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Is the 16-inch MacBook Pro User-Upgradable?

Apple has been steadily moving away from products that users can upgrade themselves. This has been especially true with its lineup of MacBooks – they have been working to make them thinner, lighter, and more compact for years. In fact, parts have been soldered directly to the board in MacBook Pros since 2012. But since we have seen Apple once again implement user-accessible options in the new 2019 Mac Pro, might we get lucky with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and return to the glory days of DIY?

Well, the short answer is no. The longer answer is nope. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is not user-upgradable. In fact, we are reasonably sure that the memory and SSD are soldered in place, even though we probably won’t have our hands on one until later today to verify.

How do we know? Well – just for fun– we can use some simple 3rd-grade level detective work, our extensive experience in tearing apart Macs, and a cursory knowledge of how to speak “Apple,” the screenshots tell it all.

Memory

Let’s start by heading over to the MacBook Pro page at apple.com to customize our new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Scroll down until you see the memory options on the right-hand side and click on the link that says, “How much memory is right for you?”

Screenshot of "How much memory is right for you?" from Apple's MacBook Pro purchase page.

We get a nice little pop-up window that says:

Screenshot of 16-inch MacBook Pro Memory Choice Helper
16-inch MacBook Pro Memory Choice Helper

Notice what we’ve highlighted. Okay – if it’s not “user” accessible, can a professional swap it out? For that answer, we go to our old friend, the 21.5-inch iMac. Why? Because we have upgraded the memory on this particular machine. (Check out the video here). It’s not a walk in the park, but it is possible because the memory is not soldered in place.

So, let’s check how Apple communicates this fact in regards to the 21.5-inch iMac’s memory:

Screenshot of 21.5-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper
21.5-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper

An Apple Authorized Service Provider can upgrade the memory, but they would “prefer” you to upgrade at the time of purchase. That makes sense – no fault on Apple for admitting that. After all, they would rather you buy memory from them instead of a third party like OWC, who offers high performance, cost-effective memory options.

So, is there a computer that Apple sells that allows a user to easily install the RAM themselves? There sure is – the 27-inch iMac:

Screenshot of 27-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper
27-inch iMac Memory Choice Helper

Nothing to highlight on the above screenshot because there is an actual door on the 27-inch iMac that opens for you to add or swap out memory. No need for warnings. You can check out how that works here if you’d like.

There is also the current Mac mini. It doesn’t have a door, but if you are handy, a DIY install is not beyond reach. Check out this OWC Install Video and see for yourself. Oh yeah, here is what Apple has to say about this mighty little powerhouse:

Screenshot of Mac mini Memory Choice Helper
Mac mini Memory Choice Helper

Storage

So what about the SSD in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Soldered in? Again, we think it’s likely. We can follow the steps we took with the memory. Go back to the MacBook Pro page at apple.com and click the “How much storage is right for you?” link.

Screenshot of "How much storage is right for you?" from Apple's MacBook Pro purchase page.

Here is Apple’s recommendation:

Screenshot of 16-inch MacBook Pro SSD Choice Helper
16-inch MacBook Pro SSD Choice Helper

We don’t need to belabor the point by running the same routine with the SSDs of other Macs as we did with the memory. The wording above, along with OWC’s previous teardowns and the history and trajectory of the MacBook Pro, all indicate that the SSD will be soldered in.

The good thing is that OWC has plenty of external storage options to expand your capacity. One great pick would be the Envoy Pro EX with USB-C – 1TB of blazingly fast, desktop-class additional storage for $250 as opposed to a 1TB upgrade on the 16-inch MacBook Pro for $400.

Now, if you were following along and still happen to be lingering about the purchase page, we highly recommend you navigate away. Rocket Yard bears no responsibility for impulse buys – like dropping $6,000+ on a new, fully-loaded 16-inch MacBook Pro. But if you do, at least you know you have maximized your memory and storage because you won’t have another chance.


UPDATE 11.15.19: It has been visually confirmed. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is not user-upgradable. Surprise, surprise. You can check out our unboxing video here.

OWC Mark C
the authorOWC Mark C
Content Marketing Manager
A creative by nature, Mark is a writer, programmer, web developer, musician, culinary craftsman, and interpersonal artisan. He loves the outdoors because greenspace is to the soul as whitespace is to the written word. He does not like Diophantine geometry or mosquitos. Most everything else is okay. Oh yeah, he is also the managing editor of the Rocket Yard blog.
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46 Comments

  • I bought the 16 inch i9 2.4Ghz MBP. I went in KNOWING this light and thin notebook could not be upgrades without UV soldering, templates, and so on. I’m quite happy with it as it outperforms, in Windows, my gaming PC with an i9 7900x at 5GHz in nearly everything except GPU.

    Apple products have never been an impulse buy. EVER. I still have a late 2011 13 inch model that was upgradeable. The ONLY part of that machine, once again, that’s a let down is the GPU.

    Now, my PROBLEM with Apple is their inability to actually cater to the customers who buy Macs for the OS. Just when Macs were starting to get AAA games, Apple brilliantly decides to stop making consumer friendly machines that could run them. Now we have great games, but no machines to run them.

    As far as productivity, Apple has been pretty good at meeting the demands needed for those willing to spend the money, save for the disaster that was the coffee can Mac Pro.

    Not that I condone it, but now I know why people use boot loaders to get OS X on some PC’s. I remember Apple was supposed to release a PC version of OS X and scrapped it due to the lack of PC part vendor support. Imagine being able to run their superb OS on more varied hardware.

    As far as the “Apple Tax” or “Apple Premium” keep in mind, they typically don’t shy away from higher quality parts. I mean, the boards in iMac and Mac Pros were once Intel Server boards, which don’t come cheap in themselves.

    Dropping support for older hardware is a cop out though that will always be a bad topic for me. If I can run Linux or even windows 10 on old hardware, why not OS X?

  • Does anyone have the ssd nand flash part numbers. I believe with the right bga template and a heat gun these chips could be “USER UPGRADEABLE”. Has anyone tried this method?

  • This is exactly why apple lost the early computer wars – protecting everything so they could make more bucks, at the expense of users. Yes I am sure being able to upgrade your ram later poses some insurmountable security risk ( lol.) Apple needs to be sued for anti trust – no joke. For me, it will keep me from buying the mobile unit and I will go Pc instead. If you need portability, look elsewhere unless you are locked into Apple ecosystem. Most of apple’s claims are completely overblown when you actually check into tech specs /bang for buck/reliability.

  • I bought a mbp back in 2008. I’m still using it because i could upgrade the drive and ram.

    Given Apple’s current absence of scruples,That will be my last mac product.

    Back to windows, even though it means my having to learn a new DAW in place of Logic Pro 9.

  • I am hugely heartened by most of these comments, so critical of Apple. I think OWC should compile these and send them to Apple, hoping Apple realizes that for every person who posts a negative reaction, there are at least ten who don’t think it’s worth the bother, because Apple won’t listen.

    I’m sure Tim Cook is, like the legendary farmer’s obedient mule, an entirely reasonable fellow—once you get his attention. Now, where did I leave that 2 x 4 …?

    They just don’t get it. Why do people buy Volvo cars? Short answer: 400,000+ miles to car’s retirement, then someone else will put on another 200,000 or more. That’s what I want in a computer: reliability, longevity, and ease of use.

    (For those who don’t know the story of the obedient farmer’s mule, ask and ye shall receive. If Mr. Cook knows the story, he might find the comparison … enlightening.)

  • That’s really terrible. I loved the 17″ in MBPs so I was excited to hear about the new 16″. What we need more of in this world is more disposable junk. Let’s just throw away our computers. Greedy apple; I’ll pass on Apple products now. I don’t to deal with Microsoft so I guess it’s Linux for me now.

    • Maxed out 2012 MBP 15: GPU reflow, SSD for a damaged HD, RAM died & got upgraded. Fantastic for 5 years. 2016 MBA got battery & storage 512GB upgrade.Still usefulin 2020. Tried a 2016 rMBP, logic board failure; replaced through AC, sold the new one. & got MBA & Dell XPS 15. Installed Ubuntu on XPS. Bought 2019 MBP. 100C temps, returned it. Got MBA 2020. No heat pipes, also overheats like crazy(shame, I really wanted to like it. Returned. Bought Dell Inspiron with 1060 GPU. Will also try Ubuntu on it. I love the Apple outer structure, pad, keyboard, ergonomics and design much more than PC,s, also appreciate the OS, but find their products severely lacking in the engineering department; fundamental stuff, like adding a proper cooling system to a 10th gen CPU. Maybe they have decided that they don´t want customers like me anymore. Shame, I`ve had every generetion of MB/PB since the 500 & Lombard.

  • I also will not buy a new Macbook Pro, unless I can upgrade it. My 11/2011 17″ Pro has been upgraded (by me) to be 16Gb RAM, 512GB SSD and a 1.0T HD, in the optical slot. The OS is fixed at 10.13.6 plus bug fixes not happy about that. I have considered moving to PC but this is hard to get my head around since I have been a Mac user since 1989. The cost of software is the only thing keeping from the switch.

    • I keep too my MacBook Pro mid 2012 i7/2.6 MAT DISPLAY with 16 GB, Crucial MX500 2 TB SSD, and it’s still a very nice Mac.

      Can’t stand what Cook has done with MacBook Pro Line … it’s for no brain and fashion victims !!!

      Too bad, as I use Apple Computer since 1982 (Apple IIe), and upgraded everything that was possible to upgrade … today I live the worst era of Apple, everything is done only for money, not for user, and absolutely not for durability and planet health (green washing inside Apple) …

  • Agree 100%. This is just Apple’s way of squeezing for the biggest possible buck. I’m running a 2010 Macbook Pro. I will NOT BUY Apple again if this is their strategy. BTW, I have upgraded my memory and HD storage myself.

    • Im right there with you. I was looking at the new MBP 16IN and after reading this article I said NO WAY JOSE! If you cant change out the battery when needed or put in a better ssd than its NOT WORTH THE MOOLA! Im still using my MBP 17inch upgraded to High Sierra and its still ticking because I was able to replace my old dead mac hd with a new ssd and Ive replaced the battery at least twice, not to mention I replaced my own speakers.. So if Apple was “listening” to their customers about some of their newer add on’s for this so called new mbp why arent they listening to the fact that we like tooling around and dont care if we blow the warranty. Heck about the time the original hard drive dies or the battery needs replacing, you are already out of the warranty period and Im not paying them any more money for their “gun to your head support”. I like to fly free range thank you very much! There will come a time (and its coming) when people dont have the money to buy Apple products.

    • I was going to buy the 16” Mac Pro just now & came across this while I was researching before purchase….. until I read they are soldered the parts together to prevent you from upgrading the memory as needed down the line I was ready to buy.
      Let’s face it, Apple is not what it use to be, to help streamline work flow, ease of use… they now make things harder for the user to make $$. Like eliminating headphone jack, & ports so now you have to buy & carry around a bunch of dongles to keep it useful for your application. The old Apple would look at how to eliminate steps, not add steps & cost. I miss the old company methods. This was my final straw to not buy Apple & get use to pc again. Used pc at work, shouldn’t be hard, buy wasn’t my preference. I’m only one customer, but voting with your dollars is the only thing you can do. My last Mac mini was in 2012 for the same reason. I am on my last iPhone too. These are too expensive to basically buy a disposable laptop. I’m in need of a new laptop, I was always a Mac everything person until now.

  • What happens if either the RAM or SSD die in future and you have not purchased extended warranty – Do I return MacBook Pro 16″ to Apple for RAM or SSD replacement? At what expected cost? Not a good expectation.

    Currently, I have a September 2012 MacBook Pro 17″, which I have upgraded to 16GB of RAM and 2 internal drives a 512 SSD and a 1TB HHD in the optical slot – Works great but the OS X is frozen at 10.13.6.

    I have been a Mac user since 1989. – I will not buy a systems that has built short term obsolescent – as a senior I cannot afford to replace every 5-7 years.

    I will buy an upgradeable laptop, great products bye bye Apple

    • You are spot on sir! YouTube video after video of why people are leaving Mac computers behind.
      Where are the ports? Every single electronic now a days uses usb, not necessarily “thunderbolt3”/usbc regular usb. The absolute best quality sounding headphones still use a jack. Like 95% of ALL consumer cameras use flash drives and cards… why does Apple think people on the go- hence laptop- want to carry 2,3, or 4 dongles with them???
      Who can afford a $50,000 Mac Pro that’s user upgradable?
      Who wants to afford a $5,000 MacBook Pro ever 5 years?
      Why force us to buy your screen with the only reasonable machine you have?

      PC and Adobe are are becoming much more economical and surpasses Mac in every way as far as upgradability. With all these younger content creators that don’t have endless funds relying on a phone to carry you is dangerous.

  • 2 words – non-upgradable junk – you buy what you get – my 2012 2.7 is doing just great – I can get 8tb in there if I want. Who needs the headache of non-upgradable overpriced junk that will be obsolete in a few years anyway.

    As for Apple’s price gouging ?? It’s corporate greed and making us upgrade to junk that’s not upgradable.

  • I was just about to make a purchase at B&H Photo as they have a good deal for black Friday but this sucks after reading this article although not surprised. Apple plays a fine line where it charges a premium for their computers and they slowly make their devices disposable. I have still a 2011 17 inch Macbook Pro that i had upgraded to 1 TB and 16G of memory and its on its last legs as the logic board or graphic card have known issues, this is even after apple replaced the main board as a recall. I saw the new 16 inch and fell in love with the size and told
    Myself maybe i will get a new laptop and treat myself but apple forces you to spend money at time of purchase. They make sure you buy “their” memory. We need to write to Tim Cook, its been known that enough people talk that they make changes. His email is publicly available. I dont think they are getting my $3,000 this time.

  • My laptop is nearly 10 years old, I was almost ready to pull the trigger on this purchase. But it’s not user upgradable? Yeah, I’m walking away.

    Thanks for confirming whether it is user upgradable! You just saved me thousands of dollars!

  • I have bought 6 MacBook Pro Mid 2012 for me and my familly. I easily upgraded them all many times and actually they all have 16 GB memory and SSD from 1 to 2 TB.

    As long as Apple solder SSD, I don’t intend to buy new hardware. The price of BTO is too expensive, and I don’t trust a computer in which you can’t remove the storage in case of another component hardware failure (I never give my data in Apple Store or Customer service)

    It is a real concern for me as an Apple User since 1982. I would like to have this new 16″, but not with soldered parts …

    • That’s not the problem… The SSD is paired with an encryption chip called the T2 and that’s why they won’t let you upgrade it. If you look at the SSD, many of them could be removed, but the T2 prevented the use of another drive.

  • As usual, Apple hooks you on their iOS & MacOS, which are great, IMO, but then make you pay through the nose on their hardware limitations.

    I appreciate OWC’s available accessories for the Apple hardware and have used OWC for years.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Apple sucks more & more. Absolutely not need for a featherweight micro-thin computer. I want something that will survive a fall off the desk with the lid open.

    And of course I want to upgrade & expand at will.

  • I can offer another proof. Apple is selling that 64 GB memory upgrade, which is really only 48 GB more) for $800. You’re selling that same memory on Amazon for $349.98. Given their volume buying, Apple must be making around 200% profit on that upgrade.

    • Apple wants you to spend your money on them, so they can make money off of you. The 16 inch, while nice.. is so thin that if it fell off the table, it would not survive. But the 2012, 2011 would all survive,though dented.

      Bottom line: Apple is no longer the company that allows us to upgrade on our own. We are slaves to them and their hardware. Hopefully, this will cange in the 2020’s.

  • Looking forward to a fulll take apart – disassembly – teardown from OWC to answer these questions: How are the SSD and RAM inside? Soldered? One or two SSD sticks? Standard connenctor? RAID? Thanks!

  • One of the reasons I decided my last MacBook Pro was literally my last MacBook. Last upgrade I just went ahead and got a used iMac and an iLugger for the rare times I need to leave the office.

    I get Apple wanting to make things thinner, lighter, etc. in the portables market but I’m not going to buy into that again.

  • This is becoming all too typical of the Apple Corp. which is run by Tim Cook, rather than Steve Jobs the creator of the Mac. Steve made the Mac very consumer-friendly and affordable because he knew it would bring back customers and create a fun experience with a Mac. Tim Cook…well…Tim Cook is worried about the bottom line and making things smaller, not whether his customers have a fun experience with a Macor approve of the changes he makes. As a Mac Owner all the way back to the beginning as well as an Apple stockholder, I have been rather critical of the recent direction of Mac and the arrogance, which is always traceable to the top of a company. I won’t be buying this new Macbook Pro. Eventually the market will bite back at Cook. It should be interesting, but he’s already an arrogant billionaire so he’s not sweating it..

    • Please.

      The new MBP is no less user upgradable than the iPhone or iPad and I don’t see people boycotting those because you can’t upgrade RAM or storage.

      • But they should. Nearly all of the 2018 Android devices had microSD support. Some do now, as well. Apple is deploying my personal least favorite business strategy: charge more for storage and don’t let them use their own devices the way they want to. If you own a device, you should have the right to take it apart and fix it. It is most certainly an anticompetitive move to not let third parties repair iDevices. It’s just wrong and there is no way around that.

      • What a ridiculous thing to say.

        iPhones and iPads aren’t upgradable for a reason, their cost is relatively low. And iPhones in particular need to be sealed as much as possible in order to keep out possible liquid damage.

        When you’re spending this much money on something marketed as a “pro” machine you should absolutely expect the RAM and hard drive to be user upgradable. Otherwise it’s not pro.

        Hard drives die, batteries die and Apple
        Charges excessive amounts for their RAM.

        I love apple products but I absolutely call shenanigans on them not letting users upgrade their computers that they spend an arm and a leg on.

        It’s not rocket science.

          • Relatively compared to a MacBook Pro I believe is what he meant. The overall point is they continue on with this practice despite losing some customers, and they make up the difference by charging even more to those who still buy.

  • The specs for the new MBP are awesome. For those of use who do not need a portable, how do we ask Apple to build a desktop computer, or upgrade the Mini, with similar features? Also, I work in print, so a 100% AdobeRGB display is preferable. How about that option?