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Retina Display MacBook Pro Q&A - Updated March 9, 2016

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How do you upgrade or replace the storage in the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models? Is it even possible?

By default, all 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models are configured with either 256 GB or 512 GB of SSD storage.

As originally introduced on June 11, 2012, Apple only offered 768 GB of storage for the high-end MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.6 15" (Retina). However, as first reported by C|Net, starting on or around August 2, 2012, Apple also added 512 GB and 768 GB storage options for the entry-level model. Via custom configuration, the "Early 2013" models had 768 GB of storage as a option and all subsequent models have had 1 TB as an option.

Officially, it is not possible for an end user to upgrade the storage in any Retina Display MacBook Pro model after purchase. However, as first discovered by site sponsor Other World Computing, the SSD is installed as a removable module in all of these notebooks, but different lines use different types of proprietary "blade" SSD modules.

Specifically, the "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" models use a 6 Gb/s SATA-based SSD whereas the "Late 2013" and "Mid-2014" models use a PCIe 2.0-based SSD. These SSD modules are neither interchangeable nor backwards compatible.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro)

Identification Help

The 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models can be quickly identified collectively as they lack an internal optical drive and all earlier 15-Inch MacBook Pro models have one. As of the date last updated (see top), all 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models also share a unique Model Number -- specifically A1398.

However, as the "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" lines use one SSD, the "Late 2013" and "Mid-2014" lines another, and the "Mid-2015" models yet another, the model number is not precise enough identification for the purpose of upgrading the SSD. For this purpose, it will be necessary to use the external EMC Number or the Model Identifier in software.

As always, EveryMac.com has painstakingly hand documented these details for your convenience:

Retina MBP

Subfamily

EMC

Model Identifier

15-Inch

Mid-2012

2512

MacBookPro10,1

15-Inch

Early 2013

2673

MacBookPro10,1

15-Inch (Integrated Graphics)

Late 2013

2674

MacBookPro11,2

15-Inch (Dual Graphics)

Late 2013

2745

MacBookPro11,3

15-Inch (Integrated Graphics)

Mid-2014

2876

MacBookPro11,2

15-Inch (Dual Graphics)

Mid-2014

2881

MacBookPro11,3

15-Inch (Integrated Graphics)

Mid-2015

2909

MacBookPro11,4

15-Inch (Dual Graphics)

Mid-2015

2910

MacBookPro11,5

EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- additionally can uniquely identify each of the 15-Inch 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 make the upgrade more difficult. However, access is straightforward with the correct screwdriver, the SSD modules are removable, and Apple has not blocked upgrades in firmware, either.

As a result, third-parties, like site sponsor OWC have released SSD upgrades with a compatible connector for the "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" models. Specifically, OWC sells the compatible Mercury Aura Pro SSD and provides the needed screwdriver as well as an Envoy Pro bus-powered external enclosure so the original SSD can be repurposed as an external drive.

After more than two years of work, OWC also has released an Aura PCIe-based flash SSD with a compatible connector for the "Late 2013" and subsequent MacBook Pro models.

In testing of the "Mid-2014" systems, OWC discovered that when a "blade" SSD from a Cylinder Mac Pro is installed in one of these systems, it "negotiates a x4 PCIe connection versus the stock cards, which negotiate a x2 PCIe connection." This means that the Retina Display MacBook Pro provided more than 1200 MB/s drive performance, a huge jump from the standard SSD.

Apple boasts that the "Mid-2015" systems have "up to 2.5 times faster flash storage than the previous generation" of 15-Inch MacBook Pro models. In independent testing, OWC confirmed that the stock SSD in these models have read speeds around 2000 MB/s and write speeds around 1200 MB/s. These numbers are in line with Apple's performance claim compared to the SSDs that the company offered with the previous models, but not compared to the maximum speed that the previous systems unofficially can support.

Consequently, all of these models can support larger SSDs than the ones provided by default, but some models can (at least theoretically) support faster SSDs, as well.

Upgrade Instructions (Mid-2012 & Early 2013 Models)

The bottom plate of the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro is held in place with ten screws of differing lengths, but when the bottom of the notebook is removed, it's simply a matter of disconnecting the battery and removing one more screw to pop out the SSD.

OWC provides this straightforward upgrade video, too:

This video explains how to install the original SSD from your 15-Inch MacBook Pro in OWC's convenient "Envoy Pro" housing to repurpose it as an external drive:

By watching these videos, 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 Options

In the US (and many other countries), site sponsor Other World Computer sells the compatible Mercury Aura Pro and Aura PCIe-based SSDs as well as compatible external peripherals.

In the UK and Ireland, site sponsor Flexx sells 15" Retina Display MacBook Pro compatible SSDs with free shipping. The company provides flat rate shipping to France, Germany, and Switzerland and inexpensive shipping for all of Europe, too.

In Australia, site sponsor RamCity sells compatible SSDs for the 15" Retina Display MacBook Pro models with fast, flat-rate shipping Australia-wide. Specifically, RamCity recommends the Transcend Jetdrive 725 line.

In Southeast Asia, site sponsor SimplyMac.sg sells the compatible OWC SSD upgrade for the 15" 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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