Despite being generally reliable computers, Macs aren’t totally spared from eventually slowing down. A slow Mac may be caused by various issues. It could simply be a case of junk file overload or incompatible drivers, which can be easily resolved by using a 3rd party cleaning tool. But another common cause is insufficient RAM or Random Access Memory. In this article, we’ll take a look at one of the solutions for low Mac RAM: a RAM upgrade.
First Things First: What is RAM and How Does It Contribute to Mac Slow-Down?
RAM is the type of memory used by your Mac — or any computer in that case — to hold information used by active processes in your system. When the RAM handles too much information for its capacity, it will cause your Mac to slow down. Simply put, when you use multiple programs, especially memory-demanding ones, your Mac is unable to provide the amount of RAM required to maintain fast and smooth performance.
You may try closing background apps to decrease the demand on your Mac’s RAM, but if you constantly use your Mac for extensive computing work and you’re big on multitasking, then upgrading your RAM is something to consider.
Before Anything Else, Can You Upgrade Your Mac’s RAM?
Before you can upgrade your Mac’s RAM, you need to know if you can actually do it. MacBook Air and the 2014 Mac Mini, for instance, do not allow RAM upgrade. New Retina MacBook Pros have soldered-on RAMs, so it’s hazardous to remove them. While it’s not totally impossible, improper removal can result in irreversible damage. If you have a Mac other than the mentioned types, you have a better chance at upgrading your RAM.
Next thing to look at is the type of RAM on your Mac and its speed, so you’ll know what type of RAM to purchase. Take note of the Double Data Rate (i.e. DDR3) and frequency (i.e. 1600 MHz). To get this info, go to Apple menu -> About This Mac -> Overview -> Memory. You will also see here how many memory slots your Mac has. Usually, there are two. If one of them is open, you can use that slot for the new RAM. If they are both occupied, you’ll have to decide which RAM to replace.
But wait, there’s more. You need to keep these two important reminders in mind:
- Your Mac could be damaged. Your Mac is filled with sensitive electronic parts, so if you do not work carefully and follow anti-static precautions, you might short any of them. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
- Your Mac’s warranty might be void. RAM is typically under the ‘user serviceable’ category, so upgrading RAM itself will not void your Mac’s warranty. However, if your Mac incurs damage or issues caused by the RAM upgrade, your claim under warranty might be affected. Better read through the warranty document that came with your Mac or talks to Apple Support to be sure.
Where to Buy Mac RAM
You can buy directly from Apple US or UK, but their RAMs are the most expensive out there. Aftermarket suppliers, on the other hand, have less expensive options while offering warranties and allowing returns. You may also consider getting a certified refurbished RAM. These also come with a warranty, albeit the shorter coverage period. If you are looking for the cheapest option, you can buy secondhand — that is if you don’t mind the risks since these don’t often come with warranties and return options.
Preparing Your Mac for the Upgrade
As mentioned earlier, it is necessary to take anti-static precautions to avoid damaging your Mac’s tiny electronic components. Here’s what you should do:
- Shut down your Mac. Leave it be for at least 10 minutes to give its internal components time to cool.
- Keep your new RAM in its anti-static packaging. Remove it from the packaging ONLY when it’s time to install it.
- When you’re ready to start, touch any unpainted metal surface on your computer. This will discharge static in your body — yes, you conduct electricity, too!
- Make sure your workplace is free of static as much as possible. Remove objects that can cause static buildup such as plastic bags.
- Keep your Mac turned off but plugged in to keep the computer case grounded. This will reduce the chances of a discharge.
Now, as you mount your new RAM, make sure that the small notch on the front that faces the gold contacts match up with the protrusion on the receiving bay.
Installing the New RAM
RAM installation itself is easy and simple, and shouldn’t be a cause for worry as long as you prepared your Mac properly beforehand. To install the new RAM, follow these steps:
- While your Mac is still shut down, flip it over so that the bottom cover is now facing up.
- Using a Phillips screwdriver, unscrew the screws fastening the bottom cover.
- Set the cover aside. Touch any metal part inside your Mac to discharge static.
- Locate the RAM slots. If replacing a currently-installed RAM, release it by pushing the levers one at a time in an outward direction. Gently remove the card.
- Unpack the new RAM. Insert it into the slot. The gold contact strip must face inward. Push it down until you hear a clicking sound.
- Put back the bottom cover. Wait a few minutes, then turn on your Mac.
Once you’re done with the RAM installation, run Apple’s hardware test suite to check the new RAM for errors. Run a scan over Outbyte MacRepair, too, to see if any files or programs were affected during the upgrade.