An upgrade will depend on a variety of factors, including your experience with hardware, which Mac you own, and what you consider to be an upgrade. In other words, the answer to the question, “Can I upgrade my Mac?” is obvious. It depends.
Hard vs. Soft
Let me get the easy one out of the way first. It’s easy to upgrade your Mac to the latest macOS as long as that Mac supports the latest versions. If not, no upgrade. Keep it simple, right? Hardware can be more difficult to upgrade than software.
OK, let’s get to the hardware next. How much you can upgrade a Mac’s hardware depends upon which Mac you own, and how good you are with digging into devices that Apple does not make easy for customer repairs. I gave away an older MacBook a few years ago. It would no longer upgrade to the latest macOS, but it was easily hardware upgradeable.
I popped open the back case, swapped out an old and slow hard disk drive, dropped in a new SSD drive, and added more RAM. That made an old Mac run great but the battery needed to be swapped out, too. That was the last model of Mac notebook with a user replaceable battery. In the end, the Mac had all the components most users would venture to upgrade and it ran better than new.
What about today’s new line of Macs? No. These are not easily upgraded to anything, including keyboard, battery, RAM, or SSD storage. Forget about upgrading the CPU or GPU. Such upgrades are now the domain of the new Mac Pro and you will pay and pay and pay again for the privilege to upgrade components.
The iMac comes with a backdoor so users can upgrade RAM from the original, but any additional upgrades or replacements are major league surgery and require someone who does such repairs or replacements as a living, the Right to Repair notwithstanding. You can try to upgrade, but you damned well better know what you’re doing before you begin.
One of the best locations to determine which Macs can be upgraded and which parts would be required is iFixIt. Nearly everything you need to know about iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, MacBooks, Mac mini, and even older iBook G4s and PowerBook Gfs are available with a click or two.
But not everything. It just looks like everything is there, including adhesive strips and thermal paste for iMacs, to the MacBook Pro’s plastic feet and battery replacement kits. You can buy whatever parts you may need with a few clicks, and iFixIt has detailed instructions to help.
Such repairs are not for the faint of heart. If you’ve never done a component swap out in the past, it wouldn’t take much effort to make a mess of the venture. However, if you have experience in removing and replacing components that were not meant to be handled by anyone but Apple’s geniuses, then the step-by-step instructions will help. There are even options to upgrade SSDs in various Mac notebooks, including the kit and the SSD– up to 1TB for a mere $160 for older Macs.
I’m with those who want the right to repair, but I’m not going down that road very far myself. My father and his father repaired their own cars and appliances. These days I call someone to do the deed or drop off the car at the dealer.
I figure the Genius Bar is there for a reason, right?