Mac 101: Breathe new life into your Mac with a memory upgrade

Every time new Macs (s aapl) come along, I’d wager most current Mac users spend at least some time internally debating if it’s the right time to get a new computer. But that new computer experience might beĀ availableĀ for a lot less money, if your Mac is eligible for a simple, DIY memory upgrade.

Step one: Find out if your Mac can handle it

Not all Macs are eligible for memory upgrades, or at least not ones you can perform easily at home. Some might already be equipped with their maximum supported memory, and some might have more difficult to replace memory kits, like the MacBook Air does, for instance. But in general, you can find out if your Mac could take on more memory by checking your system stats.
In Lion, this is easy. Go to the Apple menu, click “About this Mac,” and then click “More Info…” Then, click the “Memory” tab along the top and it’ll show you how much memory you currently have installed, and the capacity of each individual module. In my example, I have 4 x 4 GB modules installed on my iMac, which is the most this model officially supports. Many base configuration models of iMacs currently available ship with two slots free, as mine did before I upgraded.
To find out the maximum memory your model supports, you can do two things. First, click the link in that Memory information page that says “Memory Upgrade Instructions” to be taken to the relevant Apple support site for your computer. So long as you know when your computer was released, you can find all the information you need, including Apple’s maximum memory capacity for your specific model here. If you need to find when your Mac was released, check our guide for finding that out.
You can also take a second option, which is to visit OWC, find your Mac of choice under the “Memory” section and see what options the site provides. OWC actually offers kits that provide memory in capacities that often exceed Apple’s official supported specs, but will still work fine with your hardware.

Step two: Figure how much memory you need to upgrade

OWC is a great resource for figuring out how much RAM you need to purchase to upgrade. Navigate to the Memory section on the OWC homepage, then find your model of computer. Now, the site will provide you with a number of options for memory upgrades and replacements. OWC had basically done the thinking for you, so you can just click on a combo package greater than your current memory configuration and not worry about whether or not the modules will work with each other or your machine.
The other benefit of going through OWC is that they have very fair prices, and they even offer rebate pricing on the memory that shipped with your Apple computer. You won’t get much, but it’s more than you’d make by throwing your old RAM in the garbage.

Step three: Install the RAM

Following Apple’s installation guides is the best way to go about replacing your RAM. Here are links to the instructions for upgrading iMac memory, Mac mini memory, MacBook Pro memory, and MacBook memory. It’s not difficult and requires a minimum of tools, but you will need a small screwdriver, like one you’d use for eyeglasses repair, in order to replace memory on iMacs and MacBooks.

Step four: Enjoy considerable performance boosts

When I upgraded my 2011 iMac from its basic 4 GB of memory to 16 GB, it was definitely like getting a new machine. Things never grind to a halt anymore; I can run Photoshop(s adbe) alongside other demanding applications without major slow-downs; and my computer seldom requires an actual restart or power-down to get things moving smoothly again. The entire upgrade cost me less than $100, too.
If you love your Mac but find yourself less than impressed with its performance lately, a memory boost could be just the thing to put the spark back in your relationship.