memory slots in Retina models: None, memory was built-in and not expandable.
  • Memory type: 204-pin PC3-12800 DDR3 (1600 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported: 16 GB total. Use matched pairs of 8 GB per memory slot.

Storage Information

  • Storage type in non-Retina models: 2.5-inch SATA III hard drive
  • Storage type in Retina models: SATA III 2.5-inch SSD
  • Storage supported: Up to 2 TB

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions for This Era

MacBook Pro Late 2011 Models

October 2011 saw the introduction of 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch MacBook Pro models. The 2011 models had only a short run and were discontinued in June 2012.

All models in this era used the Sandy Bridge series of Intel processors in the i5 and i7 configurations, with speed ratings from 2.2 GHz through 2.8 GHz.

Graphics offerings including Intel HD Graphics 3000 in the base 13-inch model and AMD Radeon 6750M or 6770M, along with Intel HD Graphics 3000, in the 15-inch and 17-inch models. RAM and hard drives were considered user upgradeable.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a late 2011 MacBook Pro.

8 GB RAM module
MiNe / Wikimedia Commons

Model Identifiers

  • MacBook Pro 8,1
  • MacBook Pro 8,2,
  • MacBook Pro 8,3

Memory Information

  • Memory slots: Two.
  • Memory type: 204-pin PC3-10600 DDR3 (1333 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported: 16 GB total. Use matched pairs of 8 GB per memory slot.

Hard Drive Information

  • Hard drive type: SATA III 2.5-inch hard drive
  • Hard drive size supported: Up to 2 TB

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions for This Era

MacBook Pro Mid-2010 Models

In April 2010, Apple updated the MacBook Pro line with new Intel processors and graphics chips. The 15-inch and 17-inch models got the latest Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics chip. The 13-inch model retained the Intel Core 2 Duo processor but had its graphics pumped up to the NVIDIA GeForce 320M.

Like the previous unibody Mac models, it's easy to upgrade the RAM and hard drive in the mid-2010 MacBook Pros.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a mid-2010 MacBook Pro.

Intel X25-M SATA SSD
CC BY 2.0

Model Identifiers

  • MacBook Pro 6,1
  • MacBook Pro 6,2
  • MacBook Pro 7,1

Memory Information

  • Memory slots: Two.
  • Memory type: 204-pin PC3-8500 DDR3 (1066 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported: 8 GB total. Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot.

Hard Drive Information

  • Hard drive type: SATA II 2.5-inch hard drive
  • Hard drive size supported: Up to 1 TB

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions

MacBook Pro Mid-2009 Models

In June 2009, the MacBook Pro line updated with a new 13-inch model and a speed bump in processor performance for the 15-inch and 17-inch models. The other change in mid-2009 was a standard case design for all unibody MacBook Pros. The 15-inch and 17-inch models previously used different case arrangements, requiring a unique upgrade guide for each model.

Like the previous unibody MacBook Pro models, it's easy to upgrade the RAM and hard drive in a mid-2009 MacBook Pro.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a mid-2009 MacBook Pro.

2009 MacBook Pro models
Benjamin.nagel / Wikimedia Commons

Model Identifiers

  • MacBook Pro 5,3
  • MacBook Pro 5,4
  • MacBook Pro 5,5

Memory Information

  • Memory slots: Two.
  • Memory type: 204-pin PC3-8500 DDR3 (1066 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported: 8 GB total. Use matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot.

Hard Drive Information

  • Hard drive type: SATA II 2.5-inch hard drive
  • Hard drive size supported: Up to 1 TB

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions

MacBook Pro Unibody Late 2008 and Early 2009 Models

In October 2008, Apple introduced the first unibody MacBook Pro. Originally only the 15-inch model used the unibody construction. However, Apple followed up in February 2009 with a unibody 17-inch model.

As it did with the previous versions of the MacBook Pro, Apple continued to use the Intel Core 2 Duo processors, although at slightly higher operating frequencies.

The new unibody design allowed both the hard drive and RAM to be user-upgradeable. The 15-inch and 17-inch models use a slightly different method to access the hard drive and RAM modules, so consult the correct user guide before performing any upgrades.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a late 2008 and early 2009 MacBook Pro.

2008 MacBook Pro
Ashley Pomeroy / Wikimedia Commons

Model Identifiers

  • MacBook Pro 5,1
  • MacBook Pro 5,2

Memory Information

  • Memory slots: Two.
  • Memory type: 204-pin PC3-8500 DDR3 (1066 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported (MacBook Pro 5,1): Apple lists 4 GB total. Use matched pairs of 2 GB per memory slot. The MacBook Pro 15-inch model can address up to 6 GB if you use one 4 GB RAM module and one 2 GB RAM module.
  • Maximum memory supported (MacBook Pro 5,2): 8 GB total using matched pairs of 4 GB per memory slot.

Hard Drive Information

  • Hard drive type: SATA II 2.5-inch hard drive
  • Hard drive size supported: Up to 1 TB

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions for This Era

MacBook Pro 15-Inch and 17-Inch Late 2006 Through Mid-2008 Models

Starting in October 2006, Apple updated the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models with the Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 64-bit processor, which makes these good upgrade candidates. Extend the effective lifetime of one of these MacBook Pros by adding memory or a larger hard drive, or by replacing the optical drive.

These early MacBook Pro models offered a wealth of upgrade options, including those sanctioned by Apple as user upgradeable and those that are DIY projects that Apple never intended users to perform.

Memory and battery replacement are both sanctioned user upgrades that are easy to perform. Upgrading hard drives isn't sanctioned, but if you want to go ahead with this process on one of these models, it's not difficult.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading a late 2006 through mid-2008 MacBook Pro.

2008 MacBook Pro
William Hook CC BY-SA 2.0

Model Identifiers

  • MacBook Pro 2,2
  • MacBook Pro 3,1
  • MacBook Pro 4,1

Memory Information

  • Memory slots: Two.
  • Memory type: 200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported (MacBook Pro 2,2): Apple lists 2 GB total. Use matched pairs of 1 GB per memory slot. The MacBook Pro 2,2 can address 3 GB of RAM if you install one 2 GB module and one 1 GB model.
  • Maximum memory supported (MacBook Pro 3,1 and 4,1): Apple lists 4 GB total. Use matched pairs of 2 GB per memory slot. The MacBook Pro 3,1 and 4,1 can address 6 GB of RAM if you install one 4 GB module and one 2 GB module.

Hard Drive Information

  • Hard drive type: SATA 2.5-inch hard drive; SATA II drives are compatible.
  • Hard drive size supported: Up to 500 GB.

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions for This Era

MacBook Pro 15-Inch and 17-Inch 2006 Models

The 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros introduced in the spring and summer of 2006 were the first pro-level notebooks from Apple to use Intel processors. These MacBook Pros used 1.83 GHz, 2.0 GHz, or 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processors.

As it did with other early Intel-based Macs, Apple used the Yonah processor family, which supports 32-bit operation. Because of the 32-bit limit, you may want to consider updating to a newer model rather than upgrading this model of MacBook Pro.

As with other models, Apple sanctions memory and battery-replacement upgrades for these MacBook Pros. Apple doesn't sanction user-performed hard drive upgrades or optical drive replacements, but these aren't difficult to do.

Here's what you need to know about upgrading the 2006 MacBook Pro models.

2006 MacBook Pro
aplumb / Wikimedia Commons

Model Identifiers

  • MacBook Pro 1,1
  • MacBook Pro 1,2

Memory Information

  • Memory slots: Two.
  • Memory type: 200-pin PC2-5300 DDR2 (667 MHz) SO-DIMM.
  • Maximum memory supported: 2 GB total. Use matched pairs of 1 GB per memory slot.

Hard Drive Information

  • Hard drive type: SATA 2.5-inch hard drive; SATA II drives are compatible.
  • Hard drive size supported: Up to 500 GB.

User Guides and Upgrade Instructions for This Era