Do you remember RAM upgrades?

“The top-selling MacBook Air dominates the thin and light notebook market, but forget about upgrading RAM,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “Apple’s product designers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to solder the memory chips onto the logic board. I appreciate the space savings, but I’m also sure Apple’s engineers are smart enough to devise a scheme to allow you to easily open the case and replace RAM, yet not increase weight or physical size. Instead, the MacBook Air is meant to be a closed box for customers.”

“The same is true for the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The only Mac notebook that allows for memory upgrades is the regular MacBook Pro, which is pretty much regarded as an endangered species,” Steinberg writes. “On the regular Mac lineup, things are a little more user friendly, except for the 21.5-inch iMac, which has no convenient method to upgrade RAM.”

Steinberg writes, “What this means is that, if you buy one of these closed boxes, prepare to spend as much as you can to buy one with the maximum amount of RAM you ever expect to need during the computer’s expected useful life. It’s not that you’ll be able to go back a year later and buy more memory. I suppose that could be one reason why OS X Mavericks, the next great Mac OS, is designed to make more efficient use of memory with such features as compressed RAM.”

Read more in the full article here.

64 Comments

  1. …I LITERALLY just finished upgrading my 4 gig 15 in 2011 MBP to 16 gigs less than a week ago.

    Don’t regret it, I love using premiere and after effects at te same time, WHILE recording Xbox gameplay, WHILE checking Facebook, WHILE compressing other video files. And I probably had minecraft open at the time, too.

    1. The 13 inch MBA has an SD slot. There is a company that makes a special adapter that holds up to 64 Gig of extra memory. You slide it into the adapter and it slides into the MBA with a flush fit.

      I use one on my MBP. Extra 64 Gig comes in handy.

        1. RAM = random access memory.
          Any solid state memory has fast access to the CPU.

          Er. Did you mean on chip CPU working memory???

          PS. This is still a way to add solid state RAM to a closed Apple computer. Ps. It does work.

          Just a thought.

          1. The additional “memory” you added to the SD card slot is just like the main storage (which is also “solid state” and “random access”). It does not increase the system memory, which is used to run the Mac’s OS and apps.

            If you do an About This Mac from the Apple menu, the amount shown next to “Memory” is the amount the system can use (directly) to run the Mac. Adding more storage in the SD card slot does not increase the amount shown next to “Memory.”

    1. I loved RAMdoubler. You could just install it and forget about it. Even upgrade to a more memory hungry version of MacOS…, till for some reason it wouldn’t load…

      1. RAMDoubler. That means you’re old. Who doesn’t miss System 7 and the Multi Finder? Kids these days with their OSX and hundreds of open apps and never crashing don’t know what they missed!

    2. Yes, you can order a Mac laptop with more RAM, but (1) Apple charges twice as much for RAM as trusted sellers like OWC and Crucial, and (2) you can’t order a refurbished Mac from Apple with extra RAM. Not matter how you slice it, non-replaceable RAM is a very user-unfriendly “innovation” on Apple’s part.

      1. I don’t trust OWC. I and many other people I know have had issues with poor quality and lousy replacement policies.
        I think somehow I can manage to live with a whole $100 to upgrade my ram to something I know works and is under warranty.

    3. More RAM always helps, but on the latest Macs with stock SSD for primary storage, it becomes much less critical for most uses. This is because the OS reads and writes to “swap files” on the primary storage, as part of the virtual memory scheme. When the primary storage is a slow hard drive and virtual memory is being used extensively, there is a noticeable negative impact on performance.

      However, when the primary storage is an ultra-fast SSD, the impact on performance (for most uses) becomes negligible. Yes, it may make a difference, if you’re running Final Cut and Logic at the same time, but that user probably doesn’t buy a MacBook Air. For most customers who DO buy the standard MacBook Air with 4GB of storage, it will not be noticeable.

      Also, the latest MacBook Air has new PCIe-based SSD storage, which makes it even faster when virtual memory is being used extensively. It’s almost like it has 4GB of RAM, but it actually has much more that can be accessed without performance penalty (for most uses).

  2. And I remember when I used to change oil, replace starters and even swap engines on my ’64 VW. I seldom open the hood of my car these days, and wouldn’t know what I could do if I did.

    1. Ha! Once upon a time, Ford’s concession to modernity was the vacuum-operated windshield wiper system. The faster you went, the slower the wipers went, until after about 55mph they stayed upright, unmoving, until you eased off the gas pedal.

    2. How about removing the engine on a 1965 VW Bus without a jack — just put a piece of plywood on your legs, pull the engine backward and let it down? Huge fun.

  3. I’d be interested to know what percentage of laptop owners increase add extra RAM. I always have done so myself, but I suspect that I am an exception.

    When you’re trying to make a lightweight and compact computer, it seems obvious that it’s going to be smaller and lighter and probably stronger and more reliable if there is no provision to easily open up the case and slot in extra components.

    People have got used to iPads not being user upgradable, so having MacBook Airs that can’t be upgraded seems like the next logical step.

    1. The average consumer wouldn’t think of adding extra RAM, but I have personally recommended a RAM upgrade to hundreds of Mac owners over the years. Looks like those days are gone.

        1. Manco,
          Before you go slinging insults yourself, better be sure you know what your talking about. I don’t think “You Deserve the Parent of the Year Award” was said with sarcasm.
          Dusty was talking about RAM upgrades, and IMADEAFUNNY was complimenting him on a nice gesture to his kids.
          No harm, No foul…. so settle down, go away, and stir up trouble elsewhere!

  4. I upgraded my 2011 15″ MBP to 8 GB from 4, and six months later, to 16 GB. Been a happy camper ever since. But so much memory comes with a price: battery lasts less.

  5. It’s a well known fact for electronic engineers that soldering the RAM to the motherboard greatly increases the signal quality, reduces the need for filtering and also decreases power consumption. Especially true with the very fast DDR3 RAM in the new machines.

    It’s also, unlike many bloggers’ suggestion, not only Apple that does it. Many PC makers also use this in their machines.

  6. For the youngsters out there, the first RAM chip I ever bought was 8 MB (yes, that’s MEGABYTES) and cost $270.00. I think that was 1993. It was for a Performa 575, which shipped with a whopping 5 MB of RAM.

      1. The “Language Card” for the Apple ][+ brought the system total up to 48KB, I believe. The Apple ][+ was around $1300 retail, as I recall, and the 5-1/4″ floppy drives, language card, etc. were all extra. It was still a jewel of its time.

        Yes, I am getting old.

  7. Maybe, the working RAM can have an extended RAM upgrade plugged in to a Thunderbolt port similar to the way SIMM cards are added to other devices. Or a part of the flash type solid state drives can be used as working RAM. The much slower hard disc drives use to be used as a virtualized RAM in the past.

    Think Different!

  8. I haven’t upgraded RAM in any computer for over a decade. I just buy computers with plenty of memory to start with. I am totally fine with Ape, or any other maker, soldering in memory. As a manufacturer we saw to a of problems with socketed chips of all sorts.

  9. Every single Mac we’ve ever owned has received CPU, GPU, RAM, PCI, battery, and/or other updates. Over the years, our choices have dwindled. Apple has intentionally decided to be very upgrade-unfriendly for a long time. At some point they will reach the limit that consumers will accept, and they will see more and more Hackintoshes as the advanced computer users get sick of Apple treating them like consumer sheep.

    Apple can’t at the same time claim to be user-friendly and also offer only electronics that are designed for planned obsolescence.

    1. It’s the Tim Cook era, Mike. Customer care, even wondering what the sheep are doing, isn’t something the current CEO has any sort of connection with. Apple today is what it is. Too bad.

        1. I’m disagreeing on this one. ‘Sheeple’ has turned out to be a profoundly useful analogy of today’s political and financial behavior. Better terms for herding behavior are entirely welcome! So come up with something.

          Meanwhile, mindless human herd behavior is profoundly relevant, as is examining the source of such manipulation. I always recommend to people that they think above the fray and comprehend the forces at work within it. Becoming an independent, thoughtful person who strives to become their best selves is the point of being alive, IMHO.

  10. I too have upgraded all my Mac Laptops. I refuse to buy another unless I can add/replace ram, the hard drive, and the battery. All of these I’ve had to change. My latest 2008 Macbook came with 2 Gb memory but I replaced it with 8 Gb and a new battery. I can’t afford to buy a new laptop every 3 years. I need to go at least twice that. They are too expensive to be disposable.

  11. I think it has been clear for years that RAM is used to fatten profit margins at purchase. The elimination of upgradeability is the next logical step to preserve those margins. I think it is the sort of strategy that limits marketshare growth and penalizes Mac loyalists.

    But then I have wanted a mid-range Apple mini-tower with upgradeable graphics for more years than I care to remember.

    But I always cave because I value a turn-key solution more than ad hoc component upgrades. The result is that I simply wait to purchase my next Mac when my existing Mac dies or I have enough cash for the configuration I want.

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