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Summary:

My story about how the new aluminum MacBooks are pretty darn fussy about third party memory upgrades has touched the nerve of quite a few folks.  To recap, my attempt to replace the 2 GB (2 x 1 GB sticks) of memory that Apple shipped in […]

My story about how the new aluminum MacBooks are pretty darn fussy about third party memory upgrades has touched the nerve of quite a few folks.  To recap, my attempt to replace the 2 GB (2 x 1 GB sticks) of memory that Apple shipped in my MacBook with 4 GB (2 x 2 GB sticks) of Crucial memory didn’t go well.  The MacBook immediately began freezing up, sometimes with a garbled display, requiring a hard reboot.  My research online pointed to quite a few folks who have discovered the same thing and while some third party RAM works in the new MacBooks some doesn’t.  There’s no rhyme nor reason as some are having good luck with some brands and others are faced with system hangs using those same brands.  The only constant in this memory upgrade problem is that memory sold by Apple, either Samsung or Hynix, always seems to work fine.

3_gb_mbThis weekend I did some testing because I wanted to get a feel for what is causing these memory upgrade problems.  The 4 GB of RAM I bought from Crucial causes the MacBook to have the freeze-up problem consistently.  I put the 2- 2 GB sticks of Crucial memory and within an hour the MacBook started locking up.  I can put the two Samsung sticks back in and the problem goes away every time.  Logic would dictate that there is likely something wrong with one of the Crucial memory sticks since failure happens every time both are put in the computer.

I tested this conclusion by putting one Crucial stick in along withone of the Samsung sticks that Apple provided with the MacBook.  Thisgave me 3 GB of total RAM in the MacBook and I expected it to startfailing.  It didn’t, instead it ran for a day with no problems.  OK, Ifigured that the other Crucial stick must be the bad one so I swappedit with the Crucial stick that is working fine.  This 3 GB of memoryhas been in the MacBook for over a day and it’s working fine too.

This is a bit confusing because in my experience RAM sticks areeither bad or good, no in-between.  Yet either of the Crucial stickswill work fine alongside either of the Samsung sticks.  Put both of theCrucial sticks in at once and the system fails predictably. This is not logical to me but then I’m not a computer memory expert.

It leads me to wonder, do the new MacBooks have trouble with over 3GB of memory installed?  My system is not picky what combination of the4 RAM sticks I use it always runs fine with 3 GB of RAM but it alwaysfails with the 4 GB of Crucial memory.  Remember that Crucial memoryruns fine singly, it just won’t run with both in together.  The onlyconclusion I can reach is that the MacBook doesn’t like 4 GB of RAMwith the Crucial sticks.  This is very strange to me.  There isactually another conclusion that I can reach, the system always failswith no "official" Apple memory installed. 

I made an observation during this process that I find interestingeven though it may have nothing to do with this memory strangeness.The MacBook and OS X reads the RAM sticks and reports the vendor andserial number of the stick.  The Samsung memory that is used by Appleduly reports those ID numbers as you would expect but the Crucial RAMsticks do not have valid numbers reported by OS X.  So the Mac knowsthese aren’t "official" memory sticks.  Hmmm…

Mb_ram_apple_4

Mb_ram_nonapple_4

UPDATE: owners of new MacBook Pros are reporting this same memory madness and even with Apple installed memory.  This is quoted from a commenter on the Apple support forum:

News from Apple re the Freezes!

Following my conversation with Mary at customer services (who called mein reply to my email to Steve Jobs – I kid you not, that’s what shesaid) I was called yesterday by an Apple engineer.

He told me the following:

Apple are very aware of this problem.

It is ocurring to people who have max amounts of RAM in their machinesand apparently it makes little difference if it is Apple RAM or 3rdparty – it is the quantity that matters.

They are about to release a software update to address it. He said thatofficially it might take up to a week or two for this to come out butunofficially we could expect it within a matter of days.

In the meantime he said that a solution could be found by removing oneof the 2GB sticks and replacing it with the original 1GB – I asked ifit was a problem running unequal banks and he said no, only on theMacBooks as they share the RAM with the GPU which these MacBook Pros donot.

We may therefore get deliverance soon, everyone! Hurrah.

BTW what happenend to 10.5.6 which apparently was almost ready forrelease about a week ago and suddenly nothing – do you think that theRAM fix may be being bundled into it?

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  1. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, December 8, 2008

    I’ve read at least two dozen comments on the Apple support forums that suggest 4GB of memory is causing issues… Apple or otherwise. 3GB (in any combination of Apple / 3rd party) seems to address the issue, so it’s a safe bet that Apple will be issuing an update.

  2. James Kendrick Monday, December 8, 2008

    Yes, I just updated the post with information supplied to an affected customer by Apple.

  3. I am curious about the specifics of these problems. I have a launch day Aluminum MacBook (backlit keyboard, not Pro) and I installed a 4GB upgrade kit from Ramjet as soon as they finished their testing process on their new chips (about a week later, IIRC).

    I’ve had no issues at all in that time, running a full complement of design apps during the day and plenty of games at night.

    I’m not saying there’s no issue, simply that I haven’t seen it. It is not affecting ALL late ’08 models with 4GB RAM.

  4. “It is ocurring to people who have max amounts of RAM in their machines”

    Since the new Macs are capable of 6GB, that statement probably isn’t accurate. However, since I read James’ first post I’ve held off upgrading my 13″ MB to 4GB. Perhaps the new OS X update floating around out there in beta will resolve it.

  5. I ordered my MacBook with 4GB and have had it for six weeks with zero problems. Whatever the issue is, while it may only impact users with max RAM, it certainly doesn’t impact all of them.

    BTW, RAM access is slower when using 3GB as opposed to 2 or 4 (due to not using a matched pair of sticks). If the problem is related to, say, timing issues between the sticks, that reduced performance may be enough to “correct” it.

  6. Peter L. Winkler Monday, December 8, 2008

    I may be naive, but why can’t we buy Samsung-made RAM on the open market?

  7. I’ve just installed 4GB RAM from Memory to Go on my MacBook. So far so good, but then again, I’ve been using it lightly as it’s my secondary computer.

    Still, I’m keeping my old 1GB sticks handy… just in case… ;-)

  8. Bary the Daed Monday, December 8, 2008

    I don’t think the problem is that it’s the Mac Air it the Mac OSX…
    I’ve had this problem with other mac’s running on OSX and it’s the memory card – it can’t really handle the OSX. I’m not sure about Crucial but if I was to put a cheap card my computer would lock up, when I put in a good (reliable,more expensive) card it worked fine.
    So I think maybe Crucial maybe using cheaper parts than Samsung.
    I’d try using a higher quality card to see if that fixes your problem.

  9. As I said in the other post on this, I originally ordered my upgrade RAM from Crucial but decided to get the Apple Store to do the upgrade instead. They did that last night in 30 minutes. Their price was good too, £74, once they’d credited back the original 2GB installed in the MacBook. It helped that I bought the MacBook from that store.

    So far my MacBook has been performing perfectly. It is noticeably faster, particularly when running Vmware Fusion which I need to run the bridge design software the company I work for develops.

  10. I have mine maxed out with 4GB on my Pro from the factory with the 2.8 processor and never had a problem in over a month so far. :-)

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