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  1. #1

    Default The When and Where of RAM Buying


    One of the easiest ways of extending the useful life of your Mac (for those that still use desktops/laptops), and potentially improve its performance, is to add more Random Access Memory (RAM). Whilst your system, apps, and data files are stored on hard drives, optical media, etc, these devices have slow read/write speeds compared to the speeds of a CPU - thus RAM is used as a temporary data storage device with the rapid transfer rates required by the CPU to perform the tasks that you ask of it.

    If your Mac lacks enough RAM to do the tasks it is set, then it uses Virtual Memory (VM) to get the job done. VM is a system-controlled function that moves data out of RAM and into a file stored on the hard drive (ie slow access), when there is insufficient RAM available for new tasks. Thus, if VM is being used, then there is likely insufficient RAM for the functions you are performing, and your Mac will run slower than if the data had remained in RAM.

    To check how much VM is being used, open Activity Monitor (applications/utilties/), click on the System Memory tab, and look at the Page ins/outs. This shows how much data has been written in and out of RAM/VM, and ideally should only be a few (hundred) MB or less. The figures are reset when the computer is restarted/shut down, so ideally - restart your computer, spend a day performing your typical tasks, and then check the in/out figures again to see what they are doing. High ins/outs, means time for more RAM.

    The other time you're likely to want additional RAM is to avoid being price-gouged by Apple. It's a fact - Apple charge a premium on "their" RAM, so you could potentially save a packet by buying your next Mac with a minimal amount of pre-installed RAM, and then upgrading it yourself via a 3rd party vendor. Apple do not actually manufacturer RAM - they simply install whatever brand they currently have stock of, so don't feel any compulsion to use Apple's offerings.

    Installing RAM in a Mac will not void your AppleCare/statutory warranty (with the recent exception of the 2012 21.5" iMac). It can be daunting the first time if you're not used to opening up a computer, but provided you take your time, check out some easily accessible online tutorials on YouTube/etc, and even Apple's own website, I guarantee* you wont have a problem. In many cases, it is literally just a matter of opening an access panel and removing the old RAM, and then inserting the new one/s. Just take care when handling the RAM, avoid static charges, and apply firm even pressure when pushing those sticks in.

    * Guarantee not covered by Australian law, but I am a 3 thumbed talentless nerd, so if I can do it, so you can too.

    When it comes to choosing who to buy your RAM from, there are 2 main factors. First is price, second is price confidence.

    On one hand, you have Apple specific vendors who will know exactly what RAM module/s match your specific Mac, and who will probably provide better before and after sales support, due to the small fishbowl they are swimming in. The prices from these vendors will likely be marginally higher (but still massively lower than Apple), due to their specificity.

    Alternatively, you could choose a vendor who sells to PC users, and is less likely to know the precise specifics of your needs, and potentially may not care if you are a non repeating customer, or if you tell all your Mac-owning friends all about their lack of service - because ultimately Macs still only account for around 10% of the computer market. You are more likely to find cheaper RAM from these vendors, but whilst Mac-compatible RAM is now much more commonplace, you will need to make sure you are buying the right RAM for your machine, with the onus more heavily on your shoulders than going to a Mac specialist˚.

    ˚ These are of course generalisations, and there are always exceptions to the rules.

    Either way - Mac Specialist of PC Vendor - you also have local versus overseas (ie USA or Asia) options to consider, or to run the eBay gauntlet, which will offer a mixture of all possible options...

    So, just who are the big players that everyone keeps talking about - and as an example, how much do they want you to pay for 32GB of RAM for 2012's 27" iMac^?

    Mac Specialist:

    RAMCity - In the business for 10 years, a Mac specialist who sponsor MacTalk, a popular local vendor with good karma. With just 3 clicks you should have found the right RAM for your Mac.
    $236.99 (free postage)

    MacRAM - Adelaide based, fairly new entity (?) though their ABN has Mac heritage ("Mac Shack") back to 2004...
    $244.95 + $8 shipping

    Upgradable - Have been around for 9 years, NSW based company.
    $252.00 (free postage)

    MacFixIt - Can't actually advise when they started (nothing on their website, and ABN only created in 2011), have been around for a few years now, and a local stockist of OWC RAM.
    $209.00 (free shipping)

    epowermac - Dating back to the 90's, epowermac have been consistent throughout with support for Mac product lines.
    (2012 iMac RAM not listed)

    Other World Computing (OWC) / MacSales - Trading since the late 80's, OWC is one of the biggest vendors of its kind in the USA, probably.
    US$217.99 + US$3 to $44 postage

    PC Vendor:

    MSY - 15+ years servicing the PC industry (so says their website), and whilst their website is incredibly busy/messy/not easy to use, they do sell Mac specific RAM, provided you can tell them the correct model details.
    $192 (4x 8GB iMac 2012 specific RAM) pickup

    PCCaseGear - voted best online PC store in Oz, they've been around for 13 years, though you will need to know the specs of the RAM you require.
    $ Unsure of compatibility

    Dick Smith Electronics - You'll need to find their stores that sell computers/Macs, but they should be able to help you out; their website is a mess... there is RAM to be found, but certainly not with ease following their menus.
    $ Not found

    ^ Not intended as a definitive list, and in no particular order (Ok - RAM City first cos they sponsor this site).

    Regardless of which vendor you opt for, on the given example you will save at least $450 over Apple's price... Of course, not many of us would actually need 32GB of RAM... and having twice as much RAM as required will not speed your system up. But then, OS 10.9 may be a memory hog, or you may choose to use products like MS Word, in which case, you'll need all the memory you can get`.

    `That's only a partial lie.

    Hopefully this will help point you in the right direction... Please feel free to share your own experiences here for other people to help make their buying decisions educated ones... though nothing slanderous... slander is bad, ya know?




    Apple - Power Mac Memory Configs

    iBook Memory Guide

    How to remove or install memory:

    Official Apple Support Documents: iMac // Mac Mini // Mac Pro // MacBook // MacBookPro
    Classic Macs: eMac // PowerBook G3 // PowerMac G5 // iMac G5 iSight

    Search iFixIt: ie Try a google search: ifixit ram instal guide

    PS Thanks for the sticky.

    I wrote this because I had to write this, because I have to write - cacoethes scribendi
    Last edited by cosmichobo; 5th March 2013 at 01:33 PM.
    MacTalk - the bianca's of geekdom
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  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    South Australia


  3. #3


    There is no such thing as Mac specific RAM for Mac's that use Intel processors. And as such you are getting ripped off my Apple / Mac stores with their premium prices.

    RAM is specific to Intel processors (not to the Mac hardware or operating system), and the Memory Controller is now built into the i5/i7 processors.

    Virtually all RAM has a lifetime guarantee these days. (Probably not if you buy from Apple.)

    You will most likely be buying SODIMMs, so I will concentrate on them DDR3 SODIMMs. SODIMMs that are buffered / have parity are harder to get, not commonly stocked and more expensive. So you really can't go wrong buying them for your Mac. (Most likely worse case scenario is that it might not run at optimal clock speed.)

    All the information you need for buying the right RAM should be found on iMac: How to remove or install memory.

    All you need to know is what speed you Mac supports. This is to make you purchase more cost effective. You can buy 1600MHz RAM for your iMac, and potentially pay more for it. But if your iMac only supports 1066MHz, the hardware will step down the clock speed of the RAM to 1066MHz. That's the way the Intel architecture works. Again it has nothing to do with Mac or OSX.

    So in my case I have a iMac 27" (Late 2009) model.

    From that page it says:

    Number of memory slots 4
    Maximum memory 16GB
    Note For the iMac (Late 2009) models, you can use 2 GB or 4 GB RAM SO-DIMMs of 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM in each slot. For the iMac (Mid 2010) and iMac (Mid 2011) models, use 2 GB or 4 GB RAM SO-DIMMs of 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM in each slot.

    Notice also on the page there is a table that says:

    iMac (Mid 2011) iMac (Mid 2010) iMac (Late 2009)
    PC3-10600 PC3-10600 PC3-8500
    Unbuffered Unbuffered Unbuffered
    Nonparity Nonparity Nonparity
    204-pin 204-pin 204-pin
    1333MHz DDR3 1333MHz DDR3 1060MHz DDR3

    Row 2 describes the SODIMM "industry standard" (JEDEC) memory that your iMac ideally needs.

    FYI: You can't easily buy buffered, parity SODIMMs as mentioned above, but check anyway.

    So all you need to do is go into a computer store a say: "I want four 8GB PC3-8500 SODIMMs." You do not need to tell them which iMac you have really. Again it is just computer hardware, not a magical unicorn.

    Now, a couple of things in my case.

    Firstly, it says that the maximum memory is 16GB. That is complete and utter rubbish! It is simply untrue. i5/i7 processors support 8GB SODIMMs (They don't unfortunately support 16GB SODIMMs due to Intel BIOS "limitations".)

    Secondly, it says that my i7 CPU only support 1066MHz. So what I needed to to was buy 4 x 8GB SODIMMs that run at 1066MHz. There was no point in buying faster RAM. (Unless I want to use it in the future. To if I bought 1600MHz RAM instead, it would still work, but I could reuse it in a computer / Mac / laptop in the future and it would run at a faster clock speed.

    Thirdly, do not worry about timing, CAS latencies, etc. You will not notice the difference. (There are of course exceptions.) You will always get better performance by adding more RAM. It's as simple as that.

    An important tip, if you are cost conscious try to buy 2 x 8GB SODIMMs (16GB) instead of 4 x 4GB SODIMMs (16GB). This allows you to buy another pair of 8GB SODIMMs in the future and bump up your RAM to 32GB without having to throw away the 4GB SODIMMs you bought.

    The cost per GB difference between 4GB and 8GB is negligible. (It actually has been for years now, but stores have been ripping you off.)

    So I bought the following late last year:

    CMSO16GX3M2B1333C9 Corsair 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1333MHz SODIMM 9-9-9-24 2x204-pin, Lifetime warranty AUD $158.40

    Note that I bought 1333Mhz SODIMMs. That is because the only make 4GB SODIMMs that are 1066MHz (PC3-8500). (I assume.)

    So you should be able to get 8GB SODIMMs for under $200 easily.

    Another important tip, I almost always buy computer hardware with the minimum amount of RAM. Vendors probably make more profit on it compared to any other component. There are probably only a couple of memory manufacturers: Samsung, Hynix, etc. That's what Apple uses. They do not make their own. Plus, as was said it does not void your warranty. The worse case is that they might ask you to put the original memory before you return it for repair. (So keep it handy for the warranty period.)

    So it is substantially cheaper to buy your own RAM after market, plus has a lifetime warranty so it will outlast your computer. So you can use it in future computer purchases. (Although 16GB SODIMMs exist they won't be commonplace any time soon as only AMD processors support them "natively" at present.)

    I see no value in buying overseas at present in my opinion. I travel to the US at least 4 times a year. So go to Frys, Best Buy, and online all the time. Prices for most IT components are now on par or cheaper here. (Certainly RAM and SSDs are.) You really need to know your prices. And when you factor into account conversion rate, credit card fees and potentially state taxes it's most likely not worth it.

    Installation was incredibly easy. It took all of 2 minutes. Just use firm pressure to make sure the SODIMMs are seated properly.

    I hope this helps, save you money and improves your performance.

    (Last tip, if yo do open up an "access panel" to get to your RAM, make sure you vacuum the dust that has undoubtedly built up. Good practice.)
    Last edited by Platypus; 19th June 2014 at 05:01 PM.

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