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How to Upgrade Your Mac RAM: 7 Easy Steps

Upgrade Mac RAM easily with a step-by-step guide.

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Last updated: November 29, 2023

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To upgrade your Mac RAM, follow these steps:

  1. Check if your Mac supports RAM upgrades and find out the type, speed, and max amount of RAM it can handle.
  2. Gather screwdrivers, a grounding strap, and a clean, flat surface for your work.
  3. Use Time Machine to back up your data to an external hard drive.
  4. Carefully open your Mac by unscrewing the bottom cover.
  5. Push the levers on both sides to release the RAM modules from their slots.
  6. Insert new RAM modules at 45 degrees, align, then press until they click into place.
  7. Reassemble your Mac and power it on.

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is key to how well your Mac works. It lets you use multiple apps at once without slowing down or crashing. But sometimes, your Mac doesn’t have enough RAM for all your apps. Adding more RAM to your Mac can really help it run better and faster. In this guide, I’ll show you how to upgrade your Mac RAM easily. Let’s get started!

Before We Begin

If you don’t have enough RAM, your Mac becomes slow and often crashes. To keep your RAM usage in check, download MacKeeper and use its Memory Cleaner. It frees up RAM and improves system performance.

How to Check If Your Mac Needs RAM Upgrade

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Before you upgrade your Mac’s RAM, it’s good to check if RAM is really the problem. This helps you figure out if a RAM upgrade is what you need. I’ll show you two simple ways to see if your Mac is low on memory.

1. See Your Free System Resources Using MacKeeper

MacKeeper is a third-party utility software that can help you monitor your Mac’s performance, including memory usage. Here’s how to check if your Mac is running out of memory using MacKeeper:

  1. Download MacKeeper and install it on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click the Memory Cleaner tab.
select memory cleaner under performance
  1. Click Open.
click open in the memory cleaner
  1. Click Apps & Processes in the left sidebar. Here, you’ll see all the processes consuming system resources.
  2. Click the small x next to every process’ name and close it to preserve available memory.
click the cross next to each app
  1. Click Quit on the pop-up.
click quit on the pop up
  1. You’ll see the RAM you freed up in a single cycle.
memory cleaned after a cycle

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides checking and freeing up RAM on your Mac, MacKeeper can help you delete junk files on your Mac, remove duplicate files, and run a virus scan on your Mac. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its features. 

2. Use Activity Monitor to Check RAM Usage

Activity Monitor is a built-in utility tool on macOS. It provides detailed information about your Mac’s performance, including CPU usage, network activity, and RAM usage. You can check if your Mac is running out of memory using Activity Monitor.

Here’s how to check RAM usage on Mac via Activity Monitor:

  1. Open Activity Monitor by going to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Click the Memory tab to view the memory usage data.
click the memory tab in activity monitor
  1. Check the Memory Pressure bar at the bottom of the window to see how much memory your Mac uses. If the chart is close to or at the top of the bar, your Mac may run low on memory.
  2. You can also check the Swap Used section, which shows how much of your Mac’s hard drive is being used to store data that should be in memory. If the Swap Used number is high, it can indicate your Mac is running out of memory.
memory pressure bar at the bottom of activity monitor
  1. To identify which processes use the most memory, click the Memory column to sort the list by memory usage.
click memory in activity monitor to sort by memory usage

Which Mac Models Allow RAM Upgrades?

When thinking about adding more memory to your Mac, keep in mind that not all Macs let you upgrade the RAM. For instance, most new MacBooks, like the MacBook Air, have built-in RAM that you can’t change or upgrade.

Here’s a list of all Mac models that allow RAM upgrades and the ones that don’t:

Mac ModelRAM Upgradeability
MacBook Pro 17″ (All Models)Yes
MacBook Pro 15″ ( 2008–2012 Models)Yes
MacBook Pro 13″ (2009–2012 Models)Yes
MacBook (2008–2011 Models)Yes
Mac Pro (All Models)Yes
iMac Retina 4K 21.5″ (2019)No
iMac Retina 4K 21.5″ (2017)No
iMac 21.5″ (Late 2012–2017 Models)No
iMac Pro (All Models)Yes*
Mac mini models (2010–2012 Models)Yes
Mac mini (2023)No
Mac mini (2020)No
Mac Pro (2019)No
Mac mini (2014)No
Mac mini (2006–2009 Models)Yes*
Mac mini OriginalYes*

*Upgradeability in these models may be limited, and upgrading the RAM could be more difficult or require professional assistance.

Please note that starting in late 2020, Apple began releasing Mac models with the Apple Silicon M1 chip, which has integrated RAM and is not upgradeable. Always check the specific model and configuration of the Mac you are interested in to determine if the RAM can be upgraded.

How to Upgrade Your Mac RAM: 7 Steps

After identifying whether your Mac allows RAM upgrade or not, it’s time to upgrade your Mac RAM.

Upgrading your Mac RAM involves a lot of technical steps, and you need to be careful when performing this procedure. Any damage to the components or improper installation of the RAM modules can result in severe damage to your Mac.

Follow the procedure below to upgrade your Mac RAM successfully.

1. Identify your Mac Model

The first step in upgrading your Mac RAM is identifying your Mac model. It is important because not all Macs are compatible with RAM upgrades, and different models require different types and amounts of RAM.

To identify your Mac model, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple logo and select About This Mac.
click apple icon and select about this mac
  1. The new window will display your Mac’s model name, such as MacBook Pro or MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014).
about this mac info
  1. Note your Mac’s release year, displayed in the same window.
  2. Once you have identified your Mac model and year, check for RAM upgrade compatibility in the section above or on Apple’s official website.
  3. Some Macs have RAM soldered to the motherboard and cannot be upgraded, while others have slots for adding additional RAM. Checking for compatibility will ensure you save time and money on an impossible RAM upgrade on your Mac.

2. Choose the Right RAM

Once you know your Mac model and if it can be upgraded with more RAM, the next step is picking the right RAM. Remember, not all RAM is the same. Different Macs need different types of RAM with specific speeds.

To choose the right RAM for your Mac, you will need to know the following specifications:

  • RAM type (DDR, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4)
  • RAM speed (MHz)
  • The maximum amount of RAM supported by your Mac

You can find this information by consulting Apple’s documentation. You can also use a third-party tool like Crucial System Scanner, which will scan your Mac and recommend compatible RAM upgrades.

Once you have determined the correct RAM type, speed, and maximum amount, buy the RAM from a reputable vendor to ensure its quality and compatibility.

3. Gather the Necessary Tools

Before upgrading your Mac’s RAM, gather the necessary tools. Make sure you have all the necessary tools before beginning the RAM upgrade process so you do not have to stop mid-process to search for devices.

The tools you will need include:

  • 🛠️ Screwdrivers: A set of screwdrivers, including a Phillips head and a Torx driver, to open your Mac and remove the existing RAM. 
  • ⚡ A Grounding Strap: A grounding strap prevents electrostatic discharge, which can damage sensitive electronic components. Wear a grounding strap or touch a grounded metal surface before handling electronic components. 
  • 🧹 A Clean, Flat Surface: You will need a clean, flat surface to work on while upgrading your Mac’s RAM. 
  • 💾 The New RAM: You will need the new RAM that you have purchased to replace the existing RAM.

4. Backup Your Data

Before upgrading your RAM, back up your data on Mac to ensure you don’t lose important files or data during the process. If you have a backup, you can easily restore your data if anything goes wrong during the upgrade process.

Here’s how to use Time Machine to backup your data:

  1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac.
  2. Open System Settings from the Apple menu.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Time Machine.
click general and select time machine
  1. Give access to Time Machine for backing up your data using your Mac password or Touch ID.
enter admin id and password
  1. Tap the Add Backup Disk button and choose the external hard drive you connected.
click the add add backup disk button in time machine
  1. Click Use Disk, and it will start backing up your data to the external drive.

5. Open Your Mac

Now that you have identified the type of RAM and the maximum amount of RAM your Mac can handle, it’s time to open up your Mac and install the new RAM.

🚨 Be aware that opening your Mac and performing any hardware modifications may void your warranty or AppleCare coverage. If your Mac is still under warranty, contact Apple Support for assistance with memory upgrades.

Here’s how you can open your Mac to upgrade its RAM:

  1. Shut down your Mac and unplug it from the power source. Also, unplug the Ethernet cable, USB cables, security lock, and other cables to avoid damaging the device.
  2. Turn your Mac over and locate the 10 screws on the bottom. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws.
macbook bottom case removal
Source: Apple
  1. Carefully remove the back cover of your Mac.

5. Remove Existing Memory

  1. Locate the RAM slots on your Mac’s logic board.
  2. To release the memory module from its slot, push the levers on both sides of the module outward. The memory will pop up at an angle.
release the memory notches
Source: Apple
  1. Look for the half-circle notches before removing the memory. If you cannot find them, try pushing the levers outward again.
  2. Grasp the memory module by its notches and extract it from the slot. Remove the other memory module as well.

7. Install New RAM

  1. Insert the new RAM module into the slot at a 45-degree angle.
insert new memory into mac
Source: Apple
  1. Align the notch on the gold edge of the module with the notch in the bottom memory slot. Angle the card and insert the memory into the slot.
  2. With two fingers, apply firm, even pressure to push down on the memory module until you hear a click, indicating the correct installation.
  3. Replace the back cover of your Mac and screw it back in place.
  4. Plug in your Mac and turn it on to ensure the new RAM is installed correctly.

Congratulations! You have successfully upgraded your Mac’s RAM.

Upgrade Your Mac RAM Like a Pro

Upgrading RAM is a time-consuming procedure and it may not always be possible. If you want to keep your system performing well without a RAM upgrade, follow these tips:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I mix and match different Mac RAM sizes or brands? 

    You can mix and match different Mac RAM sizes or brands, but it is generally not recommended. It is because different RAM modules may have different speeds, timings, and voltage requirements, which can cause compatibility issues and potentially even damage your Mac.

  2. Do I need to upgrade my Mac RAM?

    You may need to upgrade your Mac RAM if you’re experiencing sluggish performance when running multiple applications or heavy software. It’s also a good idea to upgrade if you frequently work with large files such as video or photo editing. Upgrading your RAM can help improve overall performance.

  3. Do I need to hire a professional to upgrade my Mac RAM?

    You may need to hire a professional to upgrade your Mac RAM only in case of those models that require professional assistance. Otherwise, you can do it yourself if you’re comfortable following detailed instructions and taking precautions to avoid damaging your device.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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