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Retina Display MacBook Pro Q&A - Updated August 15, 2014

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How do you upgrade or replace the storage in the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models? Is it the same storage and process as the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro? Is it possible?

By default, 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models are configured with 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of SSD storage. Via custom configuration, some models also can be equipped with as much as 768 GB or 1 TB of SSD storage.

Officially, it is not possible for an end user to upgrade the storage after purchase. However, as first reported by site sponsor Other World Computing, the SSD is installed as a removable module in all of these systems, but different lines use different proprietary SSD modules.

Specifically, OWC's aftermarket Mercury Aura Pro upgrade that is compatible with the "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models is compatible with the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" 13-Inch models, too.

Unfortunately, this SSD is not compatible with the discontinued "Late 2013" and current "Mid-2014" models, but OWC is hard at work on a PCIe 2.0-based SSD that will be compatible with these systems and plans to release it this year (2014).


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro)

Identification Help

If you're not sure whether or not you have a 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro or another model, the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" models share the external A1425 Model Number and can be identified collectively in software by the MacBookPro10,2 Model Identifier, too.

The "Late 2013" and "Mid-2014" models have their own collective model number -- A1502 -- as well as their own unique model identifier -- MacBookPro11,1.

As the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" models share one type of SSD and the "Late 2013" and "Mid-2014" models another, these identifiers are sufficient to upgrade the storage. As always, EveryMac.com has carefully hand documented these details for your convenience.

Finally, EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- additionally can uniquely identify all of the Retina Display MacBook Pro models by their serial numbers.

Upgrade Obstacles & Compatible SSD Details

Apple does not intend for end users to upgrade the SSD in these models themselves. The company even has used uncommon "pentalobe" screws -- also called five-point Torx screws -- to discourage access. However, access is straightforward with the correct screwdriver, the SSD is simple to access, and upgrades are not blocked in firmware, either.

In addition to selling the Mercury Aura Pro SSD compatible with the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" models (complete with needed screwdrivers), OWC also offers an Envoy Pro bus-powered external enclosure so the original SSD can be repurposed as an external drive.

Interestingly -- and unlike the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models -- the SSD in the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" 13-Inch models is mounted in a small "drive caddy" that also can hold a 7 mm tall SSD (or hard drive), rather than just the small proprietary SSD module that Apple uses.

At the moment, 5 mm or 7 mm high SSD modules with a compatible connector are few and far between, but having the space available bodes well for more upgrade options for these 13-Inch models than subsequent 13-Inch models as well as their 15-Inch counterparts. If you have successfully installed an SSD module that is physically larger than the stock module, please share. Thank you.

Unfortunately, the proprietary PCIe 2.0-based SSD in the "Late 2013" and "Mid-2014" models is limited to a smaller "blade" option. In recent testing, though, OWC discovered that when a "blade" SSD from a Cylinder Mac Pro is installed in one of these models, it "negotiates a x4 PCIe connection versus the stock cards, which negotiate a x2 PCIe connection," which means that this newly transplanted SSD was substantially faster than the stock one.

Although OWC was careful to disclaim that the company "does not recommend installing a Mac Pro SSD in your Retina MacBook Pro" because a complete thermal evaluation has yet to be performed, the preliminary test does bode well for the possibility of forthcoming SSDs that are not only larger capacity than the ones pre-installed, but potentially faster, as well.

Upgrade Instructions (Late 2012 & Early 2013 Models)

The bottom panel of the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro is attached with ten screws of differing lengths. After removing the bottom of the notebook, the battery removal process is fairly involved -- with four more screws to unscrew before disconnecting the battery -- but the drive caddy itself is easy to remove.

OWC provides this excellent video to walk one through the entire procedure:

By watching the video, you should be able to determine if you feel comfortable performing this upgrade yourself or if you would instead prefer to hire a professional.

SSD Purchase & Professional Installation Options

In the US (and many other countries), site sponsor Other World Computing sells the compatible Mercury Aura Pro SSD as well as compatible external peripherals. Mission Repair offers an affordable Mac notebook upgrade service by mail with a 24 hour turnaround.

In Australia, site sponsor RamCity sells compatible SSDs, up to 960 GB, for the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" 13" Retina Display MacBook Pro models with fast, flat-rate shipping Australia-wide.

In Southeast Asia, site sponsor SimplyMac.sg sells the compatible OWC SSD upgrade for the 13" Retina Display MacBook Pro with free delivery -- and optional upgrade service -- in Singapore and flat rate shipping to Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea.


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