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Old Feb 25, 2009, 04:01 AM   #1
hybster
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MBA rev. B, drive swap mod for 1.8" micro-sata

I have been able to acquire the pinout for the sata-LIF interface used in the macbook air second edition. If anyone else want to use the information to modify the mba to accept the industry standard 1.8" sata disks, please report your success here.

My plan is to split the ribbon into individual strands and solder leads from these directly to a new drive, but I will not be able to for at least a month.

There are 24 pins on the 1.8 sata-LIF connector.
Pin 2,3 : 3.3V
Pin 8: DAS (Device Active Signal)
Pin 11,12: A+ /A- Differential Signal Pair A
Pin 14,15: B- /B+ Differential Signal Pair B
Pin 1,4,7,9,10,13,16,17,24 : GND

So, a pretty simple job really, given you have the tools.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_...and_connectors

Good luck!
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 07:03 AM   #2
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I don't think I'm up for that just yet. My 128 SSD is running beautifully.

But if you are going to do it, I suggest you buy a LIF connector and cable and make the changes on the spare cable that can easily be removed for warranty purposes. Keeping the Apple parts intact will also help with troubleshooting should it be needed.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 11:29 AM   #3
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THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.

If this works, I may be able to NOT have to upgrade my MBA to the next revision just to get a 256 GB SSD. I love my MBA, but I really need more drive space. This is just the information that may make it possible.

When you get around to doing this, will you take photos and post them here with instructions? Do you plan to do this with an SSD drive or an HDD? I assume the HDD uses the same connector correct?

Still have to find an SSD that is the right size to fit in the new MBA. And, need to find a 256 GB SSD for a decent price.

Please keep us posted.

Cheers.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 11:42 AM   #4
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IF it works, are we sure it's going to work, and btw what are the standard sata pin options for ssds and hdd at the moment, is there actually as larged hdd than the one currently hosted by the air?
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 02:17 PM   #5
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I took my baby apart

The original 120gb hard drive measures 71 mm and the magnesium drive cage is a hand-in-glove fit, so the cage needs to go as all the 1.8" ssd drives with a micro-sata connector I have seen are about 78 mm long. We can speculate that the cage is mostly for securing a spinning hard drive to the overall chassis, so for a ssd it is of no big concern. Foam padding can be transferred to a new drive to ensure a good fit - maybe additional mounting is required.

With the drive cage removed, the available room is about 82 mm so any 1.8" ssd can be fitted as long as it is about 5 mm thin.

As for the connector, this is the tricky part of the project. The 24 pin interface is only 12 mm in width, so that makes for about 0.5 mm per lead The good news is that we only need to solder about 10 contacts, I doubt all the leads for ground are needed (as long as we use at least 3-4 IMO).

I will probably ebay a drive within a week and let you all know then. The drive mounting will be in reverse of the current, as to minimize strain on leads and connector.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 02:51 PM   #6
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Just thought of something. I saw some drive enclosures on eBay a month ago that specifically said for a PATA ZIF MacBook Air drive. Now, I know that one will not work with the revised MBA, but maybe the same sellers will have it for the new MBA too. If so, it may just have the cable in it that would work???

Otherwise, how do we get an LIF SATA connector cable? Because, I don't want to risk my own by damaging it while trying to convert the cable to a SATA connector.

So, in a perfect world, as NC MacGuy says, we should use a different cable and always be able to put our drives back for any Apple warranty issues.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 02:54 PM   #7
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You could make a mint if you provided the Rev A guys with a drive upgrade path.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 04:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottsdale View Post
Just thought of something. I saw some drive enclosures on eBay a month ago that specifically said for a PATA ZIF MacBook Air drive. Now, I know that one will not work with the revised MBA, but maybe the same sellers will have it for the new MBA too. If so, it may just have the cable in it that would work???

Otherwise, how do we get an LIF SATA connector cable? Because, I don't want to risk my own by damaging it while trying to convert the cable to a SATA connector.

So, in a perfect world, as NC MacGuy says, we should use a different cable and always be able to put our drives back for any Apple warranty issues.
Ifixit and others could provide extra cables, if the project is kept on a small scale. Remember, at this point we do not want the sata lif connector, we need the mba mainboard connector. To my knowledge, the sata lif is a special connector developed by Apple/Samsung, so it is very unlikely to see it on other products soon - even if it has been adopted into the sata specification.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darngooddesign View Post
You could make a mint if you provided the Rev A guys with a drive upgrade path.
The zif pata connector is probably easy to get a pinout for, but it has a lot more leads to solder and the data lines need shielding. I think the originial mba has more or less the same internal space for drives, so you would just need to solder the leads.

If you meant using a pata -> sata bridge as well, I think the space could get quite crammed. Given the padding on the drive I would estimate that the internal clearing is around 6-7 mm in height. Samsung produce a 128gb 1.8" ssd with a 3.5 mm height:
http://www.samsung.com/global/busine...ct/lineup.html

This would leave you with about 3 mm to sandwich a pata-sata bridge - this could be done, but it is of course quite a project.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 04:21 PM   #9
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Addendum:
I think somebody found the pinout for sata on the original mba, this is just 4 leads from the mainboard + power. This is a way more viable option.
http://www.tuaw.com/2008/03/21/macbook-air-usb-hacks/
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Old Mar 1, 2009, 12:51 PM   #10
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Update: I bought a samsung 1.8" MLC 128gb ssd off eBay, waiting for it to arrive - will keep you posted, with pics and results.

Have a good weekend!
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Old Mar 1, 2009, 02:31 PM   #11
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Looking forward to seeing some results.
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Old Mar 1, 2009, 05:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hybster View Post
Update: I bought a samsung 1.8" MLC 128gb ssd off eBay, waiting for it to arrive - will keep you posted, with pics and results.

Have a good weekend!
Is this the drive?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Samsung-SSD-128G...3%3A1|294%3A50

I saw that drive before and inquired with the seller if the drive would work with macbook air cause is looks to be the closest match
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Old Mar 2, 2009, 02:47 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by imax2k2 View Post
Is this the drive?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Samsung-SSD-128G...3%3A1|294%3A50

I saw that drive before and inquired with the seller if the drive would work with macbook air cause is looks to be the closest match
Yeap, that is the one. I found it for about 300usd in Portugal though.
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Old Mar 2, 2009, 03:36 AM   #14
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Yeap, that is the one. I found it for about 300usd in Portugal though.
I will be watching this. Please update us as soon as you start the process.

Best wishes with making this happen, and thanks for doing the legwork and keeping us posted here.

Cheers.
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Old Mar 2, 2009, 01:36 PM   #15
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Yeap, that is the one. I found it for about 300usd in Portugal though.
Thats a good price for it, I was almost about to buy it last month, but had to hold off. I'm gonna be getting the drive soon though, I was hoping it was just as easy to do a drive swap, I was also wondering (probably not possible), but cant we just swap the connector with the one used in with ssd's, if they are sold separately at all?
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Old Mar 3, 2009, 03:30 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by imax2k2 View Post
Thats a good price for it, I was almost about to buy it last month, but had to hold off. I'm gonna be getting the drive soon though, I was hoping it was just as easy to do a drive swap, I was also wondering (probably not possible), but cant we just swap the connector with the one used in with ssd's, if they are sold separately at all?
I don't think the connectors are available in sale, and if they are it would still require more difficult soldering. I am getting 0.2mm^2 wiring to solder directly on to the LIF connector. That way, you can desolder the setup and return to the original disk if needed. Magnifying glass will come in handy though
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Old Mar 3, 2009, 03:32 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hybster View Post
I don't think the connectors are available in sale, and if they are it would still require more difficult soldering. I am getting 0.2mm^2 wiring to solder directly on to the LIF connector. That way, you can desolder the setup and return to the original disk if needed. Magnifying glass will come in handy though
I wish you the best. Please keep us updated as soon as you get the drive and start the process.

Cheers!
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 04:50 AM   #18
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The disk has arrived, I will begin the mod now. Length of the ssd is 79mm. Expect news (good or bad) within a couple of hours
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 06:48 AM   #19
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This is exciting! you need to broadcast live!
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 10:26 AM   #20
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Success! Installing os x at the moment, will post pictures etc. when it is running. Scetchy solderjob to be honest, but it works!!
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 10:27 AM   #21
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Holy crap..I gotta see this
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 10:39 AM   #22
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Nice! Post photos and all that, please.

Anyone up for prepping a solder-less kit for those of us who are solder-challenged?

Thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 10:55 AM   #23
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I'm pretty good at soldering, but I'm not sure I can solder that small. I have modded many XBOX's, but the soldering wasn't as precise for the most part. If Hybster doesn't have any problems with his system, I may try this myself, though. I would definately do it if the drive prices were a little cheaper. With how much raving is going on about SSD in these revB models, I may be inclined to do it.

Does anyone know if there are any larger HDDs than 120GB that would fit the size specifications of the Air? If there are any that are micro SATA, then you could increase your drive size with this modification as well (because there aren't any drives that use the same LIF connector as the Air out there for sale, right?).
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 11:08 AM   #24
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Success! Installing os x at the moment, will post pictures etc. when it is running. Scetchy solderjob to be honest, but it works!!
You are too cool for school. Congrats on a great mod. More pics please. I loves me some MBA pr0n.
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Old Mar 6, 2009, 11:46 AM   #25
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So far so good. To summarize my findings:
- The soldering on the ribbon cable is quite tricky, be careful not to stress the solder joints when mounting the other ends to the replacement disk.
- I had to kill off three ground leads because I needed additional space for the data lines.
- I wrapped the disk in electrical tape, and it actually fits very well only using this for mounting combined with the ribbons going over it.
- It has been worth it, but you need to really want to do this.

xbench etc. coming later.
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