Author Topic: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013  (Read 547 times)

jeromedawg

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Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« on: April 10, 2019, 02:27:03 PM »
Hey all you techies out there.

I have an MBA Mid-2013 (1.3ghz w/ 4gb ram) that I'm considering doing some upgrades to since it's a bit of a hog these days and battery life hasn't been so great. I was looking for general advice and also recommendations on the best and lowest cost places to source some or all of the parts...

This is a list of what I'm wanting to do:
1) Replace battery (not sure what brands and or price points to look for here - I just want to go with whatever aftermarket brand is going to be reliable and not explode on me lol)
2) Upgrade to an m2 NVME 500gb~ or 1tb~ SSD (anywhere from $80-130 for a decent ADATA SSD) using an adapter ($18~)
3) Swap out logic board to 1.7ghz + 8gb ram **probably not necessary more of a nice-to-have** (not sure where to source this outside of ebay... and prices seems to start at over $150-160 there)

I technically got this for "free" or no more than a couple hundred bucks after getting a free MBA 11" through a training course I took that was reimbursed by my old employer - I sold the 11" and bought the 13" on sale so the price differential was pretty minimal. Taking that into consideration, I think there's more room to warrant doing these upgrades versus going out and buying a new laptop.

ApacheStache

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2019, 08:23:59 PM »
I wish I could be optimistic here, but upgrading an older Mac can be difficult, expensive and honestly is usually not worth the time, money and effort once your Mac reaches a certain age ó not to mention laptops, macs especially, generally offer limited upgradability.

Upgrading the battery, RAM and HD can be easy if you have the right tools and the right laptop model, but I think you're going to have a difficult time upgrading the motherboard or even finding a spare board for sell. I believe the MBA's generally have soldered on proprietary flash HD's, so I don't think you'll be able to upgrade that with the current motherboard. Also, I doubt the motherboard has a m2 NVMe slot, so if you ended up using an external adapter you're likely going to see diminished read/write speeds.

As a Mac/Linux user, I hate to say it but I've had much better luck upgrading junky PC laptops with Linux. 2 years ago, I spent a lot of money upgrading a 2009 MBP with a new battery, ram and SSD only to find that I can no longer upgrade the OS because Apple deems the hardware and the CPU is too old. With that said, I have a feeling that if you upgrade your MBA, you may find that you will no longer be able to upgrade the OS in 2-3 years.

jeromedawg

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2019, 10:14:00 PM »
I wish I could be optimistic here, but upgrading an older Mac can be difficult, expensive and honestly is usually not worth the time, money and effort once your Mac reaches a certain age — not to mention laptops, macs especially, generally offer limited upgradability.

Upgrading the battery, RAM and HD can be easy if you have the right tools and the right laptop model, but I think you're going to have a difficult time upgrading the motherboard or even finding a spare board for sell. I believe the MBA's generally have soldered on proprietary flash HD's, so I don't think you'll be able to upgrade that with the current motherboard. Also, I doubt the motherboard has a m2 NVMe slot, so if you ended up using an external adapter you're likely going to see diminished read/write speeds.

As a Mac/Linux user, I hate to say it but I've had much better luck upgrading junky PC laptops with Linux. 2 years ago, I spent a lot of money upgrading a 2009 MBP with a new battery, ram and SSD only to find that I can no longer upgrade the OS because Apple deems the hardware and the CPU is too old. With that said, I have a feeling that if you upgrade your MBA, you may find that you will no longer be able to upgrade the OS in 2-3 years.


I've cracked the Macbook Air open and actually have done a half-teardown of it - had a scare where I spilled water on the keyboard and needed to clean it up. The battery and SSD are easy enough to remove. And the adapter for the SSD isn't super expensive - it's to adapt M2s to fit the proprietary SSD slot - https://www.amazon.com/Sintech-Adapter-Upgrade-2013-2015-MacBook/dp/B01CWWAENG.
They actually make proprietary SSDs that will fit but they are cost prohibitive at nearly twice the cost of a 'regular' M2 NVME SSD; and at least with the latter I can always use it with something else at a later time once I decide to ditch the MBA. The reads/writes people have clocked using the adapter + M2 SSDs are in the ballpark of 1300MB/s-1500MB/s read and write which is pretty darned good considering the most I'm getting now is between 300-500MB/s.

As far as MBAs having memory soldered on you are correct, which is why I am considering swapping out the entire logic board - the logic boards are what have the memory soldered on as well as the CPU but they are swappable so if you can find one in good/mint/excellent condition you can upgrade that way. But this, if anything, can be most cost prohibitive since the more desirable logic boards with 8gb of memory can run upwards of $200.
I actually posted over in Macrumors and started researching more there. Apparently, the 2017 MBAs are nearly identical as far as the inside components and how they fit. Several people have already stated they've swapped internals between models anywhere from 2013 to 2017, which gives me hope.
The amount of time it takes to do a teardown/rebuild isn't much in the grand scheme of things. Rather than buying a used 2017 MBA, I think this is a *very* viable solution to 'refurbish' an otherwise dated MBA to bring it closer up to spec in staying more "current" - but yea, the other consideration is how long of a "shelf life" the hardware has in keeping up with software.
Considering not that much has changed in terms of the internal configuration/layout of MBAs, it seems like they won't necessarily be "obsoleted" or "too old" to stay current in terms of OS updates if you take into consideration that there's virtually no difference in the internal layout between the 2013 and 2017 models.
After everything, this could end up costing around $450 or so but that's still a good cost savings over buying a new MBA or even preowned and comparable but not current MBA and where it likely won't be obsoleted any time soon unless Apple makes *drastic* changes to the MBA line. I would think the primary components that OS X would deem "obsolete" as far as hardware is concerned likely would be residing on the logic board (namely CPU and RAM but maybe I'm missing something?). On the other hand, I guess there's always the option of buying something "on sale" or "used in excellent condition" and then selling my current one to offset the cost. But this would be the case too if I were to swap components as well, so it's all relative.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2019, 10:36:00 PM by jeromedawg »

ApacheStache

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2019, 10:57:57 PM »
That M.2 nVME SSD Adapter Card looks promising. For some reason I was picturing an external adapter as opposed to an internal one.

The biggest limiting factor will be the CPU and the instruction set built into it. Since the RAM is soldered on to each board, you won't need to worry about memory since you can't do anything about it. Apple is going in the direction of adding more proprietary security features to their motherboards so I fully expect the trend of planned obsolescence to continue in the future. You'll likely be able to surf the web fine for years to come, but you might find that certain software is no longer supported after a while. For example, on my 2009 MBP I have a few DVDs of language learning software that simply stopped working after an OS upgrade because the new OS version no longer supported PowerPC. I also ran into issues where the newer versions of Photoshop were consuming too many resources for my hardware and essentially kicked the CPU's into 100% with obnoxiously loud fan noise. The only other issues I was seeing was that my CPU was limited to 2 cores (no hyperthreading), the graphics card couldn't handle YouTube videos over 720p and the wifi card didn't support the latest and greatest 802.11ac wifi standards and speeds. Obviously these things are first-world problems, but stuff to keep in mind.

I suppose it's worth a try if other Mac enthusiasts have reported success. As a laptop enthusiast, it certainly sounds like a fun challenge and an excellent learning opportunity, but I would probably tread lightly and go into it with low expectations.

If you're feeling truly frugal, you can skip the potential $450 upgrade and try running linux on it for free. Boot from a USB, kick the tires and if it's still slow using linux then maybe go the upgrade path.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2019, 11:08:59 PM by ApacheStache »

jeromedawg

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2019, 11:51:22 PM »
That M.2 nVME SSD Adapter Card looks promising. For some reason I was picturing an external adapter as opposed to an internal one.

The biggest limiting factor will be the CPU and the instruction set built into it. Since the RAM is soldered on to each board, you won't need to worry about memory since you can't do anything about it. Apple is going in the direction of adding more proprietary security features to their motherboards so I fully expect the trend of planned obsolescence to continue in the future. You'll likely be able to surf the web fine for years to come, but you might find that certain software is no longer supported after a while. For example, on my 2009 MBP I have a few DVDs of language learning software that simply stopped working after an OS upgrade because the new OS version no longer supported PowerPC. I also ran into issues where the newer versions of Photoshop were consuming too many resources for my hardware and essentially kicked the CPU's into 100% with obnoxiously loud fan noise. The only other issues I was seeing was that my CPU was limited to 2 cores (no hyperthreading), the graphics card couldn't handle YouTube videos over 720p and the wifi card didn't support the latest and greatest 802.11ac wifi standards and speeds. Obviously these things are first-world problems, but stuff to keep in mind.

I suppose it's worth a try if other Mac enthusiasts have reported success. As a laptop enthusiast, it certainly sounds like a fun challenge and an excellent learning opportunity, but I would probably tread lightly and go into it with low expectations.

If you're feeling truly frugal, you can skip the potential $450 upgrade and try running linux on it for free. Boot from a USB, kick the tires and if it's still slow using linux then maybe go the upgrade path.


Good point. I may just stick with upgrading the HD and battery for that matter, and not mess around with logic board swaps unless I can find a crazy good deal on something. I figure with the HD swap, as I had mentioned, it's going to largely be "transferable" if I decide to ditch this MBA and perhaps install it elsewhere or convert it to an external drive... as if I need more of those lol. And the battery is just a sunk cost if I want to keep using the laptop, well, portably haha. It doesn't even sound like I really need to swap the battery yet a t this point since it seems like things are OK with it now. I guess the only lasting concern is that the hard drive upgrade seems to result in a 10% increase in battery consumption, so something to factor in. But I think it'll be worth the trade-off. I'll probably just go for the HD upgrade at this point. I could use it because I've been getting into recording music and stuff with Garageband and that takes up a large chunk of space that I don't currently have. It would also be nice to dual-boot to Windows and or Linux too. As well as have some space for games (if I ever can find the time to play haha).

traveler

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2019, 12:51:41 AM »
Iím a long time Mac user and used to upgrade the old MBPs.

These days I only replace batteries and just sell on eBay when my current non upgradable Mac doesnít fit my needs anymore, and use the proceeds to buy a newer, but still used, machine.

To me that is more cost effective than risking a $200 logic board. And the old Mac still makes someone else happy and is not thrown to the trash.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2019, 06:00:47 PM »
Yeah maybe even reinstall OSX?

A new battery would be a good move, but replacing the logic board seems like far more effort than it's worth tbh.

Do you need the extra storage space that replacing the SSD would provide?

I'd suggest just replacing the battery (try installing coconutBattery first to see the health of the existing battery) and reinstalling a fresh copy of OSX/macOS and see how you go. Wouldn't bother spending hundreds of dollars on the machine.

jeromedawg

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Re: Upgrading my Macbook Air mid-2013
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2019, 07:13:34 PM »
Yeah maybe even reinstall OSX?

A new battery would be a good move, but replacing the logic board seems like far more effort than it's worth tbh.

Do you need the extra storage space that replacing the SSD would provide?

I'd suggest just replacing the battery (try installing coconutBattery first to see the health of the existing battery) and reinstalling a fresh copy of OSX/macOS and see how you go. Wouldn't bother spending hundreds of dollars on the machine.


A fresh reinstall isn't a bad idea. But storage is actually the primary reason why I want to upgrade. I would probably want the space for Bootcamp/Windows/Linux as well as GarageBand and to install some games. I find myself having to clear space off every now and then when I want to do GarageBand vs games - there just isn't enough space to do more. I was thinking either a 512gb or 1TB drive to start. Price per gb is cheaper going with the 1TB option of course but that seems slightly excessive hahaha. the AData SX8200 Pro 512 is currently $87.99 on Amazon (before) tax which doesn't seem too bad. And if I want/need to reuse the drive in the future, I can just swap it into another machine later down the road. Taking that into consideration, 1TB doesn't seem like a bad proposition either just thinking ahead.

I have Battery Health 2 installed and it rates the health "Good" with the current max capacity 5157mah (original is 7150mah). So it's not terrible.

« Last Edit: April 13, 2019, 07:22:06 PM by jeromedawg »