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Is the battery in the MacBook Air models really not replaceable? Is there a "hack" to replace it?
The battery in all MacBook Air models is "integrated," which means it is not designed to be replaced by end-users, and it certainly is not easily "swappable" like the battery in "pre-Unibody" MacBook and MacBook Pro models. It is replaceable, though. Thankfully, no soldering is required and Apple did not secure the battery in place with adhesive, either.
Official Replacement Option
Officially, when the battery life of the MacBook Air drops enough to justify replacement -- and it is no longer under warranty -- one is required to provide Apple with the entire MacBook Air for service.
Additional information is available from the company website -- and the price varies in different countries -- but it costs US$129 in the US, C$209 in Canada, £159 in the UK, and A$229 in Australia to have Apple replace the battery (including the battery itself).
If you live close to an Apple Store, you can opt for same-day service with an appointment. If you do not, you may alternately have the battery replaced by mail, which takes 3-4 days.
Although it might be a bit of a stretch to refer to battery replacement as a "hack" per se, it is entirely possible for you to replace the battery yourself.
Photo Credit: iFixit (Unplugging the big black battery)
For the original, "Late 2008," and "Mid-2009" MacBook Air models you have to remove the bottom case (ten screws), unscrew the battery (nine screws), and finally, just unplug the battery and remove it.
iFixit also tore apart the MacBook Air "Core 2 Duo" 1.4 11-Inch (Late 2010) and discovered that the procedure is much the same for this MacBook Air. It is the same for the subsequently introduced lines, too. However, starting with the "Late 2010" series, Apple uses 5-point "Pentalobular" (which some refer to as "Security Torx") screws on the exterior to more seriously discourage end-users from "tinkering" with their computer. The battery assembly likewise is attached with five T5 Torx screws.
Reinstallation for all MacBook Air models is as simple as plugging in a new battery and reattaching the screws. Nevertheless, when you remove the screws, pay careful attention to the length of each screw, as some screws are longer than others.
Battery Replacement Summary
Ultimately, those with some technical skills need not worry about replacing the battery in the MacBook Air models themselves should they choose to do so.
However, although some third-party MacBook Air batteries now are floating around on the resale market, EveryMac.com has yet to locate one of high enough quality to definitively recommend. If you have installed a third-party battery in your MacBook Air -- whether or not the outcome was positive (particularly months later) -- please do share the results of your experiment.