Upgrade Your Mac's RAM Yourself: What You Need to Know

Adding RAM Can Increase Your Mac's Performance

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Buying memory for a Mac seems like an easy task; find the cheapest price online and submit your order. But there's a tad more you need to know to ensure you get the right memory for your Mac, the best deal, and the best quality.

Taking the time to research your Mac's needs will not only help you get the right memory; it also has the potential to save you some big bucks, especially if you do the memory upgrade yourself, rather than leave it to Apple or others to do it for you.

Which Macs Support User Upgrade of RAM

Currently, only the Mac Pro and the 27-inch iMac support user upgrading of the memory. All the rest of the Mac models for 2015 don't support users popping open the Mac and replacing or adding RAM modules.

But it hasn’t always been like that. There was a time when upgrading RAM on a Mac was a fairly easy task; Apple even provided upgrade instructions.

Mac Models That Support User Upgrades of RAM
Mac ModelUser Upgradeable
MacBook Pro 2012 and earlier
MacBook 13-inchAll models
MacBook 12-inchNot user upgradeable
MacBook AirNot user upgradeable
iMac 27-inchAll models
iMac 24-inchAll models
iMac 21.5-inch2012 and earlier
iMac 20-inchAll models
iMac 17-inchAll models
Mac mini2012 and earlier
Mac ProAll models

Memory From Apple or Third-Party Memory?

It's common to add memory when you make your initial Mac purchase. Apple will install the memory, test it, and guarantee it with the same warranty as your new Mac.

If you're willing to pay for convenience, then going the Apple memory route is fine.

But if you want to save some cash, you can get a better price from third-party suppliers. In most cases, you'll also get a longer warranty. Many memory retailers offer lifetime warranties. Of course, you'll probably have to install the memory yourself, but it's an easy process, one that Apple even provides directions for in its manuals.

  1. Mac Manuals and Guides to Installing Memory
  2. MacBook Pro: How to remove or install memory
  3. iMac: How to remove or install memory

Buying the Right Type of Memory

Apple uses various types of RAM in the Mac product lines. It's important to select the right type when you're buying RAM. Of all the specifications for RAM, make sure the following matches Apple's specifications:

Technology type: Examples include DDR3 and DDR2.

Pin count: The number of connection pins on the RAM module.

Data rate: Usually expressed as the technology type plus the bus speed; for example, DDR3-1066.

Module name: The module name defines the style and specifications for the memory module. This is different from the technology or data rate values, which define the type of RAM the memory module uses.

Where to Buy Mac Memory

Where you buy Mac memory can be as important as buying the right type of memory. Apple retail stores will provide the correct type of memory; they can also install and test the memory upgrade for you, right in the store. Apple retail stores are a great choice if you don't feel comfortable delving into the interior of your Mac.

There are also many third-party memory suppliers. The two I mention provide lifetime warranties and memory configuration guides, to ensure you're buying the right type of memory for your Mac.

Published: 1/29/2011

Updated: 7/6/2015