Here's how I'm keeping my 13" mid 2011 MBA for another few years

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by erpetao, Dec 13, 2016.

  1. erpetao, Dec 13, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2016

    erpetao macrumors regular

    Jun 19, 2011
    Wow, it's been already 5 years, I can't believe it.

    I got my 13" mid 2011 MBA I believe on Black Friday 5 years ago, it was discounted so it cost me £989.10, it was the lowest end (1.7 Ghz i5, 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM).

    I was happy with it's performance until around a year and a half ago, after updating to Yosemite I started getting this message to "service battery" when clicking on the battery icon. Then I noticed that the battery life wasn't as good as it was before. It got worse over the last couple of years, I looked at changing my battery at the Apple Store (£129) a few weeks ago but they said my laptop was now considered "obsolete" so it may take a while in the shop. Suffice to say that I didn't upgrade OS X beyond Yosemite.

    Just to give you my background, I'm a windows developer, so you could say I'm a pro user, and I use my MBA for work. Thanks to Azure VMs and RDP, I don't need to use VMs running locally which saves me battery and also make me OK with the 128GB hard disk. Thanks to things like adblock plus my web browsers are quick and load pages without issues, making browsing a nice experience. At home I plug my MBA to a 27" external monitor and use it with an external bluetooth keyboard and mouse and it's like having an iMac (except for performance for handling photo/video processing which I don't do much nowadays).

    I was expecting the new MBPs and upgraded MBAs in the latest apple event, looking forward to pull the trigger and update my MBA, mainly due to battery issues. To my surprise and disappointment, there were no new MBAs, and looks like they are dropping the line. Tried the new emoji machines at the shop, I hated the 12" Macbook keyboard and this is just slightly better, but still not good enough for me.

    So here is what I did, I ordered a new battery from Amazon. I changed it a few days ago. Before, I could barely go 2h and the computer will switch off at 35% of battery. Now, I get around 5h to 6h of battery life. It feels again like a new computer.

    And in case I need more hard disk space, I know that the hard disk it's replaceable, I can get 250GB online for around £140 which it's not too bad.

    To make the story short:

    - Don't upgrade OS X
    - Use adblock plus
    - Get a nice big external monitor
    - Use RDP and the cloud for VMs
    - Replace your battery
    - Replace your SSD

    So hopefully I should be able to keep this beautiful machine for a few years more, as I don't really feel I need to upgrade as I'm happy with the performance.

    Hope this is useful for you guys.
  2. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    It's great that you have found a practical way to extend the useful life of your MBA. I sold my 2011 MBA to a close friend in 2013 and she still loves it. But I'm glad I sold it, and still very happy with my 2013 MBA. The slow USB 2.0 ports on the 2011 would be a deal killer for me today, I move around a lot of large files and get almost 400MB/sec with an external SSD or 180 MB/sec with a hard drive. You are limited to about 35MB/sec on the 2011 MBA (you could use thunderbolt for fast disks, but they are more expensive and there are fewer to choose from).

    Same thing for 802.11ac wifi that is maybe 5 times faster than the wifi on the 2011 MBA, this is great for copying big files on my LAN. Then there are the limitations that the max memory available in 2011 was 4gb and 256gb was the biggest SSD. But arguably the biggest shortcoming is battery life. The newer models approach twice the battery run time because of more efficient chips.

    These things all matter to me because of the way I use my computer, but I'm sure they wouldn't be much of an issue for others.
  3. erpetao thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 19, 2011
    You are spot on, those two points are probably the weakest in the MBA 2011 and a reason to upgrade if you need them. I don't use any external drives as with USB 2.0 they are unusable, this alone is a reason to upgrade.

    Luckily at home I have a Mac Mini with an external HD that I can use from my MBA through the network when I need large storage. I don't transfer large files to my MBA through the network so the wifi is OK for my needs (I just connect to the Mini via remote session and move the files there), and more than enough to stream Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Plex.
  4. asoksevil macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2010
    Taipei, Taiwan
    This is what I would suggest you:

    - Get either Mavericks or El Capitan. Yosemite is full go bugs and El Cap is just the "optimized" version of it.
    - Use uBlock origin, now available on both Safari (alpha) and Chrome
    - For SSD, get the Transcend JetDrive, best bang for your buck.
    - If you want AC Wifi and continuity (hands off) you can actually get it ordering a new card (I got it recently):

    This is from an owner of a 2010 MBA :D
  5. erpetao thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 19, 2011
    Interesting, I never heard of Ublock origin. Is it a noticeable difference vs adblock plus?
  6. zaaach48 macrumors regular


    Nov 2, 2016
    weird, a 2011 MBA should not be considered "vintage" or "obsolete" yet...the 2009-2010 models just hit this status. usually it comes 6-7 years after last unit sold.

    good points otherwise, except I disagree with the "don't upgrade" bit. Better to just wait a bit before upgrading until all the bugs are worked out
  7. Quackington macrumors member

    Aug 12, 2010
    England, UK
    I bought my 2011 MBA (11") in August 2011 - 4GB ram, 256GB SSD. It's still running okay. I've never upgraded OS, still on Lion which is fine for what I need. Hoping now that it'll treat me well for another year or two at the least.

    I still have my 2006 iMac running on Snow Leopard. This one's chugging a bit, mind you.

    I too, was hoping for an upgrade with the recent MBPs, but felt underwhelmed by them and I really don't like the new keyboard. Practically no key travel.
  8. cbdilger macrumors newbie

    Oct 15, 2013
    West Lafayette, IN
    Well done. Buy a quality product, take care of it, upgrade sensibly as needed, extract all life possible.
  9. Beachguy macrumors 6502a


    Nov 23, 2011
    Your and my MBAs are identical twins. Mine was a refurb from Apple. Honestly, I still love it. I know the newer versions are nicer and better, but it does what I need it to do nicely and, like my 2012 MBP, I just really have no incentive to buy new and replace it. It's a light duty machine for me anyway (the MBA) but I absolutely love it.
  10. asoksevil macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2010
    Taipei, Taiwan
  11. b0fh666 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2012
    myself, i would try to trade up to a 2012. they are cheap these days and USB3 is a must for me because of huge backups (virtual machines).


    scratch that i read MBP instead of MBA... duh
  12. NapoleonIV macrumors member

    Oct 14, 2011
    I would recommend upgrading to El Capitan. I had the lowest end late 2010 11” model, and El Capitan really sped it up and fixed a number of problems, compared to Yosemite.
  13. pika2000 macrumors 601

    Jun 22, 2007
    Highly recommend El Capitan compared to the bug-fested Yosemite.
    I have the 2012 (skipped 2011 for USB3), but wished I waited for 2013 Haswell version (for better battery life).
    Oh well, other than the battery, it's still a great machine. Have done many things on it (from Office to Final Cut). Here's hoping for the battery to dip below 80% capacity so I can get it replaced.
  14. iLondoner macrumors 6502


    Another UK-based mid 2011 MBA user here who was prepared to hand over dosh to Apple for a new MBA. New machines didn't happen so nowhere (reasonable) to go. All in all I am totally unimpressed with Apple. I used to recommend Windows users move over to Mac OS, I can't seriously do this any more.

    My battery has gone through 1159 cycles and only holds half the charge. My keyboard is wearing with the 'a' and 'e' keytops worn off. I replaced the 256GB SSD with a 480GB third party device. I tried replacing the battery with one from Amazon but it wasn't a genuine Apple battery and I started having problems so I put the old one back in.
  15. erpetao thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 19, 2011
    Interesting, what model of third party battery did you purchase and when did the problems start? I've been using the new one for a few weeks and so far no problems, but I did see some reviews of people having trouble after half a year or so...
  16. iLondoner macrumors 6502


    This is the Transcend JetDrive 480GB SSD which has performed faultlessly, and included a aluminium case so the previously installed 256GB SSD can be used as an external drive (for movies in my case):

    It seems the battery must have been eBay rather than Amazon. There's no "Designed by Apple". Appears to be a generic battery. Problems started after a few months. Can't remember exactly the details, but I reinstalled the old battery and the problems stopped.
  17. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    I would only trust what recommends as far as third party batt. Surfing is fine mind you but this year, if I get that bike trainer I want and run that virtual reality training app, is gonna max out my 2011 and would probably forces me to upgrade :(
  18. imasterus macrumors regular


    Oct 9, 2013
    I also have MacBook Air '13 (2011), 4 GB, 256, i7. I haven't replaced the battery since it still holds 4-4.5 hours when I work (MS Office, iTunes, Safari). I use El Capitan and Mountain Lion. Will update to final version of Sierra later this year :)
  19. asoksevil macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2010
    Taipei, Taiwan
    I have just updated my 2010 MBA to El Capitan (as a lot of the apps I wanted to use required El Cap minimum)

    Performance wise is fairly similar!
  20. erpetao thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 19, 2011
    Are you talking about Zwift? Funny thing, I run it in my 2010 MBA with no problems...

Share This Page