MacBook Pro DIY: Upgrading your RAM

My MBP purchase could have been perfect if only I trusted my salesguy.
 
Upon checkout, he offered me a RAM-upgrade promo. If I pay an additional NTD 1,870 I can upgrade my standard 4GB RAM to 8GB. After he explained the deal and its supposed benefits, I answered him back with a look of suspicion.
 
I am allergic to upselling. As a reflex to such situations, expect me to politely decline. When I did, salesguy looked at me skeptically and asked, “Are you sure?” His tone implied that I was probably going to regret disagreeing to this particular upsell.
 
Well, he was right.
 
And so my do-it-yourself RAM upgrade adventure began. I guess my allergic reaction was a blessing in the skies after all. 😉
 

To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade

 
Actually, you can get by with 4GB of RAM. But if your reason for buying an MBP was to max out its specs and push it to the limit, then 4GB may eventually be insufficient. That said, do you need to upgrade or can you live with what you have now? Here are some crucial questions to ask:
 
1. Why did I buy a MacBook Pro again? – This is the beauty of buying a Pro. It challenges you to think smartly. Your purchase is not expensive for no reason other than coolness and prestige. A Pro will give you professional specs so recall why you chose this device instead of other options. My reasons were primarily these: I need a powerful portable computer that can be loaded with photo/video editing and web development software.
 
2. What is RAM? – Random-Access Memory or RAM is the memory that your computer allocates for running programs simultaneously or in the background while working on your desktop. HDD is different and mostly for long-term latent storage.
 
Let’s say you install Flappy Bird on your MBP. The Flappy Bird app you downloaded from the Apple Store will normally be saved on your HDD. After installation, it’s your RAM that enables you to launch Flappy Bird and plays it onscreen. RAM Is the active memory, HDD is passive. Though HDD can also be used as RAM, that often slows down your computer’s speed.
 
3. What do I need to install on my MBP? – This question can already be answered in Question 1 but here, you’ve got to list the specifics. The type of software you run on your Mac would primarily affect RAM speed. Most RAM-dependent softwares, like the Adobe Creative Suite, have RAM requirements. Take note of them.
 
Case in point: InDesign CS6 needs 2GB of RAM to work. If you have a 4GB RAM, you still have 2GB left for other things, right? But consider this. While running InDesign, you might also need to open Illustrator or Photoshop for image files. Say you also need to work on the internet, watch videos and surf websites that run animations or flash and GIFs on them… that remaining 2GB can get eaten up easily and you won’t even notice it. Unless you remain vigilant with what you launch onscreen and the functions you multitask on, keeping track of RAM usage is a tedious thing and nobody lists down RAM usage every second.
 

Choosing a DIMM

 
Dual in-line memory module or DIMM is the memory card that you will need to upgrade your RAM. It’s important to note that not all types of DIMM will fit your MBP or any computer for that matter. Before you buy one, there are two important steps that you need to do.
 
Step 1: Find out and write down your MBP model type using this link.
 
Step 2: Write down the “Memory card specifications” of your MBP model via this link.
 
Step 3: Go to a DIMM retailer (computer/laptop shops) and present your MBP model type with its memory card specifications to the salesperson. This would enable them to find DIMM options that are accurately compatible with your MBP.
 
A DIMM can be bought based from the following memory options: 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB. Your MBP, assuming we have the same model, will have 2 available slots for DIMMs. The standard 4GB that comes with your MBP is made up of two 2GB DIMMs. Apple says that the MBP can have up to 8GB only but I run mine on 10GB. I also read online that some push it to 16GB but honestly, that’s kind of over-the-top already.
 
If you decide to use both slots, ideally, you need to use the same brand and memory capacity on both DIMMs. That means both slots should have two 2GBs, two 4GBs, and so on. Again, I broke this rule yet my MBP survives and rocks like a Pro should. I run an unnamed 2GB DIMM as originally bundled with my purchase and a 8GB Transcend DIMM which I bought here in Taipei because I got allergic to an upsell.
 

What You Need to Prepare

 
Once you got all these questions answered, you can proceed with upgrading or just keeping your standard 4GB RAM. If your decision is to upgrade your DIMM, then start to prepare the following items:
 
1. compatible DIMM modules
 

 
In my case, I decided to buy just one 8GB of DIMM and reuse one of my original 2GB DIMMs.
 
2. Apple’s DIMM installation manual according to your MBP model which details the whole DIY installation process. Alternately, you can also just continue reading this post if you have the same MBP model as mine and prefer actual photos as an installation guide.
 
3. A Philips #00 or #02 screw driver
 

 
Photo taken from this link.
 
4. A flat stable surface or cushion that can support your MBP
 
5. Clean hands that are dry and free from harmful radicals. 😀
 
Disclaimer: The following information are based from the RAM upgrade I did for my 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 model). If you don’t have the same exact model, I strongly suggest you follow your own MBP model’s DIMM Installation manual on the Apple site.
 
Step 1: Shut down your MacBook Pro and disconnect all external devices and cables currently connected to it.
 

 
Step 2: Place your MBP upside down on a flat stable surface or a cushion. If placing it on a table, drape a clean dry cloth on top of the table before putting your Mac on it. This helps protect it from possible scratches.
 

 
Step 3: Loosen the screws off the bottom side of your Mac using a Philips #02 or #00 screw driver. Do this by moving your screw driver, while fitted on a screw’s head, in a counter-clockwise direction.
 
Tip: remove the screws in an alternate diagonal manner. Start with the upper/lower right/left corner then proceed to its opposite part and so on until every screw is removed.
 

 
Step 4: Place the screws you removed in a safe place where neither you nor anyone else can meddle with it. These screws cannot be replaced once lost. Or you can just buy a new MBP hehe.
 
Step 5: Remove the bottom side via the upper middle gapwhere your display panel’s hinge is also located. Set aside your MBP’s bottom cover. Keep it in a safe place too.
 

 
Step 6: Locate the DIMM slots of your MBP. If this is your first time to check out a DIMM slot, refer to the following photo for its location and to know how it looks like. The DIMM slot of the MBP is standard and same as other laptops.
 

 
Step 7: Touch any metal part on the bottom part of your MBP to discharge any static electricity from your body. This helps prevent accidental short-circuiting of your MBP and any of its components. In this case, you may touch on the metal bar beside the DIMM slot of your MBP. Just touch any of your fingers lightly on its surface for one second and you’re all set.
 
Step 8: Using both thumbs, gently push the DIMM slot’s levers in an outward direction to unlock the current DIMM. Push the levers on their circular edges and take care not to touch any other part of the DIMM.
 

In this photo, the ones crappily encircled in red are the levers you can push outwards. 
 
Step 9: If the DIMM is successfully unlocked from its slot, it pops out at a certain angle (around 45 degrees) from its previously flat position.
 

Here’s a closer look at that lever that locks your DIMM in place.
 
Step 10: Once the DIMM is angled, as shown in the photo below, gently pull it out of its slot by carefully holding it by the PVC board (the blue or green part) or its own side notches. Remember not to touch any other part of the DIMM especially its golden connectors.
 

 
Step 11: (optional) If you want to replace both DIMMs, repeat steps 8-10 on the other DIMM slot in your MBP.
 
Step 12: Carefully take out your new DIMM from its package by holding on to its PVC part or by the sides. The package would often have a gap where you can fit your finger to lift out the DIMM.
 

 
Step 13: Align the golden connectors of your new DIMM into the DIMM slot connector. The DIMM of your MBP’s DIMM slot can only be inserted in one angle. It will never fit in if your orientation is wrong.
 

 
Step14: Gently press down the angled DIMM via its PVC part until it lays flat inside the DIMM slot. Wait until it makes a clicking sound and check if the DIMM levers have finally gripped it from the sides and locked it in place.
 
Your new DIMM should be installed like this.
 

 
Step 15: (optional) Repeat steps 12-14 if you want to replace the other DIMM slot.
 
Step 16: Replace the bottom cover and the screws you removed earlier. Tighten each of the screws gently by moving the same Philips #002 screwdriver in a clockwise direction on top of each screw’s head until you can no longer do so. Just as you removed it, it is also recommended that you replace each screw by starting from the upper/lower left/right corner then the opposite corner and so on until everything’s back in place.
 

 
See, that wasn’t so hard after all. And I bet you’d feel so empowered and accomplished after doing this. Make sure you finish the entire installation process at just one go and never leave your MBP’s bottom part open for the world to see far longer than you should. Please resist the urge to take a selfie with it.
 

Epilogue: Checking the Success of your Upgrade

 
To ensure that the entire installation process ran smoothly, turn on your MBP after ensuring that the bottom cover has been replaced and screwed safely in place too.
 
After pressing the power button, listen for any unusual sounds emitted from your MBP as it starts up. If there’s none, then that’s great and means the hardware parts are in good condition.
 
Soon as the MBP is on, check out your current RAM specs by doing the following:
 
1. Click the Apple icon on your desktop’s upper menu bar.
 
2. From the list, select About This Mac.
 

 
3. Inside the About This Mac window, the information displayed beside Memory indicates your current RAM capacity. If it has been upgraded successfully, it should reflect the total GB of the DIMMs you just installed.
 

 
4. If #3 is correct, then…Congratulations!
 
You may now consider yourself a not-so-average Joe. Welcome to the wonderful world of MacBook Pro DIY’s 🙂

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