MacBook Pro RAM Upgrade

Recently I was working on a friends 2011 MacBook Pro and noticed he only had 6GB or RAM. The machine will hold 16GB total. I happened to have a 4GB RAM stick that I just removed from my 2012 iMac, but would it work in an older Macintosh?



To be quite honest I was not sure if my newer PC3 12800 1600 Mhz RAM would work in the older Mac which uses PC3 10600 1333 Mhz RAM. I think we can assume that if the two Macintosh models are years apart that the RAM architecture will not work, but exactly where that cutoff is I do not know.

After doing research on the Web I determined that the concensus was that the iMac RAM would work in the MacBook Pro.

The Installation

Installing RAM in a newer, unibody style MacBook Pro is farily easy if you have a good set of screwdrivers. The bottomline here is cheap screwdrivers strip the screws that hold the bottom plate of the computer.

After removing the bottom plate you should see something like this:

Click for larger image

You can see the blue RAM modules in their brackets. You just push the brackets on the sides of the RAM stick out and it will pop up. Then all you have to do is slide it straight out. Before we go any further, look near the right thumb in this photo. That plug you see there that is disengaged is the battery connection to the Logic Board. You MUST disconnect it before working with the RAM. The bottomline is there should be no power going to the computer while you are working on it. Just common sense really, but sometimes we can get “into” something and forget to take the right steps.

After the old RAM module is out just slide in the new one. You have to make sure it is seated properly in that slot, you should feel it snap in slightly. After you slide in the module you push the whole module back down into the RAM bay. It will click in when it is seated properly. During this process make sure not to touch the gold teeth on the RAM stick, the part that seats into the slot. Handle the modules by the side edges.

Here is a little trick I learned early on while working with Macs. After you reconnect the battery cable (forgotten to do that a time or two) just place the bottom cover on the Mac without installing the screws! After turning the laptop over go ahead and start it up. There are times when it does not like the RAM you inserted or it is just not inserted properly. It is a total bummer to have to remove all those screws again if something did not go correctly. So, test with the bottom plate on, but not screwed in yet.

In my case the replacement RAM worked properly. Apparently, if the RAM is close enough to the original specs it just clocks it down (the newer RAM was faster) so the Mac can use it. A very cool feature indeed.

By the way, if you do the RAM thing, start it up and then get three beeps that indicates a RAM problem. It always has on the Mac. It either does not like that RAM module or it is not installed correctly. Go in there, reseat it and try again. Ocassionally you can get a bad RAM stick from a Vendor.


With the old 2 GB Apple RAM module replaced with the 4 GB OWC (Other World Computing) module the MacBook Pro runs a little faster. A nice free upgrade for my friend. If you are interested in upgrading a MacBook Pro or iMac go over to iFixit for some great take apart guides.