No matter how fast or powerful your Mac was when you purchased it, eventually the technical requirements for top apps or games will leave it lagging behind. And if your Mac wasn’t one of the speedy ones to begin with, there will come a time when you won’t even be able to download a new macOS, for example. This is truly disheartening, since new Macs often cost thousands of dollars.
So you might be wondering if there’s a way to upgrade Mac hardware to get some affordable performance boost. There is, but first you need to know if your Mac is eligible.
Is Your Mac Upgradeable?
Whether you want to upgrade MacBook Pro or Air, or even an iMac, the flexibility of the process (what you can upgrade exactly) depends on the specific year the model was released.
For example, when it comes to laptops, MacBooks:
The old plastic models (in white) can handle upgrades to its RAM, hard drive, screen, trackpad, battery, fans, and speakers
The newer lightweight 2017 and later versions can have a new battery, fans, and speakers
For MacBook Air:
Models from 2010 to 2015 can get a new SSD, trackpad, battery, fans, and speakers
The 2017 model just allow a new SSD
The 2018–2020 models take no upgrades
For MacBook Pros:
Models between 2019 and 2012 make it possible to upgrade RAM, hard drive, battery, fans, and speakers
Retina models from 2012 to 2015 accept a new SSD, batteries, fans, and speakers
15-inch MacBook Pros (2016–2019) are upgradeable with displays, batteries, and trackpads (the 2016 model can also get a new Space bar)
13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) could become better with a new display, trackpad, and battery
The 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro can still have a new display, whereas 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro is virtually not upgradeable
When it comes to desktop, the situation is a bit different. For iMacs:
From 2015 to 2017, on both the 21.5 and 27-inch models, you can update an SSD, display, RAM, fans, and speakers
For Mac minis:
2010–2014 models can be upgraded with an SSD, RAM, and fans
2018 model only allows new RAM and fans
For Mac Pros:
On both the tower and the pre-2013 model you can change pretty much anything, but RAM and SSD are the easiest.
That being said, given that so many updates are practically available doesn’t mean that you should go and disassemble your Mac right now.
First, realize that tempering with your Mac in any way will lead to it voiding Apple’s warranty. So if your warranty is still active, you might want to hold off on upgrades or bring your Mac to your nearest Apple Store for some help.
Here’s how to check if your Mac’s warranty is still active:
Go to the Apple icon in your menu bar ➙ About This Mac
Copy your Serial Number
Paste your serial number, enter the CAPTCHA code, and click Continue
How to do a MacBook Pro RAM upgrade
By far the most frequent request among Mac users is the step-by-step guide to getting more RAM, whether it’s a MacBook Pro mid 2012 RAM upgrade or one for a recently purchased Mac Pro. The truth is your RAM tends to run out fast and you often realize you need more than you thought at the time of purchase.
Luckily, RAM upgrades are much easier than knowing how to upgrade CPU or how to upgrade graphics card. Let’s start with performing a MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro RAM upgrade:
Look up and purchase the correct RAM type for your laptop (e.g. 1600 MHz DDR3)
Turn your MacBook off completely
Unscrew and remove the back panel
Locate RAM and, with both hands, release the small tabs that keep it in place. It should pop up.
Take out your old RAM and put in the substitution
For iMacs, the RAM upgrade is just as easy. You don’t even need a screwdriver:
Press the RAM slot release button located above the power port area
Remove the RAM slot cover
Release small tabs that hold the RAM modules
Insert new RAM in place of the old one
If you own a Mac Pro, you’re in luck, since RAM upgrades for them take no time:
Either turn the tower case to take it off or use the lever to remove the side panel
Find the RAM module and pull it out
Release tabs to replace RAM and return the module to its place
For Mac mini owners, however, the RAM upgrade situation is much more difficult. While the update is possible, it requires a screwdriver, a dull blade, and lots of concentration:
Stick the blade between the top and bottom Mac mini cases and proceed to separate them around the four sides
Lift the top cover
Carefully remove the AirPort and two Bluetooth antennas
Remove the screws securing the internal frame
Find the RAM slot and push the tabs to release the modules
Replace with your new RAM and reverse the steps to reassemble everything
Note: It’s recommended that you use the same amount of RAM in each slot on any Mac. So if you have two slots, go for 4 GB and 4 GB, or 8 GB and 8 GB, etc.
How to update Mac’s processor, SSD, and graphics card
As mentioned above, RAM upgrades for Mac (excluding Mac mini) are considered to be the easiest improvements you can do yourself. Now what should you do when it comes to MacBook Pro SSD upgrade or MacBook Pro graphics card upgrade?
While it’s theoretically possible to upgrade processors or update graphics cards, and you might even find online tutorials from people who’ve succeeded in doing that, it’s such an intricate process in reality that breaking something vital is almost inevitable.
So if you really need to upgrade MacBook Pro SSD or anything else (other than RAM), the best thing you can do is visit your local Apple Store or an Apple-certified service center. Even if your Mac is out of warranty and you have to pay for the upgrade, it would be much cheaper than getting a new Mac altogether in case you break it. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
How to know when to upgrade your Mac
Regardless of where and how you plan to upgrade your Mac, you first have to answer the question of when. You might certainly feel your Mac getting slower over time, but it’s better to predict such changes early to maintain optimal performance.
iStat Menus is the most detailed Mac monitor on the market. While this app lives quietly in your menu bar, it scans the state of your RAM, CPU, GPU, network, sensors, disks, and much more. Occasionally looking at the intuitive iStat Menus graphs would give you an accurate and timely snapshot of how your Mac functions at any given moment.
How to speed up your Mac without upgrades
What if you see your Mac clearly underperforming but don’t want to spend your time, money, and energy on trying to upgrade it yourself or even going to a service center. Then, you need a software solution.
CleanMyMac X is a secret tool that any Mac user can immensely benefit from. It scans your Mac for any files, processes, or malware that could interfere with its operations and safely fixes the problem with just one click. For example, just two scripts to Free Up RAM and Free Up Purgeable Space could save you the money you were planning to spend on a new memory and SSD.
To scan your Mac with CleanMyMac X:
Open the up and navigate to the Maintenance tab
Check Free Up RAM, Free Up Purgeable Space, and any other scripts you like
How to create a backup before service
If you do decide to bring your Mac to a service center (or do an upgrade yourself), you first need to ensure that regardless of the outcome your files will remain safe.
Get Backup Pro is a top-tier backup manager for your Mac. It lets you quickly back up your Mac to any external drive and synchronize files with other Macs. Whether you need to simply put a few folders in a safe place or clone a whole volume, the process is as simple as choosing the right function and clicking Start.
Now you know what it takes exactly to do a Mac upgrade. And while getting new RAM is easy enough, when you want to upgrade CPU or update graphics card, you better turn to professionals. And don’t forget to keep iStat Menus running to quickly detect your Mac underperforming, switch on CleanMyMac X to speed it up, and use Get Backup Pro to store your files in a safe place.
Best of all, iStat Menus, CleanMyMac X, and Get Backup Pro are available to you free for seven days through a trial of Setapp, a brilliant Mac platform with more than 170 essential apps on board. Try every single one at no cost today and feel how powerful your Mac can be.