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How to Upgrade the RAM in Your MacBook Pro

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This tutorial will walk you through the complete process of installing new RAM in your MacBook Pro. From deciding which RAM to purchase to how to tell if the installation worked, we've got you covered.


What is RAM?

Random access memory, or RAM is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to upgrade your MacBook, and it can also be one of the most effective. Upgrading your RAM will not necessarily make your apps run faster, but what it does is increase the capacity for having apps open and switching between them.

Upgrading your RAM will not necessarily make your apps run faster, but what it does is increase the capacity for having apps open and switching between them.

So having more RAM means your Mac can juggle more apps at once without having to slow down, making opening and jumping between apps much faster - which in turn makes your Mac feel a whole lot faster. A lot of Mac's come preinstalled with just 2 or 4GB of RAM which may not be enough for many.

You're much more likely to notice the difference, or rather notice the need to upgrade your RAM if you use apps like Photoshop or GarageBand which require more memory to run, than if you are simply using Pages and Spotify. Nonetheless, whatever apps you are using, you should feel a decent boost in the overall speed of how your Mac operates if you upgrade.


Finding your New RAM

Before you go about buying new RAM, you should find out what RAM your Mac requires. To do this, simply select "About This Mac" in the Apple menu on the top left of the screen, and go to "More Info." From there, navigate to "Memory" and you will be given information about your current RAM.

ALTTEXT
RAM information

As you can see, my Mac accepts 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM, I now know that will work with my setup. Prices vary depending on manufacturer but you can find RAM pretty cheap online if you search around. My advice would be stick to the large manufacturers because in my experience they are more reliable. A simple Amazon search brings up plenty of results or visit Crucial or high quality RAM. They also have a compatibility tool that can detect your system needs and recommend compatible RAM. Once you've got your new RAM you can move on to installing it in your machine.

Learn more about Crucial RAM.

My Machine

Please note that while I'm detailing how to do this on a MacBook Pro 15 inch, many MacBooks have similar setups and the process should be the same.

The location of the RAM may differ, as could the removing of the bottom cover, but the basics behind this tutorial are valid for the modern MacBook Pros and thus it should be sufficient for whatever MacBook Pro you are running. If you do want more information on specific models head to this page.


Step 1: Prepare the MacBook Pro

Carefully removing screws from the back cover
Carefully removing screws from the back cover

You will have to remove the bottom case of your MacBook, and to do this you will need to take out the screws. You should take note of where each screw came from because some of them are longer than others depending on their position. Also make sure you have disconnected everything from your MacBook, including the power cord.

screws
Keep a close watch on the removed screws, if you look closely you'll see I'm missing one!

Step 2: Remove the Bottom Cover

The internals of a MacBook Pro - the RAM is the green rectangle
The internals of a MacBook Pro - the RAM is the green rectangle

After removing the bottom cover, touch a metal surface on the inside of the computer to discharge any static from your body. This is very important as the static can damage computer internals. No foot-scrubbing along the floor to build up static.

Touch a metal surface on the inside of the computer to discharge any static from your body.

In fact, it's recommended that you use a small wrist band that can ground you to prevent any static charges, but its not a requirement.


Step 3: Identify Your Mac's RAM

What RAM looks like with both modules in
What RAM looks like with both modules in

Locate the RAM in your Mac. Don't worry, this may look confusing if you've never seen the internals of a computer before, but finding the RAM is easy. As shown in the image, your RAM will be a rectangular-shaped item embedded with tabs on either side holding it in.

Take a note of how everything is now - you could even take a picture so that if you want to return to its default position you know exactly what it looks like for reference. Just make sure you don't drop your camera on your exposed Mac!

Tip: Upgrading your RAM should not void the warranty on your Mac providing you don't mess up any of the other components in the process and that you use compatible RAM. Under some circumstances, Apple may decide not to 'treat' a MacBook that has non-standard components in it, so it's recommended that you keep the original RAM so that if this happens or any troubles arise you can always revert to the original setup.


Step 4: Remove the Existing RAM

Push the tabs out, causing the RAM to pop up. The RAM module should be at an angle sticking toward you. Before removing it just check it is fully released. To do this look if you can see the semi-circle notches on its side, if not push out a bit further with the tabs until it is at a roughly 45 degree angle. Now hold the memory by its notches on the side, and remove it from its slot. It's important you handle it with care and hold it by the edges, avoiding its gold connectors.

Having released the module from the tabs, it should spring up like this
Having released the module from the tabs, it should spring up like this.

Providing you haven't previously altered your machine, there will be two memory modules, one on top of the other. Now that you have removed the top one, remove the other module as well doing exactly the same as the first.

Unless you are planning on throwing away this removed RAM (which, as written at the end, is unadvisable) you could put it in the case that your new RAM has come in, which should avoid damaging them.

his is an empty RAM slot with no modules in it
his is an empty RAM slot with no modules in it

Step 5: Insert the New RAM

Now is time to insert your new RAM. Take your first memory module and line it up with the RAM slot. Remember that the first module you'll be putting in needs to go on the bottom, so make sure it's the lower slot you are positing it to. Align the notch on the gold edge of your brand spanking new RAM module with the notch in the lower memory slot.

With two fingers, firmly push down until the module clicks in
With two fingers, firmly push down until the module clicks into place.

Tilt the card up to the same position as when it came out, and with two fingers press down firmly and evenly. It should lower into the slot and there should be a firm click if you have inserted the memory correctly. If the card does not fit, do not force it! Check again to make sure you have it all the right way around.

If the card does not fit, do not force it! Check again to make sure you have it all the right way around.

Repeat this procedure with the other module into the top slot and press down to make sure everything is level. If all has gone to plan it should look pretty identical to what it looked like when you first cracked open the bottom of your MacBook Pro - you can always refer back to that photo you took if you want to be extra sure.


Step 6: Reboot

Now it's time to put the bottom cover back on and tighten those screws back up - making sure you have put the screws in the right place. You can plug your cables back in and reboot your MacBook Pro.

You should notice that your apps now run faster and that your machine can multitask more apps at the same time.

You should notice that your apps now run faster and that your machine can multitask more apps at the same time. Depending on what you had and what size you've upgraded to, the speed bump will vary, but if you're using apps like Photoshop or Xcode, you should notice they perform much better now.

To check if your system has identified the new RAM, go into the Apple menu, click "About This Mac" and look under "Memory." If this is not the case, then you should go over the steps again to see what mistakes you could have made.


Conclusion

Hopefully, now you have your MacBook Pro running faster than ever with your new RAM and those heavy apps that seemed to be slowing down your machine now run much faster.

If you have any troubles when performing this simple upgrade, or you don't feel comfortable enough opening up your Mac then you can always take it into a professional to get the job done for you. Sometimes you can get Apple to do this for you, and there are countless other official Apple resellers etc who will be able to help, usually for a very low fee.

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