Save Some Money, Don’t Pay Extra For Easy Upgrades

Buying a new MacBook or MacBook Pro is expensive but the add-ons like extra drive space and memory really push up the price. Like paying someone to hook up your TV to a cable box, why should you pay a couple hundred dollars extra for upgrades that you can easily do on your own? Here’s what you need to do:

Don’t worry about the warranty:

Some users are afraid they will lose the warranty if they upgrade their own machines. That’s understandable, however, Apple considers the Hard Drive, Battery and Memory (RAM) to be “user replaceable”. This means that you don’t violate your warranty if you upgrade these. Just remember that if you don’t need to take the laptop apart, you won’t violate a warranty. Also, if the laptop is more than 3 years old, AppleCare is over – no more warranty anyway. Remember though, if you damage your Mac while replacing anything, you will violate the warranty.

Note: If you own a MacBook Pro that’s not the unibody model, or an older iBook/Powerbook, replacing the Hard Drive requires taking it apart to get at the drive. If it’s less than three years old, and you have AppleCare, this will violate the warranty.

Know your MacBook / MacBook Pro’s model:

The model number and specifications are important. Purchasing RAM can be confusing, you need to know the exact chip to buy or it may not work right. Hard Drives are a little easier, you just need to know the interface type. The model you have will help you locate the proper chip and drive type.

The easiest way to find you which model you own is with your serial number. If the computer is on, do the following:

- Click on the Apple in the upper-left corner.
- Select “About this Mac”.
- Click “More Info…”.
- The serial number is on the “Hardware Overview” screen.

If the computer is off, look underneath the battery if you have a MacBook, MacBook Pro or certain models of Powerbooks. If you have an iBook, or if the serial number is not under the battery, check underneath the keyboard.

Once you have the serial number, visit the Tech Specs page on Apple’s Website. Enter the serial number into the search box. It will take a second for Apple’s site to find the model but when it does, scroll down to the “Processor and Memory” paragraph. Take note of the memory specifications. In the case of my MacBook, it’s “667MHz DDR2 SDRAM”.

To get the exact type of memory you need, scroll down some more to the “Configurations” area. In the Memory field, look for a number preceded by PC. In my case it’s PC2-5300. That’s the memory type I need for my MacBook.

Selecting the memory:

Now that you know the exact type of memory chip to buy, look it up at NewEgg. Be sure to check that the memory is the exact type you need. I’d recommend using the Advanced Search feature to eliminate chips for different models.

Make sure you select a reputable brand as cheap/bad memory can give you random and hard to diagnose problems down the road. Brands that I recommend include Kingston, Crucial, Corsair and Patriot.

Note: In case you were wondering, brands that Apple ships with their laptops is usually either Hynix, or Samsung, occasionally Crucial. Other than type and speed, there is no difference between memory that goes in a MacBook and memory that goes in HP, Dell, Lenovo or any other PC laptop.

Replacing the memory:

Replacing the memory is actually easy but you will need a small size (#0) precision phillips (+) screwdriver. They are commonly known as jewelers, eyeglass repair or electronics screwdrivers. They are much smaller than the typical around the house screwdriver. If you have a MacBook / MacBook Pro the memory is located in the battery bay. If you have an iBook or PowerBook, it’s under the keyboard. iFixIt has some great step by step instructions to guide you.

- MacBook RAM Upgrade.
- MacBook Pro RAM Upgrade.
- iBook RAM Upgrade.
- PowerBook RAM Upgrade.

Selecting the hard drive:

If you wish to upgrade your hard drive, the only easily upgradable hard drive is for either a MacBook, or the latest Unibody MacBook Pro. They are all Serial-ATA or SATA drives. Here’s a quick guide to Hard Drive Specs:

- Size – Laptops use a 2.5″ form factor. You must get this size.
- Storage Space (GB) – How much data you can fit on the drive.
- Speed (RPM) – Get at least a 5400rpm. 7200 is faster but uses more of the battery.

Head on over to NewEgg and select a drive. Just like with memory, make sure you get a good brand of drive manufacturer. Recommended brands are Western Digital and Seagate.

Replacing the hard drive:

Replacing the hard drive in a MacBook is just like replacing the RAM. They are both inside the battery bay. Once again, iFixIt has a great guide on how to do this:

MacBook Hard Drive Upgrade.

The latest, Unibody models are even easier – just remove the battery cover and the drive is right there.

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