Here's how to upgrade your Mac RAM

Is your Mac slowing down? Do you spend more and more time waiting for applications to do what you want? If so, there is a very good chance that you have high memory usage and need a Mac RAM upgrade.

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. This memory is temporary and used by the CPU to hold information that processes actively use on your system. Your Mac slows down when it experiences high memory usage, in other words, when the running applications demand more RAM than your Mac can provide. The more RAM available, the better your Mac is able to execute the tasks that are being thrown at it.

The obvious solution would be to increase Mac RAM, but before I show you how to do that, let’s make sure that your lack of RAM is actually the cause of your Mac slowdown.

Does your Mac need more RAM?

If you ended up reading this article, you probably suspect you need Mac RAM upgrade. But how to check if you have enough RAM? Mac technicians say 8GB is enough for your everyday tasks. Intensive processes, though, like video editing, require more RAM.

If you're considering MacBook RAM upgrade, first let me show you how to check RAM usage on Mac.

  1. Open Spotlight Search (Command-Space)
  2. Type in Activity Monitor.
  3. In Activity Monitor, select the Memory tab on the top of the window.

Memory Pressure is the graph you need to study.

If there is mostly green, your system RAM is currently fine. If there is a lot of yellow, the jury is still out. If there is a lot of red, your memory is under strain, and your Mac has a high memory usage.

How to free up RAM on Mac without purchasing it

If you're running out of memory but don't want to purchase more RAM, you can try quitting unused active apps in Activity Monitor. Select the app and click the "X" button to close it. This should release some memory on your machine.

Another alternative is to use a third-party tool to optimize your RAM usage. I highly recommend CleanMyMac X, which has a Maintenance module that helps free up RAM and speed up your Mac. CleanMyMac X is notarized by Apple and has a free version.

Here's how to free up RAM with the help of this tool:

Free up Mac RAM with CleanMyMacX

  1. Download CleanMyMac X for free here.
  2. Install and launch the app.
  3. Go to Maintenance — here, select Free Up RAM and Run Maintenance Scripts,
  4. Click Run.

When to use this tool? When your Mac or a particular app hangs up, this feature will temporarily flush memory, helping your Mac to unfreeze.

Check if you have slots for more RAM

If you have reached the conclusion that you need more memory, I'm going to show you exactly how to increase your Mac RAM. The first step is to check if your Mac has slots for new RAM.

This may not be what you want to hear, but it’s possible that you can’t add more RAM to your Mac, even if you wanted to. Let’s look under the hood and see what your memory situation is like.

  1. Click the Apple icon.
  2. Select “About this Mac”
  3. Click System Report.
  4. The System Information window will launch. Select Memory in the left column.

You will see the exact details of your RAM modules or sticks on the right. The "banks" are the slots that the RAM is inserted into. If you have an empty bank or two, you're in luck, upgrading your memory just got that much easier. As you see in the screenshot above, my MacBook Pro doesn't have space for the new RAM.

    Where should you buy RAM?

    You navigated to your Mac memory information and discovered whether you had space for new memory. Now it's only a matter of choosing your new RAM, and I recommend starting with MacSales. If you're located outside the US, Google will probably tell you which stores sell RAM nearby.

    How to upgrade RAM on Mac

    Adding your new RAM into your Mac is not as hard as it sounds. This is definitely an upgrade that you can perform yourself, as long as you have a screwdriver on hand. The only tricky thing is to know exactly where the RAM is, and that it varies between types of Macs.

    Below are handy tutorials to install new memory on your specific type of Mac.

    Can you upgrade RAM on MacBook Pro?

    If you own MacBook Pro and want to upgrade RAM on this machine, you should know that only a few models have slots for additional RAM. These are:

    • 13-inch models from 2009 to 2012
    • 15-inch models from 2008 to 2012
    • 17-inch models from 2008 to 2011

    MacBook RAM upgrade is possible with:

    • MacBooks from 2008 to 2011
    Tip

    Wear an antistatic wrist strap to avoid damaging computer components due to static discharge when removing and installing RAM.

    MacBook Pro memory upgrade

    Here's how to upgrade RAM on your MacBook or MacBook Pro:

    • Turn your MacBook off and let it cool down.
    • Turn your MacBook upside down and pop the latch on the back to remove the plate.
    • Use a tiny Phillips head screwdriver to unscrew the larger backplate.
    • Note - one screw will be a lot smaller than the others. Remember where it goes.
    • Touch metal to ground yourself before touching the RAM.
    • The RAM is to the left or right of the center. Pull apart the latches on each side of it, and the RAM will pop up.
    • Slide the RAM out. Try to hold the memory module by its edges and avoid touching the gold connectors.
    • Slide the new RAM into the slot and push it down till it clicks into place.
    • Put the large backplate back on and screw it into place.
    • Screw the smaller backplate back into place.
    • Turn your MacBook on and go to About This Mac to confirm the new RAM installed.

    iMac RAM upgrade

    You can install new RAM on almost any iMac. To find out if you can upgrade RAM on your particular iMac model, check this list on the Apple Support website.

    • Shut down your iMac and unplug everything. Let your iMac cool down,
    • Place your iMac face down, ensuring the screen is protected from anything that could scratch it.
    • Press the small button located above the AC port to open the memory compartment.
    • You’ll find a diagram on the bottom of the door that shows the memory cage levers and the correct orientation of the RAM modules.
    • Push the two levers on the right and left sides outward — this should release the memory cage.
    • Once you release the memory, pull the levers up.
    • You can now remove each module —take a photo of the location of the notch on the bottom of the modules: the notch must be placed correctly when reinstalled.
    • Install new memory by placing it into the slot until it clicks.
    • After installing new memory, push the levers back into the housing until you hear the clicking sound.
    • Install the memory compartment door and put your iMac into the upright position.
    • Re-connect everything, turn your iMac back on and go to About This Mac to confirm new RAM has been installed.

    Mac Pro memory upgrade

    All Mac Pro computers have user-upgradeable memory, which means you can upgrade RAM on any Mac Pro model. Here's how to do that:

    • Turn off your Mac and let it cool down.
    • Disconnect all cables.
    • Touch the metal case of your Mac Pro to discharge any static electricity.
    • Unlock the housing by flipping the top latch up and then twisting it left.
    • Lift the housing and remove it.
    • Toggle the RAM cover lock to the left to open it. Remove the modules.
    • Place your new RAM module into the slot and gently push until it clicks. Avoid touching the gold collectors.
    • Reinsert the RAM modules cover and gently push until they click.
    • Turn the top latch right to lock it.
    • Reconnect all the peripherals and go to About This Mac to check if new RAM has been installed.

      Mac mini RAM upgrade

      Adding a new memory in Mac mini is simple, but not every model allows you to do that. It is possible to install RAM on Mac mini models from 2010 to 2012, but Mac minis from 2014 have a memory that can't be upgraded. Mac mini models from 2018 don't have user-installable RAM, and Mac minis M1 have their RAM integrated into the Apple chip.

        So, here's how to upgrade memory on Mac mini 2010-2012:

        • Shut down your Mac mini. Let it cool down and disconnect all cables.
        • Place your Mac mini upside down on a soft cloth and rotate the bottom case counterclockwise.
        • Gently press on the case to let the opposite side pop up. Then, remove it.
        • Spread the clips of the memory module and let it pop up. Remove the module.
        • Repeat the same for the bottom module.
        • Place new memory modules into the slots.
        • Replace the bottom case and rotate it clockwise until it's locked.
        • Reconnect the power cord and go to About This Mac to check if new RAM has been installed.

        Can you upgrade RAM on MacBook Air?

        Apple has soldered RAM onto the motherboard on MacBook Air laptops to make the computers thinner. That's why a MacBook Air RAM upgrade isn't possible. 

        Most Macs available today don't have a user-upgradable memory. MacBook Air M1 is no exception — all M1 Macs have their memory unified onto the chip. So, if you're thinking about purchasing a new Mac, consider what you will use it for and better opt for the largest amount of RAM you can afford.


        Mac is still slow after RAM upgrade?

        Hopefully, the new RAM gave your Mac a new lease of life. Though, sometimes, RAM replacement doesn't solve the memory shortage problem on Mac. You could try examining what apps and programs overload your memory. But there is a faster way. CleanMyMac X, the app I mentioned before, has a handy Optimization feature that identifies hung and memory-consuming apps and lets you quit them.

        CleanMyMac X - heavy consumers

        1. Launch CleanMyMac X.
        2. Go to Optimization.
        3. Choose Heavy Consumers 
        4. Select the app that's wasting your Mac's resources and quit it.

        Done! 

        In this guide, I showed you how to identify high memory usage on your Mac. I also outlined the steps to determine what RAM your Mac has installed, whether it can be upgraded, how to purchase new memory for your Mac, and finally, how to install your new RAM into your Mac.

        Once your new RAM is installed, depending on how much you were able to add, you should see a considerable boost to your Mac performance. Hope this article was helpful.

        Laptop with CleanMyMac
        CleanMyMac X

        Your Mac. As good as new.