MacBook fussy memory situation- maybe 4 GBs is too much

32 Comments

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?

32 Comments

Ties

Same problem here. Strange colorful lines on screen, and hard reboot needed. All software is up-to-date. Upgraded a Macbook Pro 2.4 from 2Gb to 4Gb Corsair.

Saurav

I had the exact same problem with (2)2Gb modules from corsair. I got extremely restless and formatted my OS. Unfortunately the problem continued. Now I’m back to using the original RAM that came with my unibody macbook pro. Seems like all the money i spent on the upgrade was a waste. Should i try selling it off or hold onto it for a while since i hear rumors about some update from apple which can solve this problem?? Please help!

DAVE

I put the Kingston RAM which was sold to me by the Apple reseller and had locking up issues with the weird screen lines, put the 2 GB back in and no problems for 2 days.
I’m going to try and get my money back or a store credit and get the Apple RAM from the Apple store

Pritam Misra

I have the same problem. Macbook white 2.1GHz model. Just 2hrs back got two Kingston 2GB to replace the stock 2 512MB modules. It doesn’t even boot up after the replacement. Whereas both the cards work fine separately in conjunction with a 512MB in the other slot. So now am reduced to using 2.5GB RAM in the Macbook, while waiting for some solution.
This sucks. :-( Any concrete solution?

Pritam@Singapore

DivineDominion

I bough 2x2GB of Kingston RAM (which I though would be rather high-quality) two weeks ago.

My MacBook (not MBP) freezez from time to time after having the RAM upgrade installed for about a week. I tried to find out when things break exactly (like: Safari 4b using 800MB of RAM, a game running, …) but to no avail. Seems pretty random to me. When there’s only one DIMM in use, everything works fine. PRAM reset didn’t help at all, running memtest consecutively 5 times didn’t find out a thing as well, no current update solves my problems.

Pretty nasty issue, don’t you think? It’s almost April, my MacBook is going to celebrate it’s first half year and Apple didn’t release any fixes yet? That’s lame :(

James Kendrick

I haven’t heard updates on this problem for a while. I have heard that both 3rd party installs and factory installs can sometimes lead to the problem but not always. That’s no doubt what makes it hard to come up with a fix.

jmillaru

Does factory installed 4GB cause problems? I’ve heard that it does, in some cases, but that Apple replaces the machine (or the memory?) for you.

This issue is the only thing remaining between myself and a new aluminum backlit MacBook. The fact that Apple has to deal with flakey hardware is disquieting.

We pay what today are premium prices for what is supposed to be premium hardware.

I intended to buy the 2 GB standard, with the option of upgrading to 4 or 6 GB if needed (virtualization). That option is now out.

Nowadays, in full recession, with warehouses full of unsold goods,near equivalents can be had at fire-sale prices.

I have long suspected some dodgy code somewhere or perhaps some flakey nvidia chips. (There was a spate of them not so long ago) With time, this problem was supposed to go away. I’m getting restless.

Joel

Everyone keeps talking about Samsung or Hynix memory. I purchased my 13″ MBA in December and it came standard with Muskin memory…

Lou Flemal

My stock 4g RAM MBP is still doing it (January 2, 2009) – all of he available software and firmware (EFI and SMC) updates have been done. Once or twice a week, with no real rhyme or reason – Poof! Locked up. (Yesterday was particularly bad with three freezes…)

Still waiting for that fix…

Paul

I updated to the latest EFI/SMC firmware updates and my 4GB of Crucial no longer has issues when awakening from sleep, where prior to the update it would go to deep sleep (hibernate) any time I closed the lid. Now it just does regular sleep, and has reliably been doing so for a few days now, since upgrading. Problem solved for me

Paul

I updated to the latest EFI/SMC firmware updates and my 4GB of Crucial no longer has issues when awakening from sleep, where prior to the update it would go to deep sleep (hibernate) any time I closed the lid. Now it just does regular sleep, and has reliably been doing so for a few days now, since upgrading. Problem solved for me

Barny

I have a new MBP 2.8GHz purchased with 4GB from Apple. I ordered a 4GB module from Ramjet to max it out to 6GB and had too many problems. Basically my MBP freezes up at not specific pattern. I tried mixing up the new 4GB module with the others in all possible combinations, but the problem persists.
If I leave the original 4GB or the new 4GB module by itself, then I have no problems. These only present when I max out to the 6GB.
Ramjet people has been awesome to offer me options (including a refund), but they did mention that Apple has advised them of an update coming up “soon” that will correct some memory addressing problems that causes the lock ups.

David

i just upgraded my new aluminium macbook to 4gb with third party memory bought from OWC. these stories really bothered me because i saw them after i upgrgaded but i havent seen any problems at all, just better performance. was i just lucky?

Jon

Ace:

Where did you get the drivers? I’ve also gotten some lockups with Vista in BootCamp.

Ace

No problems here either, Launch day 2.8 ghz macbook pro, works like a charm!

Lot’s of lockups in Vista (bootcamp) though, but i managed to solve that by installing my own drivers instead of the Apple(windows) drivers!

J Pecds

The old Powerbooks were very “picky’ about the quality of RAM years ago. I just swapped my maximum RAM for another set and then it was fine.

Isn’t this just another case of Apple bashing and sensationalist media reporting?

For the record; I have a 2.4Ghz launch day MB with 4GB Crucial RAM and no issues at all.

Apple Otaku

No issues for me. I purchased my 2.4GHz Macbook from a third party vendor and they preinstalled the 4GB of RAM.

After several weeks of hard use, I’ve experienced zero crashes. This includes transcoding several hours of H.264 video and playing Lich King.

Kevin

I have the same problem, I have a Macbook with 4 GB third party RAM.. and lately it has started to freeze up.. one day I had to do a hard reboot over 15 times.. its frustrating and the Apple Rep don’t even understand the problem.. Hope to see a Apple update soon

JTG

I’ve had the same problem with 4GB memory from OWC – not sure who the manufacturer is. Oddly, I get garbled video and freezes more frequently when I’m connected to a second display. Without a second monitor, it can take several days before bad things happen. With one, it usually happens daily.

I am still testing, but since going back to the stock 2GB several days ago (and running constantly with a second display), I haven’t had a problem.

Phillip

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. :-)

Phil Lee

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.

Bary the Daed

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.

CK Lai

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… ;-)

Tom

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.

Dave Zatz

“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.

Geoff

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.

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

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