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Is the battery in the MacBook Air models really not replaceable? Is there a "hack" to replace it?
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, but in general it costs US$129 in the US (including the new battery) for same-day service at an Apple retail store (with an appointment) or 3-4 days by mail.
Although it might be a bit of a stretch to refer to battery replacement as a "hack" -- AnandTech and iFixit tore apart the original MacBook Air and found that it is not difficult to replace the battery, albeit it does require the removal of a whopping nineteen screws.
Photo Credit: iFixit (Unplugging the big black battery)
iFixit's "First Look" provides all the details, but basically, 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. Reinstallation is as simple as plugging in a new battery and reattaching the screws. Thankfully, no soldering is required.
The same site tore apart the MacBook Air "Core 2 Duo" 1.4 11-Inch (Late 2010) and discovered that the procedure is much the same for the "Late 2010," "Mid-2011," and "Mid-2012" lines. However, on these models, Apple has gone a step further and 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 own computer. The battery assembly likewise is attached with five T5 Torx screws.
Ultimately, those with some technical skills need not worry about replacing the battery in the MacBook Air models themselves, although replacement batteries may be few and far between and it may not be worth the trouble. Additionally, although battery runtimes have increased to the point that many may no longer need to swap batteries, those who value this ability highly most likely would prefer to purchase a notebook from a company other than Apple.