How to Upgrade the SSD on your Macbook Air (Mid-2012)

What happens when the Solid State Drive (SSD) on your Macbook Air fails?

A bad SSD is a rare event because most Macbook hardware problems are related to:

But sometimes the SSD does fail and not even Disk Utility can repair it.  In this case, you might find yourself trying to figure out how to replace the hard drive.  Don’t fear, I’m here to help you learn from my experience.

The Story

The SSD on my Macbook Air died a few days ago.  Every time I boot the Mac, it flashes the white screen Apple logo for a few seconds and then displays the OS X installer.  Initially, I thought I could install Mac OS X Lion on-top of itself; however, after selecting the destination disk and choosing Install it immediately failed with this worrisome message:

Install Failed.  OS X could not be installed on your computer. OS X Mountain Lion couldn't be installed, because the disk Macintosh HD is damaged and can't be repaired.  Click Restart to restart your computer and try installing again.

Macbook Air Disk Macintosh HD is damaged

If I blithely click Restart the cycle interminably repeats.

So I restarted, clicked Utilities in the menu bar and opened Disk Utilities.  Next, I selected my Macintosh HD in the left pane and clicked Verify Disk.

Almost instantly the verification process aborted and a dialog box rudely popped on the screen complaining about failed disk verification.

Disk Utility stopped verifying "Macintosh HD" This disk needs to be repaired.  Click Repair Disk.

The problem is that the Repair Disk button is grayed out and all I see is a vexing bold red error:

Error: This disk needs to be repaired.  Click Repair Disk.

The irony is so annoying that it’s almost amusing.  Hi Apple: you’re telling me to click Repair Disk but Repair Disk is disabled.  Can someone elaborate on how that works?

Macbook Air Disk Utilities Failed Verify Disk Failed

Anyway, at this point I feel like this isn’t going to be easy but fortunately I have a shiny new 256GB SSD that I purchased from Powerbookmedic.com.  Eager to fix the drive, I break out my precision tool set and commence with laptop surgery.

The Surgery

Before removing the SSD, you should remove the battery connector from the logic board by gently pulling the clear plastic tab.  Gently pull that back to remove the connector. Then use a T5 driver to remove the single screw securing the SSD to the socket.  Slide the SSD straight out to the right and you’re good.

Below is a picture of my moribund 128GB SSD.  The SSD socket is that dark gray void directly above the SSD in my hand.

Macbook Air 128GB SSD

To upgrade the SSD simply slide in the new drive, screw it down, reattach the battery connector and close up the bottom case; ifixit has a beautiful guide on how to do this and I encourage you to check it out.

The End

For most people the journey ends here.  You boot up the Mac, it prompts to install Mountain Lion and you’re free to grab a few drinks with your friends at the local pub. Unfortunately, I might not be like most people because Powerbookmedic sent my hapless computer the wrong SSD type even though I used its product finder tool featured on the homepage.

Powerbook Medic Product Finder

Much to my dismay, when I received the SSD today it didn’t fit in the socket.

It’s kind of hard to tell from the image below but the 256GB SSD Powerbookmedic sent me is too wide for the socket.  The gold connector itself fits in the socket but the bottom portion of the drive get’s in the way of the battery bay below it; therefore, it doesn’t sit flush against the logic board and won’t attach.

Macbook Air 256GB SSD

I was super pissed when I realized this and immediately called Powerbookmedic (1-866-726-3342) to vent my concerns.  Fortunately, the staff there (Sales and Technical) was both competent and cordial.  They immediately emailed me a pre-paid UPS return label and apologized for the inconvenience.  The staff seemed genuinely contrite and that earned big points in my book because most hardware vendors seem calloused to customer needs.

Powerbookmedic made a mistake they owned it and are working to make it right.

The Bottom Line

Upgrading your Macbook Air Mid-2012 model is actually pretty easy.  As long as you have the patience, tools and right SSD drive (ahem <cough> <cough> Powerbookmedic), the installation takes about 7 minutes from start to finish.  The biggest things to keep in mind are to never force anything that doesn’t move, make sure you disconnect the battery connector (see the ifixit tutorial), and store all your tiny screws in a safe place.  The screws are very small and therefore tend to get away from you.  I corralled mine in an upside down Poland Spring bottle cap and that worked for me.

Have you had any problems upgrading the SSD on your Macbooks?  What worked?  Have you ever used Powerbookmedic for anything? Know of any high quality alternatives to Powerbookmedic?  Let me know in the comments.

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Posted in Hardware, How To, Laptops, Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Tagged with: ,