Cheapest / smartest way to upgrade new Macbook?
November 20, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Help me navigate buying and upgrading a new Macbook Pro. Can I upgrade the HDD or RAM myself without voiding the warranties, or am I stuck paying the Apple tax for more HDD and RAM?

I am planning to buy a new Apple Macbook (probably a Pro, but you can answer for any current model). When I last bought a Macbook, both the hard drive and RAM were easily user-serviceable. So back then the smart thing to do was buy the default configuration with the cheapest HDD and least RAM, and then order commodity HDD and RAM from Newegg and swap them yourself. That way you got a Macbook with a better than default configuration, without paying the big margins Apple charges for computers with bigger HDDs and more RAM.

It seems to be a different world today. The current-gen Macbook Pros and Macbook Airs are more tightly put together, and it looks like in order to replace the HDD and RAM you have to open up the case. I've done that before but I don't like to do it. Furthermore I'm concerned that it would void the warranty on the new laptop.

I feel like I understood all of this really well the last time I bought a computer, but I am kind of at sea now.

So my questions are:
  • Is there any current-model Macbook where HDD or RAM can be replaced without opening the case?
  • Does opening the case on a current-gen Macbook Pro (or otherwise) void the warranty? Would it void the Applecare extended warranty?
  • If doing it myself is a bad option, what else is a smart and economical way of upgrading a new Macbook's HDD and RAM above the basic configurations?
Many thanks.
posted by grobstein to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1) Nope.
2) Possibly, the parts are non user serviceable, if you break something while fiddling around it will void the warranty, the RAM is soldered on to the mainboard and the HDD is totally custom non standard, possibly upgradeable...possibly, not sure of OWC/etc have one out yet.
3) Buy the upgraded versions out of the gate.
posted by iamabot at 3:38 PM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: Aw, thanks for the answers iamabot, even if they are exactly the opposite of what I wanted to hear.
posted by grobstein at 3:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sorry, let me rephrase, there is no *Retina Display* macbook pro that is upgradeable, the others should be fine.
posted by iamabot at 3:41 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: Hello. I am buying a MacBook Pro today so I feel like your comrade or something like that.

Anyway, I researched all of these things before I am going to go out and buy one, so I have some ideas based on what I researched. But I don't actually have a Mac yet, so this is just stuff I got from the apple support boards and other people I know.

1. Not that I know of. You can't open up the Retina to put things in at all, and the other model they have out requires the opening of the case in order to put in the RAM.

2. Upgrading RAM is considered user-replaceable so it doesn't void your warranty unless you mess up doing it. They have a whole section in the guide telling you how to do it, so I assume that means they condone it.

3. If you get a Retina, like I said before, you can't upgrade it at all. It's soldered together. But if you get the other version, I'm told it's super easy to upgrade. You can also take it to the store and they'll do it but I don't now how much it is.

Hope this helps.
posted by cyml at 3:42 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: Here is the official link from Apple regarding how to do upgrades yourself!
posted by cyml at 3:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: MacBook Air: Memory is not upgradable, SSD only upgradable with specialized replacements.
MacBook Pro with standard display: both memory and hard drive or SSD are user upgradable after removing the backplate of the case.
MacBook Pro with Retina Display: Memory is not upgradable, SSD only upgradable with specialized replacements.

You can review the specifics of how hard it is to replace these things model by model on iFixit.
posted by eschatfische at 3:46 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, while Applecare will repair Macs that have defects that are not related to the installation of third-party gear, and in my experience will not reject a repair based on the opening of the case to install RAM or an HDD, the AppleCare FAQ does state:

"As with Appleā€™s one-year limited warranty, AppleCare Protection Plan repair service coverage does not include the following: Damage due to accident, abuse, neglect, or misuse, including faulty installation, repair, or maintenance by anyone other than Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider"

My feeling is that upgrading memory and hard drive on a MacBook Pro with standard display is easy and safe enough that it is worthwhile for you to attempt - after viewing the iFixit guides to make sure that you're OK with performing that type of upgrade, of course. However, at this time, it's best to order a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with Retina Display from Apple with the specs that you anticipate needing over the laptop's life.
posted by eschatfische at 3:53 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: What eschatfische said: the standard MacBook Pro has user-upgradeable HD and RAM, and I've upgraded both with mine. All you need is a small Philips screwdriver. It is no harder than replacing RAM and HD in, say, a Thinkpad T-series.

If doing it myself is a bad option, what else is a smart and economical way of upgrading a new Macbook's HDD and RAM above the basic configurations?

What iamabot said: if you want the sleeker models and/or better displays, custom-order the specs you want. Is Apple's markup on RAM (in particular) still higher than NewEgg or Crucial? Yeah, but not as ridiculously so as it once was. I'm likely to take that leap to soldered-on parts when I next upgrade, because the tradeoffs are worth it.
posted by holgate at 4:06 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: I just did replaced the hard drive on a non-retina MacBook Pro and saved myself a lot of money. The HD and RAM, specifically, of a MBP non-retina don't void the warranty if you replace them but there are a bunch of caveats (i.e. don't fuck it up). It was simple if you're even the least bit hardware-inclined.

If you want 8GB of (still-in-package) Mac-branded Corsair RAM, btw, I have some I need to return to NewEgg (my refurb model came with 8GB rather than 4GB), but I'd just as easily sell it to you for exactly how much I paid for it plus shipping instead of paying NewEgg shipping and restocking fees.
posted by griphus at 4:23 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: If you buy third party simply save the original RAM and hard drive and store them in the packaging from the third party gear. If you require AppleCare service for hardware problem simply reinstall the original hardware. This will be totally acceptable to Apple. They just don't want to spend time servicing your computer only to find out that it's something that is not their fault. It's also nice to have the extras on hand because then if it's crashing you can put the stock gear back in and see if the problem goes away.

The bonus to this method is with the hard drive you get to keep your data in your possession instead of it being in the hands of Apple employees.

eschatfische's comments above are right on.

Also you are crazy to get a machine without an SSD (or add one to the non retina pro) unless you absolutely require tons of storage. The performance boost is amazing.
posted by ridogi at 5:21 PM on November 20, 2012

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