MacBook Pro Upgrade Guide

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01
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Upgrade Your Intel MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro laptops are seen on display after a special announcement event at Apple Headquarters October 14, 2008
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If your MacBook Pro seems to be underperforming, it may be time for an upgrade. More RAM or a larger or faster hard drive can put the zip back in your MacBook Pro. If you're ready to consider an upgrade, the first step is to find out what upgrades your MacBook Pro supports. The upgrade options depend on the specific model you have.

MacBook Pro Model History

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, a 32-bit architecture that was replaced in subsequent models with 64-bit processors from Intel.

The MacBook Pro lineup has gone through some distinct changes in how upgrades are performed. The 2006 and 2007 models required an extensive, though relatively easy to perform, chassis disassembly to gain access to the hard drive or optical drive. Replacing memory or the battery, on the other hand, was a very 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 in a short time frame, with just one or two screwdrivers. Battery replacement is a bit of a conundrum, though. Although Apple presents them as non-user-replaceable, the batteries are actually easy to swap out. The problem is that Apple used unusual screws to secure the batteries in place. If you have the proper screwdriver, which is available from multiple outlets, you can easily replace the battery yourself. Be aware, though, that Apple won't cover the unibody MacBook Pro under warranty if the battery has been replaced by anyone other than an Apple-approved technician.

Find Your MacBook Pro Model Number

The first thing you need is your MacBook Pro model number. Here's how to find it:

  1. From the Apple menu, select 'About This Mac.'
  2. In the 'About This Mac' window that opens, click the 'More Info' button.
  3. The System Profiler window will open, listing your MacBook Pro's configuration. Make sure the 'Hardware' category is selected in the left-hand pane. The right-hand pane will display the 'Hardware' category overview. Make a note of the 'Model Identifier' entry. You can then quit the System Profiler.
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MacBook Pro 15-inch and 17-inch 2006 Models

2006 macbook pro 17 inch
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The 15- 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. Specifically, 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 only supports 32-bit operation; current offerings use a 64-bit processor. Because of the 32-bit limit, you may wish to consider updating to a newer model rather than upgrading your MacBook Pro. Although these early model MacBook Pros are still fully supported by Apple and the current operating system, Snow Leopard, they are likely to be some of the first Intel-based Macs to be unable to support future major OS releases.

The MacBook Pro offers a wealth of upgrade options, including those sanctioned by Apple as user upgradeable, and those that are DIY projects Apple never intended end users to perform.

Memory and battery replacement are both sanctioned user upgrades, and are easy to do. If you want to upgrade the hard drive or replace the optical drive, you'll find these tasks are also fairly simply to perform, even though Apple doesn't support them as user upgrades for the MacBook Pro. If you're comfortable wielding a screwdriver, you can easily change out a hard drive or optical drive.

MacBook Pro Upgrade Information

Model identifier: MacBook Pro 1,1 and MacBook Pro 1,2

Memory slots: 2

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 type: SATA I 2.5-inch hard drive; SATA II drives are compatible.

Hard drive size supported: Up to 500 GB

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

macbook pro laptop
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Starting in October of 2006, Apple updated the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models with the Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This is a 64-bit processor, which should ensure these MacBook Pros have a long life ahead of them. It also makes them good upgrade candidates. You can extend the effective lifetime of one of these MacBook Pros by adding memory or a larger hard drive, or replacing the optical drive.

The MacBook Pro offers a wealth of upgrade options, including those sanctioned by Apple as user upgradeable, and those that are DIY projects Apple never intended end users to perform.

Memory and battery replacement are both sanctioned user upgrades, and are easy to do. If you want to upgrade the hard drive or replace the optical drive, you'll find these tasks are also fairly simply to perform, even though Apple doesn't support them as user upgrades for the MacBook Pro. If you're comfortable wielding a screwdriver, you can easily change out a hard drive or optical drive.

MacBook Pro Upgrade Information

Model identifier: MacBook Pro 2,2, MacBook Pro 3,1, MacBook Pro 4,1

Memory slots: 2

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 actually address 3 GB of RAM if you install 2 matched pairs of 2 GB.

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 actually address 6 GB of RAM if you install one 4 GB module and one 2 GB module.

Hard drive type: SATA I 2.5-inch hard drive; SATA II drives are compatible.

Hard drive size supported: Up to 500 GB

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MacBook Pro Mid 2009 Models

June 2009 saw 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 had previously used slightly different case arrangements, requiring a unique upgrade guide for each model.

Like the previous unibody MacBook Pro models, you can easily upgrade RAM and the hard drive in a mid-2009 MacBook Pro. You'll notice there are no links below to video guides for the 13-inch and 17-inch models. Although the layouts are slightly different, they're close enough for the video guide for the 15-inch model to give you the basic idea for performing any upgrade.

MacBook Pro Upgrade Information

Model identifier: MacBook Pro 5,3, MacBook Pro 5,4, and MacBook Pro 5,5

Memory slots: 2

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 type: SATA II 2.5-inch hard drive

Hard drive size supported: Up to 1 TB

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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, while 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, you can easily upgrade the RAM and hard drive. You'll notice there are no links below to video guides for the 13-inch and 17-inch models. Although the layouts are slightly different, they're close enough for the video guide for the 15-inch model to give you the basic idea for performing any upgrade.

MacBook Pro Upgrade Information

Model identifier: MacBook Pro 6,1, MacBook Pro 6,2, and MacBook Pro 7,1

Memory slots: 2

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 type: SATA II 2.5-inch hard drive

Hard drive size supported: Up to 1 TB

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MacBook Pro Unibody Late 2008 and Early 2009 Models

In October of 2008, Apple introduced the first unibody MacBook Pro. Originally only the 15-inch model used the unibody construction, but 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, though 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 be sure to consult the correct user guide before performing any upgrades.

MacBook Pro Upgrade Information

Model identifier: MacBook Pro 5,1, MacBook Pro 5,2

Memory slots: 2

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 actually 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 type: SATA II 2.5-inch hard drive

Hard drive size supported: Up to 1 TB