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How do you upgrade the RAM in the 17-Inch "Early 2009/Unibody" MacBook Pro? How much RAM of what type does it support?
Upgrading the memory in the 17-Inch "Early 2009/Unibody" MacBook Pro -- the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 17-Inch (Early 2009/Unibody) -- is not quite as easy as it is in previous 17-Inch MacBook Pro models, which didn't even require a screwdriver, but it is still pretty straightforward.
If you're not sure whether or not you have a 17-Inch "Early 2009" MacBook Pro or another model, these models can be most readily identified externally via EMC number 2272 on the bottom of the computer. In software, they can be spotted by the MacBookPro5,2 model identifier (although the 17-Inch "Mid-2009" MacBook Pro models also share this identifier, they use the same type of RAM and have the same maximum capacity).
These models also can be identified by the last three characters of the eleven character serial number using EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature (if it has a twelve character serial number, it's a different model).
Supported RAM Types
The Apple Support Site has posted a detailed article on "How to Install Memory" in the 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro and covers the same material in pages 45-49 of the 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro User Guide (PDF). This likely will provide everything you need to upgrade the stock memory.
The support document starts by reporting that this 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro:
Has two memory slots that you access by removing the bottom case. Your MacBook Pro comes with a minimum of 4 gigabytes (GB) of 1066 MHz Double Data Rate (DDR3) Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (SDRAM) installed.
Each memory slot can accept an SDRAM module that meets the following specifications:
- Double Data Rate Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (DDR3) format
- 1.25 inch (3.18 cm)
- 2 GB or 4 GB
- PC3-8500 DDR3 1066 MHz type RAM
You can add two 4 GB memory modules for a maximum of 8 GB of memory. For best performance, fill both memory slots and install an identical memory module in each slot.
Actual Maximum RAM
For many Macs, the actual maximum RAM is higher than the official maximum capacity. For the 17-Inch "Early 2009" MacBook Pro models, however, both the official and actual maximum RAM is 8 GB.
RAM Upgrade Instructions
The Apple document goes on to provide installation instructions complete with drawings -- which absolutely should be read in their entirety before one installs memory -- but perhaps even better, site sponsor Other World Computing provides a convenient step-by-step video of the process: