Is the 16-inch MacBook Pro User-Upgradable?

Apple has been steadily moving away from products that users can upgrade themselves. This has been especially true with its lineup of MacBooks – they have been working to make them thinner, lighter, and more compact for years. In fact, parts have been soldered directly to the board in MacBook Pros since 2012. But since we have seen Apple once again implement user-accessible options in the new 2019 Mac Pro, might we get lucky with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and return to the glory days of DIY?

Well, the short answer is no. The longer answer is nope. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is not user-upgradable. In fact, we are reasonably sure that the memory and SSD are soldered in place, even though we probably won’t have our hands on one until later today to verify.

How do we know? Well – just for fun– we can use some simple 3rd-grade level detective work, our extensive experience in tearing apart Macs, and a cursory knowledge of how to speak “Apple,” the screenshots tell it all.

Memory

Let’s start by heading over to the MacBook Pro page at apple.com to customize our new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Scroll down until you see the memory options on the right-hand side and click on the link that says, “How much memory is right for you?”

Screenshot of "How much memory is right for you?" from Apple's MacBook Pro purchase page.

We get a nice little pop-up window that says:

Screenshot of 16-inch MacBook Pro Memory Choice Helper
16-inch MacBook Pro Memory Choice Helper

Notice what we’ve highlighted. Okay – if it’s not “user” accessible, can a professional swap it out? For that answer, we go to our old friend, the 21.5-inch iMac. Why? Because we have upgraded the memory on this particular machine. (Check out the video here). It’s not a walk in the park, but it is possible because the memory is not soldered in place.

So, let’s check how Apple communicates this fact in regards to the 21.5-inch iMac’s memory:

Screenshot of 21.5-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper
21.5-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper

An Apple Authorized Service Provider can upgrade the memory, but they would “prefer” you to upgrade at the time of purchase. That makes sense – no fault on Apple for admitting that. After all, they would rather you buy memory from them instead of a third party like OWC, who offers high performance, cost-effective memory options.

So, is there a computer that Apple sells that allows a user to easily install the RAM themselves? There sure is – the 27-inch iMac:

Screenshot of 27-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper
27-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper

Nothing to highlight on the above screenshot because there is an actual door on the 27-inch iMac that opens for you to add or swap out memory. No need for warnings. You can check out how that works here if you’d like.

There is also the current Mac mini. It doesn’t have a door, but if you are handy, a DIY install is not beyond reach. Check out this OWC Install Video and see for yourself. Oh yeah, here is what Apple has to say about this mighty little powerhouse:

Screenshot of Mac mini Memory Choice Helper
Mac mini Memory Choice Helper

Storage

So what about the SSD in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Soldered in? Again, we think it’s likely. We can follow the steps we took with the memory. Go back to the MacBook Pro page at apple.com and click the “How much storage is right for you?” link.

Screenshot of "How much storage is right for you?" from Apple's MacBook Pro purchase page.

Here is Apple’s recommendation:

Screenshot of 16-inch MacBook Pro SSD Choice Helper
16-inch MacBook Pro SSD Choice Helper

We don’t need to belabor the point by running the same routine with the SSDs of other Macs as we did with the memory. The wording above, along with OWC’s previous teardowns and the history and trajectory of the MacBook Pro, all indicate that the SSD will be soldered in.

The good thing is that OWC has plenty of external storage options to expand your capacity. One great pick would be the Envoy Pro EX with USB-C – 1TB of blazingly fast, desktop-class additional storage for $250 as opposed to a 1TB upgrade on the 16-inch MacBook Pro for $400.

Now, if you were following along and still happen to be lingering about the purchase page, we highly recommend you navigate away. Rocket Yard bears no responsibility for impulse buys – like dropping $6,000+ on a new, fully-loaded 16-inch MacBook Pro. But if you do, at least you know you have maximized your memory and storage because you won’t have another chance.


UPDATE 11.15.19: It has been visually confirmed. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is not user-upgradable. Surprise, surprise. You can check out our unboxing video here.



LEAVE A COMMENT


  • 2 words – non-upgradable junk – you buy what you get – my 2012 2.7 is doing just great – I can get 8tb in there if I want. Who needs the headache of non-upgradable overpriced junk that will be obsolete in a few years anyway.

    As for Apple’s price gouging ?? It’s corporate greed and making us upgrade to junk that’s not upgradable.




  • I was just about to make a purchase at B&H Photo as they have a good deal for black Friday but this sucks after reading this article although not surprised. Apple plays a fine line where it charges a premium for their computers and they slowly make their devices disposable. I have still a 2011 17 inch Macbook Pro that i had upgraded to 1 TB and 16G of memory and its on its last legs as the logic board or graphic card have known issues, this is even after apple replaced the main board as a recall. I saw the new 16 inch and fell in love with the size and told
    Myself maybe i will get a new laptop and treat myself but apple forces you to spend money at time of purchase. They make sure you buy “their” memory. We need to write to Tim Cook, its been known that enough people talk that they make changes. His email is publicly available. I dont think they are getting my $3,000 this time.




  • My laptop is nearly 10 years old, I was almost ready to pull the trigger on this purchase. But it’s not user upgradable? Yeah, I’m walking away.

    Thanks for confirming whether it is user upgradable! You just saved me thousands of dollars!




  • I have bought 6 MacBook Pro Mid 2012 for me and my familly. I easily upgraded them all many times and actually they all have 16 GB memory and SSD from 1 to 2 TB.

    As long as Apple solder SSD, I don’t intend to buy new hardware. The price of BTO is too expensive, and I don’t trust a computer in which you can’t remove the storage in case of another component hardware failure (I never give my data in Apple Store or Customer service)

    It is a real concern for me as an Apple User since 1982. I would like to have this new 16″, but not with soldered parts …




  • As usual, Apple hooks you on their iOS & MacOS, which are great, IMO, but then make you pay through the nose on their hardware limitations.

    I appreciate OWC’s available accessories for the Apple hardware and have used OWC for years.

    Keep up the good work.




  • No user upgradeable MacBook Pro. No purchase. I could say it in 13 fewer words.




  • Apple sucks more & more. Absolutely not need for a featherweight micro-thin computer. I want something that will survive a fall off the desk with the lid open.

    And of course I want to upgrade & expand at will.




  • I can offer another proof. Apple is selling that 64 GB memory upgrade, which is really only 48 GB more) for $800. You’re selling that same memory on Amazon for $349.98. Given their volume buying, Apple must be making around 200% profit on that upgrade.




  • Looking forward to a fulll take apart – disassembly – teardown from OWC to answer these questions: How are the SSD and RAM inside? Soldered? One or two SSD sticks? Standard connenctor? RAID? Thanks!




  • One of the reasons I decided my last MacBook Pro was literally my last MacBook. Last upgrade I just went ahead and got a used iMac and an iLugger for the rare times I need to leave the office.

    I get Apple wanting to make things thinner, lighter, etc. in the portables market but I’m not going to buy into that again.




  • This is becoming all too typical of the Apple Corp. which is run by Tim Cook, rather than Steve Jobs the creator of the Mac. Steve made the Mac very consumer-friendly and affordable because he knew it would bring back customers and create a fun experience with a Mac. Tim Cook…well…Tim Cook is worried about the bottom line and making things smaller, not whether his customers have a fun experience with a Macor approve of the changes he makes. As a Mac Owner all the way back to the beginning as well as an Apple stockholder, I have been rather critical of the recent direction of Mac and the arrogance, which is always traceable to the top of a company. I won’t be buying this new Macbook Pro. Eventually the market will bite back at Cook. It should be interesting, but he’s already an arrogant billionaire so he’s not sweating it..




    • Please.

      The new MBP is no less user upgradable than the iPhone or iPad and I don’t see people boycotting those because you can’t upgrade RAM or storage.




      • But they should. Nearly all of the 2018 Android devices had microSD support. Some do now, as well. Apple is deploying my personal least favorite business strategy: charge more for storage and don’t let them use their own devices the way they want to. If you own a device, you should have the right to take it apart and fix it. It is most certainly an anticompetitive move to not let third parties repair iDevices. It’s just wrong and there is no way around that.




      • There’s a HUGE difference between the people who buy a $700 cellphone versus a $4,000 laptop.




      • What a ridiculous thing to say.

        iPhones and iPads aren’t upgradable for a reason, their cost is relatively low. And iPhones in particular need to be sealed as much as possible in order to keep out possible liquid damage.

        When you’re spending this much money on something marketed as a “pro” machine you should absolutely expect the RAM and hard drive to be user upgradable. Otherwise it’s not pro.

        Hard drives die, batteries die and Apple
        Charges excessive amounts for their RAM.

        I love apple products but I absolutely call shenanigans on them not letting users upgrade their computers that they spend an arm and a leg on.

        It’s not rocket science.




  • Apple, Inc. should change its name to Avarice, Inc.




  • The specs for the new MBP are awesome. For those of use who do not need a portable, how do we ask Apple to build a desktop computer, or upgrade the Mini, with similar features? Also, I work in print, so a 100% AdobeRGB display is preferable. How about that option?