Pimping my 2011 MacBook Pro to 16GB RAM Running at 1600MHz

I am a fairly heavy user of memory-hungry VMWare VMs. I was running into a problem with excessive paging slowing down the host OS or even not being able to launch all the VMs I needed to simultaneously due to memory limitations of my pretty damn new 8GB RAM BTO late 2011 15″  Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro system.

The late 2011 Sandy Bridge 15″ MacBook Pro machines come with 1300MHz 9-9-9 non-ECC DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM configurable up to 8GB in a BTO configuration. The 2012 Ivy Bridge models come with RAM operating at 1600MHz and the Retina MacBook Pro has a 16GB BTO option. The chipsets are similar and I was pretty sure that the non-Retina model can support 16GB of RAM and the Sandy Bridge models can run at the 20% faster 1600MHz just like the Ivy Bridge ones.

I had some trouble finding 16GB 9-9-9  latency non-ECC DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM kits on the aftermarket and none were labelled as “for MacBook Pro”. There are a lot of options at 1333MHz from Kingston, OWC, Corsair, Crucial and iFixit but at 1600MHz there are slim pickings. I suspect that the reason that the 2011 MacBook Pro ships with 1300MHz memory is a cost/availability issue.

Corsair has a kit of 16GB with slower 10-10-10 latency. I’m not sure what the implication is of 10-10-10 latency at 1600MHz vs. 9-9-9 at 1300MHz but I know that Apple specs 9-9-9 memory in their systems, so I soldiered on. The only kit that had specs I was looking for was the HyperX PNP 1600MHz 9-9-9 16GB DDR3 non-ECC SO-DIMM kit from Kingston which I got from Amazon.

Memory access schematic from support.apple.com

Installation is pretty easy. You need a high quality static dissipative Phillips #00 screw driver to remove the 10 screws without damaging the heads. Once the back is off the computer, the memory slots are easily accessible in the center of the machine.

As you can see, the Kingston kit worked. OS X Mountain Lion recognizes the 16GB of RAM at 1600MHz and is quite happy. I have a lot of memory head room now. I can run all of my VM workloads simultaneously with iTunes, Pixelmator, OmniGraffle, MonoDevelop, Xcode, etc., etc. all running at once without any hiccups whatsoever. Overall, I’m very happy with this experiment. The Kinston kit screams.

Update:

I got a Geekbench score of 11020 with the new RAM installed.

New NVidia Video Drivers Improve Graphics Subscore in Windows Experience on Boot Camp 3.2 and Windows 7 x64

nvidia-266.58-driverI have a late 2009 15” MacBook Pro Unibody (MacBookPro5,3) running Windows 7 x64 with Boot Camp 3.2. Because they are Apple, Apple doesn’t keep up to date with the video drivers for Windows. The versions that ship with Boot Camp are a couple of generations out of date.

A couple of weeks ago, NVidia released a new “Verde Notebook” driver which supports my MackBook Pro: GeForce 9600M GT Verde Notebook drivers release 265 v266.58 WHQL. The actual driver version reported by Device Manager is 8.17.12.6658 built 1/7/2011.

After creating a restore point, I went ahead and installed it although I did not elect to install PhysX or NVidia 3D Vision, neither of which have any use for me.

It just occurred to me to update the Windows Experience meter thingy. I didn’t expect any change but I was pleasantly surprised to find my Graphics and Gaming Graphics subscores increased slightly from 6.4 to 6.5 with no negative side-effects so far. This doesn’t make much if any difference at all in the real world but it feels nice.

graphics-score-nvidia-notebook-2066.58

Why is Skype Using the Wrong Audio Device?

I’ve been trying to figure out what is causing my audio to whack out and go crackly intermittently. Now I’m hyper-sensitized to anything making pops and crackles on my late 2009 MacBook Pro 15” running Windows 7 x64 with Boot Camp 3.1.

One thing I noticed is that the pops seem to always start with the incoming IM noise emitted by Skype. Another thing I noticed was that the pop seemed to be first coming from my 24” Cinematic Display. To simplify the number of things going on, I disabled the Cinematic Display (aka "Apple USB audio device”) and “Digital Audio (S/PDIF)” playback audio devices in mmsys.cpl because I’m not using them. (I’ve gone many hours without any pops and crackles after disabling these two devices but I’m not ready to say the problem is solved.)

What I just noticed is that the incoming IM ping sound was coming very much from my right speaker and it was really loud. Then I realized it wasn’t coming from the right desktop speaker at all. It was coming from my laptop. All of my other sound is coming out of my Klipsch speakers via the “headphones” minijack. Nothing should be coming out of the laptop speakers which aren’t the current default playback device. It shouldn’t be doing that.

The Volume Mixer shows that Skype is the only thing using the built-in speakers. These screenshots were taken nearly simultaneously without making any system changes. I just changed the selected device in the Volume Mixer.

skype-using-interanleverything-else-using-default

All of the Skype incidental notifications are coming out of my laptop but voice calls are playing out of the configured default playback device, which is my desktop speakers. Very weird. This reminds me that when we first got the MacBooks it was just as Snow Leopard was released and we had the drivers in Boot Camp 3.0. Skype could not hear anything with the built-in microphone even though the built-in microphone was working as demonstrated by Sound Recorder.

I have a suspicion that Skype is doing something low-level and inadvisable with the audio devices.

For the record, according to Skype’s own settings dialogs, it should not be using the laptop built-in speakers.

skype-audio-config

Mystery Solved!

The notifications show up on whatever speaker is defined in Options | Audio Settings | Ringing. By default that is set to “Ring on all devices”. Changing it to Use selected speaker removes the weirdness of ringing coming out of the laptop speakers while using headphones.

Boot Camp 3.1, from Apple this time

Boot Camp now officially supports Windows 7. As I expected, it is largely a repackaging of drivers previously released for Boot Camp 2.2. Here’s the flyby of what is in the update (I looked at the x64 version).

  • NVidia  display driver 8.16.11.8861, 01/05/2010
  • Binary.aapltp_Bin
  • Binary.AppleBTBroadcom_Bin
  • Binary.AppleBTE_Bin
  • Binary.AppleBT_Bin
  • Binary.AppleDisplay_Bin
  • Binary.AppleiSight_Bin
  • Binary.AppleODD_Bin
  • Binary.asix_ethernet_Bin
  • Binary.AtherosWin7_Bin
  • Binary.Atheros_Bin
  • Binary.Ati_GraphicsWin7_Bin
  • Binary.Ati_Graphics_Bin
  • Binary.BroadcomEthernet_Bin
  • Binary.BroadcomWireless_Bin
  • Binary.Cirrus_Audio_Bin 6.6001.1.21 (all new!)
  • Binary.crystal_beach_Bin
  • Binary.intel_ethernet_Bin
  • Binary.IRFilter_Bin
  • Binary.Keyboard_Bin 3.0.0.0 (same version number as was in Boot Camp 3.0 but I can definitely dim the keyboard more, now)
  • Binary.marvell_ethernet_Bin
  • Binary.MultiTouchMouse_Bin
  • Binary.MultiTP_Bin 3.0.0.0 (same as in 2.2)
  • Binary.null_driver_Bin
  • Binary.Realtek_Bin
  • Binary.Sigmatel_Bin

Available from Apple in x86 and x64 flavors.

Make your own Apple Boot Camp “3.1” update

Apple loves to tout compatibility with Windows.

Have a Windows application you need to use once in a while? No problem. Every new Mac lets you install Windows XP and Vista and run them at native speeds, using a built-in utility called Boot Camp.

There is something to this and the Apple hardware is awesome but Apple is a bit heel-dragging and sloppy about the way they release drivers for Boot Camp. For example, Windows 7 was finished July 22, 2009 but as of December 15, 2009 it is still officially unsupported by Apple. Windows 7 uses the same driver model as Vista, so that policy from Apple is just recalcitrant and disingenuous. Apple really does provide all the drivers you need to get Windows 7 x86 or x64 to run natively on Mac hardware.

On the other hand, some of the drivers in Boot Camp 3.0 are really flaky. For the latest Macbook Pros that use Cirrus Logic audio controllers, the volume is messed up so the internal speakers are un-hearable and the built-in microphone doesn’t work at all with some applications—notably Skype.

Apple actually does have updated drivers available. They are packaged as Boot Camp Drivers Update 2.2.

Setup is simple and straightforward — just as you’d expect with a Mac.

Awesome.

Except that if you are running Boot Camp 3.0, you are screwed and the setup is very not straightforward and there is no one-click installer from Apple. It is doable, though, and worthwhile.

This update addresses issues with the Apple trackpad and turns off the red digital audio port LED on laptop computers when it is not being used. It also includes support for the Apple Magic mouse and wireless keyboard. It is intended only for use with Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Vista running on a Mac computer using Boot Camp.

If, like me, you are running Boot Camp 3.0 with Windows 7 on your MacBook Pro and you want these updates here’s what you have to do.

  • If you don’t already have it, install 7-zip.
  • Download the Boot Camp Drivers Update 2.2 for Windows from http://support.apple.com/kb/DL967
  • After you have BootCamp_Update_2.2.exe, right-click on it and select 7-zip | Extract to “BootCamp_Update_2.2\”.
  • Now you have a directory of files that includes BootCampUpdate32.msp and BootCampUpdate64.msp. The 64 version will work with Windows Vista or 7 x64.
  • Right-click on the appropriate msp file and extract it with 7-zip.
  • Now you have a directory full of weird file and folder names. One of the folders should be named “BootCamp24ToBootCamp223”. Inside there are some files that are named with the pattern Binary.*_Bin:

Binary.Cirrus_Audio_Bin –> Fixes audio levels and microphone
Binary.Keyboard_Bin –> Same version that shipped with Boot Camp 3.0
Binary.MultiTouchMouse_Bin –> Magic Mouse driver
Binary.MultiTP_Bin –>  Fixes accidental select while dragging
Binary.TrackPad_Bin –> I don’t have the older touchpad so I don’t know

    • Each of these files is an archive that you can extract with 7-zip. Once you extract them, you can install the drivers by running DPInst.exe or by pointing the Device Manager at the extracted drivers in the usual way.

Happy updating.

Now that that’s out of the way, can someone explain to me why this had to be so hard?

Why bundle these updates with a smug “Setup is simple and straightforward — just as you’d expect with a Mac” tagline but make sure that the customers who bought the latest hardware and latest OS X cannot install them? It makes no sense.

Why did Boot Camp 3.0 ask me to configure automatic driver updates from Apple but Apple doesn’t actually publish any driver updates though that channel? It makes no sense.

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