How I Recently Upgraded My 5 Year Old Macbook Air To Last For The Next Couple Of Years

I’ll be furthering my studies in August this year. And though my trusty Macbook Air has been with me for about 5 years now, I don’t see a point in buying a brand new laptop.

Despite its old age, it still works performs very well. I can still edit videos and photos, write papers, and watch videos. I don’t really play games, so there’s really no need for me to get better hardware.

However, the life of a graduate student will be more active than that of one stuck in an office. This change of lifestyle will bring a fresh set of challenges which my old laptop may not be able to handle.

As it is, I’ve been struggling with 3 minor problems. But these three problems with be exacerbated when I’m on the move. And I do prefer to work on the go as I tend to think and work better in a library or cafe than when I’m at home.

 

Problem #1: The Lack of Disk Space

This has been a problem that I’ve been struggling with for some time. My Macbook Air has a miserable storage space of 128GB. For five years, I’ve been plagued with this problem. I’ve tried ways to work around it but with little success. For example, I’ve had a 1TB external hard disk plugged in whenever I have to work with huge files.

That works quite well when I’m in the office.

BUT, I tend to work on the go, i.e. on the bus or train (and sometimes on the bed). And the external hard disk tends to get disconnected, or drops onto the floor in the process.

Last month, I tried searching the Internet (once again) for a solution.

And as it turns out, the great thing about having an old laptop is that you can get upgradable parts for cheap. In the past, a 1TB SSD (solid state drive, i.e. a hard disk with no mechanical parts), would cost almost SGD$1k. But now it only costs SGD$600.

I figured, it makes a lot more sense to simply upgrade the storage than to buy a new laptop.

Without much hesitation, I placed an online order for the OWC 1TB SSD, and it arrived in 3 days.

Installation turned out to be a breeze. The website I ordered from had instructions on how to install it.

All I had to do was do unscrew the base, unplug the battery, replace the SSD board, reconnect the battery, and screw the base back. Voila! I was done in less than a minute!

The new SSD is the blue colour board in the middle with the sticker. This photo isn't mine. I got too excited installing the SSD that I forgot to take photos. Screen shot of video taken from http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/SSDA116K960/.
The new SSD is the blue colour board in the middle with the sticker. This photo isn’t mine. I got too excited installing the SSD that I forgot to take photos. Screen shot of video taken from http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/SSDA116K960/.

I reinstalled Mac OS X, and in less than an hour, my Macbook Air was as good as new.

My Macbook Air now has 1TB of disk space!
My Macbook Air now has 1TB of disk space!

Very nice…

So that’s Problem #1 solved.

But here’s the funny thing. The problem about fixing problems is that once you get started, you can’t just stop.

I felt a great need to find solutions to other problems.

There’s a certain sense of urgency now, as I’m in the final months of being employed on a full-time basis. At least I’ll have the money to make costly purchases to keep my laptop going strong and well for the next few years. I don’t think I’ll have that much financial flexibility when I switch to a full-time studies.

 

Problem #2: A Breaking Charger Cable

The next problem I needed to fix was the fact that the power cable on my Macbook’s Magsafe Charger was going to break. The cable is fraying very badly, and in time to come, it’ll just snap off.

Sure, the solution is simple: buy a replacement! The problem? The original Apple 45W Magsafe Power Charger costs SGD$100+!!! No way am I going to pay so much for a charger.

I did a simple search on the Internet and was very pleasantly surprised to find  third-party Macbook chargers selling for only SGD$28!

What a deal! I bought one to test.

Here’s the original and the third-party charger, side by side:

Can you tell which is the original Apple Magsafe charger?
Can you tell which is the original Apple Magsafe charger?

They look very similar.

Thankfully, the third-party one works pretty well. I’ve been using this for a few days now, and there’s no problems at all. It works as well as the original.

If anything, the third-party charger has a slight design modification to ensure the cable doesn’t fray and break as easily as the original Apple one. So, if you are looking for a charger replacement that will last longer than Apple’s, this might be worth getting.

I’m happy.

So, problem #2 solved!

 

Problem #3: Not Enough Power Sockets Outside

This is truly a first-world problem.

As I mentioned earlier, I work better (and think better) when I’m outside, be it at the library, cafe, bus or train.

Having been a student before, I am well aware of the difficulty of find a power socket to charge my laptop.

Don’t get me wrong. My Macbook Air’s battery still works great despite its age (there’s no immediate need to replace the battery). I can work non-stop on it for 3 hours. 2 hours if I turn on Wifi. 1+ hour if I’m listening to music while I work.

The problem is that I tend to work longer than 3 hours. I can spend a whole day out, and that can be quite problematic when all the power sockets at the library or cafe are used (or unavailable).

I end up wasting time and mental energy frantically trying to find a power socket to keep my laptop going.

After searching for weeks, I finally found this solution:

20160317_121032000_iOS
Behold the battery pack!

It’s the Romoss eUSB sofun 9 portable laptop external battery, capable of holding 23400 mAh worth of charge. That’s FIVE times the battery capacity of my Macbook Air!

I got this brand in particular because it is one of the few laptop battery packs that have a cable that’s compatible with the Macbook’s Magsafe connector. (I had to top-up a little bit more for this cable.)

20160317_121539000_iOS
The special eUSB to Magsafe cable.

Wow… If it can hold five times more charge than my Macbook Air battery, then theoretically, with this, I could work for about 15 hours (no Wifi) non-stop, or 10 hours (with Wifi), or even 5 hours (with music playing as well).

In real world terms, this battery pack can really keep my Macbook going.

This is incredible! I’m no longer bound to a power socket anymore!

Problem #3 fixed!

And with that, I think my 5 year old laptop is now ready for the nomadic life of a graduate student, who wanders from place to place, from library to library, cafe to canteen, bus to train, to research and write.

I’ve more than enough disk space and power to keep me going.

I hope that with this, my Macbook will be capable of lasting for another 3-5 years.