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How do you replace or upgrade the storage in the "Late 2010" and "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models? Is it even possible?
The 11-Inch "Late 2010" and "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models originally were configured with either 64 GB or 128 GB of flash storage.
Likewise, the 13-Inch "Late 2010" and "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models originally were configured with either 128 GB or 256 GB of flash storage, again, decided at the time of purchase.
Officially, it is not possible for an end user to upgrade the storage in these models after purchase. Unofficially, however, it is quite possible for the technically inclined.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Left - 11" MacBook Air, Right - 13" MacBook Air)
If you're not sure if you have a "Late 2010" or "Mid-2011" MacBook Air, EveryMac.com has hand documented that the 11-Inch and 13-Inch "Late 2010" and "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models share the A1370 and A1369 Model Numbers, respectively (which is visible on the bottom in tiny text toward the hinge), and can be collectively identified externally this way. As they also share SSD storage, this is sufficient identification for this upgrade.
These models also can be pinpointed by Model Identifier in software. The "Late 2010" models use MacBookAir3,1 and MacBookAir3,2 for the 11-Inch and 13-Inch models, respectively, and the "Mid-2011" models use MacBookAir4,1 and MacBookAir4,2.
EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature additionally can identify these MacBook Air models by the last four characters of their Serial Numbers.
Upgrade Obstacles & SSD Details
Apple definitely does not intend for end users to upgrade the internal storage on these models themselves. In fact, the company has used obscure "Pentalobe" screws to make access more difficult.
Although access may be more challenging than it needs to be, as first spotted by AnandTech's Anand Lai Shimpi, the flash storage used in these MacBook Air models has an industry-standard mini SATA connector. When this Q&A was first published on November 9, 2010, EveryMac.com speculated that upgrades theoretically should be possible assuming that they had not been blocked in software. Thankfully, this speculation turned out to be correct and Apple has not blocked upgrades.
Since the "Late 2010" MacBook Air was released initially, several companies unveiled compatible storage. One of the first, as noted by Engadget Japan, was Toshiba, with compatible 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB "Blade X-Gale" flash storage modules. As first documented by MacRumors, the Toshiba Blade X-Gale line even had the same part numbers as the flash storage used in the "Late 2010" MacBook Air models. However, the 256 GB module, which is 3.7 mm thick (compared to 2.2 mm thick for the 64 GB and 128 GB modules), may not fit in the 11-Inch model.
More recently, site sponsor OWC has released the Mercury Aura Pro Express line of SSD upgrades for the "Late 2010" and "Mid-2011" MacBook Air lines. These upgrades are available in 180 GB, 240 GB, and 360 GB capacities and fit in all of these 11-Inch and 13-Inch models.
SSD Upgrade Instructions
Unlike earlier MacBook Air models that require one to remove the bottom plate of the notebook and the battery before accessing the storage, the "Late 2010" and "Mid-2011" models have the SSD module readily accessible after removing the bottom plate. Consequently, installation is simple and OWC provides the needed screwdrivers along with the SSD module.
OWC provides these helpful step-by-step upgrade videos, too:
"Late 2010" & "Mid-2011" 11-Inch MacBook Air
"Late 2010" & "Mid-2011" 13-Inch MacBook Air
By watching the video for your particular MacBook Air above, you should be able to determine if you feel comfortable performing this upgrade yourself or if you would instead prefer to hire a professional. For the performance difference between different SSD modules -- which can be substantial -- BareFeats also has some benchmarks that you may wish to review.
In addition to the Mercury Aura Pro Express + Envoy upgrade kit (which provides both a new SSD and an external enclosure to repurpose your older SSD as an external drive), OWC sells a variety of other upgrades for Mac notebooks. Mission Repair offers an affordable Mac notebook upgrade service by mail with a 24 hour turnaround.
Also see: How do you replace or upgrade the hard drive in the original, "Late 2008" and "Mid-2009" MacBook Air models? Can you swap the hard drive for an SSD?