Macs and RAM

A quick post about the various options for RAM upgrades that Mac models offer and the basic choices available.

Historically Apple has shipped Macs with t he minimum amount of RAM they felt they could get away with, which was nice of them. This has meant that as the demands placed on RAM by newer OS's and applications has increased the importance of adding more RAM to ensure best available performance has grown. Macs and the Mac OS respond well to additional RAM so the rule of thumb is to install the maximum that your machine will hold, or, the most your pocket will bear. To confuse the issue, Apple has specified RAM limits on some machines that are set in stone while other machines can use more RAM than the maximum Apple say.

A short precis:

  • Older MacBooks (2006) came with 512MB RAM but can use 2GB (2x1GB)
  • Older MacBook Pro's (2006) are the same
  • 2007 MacBooks and MacBook Pro's can use 3GB. You can install 4GB but it doesnt get used)
  • Late 2007 MacBook Pros will use 6GB (4+2) if you can find a 4GB module
  • All unibody MacBook Pros (and the unibody macBook) can use 8GB RAM
  • Aluminium iMacs to 2008 (20 and 24in) can use 6GB
  • 2009 iMac (20 and 24in ) can use 8GB
  • 2009-10 iMacs (21.5 and 27in) can use 16GB RAM
  • post 2010 iMacs can address up t 32GB of RAM
  • later 2013 slimline iMAcs are limited back down to 15GB of RAM (??)
  • all retina MacBook Pros have their RAM soldered onto the logic board (boo)
  • all MacBook Airs have their RAM soldered onto the logic board (boo)

RAM costs vary greatly. Current spec tends to be cheaper as it is manufactured in bulk, older specs can rise in price. Ideally any older Mac should have 2GB RAM, those that can should be upgraded to 4 and all unibody machines should be on 8GB. iMac should generally be maxxed out however 12GB represents a good compromise is 12GB, affordable and useful.

if you need to discuss upgradng I am happy to talk to you about it.


What OS should I be running in your Mac?

Ah the thorny question, what is the best OS for my Mac. The simple answer is, it's a bit complicated. Some Macs can run any updated version of the OS up to the latest (macOS Sierra0, some macs top out at OSX 10.11 also known as El Capitan, other, older Macs are stuck at OSX 10.7 (Lion) while the positively geriatric are only able to reach OSX 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard). If you have a pre intel Mac then stop reading now, nip over to the refurbished Macs page on this site and get yourself updated. You know it makes sense.

So, how does all this pan out in practice. Well, lets start at the bottom. (ooh err missus). The very earliest Intel Macs are limited to running OSX version 10.6.8. In general they run this fine as it's a light weight OS that is pretty speedy on older hardware. The main issues come with its limitations. Ni iCloud for you, also, no internet as all current modern browsers (Safari, Chrome etc) are no longer available in 10.6.8 guise. No Flash player either, so no BBC iPlayer or YouTube. All in all if you are running one of these early Intel machines it's probably well worth the updating to a much newer and faster machine.

Macs stuck on 10.6.8 are:

  • White/Black v1 MacBooks with the Intel CoreDuo processor (2006 models)
  • Aluminium 15in MacBook Pro's with the CoreDuo processor (2005-6 models)
  • Mac Mini with CoreDuo processor (2005-6)
  • White 2006 iMacs

Next up is OSX 10.7 (Lion), also known as the Windows Vista of Mac OS. All Intel Macs will run this but unless it's the newest version you can use, you are best off upgrading. Lion tends to run slow, is buggy and the newer style user interface is unfinished and confused. Browser support is also now missing for Lion so again, limited Internet for you.

Macs stuck on 10.7.5 are:

  • All white/black MacBooks with Intel Core2Duo processors (2006-2008)
  • 2007 15in MacBook Pro model 2,2
  • Mac Mini 2007
  • Mac Pro 2006-7
  • White 2007 iMacs

Things do settle down a bit after this. Any Mac built after the above is happy running any version of OSX up to 10.11.6 (El Capitan), although many older Macs will benefit from additional RAM in order to do so with usable speed. A hard drive upgrade to an SSD will also speed things along a lot. Sadly after hanging on in there through the increasingly bizarrely named Mountain Lion (10.8), Mavericks (10.9), Yosemite (10.10), El Capitan sees a cut off for other older Macs,

Macs stuck on OSX 10.11.6 are:

  • Aluminium iMacs from 2007-2009
  • Unibody MacBook Pro's from 2008-9
  • Mac Mini 2009
  • Mac Pro 2009

Broadly speaking, with RAM, each Mac model is best off running the latest version of the OS that it can. Apart from keeping things up to date this also means you get access to the current versions of applications, browsers and other stuff that keeps your Mac functional for the longest amount of time.




The Best, and Worst of Apple

Since 1984 Apple have sent a lot of Mac's out into the world. Some good, many great and few of what could be termed bad Apples. So out of all these Macs would any stand out as the best, and as the worst. Lets have a look. The following is a strictly personal and probably somewhat heretical list. But go with it. If you disagree with anything feel free to nominate your own personal favourites and lemons.

The Good
This could be a long list but in the interests of brevity lets confine ourselves the seriously good. Apple has always been good at laptops and there are several stand out designs including the lovely G3 PowerBook series more commonly known as the Wall Street and Pismo models.

Do you remember when laptops were this lovely?

Do you remember when laptops were this lovely?

These machines were innovative, fast and almost indestructible. They looked super stylish were early adopters of wifi connectivity. Journalists particularly took to them for their tank like ruggedness. It's successor the G4 PowerBook, also known as the Ti (for titanium) Book was also a hit with it's cutting edge metal design. Also worthy of mention is the current unibody construction MacBook Pro and particularly the retina display models, the original Retina models suffered form heat issues but currently ones are a delight with their glorious hi definition screens.
On the desktop front Apple have delivered a raft of excellent machines. A quick mention to the seriously unglamorous but excellent first gen Intel Mac Mini, often overlooked but a great machine at a superb price.For the older, and those with longer memories, the introduction of the PowerPC chipped 8600 series with it's innovative side opening box that made stealing - I mean upgrading - RAM super easy. A design concept that lived on into the previous generation of Mac Pro.

Not a toaster

Not a toaster

Other honourable mentions should go to the iMac G4 that was almost computer as art with its distinctive dome base and screen on a stick design, and the glorious G4 Cube, that WAS computer as art, even if it was a sales disaster. You know you want one!

The Bad
Well this is an interesting list. Apples bad is more often than not a result of questionable design decisions rather than bad machines as such. In many ways the current generation of iMacs are superb machines but, the deliberate lack of serviceability and upgradability is hard to justify, especially the 21in model where even the RAM is sealed in. Other bad apples include the G5 desktop which happily cooked itself into oblivion, the 2011 MacBook Pro which undid almost all of Apples reputation for laptop reliability by itself and the original MacBook Air which looked almost unbelievable when it was unveiled but proved to be slow, prone to hard drive failure and difficult to love in any way.

The Ugly
Which leaves us with the worst of the bunch. If these Mac's where school children they would be on permanent suspension. If they were cars they'd be Austin Allegro's. Well you get the idea. 

The Winner
Lets hear it of the 2011 model iMac 27in, particularly in quad core i7 guise. The ultimate evolution of the iMac line with all the speed, power and usability you could need. I do love the upgradability, you can stuff 32Gb of RAM into it in seconds. The screen is superb. It has many many ports for connectivity and best of all you can still take it apart and add stuff inside. Need more storage? 4TB hard rives fit right in. Need an SSD? Fine. Make your own fusion drive? Yup. Repair broken parts? All day long. A truly great Mac that will be giving it's owners fine service well into the next decade.

The Loser(s)
Well this is almost a tie. The two unlucky machines are years apart in age but both suffer from the same fault, Apples desire to give people the least amount of machine for the most amount of money. Lets hear a big raspberry for... The 2012 model 21in iMac entry level model and the 1992 Performa 6200.

A Performa 6200. Yum!

A Performa 6200. Yum!

First the old dog itself. Conceived in a brutally cynical way this machine suffered from a superbly flawed logic board design that halved the speed of the already weak processor in an effort to save money. The Mac itself redefined boring in it's beige box way. It was outdated as soon as you opened the box and Apple was happy to receive customers of nearly £1200 for the privelidge. And now, nearly twenty years later Apple figures we've all forgotten this so proudly gives us the entry level 20in iMac. Inside a crippled MacBook Air logic board ensures it's no speed demon. At least Apple has spared users the pain of extending the life of their machine by upgrading it. Pitiful amounts of RAM are soldered onto a logic board you can't get to through the factory sealed screen, which is bonded into place. It does come in a nice box though. A thoroughly dishonourable draw for last place.

Do feel free to nominate your own winners and losers.

The best... and worst of Apple

Since 1984 Apple have sent a lot of Mac's out into the world. Some good, many great and few of what could be termed bad Apples. So out of all these Macs would any stand out as the best, and as the worst. Lets have a look.

Read More