Mac 101: How to Upgrade a Computer with Soldered Components

(Neither the SSD nor memory is upgradable in the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, pictured above.)

On January 15, 2008, Apple took a major step with its laptop line. The first edition of the ultra-thin MacBook Air was announced that day, and it featured memory that was soldered into the board, eliminating users’ ability to perform DIY RAM upgrades. Previous generation Apple laptops had contained user-upgradable memory, but the new MacBook Air locked owners into the amount of RAM that was installed at the factory.

The trend toward soldering expanded beyond memory in 2015 when Apple attached the solid-state drive directly into the board of its newly refreshed MacBook line and again in 2016 with certain MacBook Pro models. As with the memory, the SSD would not be user-upgradable.

The choice to solder crucial components that were previously replaceable has brought criticism from the DIY repair community and left many Mac owners frustrated by their lack of options to add performance or replace failed parts.

However, there are options for owners of these non-upgradable Mac models to get more from their computers while extending their lifespan and reducing e-waste. While it is still impossible to upgrade memory externally, there are many ultra-fast external storage solutions, docks that add ports, or even external GPU solutions for Macs with non-upgradable components.

So how can you find out which DIY or external upgrades are compatible with your particular Mac model? The easiest way is to use OWC’s proprietary My Upgrades tool.

OWC created the My Upgrades process to help users quickly and painlessly find the right upgrades for their specific Macs. With My Upgrades, users will see only the hardware and software results that are compatible with their machine, and they’ll instantly be able to find and order whichever upgrades and solutions they need. In fact, if there is an upgrade available, it’s a good bet that OWC has it. You can also upgrade your specs with a full swap with OWC’s selection of new, used and factory refurbished Macs.

For step-by-step instruction on how to use OWC’s My Upgrades tool and add performance and capabilities to your Mac with soldered components, please read this recent Rocket Yard article:

When buying a Mac with non-upgradeable memory or SSDs, we always recommend buying as much memory as you can afford. We also recommend that you carefully calculate the right amount of SSD storage you need in order to avoid overbuying, as factory SSD storage can still be costly. In general, the sweet spot for working storage for many users is 500GB to 1TB.

Need to know if your Mac has soldered components? Contact OWC customer service for assistance!


  • With Apple’s recent change to their MacBook line up, older MacBooks are a great value, adding an ssd and lots of ram and even adding additional ssd drives are a breeze. My 09 supports el capitian who needs ultra expensive, obsolete MacBooks?

  • Apple has made a number of missteps that are alienating veteran users. Not allowing users the option to upgrade their equipment is not just insulting, it will eventually effect our loyalty. I feel their marketing strategy of solely focusing on the iPhone and iPad has diminished interest in the iMac and MacPro and the potential to lure new users to the platform.

  • With the direction Apple is taking with its latest computer offerings such as inability to upgrade, loss of useful ports etc., I’m seriously considering going back to MS Windows, painful as that is to contemplate. Oh yeah, I also neglected to mention that Apple is pricing themselves out of the market for the average person. This is coming for a faithful Apple user for over 10 years!!

    • I have to agree. when they took away my option to upgrade components I havent been compelled to nm purchase a new unit. meanwhile I stuck with my prior to soldering MBP and have just been keeping it going. I maxed it out on all post purchase possibilities and it’s still going 8/9 years later. the only other thing I could do is swap the optical drive for a 2nd ssd but seriously it’s not necessary cause I already swapped the 500 SATA for a 1T ssd. so no thanks Apple I’ll sit this one out.

  • Extremely disheartening that Apple seems to keep pushing their devices in this direction. That said, the upgrade solutions you offer aren’t very appealing, come across as clunky … don’t seem like practical options.

  • Extremely disheartening that Apple seems to keep pushing their devices in this direction. That said, the upgrade solutions you offer aren’t very appealing, come across as clunky … don’t come across as realistic options.