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I recently bought an MacBook Pro Late 2011 with an i7 2.2 GHz and 4 GB of RAM. I wanted to get started in some mobile development and learn how to work with macOS. So this was a good offer online.

Until now I am happy with this product. But of course 4 GB of RAM are not much when you develop. I mainly want to work with React Native and eventually with libGDX. My question is. Is it worth to upgrade to 8 or even 16 GB of RAM or is it a waste of money for this "old" MacBook? Can I expect it to hold a few more years?

  • Ram upgrade is possible - but why do you think it will have a significant effect on cpu usage? – Solar Mike Jan 19 '18 at 8:31
  • Possible duplicate, such as (many others) : apple.stackexchange.com/q/275894/237687 – Solar Mike Jan 19 '18 at 8:33
  • I know that a RAM upgrade is possible, the question is: is it worth it? I am not very familiar with macOS and don't know about the architecture or features that comes with more RAM. With normal computer knowledge, I know that the resource and instructions are stored in RAM so that the CPU can execute them. For the prices they sell those computers, I thought there may be a clever engineering or something like that. And just because the first words match, it does not mean this is a duplicate. I would say the answer I search for goes in a different direction. – zesaro Jan 19 '18 at 8:49
  • Please read carefully I said "possible duplicate" . Now this site does not do shopping advice - you need to decide if a possible ram upgrade is what you want to do - we do not know how much the price of that mac represents to your annual salary so cannot estimate its value and, therefore, cannot estimate either how the cost of a ram upgrade either 8 or 16gb will impact the value of the purchase. – Solar Mike Jan 19 '18 at 8:56
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    I'm aware of the edit, but I'm still of the opinion this question is just too broad. Without a much better idea of what your use case is, it's just too difficult to decide. @SolarMike also touched on how we don't do shopping here; come to hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com if you want that. – JMY1000 Jan 20 '18 at 8:11
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I've got a late 2011 at home, as well as a mid-2012 at work, and yeah, it's definitely worth upgrading. High Sierra runs great on it, and with that i7, you should be able to continue to use it for quite some time.

That said, Apple made a decision "for you" that you should be aware of. With Sierra, Apple forced the OS to reserve 1.5GB RAM (the amount can vary depending on the model) for video, in order to properly support 4K external displays. So, if you have 4GB RAM, you're actually only left with 2.5GB, and your system will be sluggish (and there's no setting for adjusting that on most models).

The official word for RAM on that generation of MBP's is 8GB RAM supported. However, there are lots of accounts on the Internet of folks successfully upgrading to 16GB RAM with no issues, and I can say that I have done so myself and am entirely happy with it. If your work is RAM-intensive, it's well worth the extra few bucks (Euros, name your currency) to go up to 16GB.

I also just replaced the old hard drive with a 500GB SSD on my home laptop, and I would recommend that to anyone, the boot/load performance boost is great. You'll need an external connector/bay for cloning your old drive to the new one, and you can clone with the built-in drive tool, or use a third-party app like Super Duper. You may also want to consider upgrading the file system to APFS when you're done, so that you can take advantage of the new features there.

Bottom line: Go for it! You'll keep that thing blazing for years.

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I have a Late 2011 MacBook Pro (2.4 Ghz) bought in 2012. I have upgraded it with a SSD and 8GB RAM. I still run El Capitan as with Sierra the fans kick in often. I even tried High Sierra, but its slow. I use Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEs on it and they run well without any issues.

If you want to do mobile development (iOS), I believe you have to settle with Sierra as High Sierra may run very hot with XCode and iOS simulators. And if you are running multiple intensive tasks, then it will be laggy.

One more issue with Sierra I found is that CPU Kernel issue. Most of the time CPU Kernel will be busy with 300-500% CPU usage. You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB, but the development environment will be old as High Sierra could be the last compatible OS for this MBP.

  • Thanks for your experience report. In normal usage with High Sierra, the fans are quiet. At the beginning, with the HDD, the system was very very slow. After installing a SSD and SMC reset it's almost like butter. I am learning React Native. So far, only when starting the emulators or an IDE the load goes high. After that the fans calm down, because I mainly edit JS files and do not have to rebuild the whole project over again. Thanks for the hint with the Kernel issue. My IDE used 500% on startup. Nice. Probably I will need to gauge the 8 or 16 GB upgrade. Thank you. – zesaro Jan 19 '18 at 9:24

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