A week and a half ago,
Apple posted a series
of firmware updates for various FireWire-equipped Macs models across the product line — Power Mac G4s, Cubes, slot-loading iMacs, iBooks and PowerBook systems all saw new firmware updates. Almost immediately,
reports from users
began to flood Web sites that the firmware updates could, under certain circumstances, disable third-party memory. Although the memory is still installed, a firmware updated Mac no longer recognizes the memory, and Apple System Profiler no longer sees the memory installed.
The problem is not universal though. While some Mac users have complained and others have extensively documented problems associated with the firmware update and missing RAM, many have also reported no problems making the switch whatsoever.
Since the firmware update was first released, some vendors of Mac-compatible RAM
have offered guarantees
that their products will work correctly with the firmware updates. Other memory vendors and some resellers have instead pointed the finger at Apple, suggesting that another firmware update should be released to alleviate the problem. There’s no indication from Apple that any such release is planned.
MacCentral has received word from an Apple regarding the firmware update and RAM issue.
“The Apple 4.1.7 and 4.1.8 firmware updates incorporate a number of fixes that dramatically improve system stability and performance. The update also includes a new check that validates whether the installed memory in the machine is compatible,” said an Apple spokesperson that recently spoke with MacCentral.
“This check was added to help alleviate random crashes and stability issues. The new memory test disables memory DIMMs that are found to be out of specification and DIMMs that cannot be determined to be compatible. As a result, some third party memory that was recognized by previous versions of firmware may no longer be recognized after the updates,” said Apple’s spokesperson.
The spokesperson also said that there aren’t any de-installers or firmware downgrade programs currently available that could enable Macs affected by the RAM problem to use a previous version of the firmware. Even if one was available, Apple’s position is that the RAM has been deactivated for a reason — because it can’t be guaranteed to work properly.
“These firmware updates will engender better system performance and stability,” reiterated Apple’s spokesperson.
So for now, if you have RAM installed that your firmware-updated Mac no longer recognizes, your best bet is to contact the reseller who sold you the RAM and request an exchange or refund. And if you’re purchasing new RAM for a Mac that might benefit from these firmware updates, make sure the vendor guarantees the RAM can be returned or exchanged it if it doesn’t perform as expected.