120GB not on MacBook Air not enough; consider upgrade up to 480GB

Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD

I have been very happy with my MacBook Air (2010) which I bought because the iPad isn’t enough when it comes to editing videos and preparing lectures. Despite my best efforts to keep it clutter free, 120GB got full pretty quickly. With no more room and performance beginning to get hampered, it was time for an upgrade of the internal solid state drive (SSD.)

I purchased the MBAir at the end of September 2010 and was down to just 16GB of free space before this upgrade yesterday. This despite using just selective sync for all my DropBox documents (that I share with all my computer) and using an external SSD dirve for my surgical videos and Aperture iibraries. MacSales now has upgrade options for the internal SSD in the MacBook Air that are up to 4x bigger (480GB) and use up to faster chips (275 MB/s vs 215 MB/s.) It seemed to be defeating the amazing portability of the MBAir by carrying around at least one external drive for certain tasks I was doing on a regular basis.

Iomega eGo 1Tb rugged HDD

Unlike a standard computer upgrade with hard disk drives, the cloning process for this upgrade requires two steps. I used the Iomege eGo 1Tb external drive for the cloning. It was worth buying a big drive because it can always be used for backing up surgery videos afterwards. SuperDuper! was the cloning utility that I used. Here is the full sequence of steps:

  1. Use DiskUtility on the Mac to format the external drive as MacOS Journaled
  2. Disable your internet connection by turning off WiFi and close all apps (so nothing tries to get updated while cloning the drive)
  3. Run SuperDuper! to clone the current SSD onto the external drive. SuperDuper is a great utility that I have used for other upgrades. In addition to being great for one-time complete cloning, it can also be used as an alternative to Apple’s Time Machine app in which you run a full cloning and then from time to time do incremental backups so that you always have a complete clone of your system.
  4. Replace the SSD in the MBAir as described below and shown in the MacSales youtube video
  5. Restart the MBAir booting from that external drive by holding down the alt/option key when booting (not the command key.) This will display an icon for the external drive since the newly installed SSD drive will be unformatted.

SuperDuper!

The physical upgrade takes about 5-10 minutes to do. There are 10 screws to remove on the underside of the MacBook Air with the screwdriver provided with the SSD upgrade. A second scredriver is then needed to remove the one screw that holds the SSD in place, slide it out gently on a static free surface, slide in the new drive, then close up the MacBook Air.

If you have Microsoft Office installed NB: As usual for Microsoft Office products, activation was based on your hard drive ID. Having changed  your hard drive, you will need to re-enter your activation code when you launnch any of the Office apps otherwise they won’t work at all.

With one day of using the upgraded MacBook Air things are going very smoothly. Despite the very high cost for the SSDs at this time, the convenience is worth it and I know that I will be able to work on my aperture slides and surgical video editing more conveniently and smoothly. Videos that were beginning to freeze now play smoothly. (I presume that virtual memory performance was being impaired before by the lack of available SSD space.)