Macs are notorious for being intolerant when it comes to memory upgrades. They have been known for years to start exhibiting problems when RAM goes bad and especially when third party RAM upgrades are installed. Savvy Mac owners know there are a few vendors that produce RAM modules that work fine in Macs and know that to use RAM modules from other sources is asking for trouble.
I was aware of this reputation so when I decided to upgrade my new aluminum MacBook to 4 GB I played it safe and bought the memory from Crucial. Crucial memory has long been acceptable to use in Macs and I expected no problems from the upgrade. That was overly optimistic as it turned out. Continue on for the upgrade experience details.
I installed the 4 GB of RAM with no problems yesterday afternoon and used the MacBook fine all evening. Today I started using it and everything went fine until the system froze. Nothing was really running other than background processes but the MB froze. I had to manually power down and back up again which worked OK. The system eventually froze again and I started getting a bad feeling. A reboot fixed the problem again after which the MB ran for another half hour. That’s when the screen got all garbled with noise and hung up a third time.
I was beginning to suspect the memory upgrade to be the root of this problem as the Mac had run fine until upgrading the RAM. I went online and searched and entered a world of surpise. I found an Apple support forum where a large discussion is ongoing about the difficulty many are having upgrading the MacBook RAM. Many folks have tried upgrading the RAM in their new MacBooks using modules from acceptable vendors like Crucial and OWC only to have their Macs start exhibiting the same symptoms as mine. A number of people have tried exchanging the memory for other brands only to have the problem return.
The reports indicate that as soon as the original RAM, which happens to be Samsung branded modules in my case, is reinstalled the Macs run just fine again. Some folks have found luck using OWC branded RAM, others find Crucial RAM works fine, and others can’t get any third party RAM to work. The folks who end up returning the third party RAM and visiting Apple to purchase an "official" upgrade see their problems go away. It seems that the Samsung RAM that Apple has commissioned Samsung to produce must be manufactured to more stringent tolerance than the RAM other folks produce.
This is a bit surprising as I have not seen any reports of RAM problems appearing anywhere. It was only when I specifically suspected the cause of this problem and went searching for it that I found out it’s a bigger problem than I thought. I have not checked to see if the new MacBook Pros have the same difficulty so it may be more widespread than this. Interestingly Apple shows no memory upgrades are available online for the new MacBook or MacBook Pros so I wonder if they know something?