'Secret' Firmware Update Unlocks Support for 8 GB RAM on 'Late 2008' Notebooks

by


In a blog post published last week, Other World Computing unravels a mystery that has seen conflicting information over whether "Late 2008" aluminum MacBooks and MacBook Pros support a maximum of 8 GB of RAM. According to the report, Apple apparently quietly changed a December 2009 firmware update for the machines at some point to boost maximum RAM support from 6 GB to 8 GB.

The discovery comes after numerous reports, including some in our own forums, pointed to 8 GB of RAM being supported in these machines even though OWC's earlier testing had clearly shown that a maximum of 6 GB could be addressed even with 8 GB installed.

Not being the type to just let these sorts of claims to go unchallenged, we went back to our testing lab, grabbed the affected model machines, running 10.6.6. and dropped an 8GB upgrade kit in them.

The results were exactly the same as in 2009, lending credence to our conclusions, but the sheer number of claims to the contrary led us to continue searching - and the trail ended at Apple.

In late 2009, an EFI Firmware Update was released to address the buzzing noises coming from the optical drive. However, it seems that somewhere along the line, Apple changed this update without notating it anywhere.

The MacBook and MacBook Pro EFI firmware updates were issued in December 2009 as part of package to address noise from the optical drive, but were altered at some point after their initial release to also introduce support for a maximum of 8 GB of RAM for users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

Consequently, OWC recommends that users of Late 2008 MacBooks and MacBook Pros interested in upgrading to 8 GB of RAM check System Profiler on their machine to determine whether they are running the latest Boot ROM versions of MBP51.007E.B05 (MacBook Pro) or MB51.007D.B03 (MacBook), and if not, re-download the EFI firmware update and apply it to their machines.

Affected machines introduced in late 2008 include MacBooks running at 2.0 GHz and 2.4 GHz, as well as 2.4GHz 15" MacBook Pros and 2.53 GHz and 2.8 GHz MacBook Pro models offering ExpressCard slots.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
123 months ago
Wow

So you're saying Apple has done something non-dastardly for a change? Wow.

Let's hope they even lifted the "No 64-bit Windows in bootcamp" limitation they heinously manufactured in certain non-pro MacBooks, like my Late '08 2.4 Unibody that runs 64bit Mac OS X and Ubuntu without a problem.

(One product cycle later they add "Pro" and a FW port to what is essentially the same machine and MAGICALLY bootcamp will install 64bit drivers for Win7.)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
123 months ago
Shouldn't Apple be charging $1 for this clear addition of functionality, aka Wireless "n" and Facetime? :rolleyes:
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
122 months ago

Nope, not a bit. Unless helping me realize that Crucial RAM is a much better deal than that site you keep pushing counts.


Since they'll buy-back my original 2 x 1GB Apple chips as well as my 2 X 2GB OWC's, the net cost is $77, not bad for their excellent customer support.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
123 months ago

I maxed out my 4GB late '08 system last night with three massive pictures opened in Photoshop at the same time.


I can easily max 4GB with just Safari, EW's Multisim and some Pages working. Trust me, I need the 8GB and my Collector's Edition MacBook will be happy to get this update.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
123 months ago

who needs 8gb, sheesh. i barely use 2gb of my 4gb of ram as it is. even using photoshop, I have never seen it max out.


As a developer, running our web app and my development environment, I'm maxing out 8GB of RAM fairly frequently. Were I also running our DB (which would have to be silo'd off in a VM running Windows as Oracle no longer supports OS X) 12GB RAM would be necessary, min.

My wife's machine has 4GB RAM and Flash enabled, and frequently starts showing 3.9GB+ "used" memory and things start stuttering. Hers will be getting an 8GB upgrade soon (and Click2Flash perhaps as well ...).
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
123 months ago

Shouldn't Apple be charging $1 for this clear addition of functionality, aka Wireless "n" and Facetime? :rolleyes:


That would be such absolute BS but it wouldn't surprise me at all. "Oh, you want to be able to use more RAM in your Mac? Well that wasn't advertised when we sold it to you, so in order to be able to do that you'll need to hand over $1".
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

Apple May Launch This Year's 'iPhone 12' Lineup in Two Stages, With 6.1-inch Models Debuting First

Monday August 3, 2020 3:14 am PDT by
Apple last week confirmed that its "‌iPhone‌ 12" launch will be delayed this year due to the ongoing global health crisis and restrictions on travel. Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later," suggesting a release sometime in October. We're expecting a total of four OLED iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and...

Apple-Acquired Dark Sky Officially Shuts Down Android App

Saturday August 1, 2020 3:43 pm PDT by
Apple in March purchased weather app Dark Sky, and at that time, Dark Sky's developers said that the app's Android version would be discontinued on July 1, 2020. However, instead of shuttering the app on that date, the app's developers announced that the discontinuation would be delayed for another month. Now that it's August, Android users are no longer able to access the app, and...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 4: Apple TV Widget, Search Improvements, Exposure Notification API and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 11:14 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth developer betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features and design changes included in the update. Changes get smaller and less notable as the beta testing period goes on, but there are still some noteworthy new features in the fourth beta, which we've highlighted below. - Apple TV widget - There's a new Apple TV...

Apple Explains Why You Might See 'Not Charging' When a Mac is Plugged In

Monday August 3, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
If you have a Mac and have seen a "Not Charging" warning when plugging it in to power, Apple last week released a support document that explains why. Macs running macOS 10.15.5 or later have a Battery Health Management feature to preserve the life of the battery, and occasionally, the Battery Health Management option will cause the Mac to pause its charging for calibration purposes.Depending ...

Unreleased iPod Touch with Mac Pro Glossy Black Finish Shared Online

Sunday August 2, 2020 11:32 am PDT by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today posted images of what seems to be a first-generation iPod Touch prototype with a 2013 Mac Pro-style glossy black finish. The Twitter user claims that the iPod Touch prototype pictured has "the same coating as the 2013 Mac Pro." Had the finish been selected for the final product, it also would have been similar to the metallic glossy black finish that...

Phil Schiller Moving on to Become 'Apple Fellow,' Greg Joswiak Taking Over as Marketing SVP

Tuesday August 4, 2020 10:07 am PDT by
Apple's Phil Schiller is moving on to become an "Apple Fellow," Apple announced today, while Greg Joswiak will take over as Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. Schiller will continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events, but will no longer be in charge of marketing. Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is "thrilled" that Joswiak will be leading the marketing team, and that his...

Microsoft to Stop Supporting Office 2016 for Mac in October

Monday August 3, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Microsoft's Office 2016 for Mac is set to reach its end of support date on October 13, 2020, and after that date, connecting to Office 365 services using the Office 2016 for Mac software will no longer be supported. Microsoft shared the detail in a support document from July highlighting which versions of Office will be supported for connecting to Office 365 services in the future.Connecting ...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

Apple Shares Requirements for Default Third-Party Browser and Email Apps With Developers

Monday August 3, 2020 4:28 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 plans to allow users to set a third-party app as the default email or browser app on an iPhone or iPad, replacing the current Apple-made default apps Safari and Mail. Apple hasn't provided many details on the new feature to users, but as noted by MacStories' Federico Vittici, Apple has shared documentation with developers who want their apps to have the option to be set as a...