Save Cash on MacBook RAM

Ray Aguilera's picture

Save Cash on MacBook RAM

RAM has always been one of Apple’s Achilles heels. In an effort to keep price points lower, stock machines come to you woefully under-powered in the memory department. New MacBooks ship with a now-paltry 1 GB of RAM. In truth, that’s certainly enough to get you up and running, but even Apple seems to realize that these days, it takes at least twice that to pump out a satisfying OS X experience.


The proof? Check out the demo units at your local Apple Store (choose About This Mac from the Apple menu). The machines on display are rarely running on stock memory alone. And in my experience, store staff are either not aware that the machine you’re testing is juiced like Barry Bonds , or they deftly deflect your question when you ask how your real experience will compare to the demo box.


Of course, Apple is more than happy to give your new Mac a speed bump... at a steep premium. The Apple Store is currently selling upgrades to 4 GB of RAM for $850. Meanwhile, two 2 GB sticks of RAM can be had for a little over $100 online. When you consider that a new MacBook starts at $1099, that $850 premium starts to seem ridiculous. Never mind the fact that when you order an upgraded machine, Apple also pockets the cost of the 2 512MB sticks that they didn’t put into your machine.


The good news is that upgrading RAM yourself is cheap, dead-simple, and only takes about 10 minutes, and that’s if you’re really nervous and slow. Thanks to the design of the current Mac laptops, you won’t even void your warranty doing it.


These instructions are based on my experience with a MacBook. The Pros are similar, but I haven’t upgraded them myself. If someone wants to send me a MacBook Pro, I’d be more than happy to report the results.


To get started, all you need is your new memory, a 00 Phillips screwdriver, and a quarter.


Flip your MacBook over on a soft surface. Use the coin to turn the battery lock to the open position. Remove the battery. Touch the metal inside the battery compartment to discharge any rogue static electricity.


RAM slots exposed. Push the lever to the left to eject RAM.


The wall of the battery well is covered by a small L-shaped piece of metal. Remove the three tiny screws to expose the RAM slots. Flip the levers to the left to release the existing RAM, and remove them. Insert your new RAM, with the notches toward the left. Push them into the RAM sockets (you’ll have to push pretty hard). Replace the metal cover, pop the battery back in, flip the lock back to the locked position, and boot up your new turbocharged Mac while you dream of better ways to spend seven bills.


New RAM configuration shown in About This Mac


If your Mac won’t reboot, chances are you didn’t seat the RAM all the way in the slots. You really do need to push pretty hard to get them all the way engaged. Open your Mac back up and re-seat the RAM. To verify that you new RAM is installed, check About This Mac or fire up Activity Monitor.


It really is that easy. If you need reinforcement, Apple publishes a guide to doing the upgrade and there plenty of how-to videos floating around the interwebs. Otherwise, get to it. It’s the easiest and biggest bang-for-your-buck way to improve your Mac experience.


Ray Aguilera is a writer and food geek in the San Francisco Bay Area.



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I like Apple design, but when it comes to RAM or hard disks and such for a new Mac, I always buy it elsewhere (at if you must know) because a) the prices are ridiculously high at Apple and not for the least: b) If you shop around a little, usually you can find much better guarantees / after sales conditions.

For example, owc gives life long guarantee on their memory modules. Depending on the product, your mileage may vary, but the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard disks they sell, that are also used by Apple in the Mac Pro, come with 4 year guarantee. I don't know how terms are for the US, but in the Netherlands, as a 'business' buyer, you only get one(!) year.

If I may suggest a third product: Dell's new '3008' 30 inch screen has way better specs than Apple's cinema display, for less money.



What website did you get your RAM from? At there is a 4GB upgrade for $113 for my MacBoob Pro 2.2 GHz.. How is apple selling the same thing for $1000? Is there anything wrong with the cheaper ones?



I have a first gen macbook (2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo) with 2G ram and from all Im reading, I can only go up to 3G of Ram. But when using 3G ram its not paired so Im gonna take a hit in Video performance... So what is the real hit? I really need the Ram because I use parallels and vmware fusion allot for work images - and for that ram is king. I do not really do that much graphics type work - just watch the occasional dvd and keep my family photos in iphoto. Also, Im assuming its best to match my current ram as close as possible.



whats the exact ram needed? I'm looking online here and I'm finding several types of 667MHz DDR2 (PC2-5300). Not sure if there is more I need to know for the macbook. Not used to buying mac ram nevermind mac notebook :D thanks in advance!



The memory advisor tool on will identify the memory you need to upgrade.



According to Apple's website, DDR2 isn't the right one. You need "Double Data Rate Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (DDR SO-DIMM) format".
Example :



The good news is that upgrading RAM yourself is cheap, dead-simple, and only takes about 10 minutes, and that’s if you’re really nervous and slow. Thanks to the design of the current Mac laptops, you won’t even void your //memory// doing it.

I believe you are looking for the word warranty.


Roberto Baldwin

Thanks to the design of the current Mac laptops, you won’t even void your //memory// doing it.

Thanks for pointing out my horrible editing skills.




I have the first version of Macbooks 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo 2GB RAM. I wonder if I can upgrade it to 4GB. Let me know please!!



  I upgraded mine to 4 GBs shortly before I dropped it. Check Amazon for great deals. I got my upgrade for 57 bucks.



No, you can only go up to three GB according to the apple Web site. It is the newer models that allow you to go up to four.

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