The trouble with the Apple MacBook Air is that you can run out of storage quickly once you start making home videos and taking lots of photos. The best answer is to do a MacBook Air SSD upgrade at home. Of course, you can store your media on external drives, but who likes their data scattered around? It’s much easier for regular people to handle their photos, video, and documents on one main drive — and that brings us right back to a MacBook Air SSD upgrade.

Can You Do a MacBook Air SSD Upgrade?

While the MacBook Air is sealed and slim, you can still open the case and upgrade the solid-state flash storage (basically, a newer type of “hard drive”) with a larger solid-state drive (SSD). Is it easy? Yes and no. If you’re moderately handy — or have a friend who is — you can likely perform a MacBook Air SSD upgrade at home. Here’s how:

1. Identify Your MacBook Air Model

Finding the right solid-state flash storage module to fit your MacBook Air is a little harder than finding a new SSD drive for an older MacBook Pro. The 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs from different years each require different specs, so you need to figure out which MacBook Air you have. Apple has a handy page that will help you identify your MacBook Air model number, along with the description, which is what you need to know when it comes time to buy your upgrade drive. The description is something like “13-inch, Mid 2012” or “11-inch, Late 2010.”

2. Find the MacBook Air SSD Upgrade Option to Fit Your Model

Basically, you have two good choices of manufacturers now, OWC and Transcend. You can buy direct from OWC or get Transcend’s kits from Amazon.

macbook air ssd upgrade transcend jetdrive 500 520

Transcend’s new JetDrive 500 and 520 MacBook Air SSD upgrade kits come with the tools you need, including a handy enclosure for your old drive.

OWC’s Aura Pro + Envoy is basically a kit that includes the SSD storage module, the correct Pentalobe and Torx screwdrivers, and a cable and case to help transfer your data to the new MacBook Air SSD upgrade drive. OWC has product pages set up for each MacBook model year and offers MacBook Air SSD upgrade installation videos to help you install your new drive: OWC Aura Pro + Envoy for:

  • MacBook Air Mid 2013, 2014, 2015 models
  • MacBook Air 2012
  • MacBook Air 2011
  • MacBook Air 2010
  • MacBook Air 2008-2009
  • MacBook Air 2008

Transcend’s kits also include the SSD, screwdrivers, and case. Transcend’s JetDrive 500 in 240GB or 480GB fits:

  • MacBook Air Late 2010 (Note: 480GB does not fit 11-inch Air)
  • MacBook Air Mid 2011

Transcend’s JetDrive 520 in 240GB, 480GB, or a whopping 960GB fits:

  • MacBook Air Mid 2012

As of right now, OWC is the only manufacturer who has created a Mid 2013, 2014, or 2015 MacBook Air SSD upgrade option in the form of a traditional internal solid-state drive. This was a pretty cool feat of engineering, and it means that you can upgrade up to 1 TB of storage in your MacBook Air. If you’re backing up your iPhone 7 . . . or a family of iPhones, having more onboard storage on your MacBook Air is a great way to manage all this.

Note: What if you don’t want to open your MacBook Air case?

macbook-storage-upgrade-tardisk-pear

The TarDisk Pear system is a tiny drive that you can combine with your built-in drive to create a single “fused” storage system on your MacBook Air or Pro.

Don’t despair, you have two cool options, both of which are tiny flash-based drives in the shape of camera memory cards. They plug into the SDXC card slot on your 13-inch MacBook Air.

For all intents and purposes, the Transcend JetDrive Lite acts like a little USB thumb drive — but it fits flush into the SDXC card slot instead and appears on your Mac like an external drive that is always on, always available. It appears as a separate storage option to your Mac’s operating system. Quite handy.

The TarDisk Pear system, on the other hand, also uses the SDXC card slot but it combines with your built-in storage to form a single “fused” drive. If you want a near-permanent — but easy storage solution for your MacBook Air — the TarDisk Pear system might be your best bet.

Moving on, back to the traditional SSD replacement process. . . .

3. Clone or Transfer Your Data to the New MacBook Air SSD

While I prefer Carbon Copy Cloner, which is a third-party app that you can use to create one-off clones of your drives (with the free trial period) or manage ongoing backups, you can also use Apple’s Time Machine, or boot into recovery mode and use Apple’s built-in Disk Utility to get the job done — the latter of which, by the way, is the method that Transcend recommends. Note: These MacBook Air SSD drives are exposed modules and are a bit more fragile than your average enclosed hard drive. Consequently, you should have a backup of your important data before you get to the point where you open the case and start handling the drives. There are a lot of ways you can back up your data, but the easiest way is to buy an external hard drive and use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your entire drive as a bootable backup to your external drive. Alternately, you can simply copy over your important photos, videos, and documents. (The key benefit of an external drive is that you can store it somewhere that is not your home — if you face a flood or fire, your important family photos will be safe.)

4. Check Out Video Walkthroughs and Online Guides

OWC provides video guides on its website, but the Transcend video below also shows you the basic MacBook Air SSD upgrade process, and it is fast and clear, despite the jaunty soundtrack:

After you watch the guides, if all this seems too risky or scary for your skills and personality, find a buddy who has done it before — or have your local computer store do it for you.

5. Perform the MacBook Air SSD Upgrade

The data cloning process might take a couple of hours, but the actual MacBook Air SSD upgrade installation should take less than 30 minutes, even for newbies. Just make sure that you’re in a relatively stable and clean environment, and if you’re really worried about frying your system with static electricity, consider buying an anti-static mat. Personally, I’ve never bothered. Call me reckless and proceed at your own risk. Last of all, go slow. Place the tiny little screws in a bowl so they don’t roll off your desk and get lost in your carpet. What’s Next? Enjoy your new storage capacity and congratulate yourself on extending the life of your MacBook Air. Plus, now you have a handy external portable hard drive.

Get the MacBook Air SSD Upgrade Gear:

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About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I’ve been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school — Apple’s seed-planting strategy at work. I’m a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there’s something to be said for turning it all off — or most of it — to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a “firstnamelastname” guess at the url of this site.