According to apple's latest documentation (at the time of writing), the cap on the 2012 MacBook Pros is 8GB RAM.

The Mac Pros, however, can take up to 32GB RAM.

So, why do the MacBooks have this cap? Is it a hardware issue, because I don't think it's a software one.

The OS X that runs on the Mac Pros is the same that runs on the MacBook Pros. Being 64-bit software on top of a 64-bit Architecture (both the MacBooks and the Mac Pros), it's obvious that the OS can use as much as 32 GB of RAM.

Is it simply because manufactures don't make RAM sticks larger than 4GB for laptops?

  • I have 16GB in my early 2011 Macbook Pro, as well as 512GB Samsung SSD. It works very well. I look at the new 13" Macbook pros ... the screen and the lighter weight are interesting, but I like running virtual machines and not being able to use 16GB is a showstopper. Hopefully this option will emerge in later releases. PS My RAM is from Crucial.
    – user35699
    Nov 30, 2012 at 11:12

4 Answers 4


The limitation imposed is based on the chipsets used on the computer's motherboard. For example, the noted Apple maximums you mentioned for the MacBook Pro and the Mac Pro, are smaller than the maximums that those machines can address in practice. The MacBook Pro tested maximum is 16 GB according to EveryMac's MacBook Pro max RAM listing. And as for the Mac Pro, its maximum is 128 GB according to EveryMac's Mac Pro max RAM listing.

As noted on Intel's Specs, the CPU supports a different maximum than the chipset on the motherboard does. The Xeon X5670 used in the Mac Pro supports up to 288 GB.

And as for the i7s e.g. a i7-2860QM used in the MacBook Pros, it supports up to 32 GB.

So these limitations come from engineering decisions made by Apple based on what kinds of chipsets are selected to be installed on the motherboard and what those chips support is what enforces the maximum amount of RAM that a particular Mac can address at or below what the CPU can actually address.

As for why Apple underrates their maximum numbers for RAM on some Macs, that's for Apple to know and for us to wonder. However, admittedly it is a nice practice to under promise and over deliver for whatever reason Apple has. Although, the Mac Pro supports more RAM than Mac OS X can address, according to OWC's testing on Mac Pros, where they discovered Mac OS X unofficially will not address more than 96GB of RAM, but other 64-bit operating system can get to the full 128GB.

  • +1 ahh... I didn't know it had to do with the CPU too. Interesting. Great answer, thanks!
    – andy
    May 21, 2012 at 6:37
  • It means that I can upgrade my macbook pro late 11 `13 to 16gb ram ? Sep 8, 2016 at 20:19
  • Also this is a strong argument of everything that is wrong with soldered in RAM, thinning machines my A**
    – MrDaniel
    Sep 10, 2016 at 22:07
  • Also in unibody there is a rubber bottom case, which gets 'bump' because of the heat. This heat is usually caused by additional ram (happened in my case). So heat is also taken into consideration
    – meso_2600
    Jun 21, 2018 at 7:29

Anyone who knows isn't saying. But apparently they can use up to 16GB. Other World Computing tests various machines for their actual (not specified) maximum useable memory and sells a 16GB memory kit for the current MacBook Pro.

  • 1
    +1 interesting robert. How does your answer work with MrDaniel's do you think. I'm quite interested... would love it if I could indeed get noticeable better performance from more RAM (I currently have 8GB).
    – andy
    May 22, 2012 at 2:57
  • 2
    I'd love to know - I can't speak to the difference from personal experience; only that they claim the machines will accept 2x of their memories. Here's a blog article from OWC about their 2011 MBP upgrades. It's certainly worth an ask.
    – JRobert
    May 22, 2012 at 16:25

The Apple specs are never updated. For the MacbookPro 2012 it was 8GB of Ram. Later it has been tested by many many users to be max 16GB. Mine has 18GB from the beginning even (1 week after I bought it in 2012). The only point that you must "obey" is that the Ram has the exact specs as prescribed by Apple specs. There are many producers of Ram for mac. If you want the modern or updated limits, download Mactracker from http://mactracker.ca/ or from the AppStore


Because they want to make more money by having you pay for more ram. I work with windows all the time. I have a dual boot on my mac. The mac end only sees 8gb of ram installed but windows utilizes all 16. hardware that meets the specifications required will work in the hardware world. It is the software that determines how it's utilized. Trust me I build gaming rigs all the time.

  • 1
    I mean by having you pay for the next model sorry
    – ddeil117
    Aug 26, 2015 at 18:48
  • 1
    Could you back up your criticism (which is welcome) with some links and facts (which is required). If you're not going to address the question - the answer needs to be superlative to avoid deletion. Specifically, it's ridiculous to say OS X won't use 16 GB of RAM when Apple transitioned to 64 bit support in 2009 with Snow Leopard.
    – bmike
    Aug 26, 2015 at 19:42

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