Upgrade the memory in a MacBook in 3 minutes

When I bought my wife's refurbished MacBook I got it with the smallest amount of RAM I could get, in this case 1GB. The reason is that Apple charges a lot more for memory than what you can buy from aftermarket sellers like Memory America or Other World Computing, both great resource for Mac memory and hard drives.

I purchased a 2GB memory upgrade from OWC for $41, which included the cost of shipping. For perspective if you bump the memory on a MacBook from Apple up from 1GB to 2GB there is a $100 charge for it as of this writing. The nice thing about the OWC site is that they will help you identify exactly which memory works for your model of MacBook. If you have another good resource for Mac memory please add it to the comments below.

While 1GB of memory is adequate to run OS X smoothly on a MacBook I think it's important to have as much memory as you are comfortable putting in your machine. Some applications— especially Firefox, my primary web browser—leak memory pretty badly and the longer you run those applications the lower your performance can get. As I compose this post on my Mac Pro my little iStat memory counter tells me that Firefox is using 855MB of memory. Ugh - time to restart Firefox.

The only downside to buying the memory from someone other than Apple is that you have to install it yourself or take it somewhere and have them install it for you. Installing memory on a MacBook is very simple and the only tools you need are a coin and a #0 phillips screwdriver.

While I was preparing my wife's machine I decided to put together a quick video to show how easy it is:

All told it takes about 3 minutes to do and can save you quite a bit of money by doing it yourself.


Liz said…
Thanks for that informative video. I've always taken my Macs to the Chip Merchant for memory upgrades. Great prices and fast service.

Vulpine said…
I'm using a pair of the aluminum 2.8Ghz iMac Extreme models introduced in August '07. I ran them with 2GB installed for a year, then went to NewEgg (www.newegg.com) for a set of 4GB Crucial chips.

Changing these out is hardly any more difficult than the MacBook and has made using Photoshop and Aperture 2 on them a much more pleasant experience.
Anonymous said…
I've always get my ram from trans intl.com. I've never had a problem and they're cheaper than owc. For the Macbook, 2GB kit is $34.00, 4GB is $76.00.
John DeRosa said…
Thank you for posting a video of how to do this. I'm thinking about buying my wife a refurbished Macbook for Christmas, and have been thinking about going the aftermarket route for system memory. Written directions are great, but seeing it done in a video reduces the fear factor. :-)
David Alison said…
Thanks for the different memory vendors Liz and Anon.

@John Derosa: I'm glad it helps - between iMovie and my little Canon SD1100IS it only took about 40 minutes to put together, and most of that is futzing around with different fonts and music selection.
Qka said…

It looks like that was an anti-static mat you were working on. Is that correct?

I am often cavalier concerning electrostatic discharge and anti-static procedures when working on electronics, EXCEPT when working with RAM. There I superstitiously adhere to proper procedure.

So if you don't have an anti-static mat to work on, use an anti-static wrist strap. Some memory vendors will include a disposable one when you buy your memory. One end is attached to an electrical ground, the other to your wrist. Call me weird, but I usually install RAM in laptops by covering the top of the washing machine with a towel to protect the computer, and attach my wrist strap to the cold water pipe before opening the computer.

Static can destroy or damage RAM. There is nothing worse than trying to diagnose computer problems that are caused by bad RAM.
William said…
Upgrading the memory on a MacBook Pro is just as easy. The hard drive on a MacBook is not much harder to upgrade either. I have upgraded both my wife and daughter's MacBook hard drives. The hard drive on the MacBook Pro is another story.
MagerValp said…
Firefox is using 855MB of memory

Yowza! Sounds like you're using a bad extension, as Firefox itself shouldn't grow to that much even with heavy usage over a long time.
I've always had great service from Other World Computing.
David Alison said…
@Qka: Nope, no anti-static mat. I used to be very concerned about static discharge and the damage it could cause but over the years have not used the anti-static wrist strap very often. I have a hard wood floor in my office so static build up is relatively low and I'm very careful to touch the edges of the circuit boards as well as the metal frame during installs. Over the years I've built several dozen systems and haven't had an issue yet. That's not to say it's not a good idea to use an anti-static wrist strap mind you - it's just not something I've bothered to do every time.

@William: Agreed on the MB HD upgrade and the memory on the MBP. I've done both and they are trivial. I'm avoiding doing the HD upgrade on my MBP though. Fortunately the 200GB drive in it has been adequate.

@Magervalp: I run a streaming stock quote service through my online broker. It's a Java based application that's started up from their web site. Once that baby fires up memory is chewed up for a while. I've also noticed heavy Flash based sites will chew up memory and not release it properly until Firefox is restarted.

@Partners in Grime: This is my second purchase from them. I used to use NewEgg exclusively but OWC is nice because they have so much Mac specific information.
baaker said…
Another quality RAM resource: datamem.com
Jeff said…
I got my memory upgrade for my Macbook Pro directly from www.crucial.com . They also help you pick the correct RAM for you machine. Great prices too.
Anonymous said…
Apple upgrades are ridiculously expensive and limited, too.

I bumped my MacBook to 4GB RAM and a 250 Gig HD for $200. My MacBook can only use 3.3 Gigs but matched RAM is faster and the RAM is so cheap it didn't make sense to have 3Gigs in it.

The hard drive is just as easy as the RAM though you need a Torx T8 driver for the screws that hold the drive mechanism onto the sled.
Paul said…
I just upgraded the RAM on my MacBook Pro (1.83 GHz, 15") with a 2GB kit from Crucial.

Am experiencing a gliche, however.
The laptop just (randomly) shuts down and restarts.

Spoke to Crucial ... returned the matched RAM from the first @GB kit. Put in a new replacement set.
Same problem.

Happens more when running streaming video over the Internet, but the latest random restart happened with no apps running and the laptop just sitting there, plugged in.

Tried it on Battery and on Powercord, same problem.

Anyone else encounter the same problem?
Anyone have a recommendation for fixing this?

Thanks for the help!
Nicholas Tolson said…
Love love love the video, Dave! Keep 'em coming, and I'll keep featuring them on DeGeeked.com like I did this one.
Bijay said…
Thanks David. I just upgraded my early 2009 white macbook to 4GB. Your video showed me how to do.
David Alison said…
@Bijay: Glad to hear it helped!
Jason said…
Thanks for the info here. I am about to buy a MacBook Pro 13" and the cheapest option is 4gbps. My question is: When buying additional memory, should I buy another 4g card or do I need to buy the 8g card? Put differently, are there two slots or just on in the 13" MBP model?
David Alison said…
@Jason: The max memory you can use in a MacBook is 4GB - 2 X 2GB sticks. Best bet is get your MacBook first, then check it against the Other World Computing site to see which memory will work for your model.
Paresh Bafna said…
Do you recommend a company to purchase additional memory for my macbook? I need to buy about 2 gigs. Do not want to pay top dollar and not sure what company to trust.
David Alison said…
@Paresh Bafna: I gotten product from Memory America, OWC and Newegg and been very happy with them.

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