Upgrading your Macbook Air storage space

Amazon links: Vinyl skins, Micro SD adapter, Micro SD card

Apple, what happened to you? I remember looking at a Power Mac G5 back in the day and thinking “yeah, they get it”. Apple products used to be durable, powerful, expandable, and perfect for creating stuff. There was a time when all the art professionals I knew wouldn’t touch anything but a Mac. You needed one for photo editing, for video editing. You absolutely needed a Mac for audio recording. So what happened to you, Apple? Non replaceable SSD’s, RAM, even batteries, and keyboards that stop functioning when a speck of dust inevitably finds it’s way under a key.

I’d call that planned obsolescence. One thing goes wrong and you’re forced to throw the whole thing out because the “upgraded” models won’t do what every other PC manufacturer (even Apple) has been doing since the release of home computers. I won’t get into what I think of Microsoft doing the same thing with the Surface Pro, although that at least makes more sense since it’s basically a tablet. When I felt it was time to replace my 2012 Macbook Pro, I found myself thinking about all of this. I thought about all the software I use that isn’t Windows compatible, and the new line of Apple products that doesn’t seem compatible with me. The only current option for buying a macbook without the new butterfly keyboard switches is the 2015-17 Macbook Air, which as of this writing sits at $999 on Apple’s website. But one further thing I had to think about: My $1K audio interface doesn’t support High Sierra or Mojave, and a macbook’s OS can’t be downgraded past what it shipped with. So buying used would be my only option.

This is currently the last Macbook model that allows SSD upgrading.

After receiving my “new” Macbook in the mail, my 2 objectives were set: Downgrade the OS as far as possible and expand the memory. And here’s where I’ll save you the 2 days it took me to figure this out. The seller I purchased this macbook from had apparently installed an NVMe SSD inside, and only High Sierra and above support this. You will not be able to install any OS below 10.13 on this type of drive. So if you need to do so, I recommend purchasing an “OWC Aura” SSD (not the Aura Pro X, as these drives ARE NVMe). After installing this drive, I had no problem booting into the restore menu by holding command+R at boot and installing Yosemite.

Now, I know a lot of people might not be so choosy when it comes to the OS X version they want to run, so I’ll share this much easier way of expanding your storage space: the SD card slot. But you probably wouldn’t want to carry your Macbook around with an SD card sticking out of the side. Thankfully, there are some pretty nice Micro SD card adapters out there that are made to sit flush with your model of Macbook, and Micro SD storage is getting much cheaper these days. For most people, this might just be the best way of upgrading.

Just insert a Micro SD card…
It sits flush with your Macbook air!

The last thing I did was order some vinyl skins off of Amazon to make my Macbook look a little different. There’s a lot of skins out there to choose from. Just take your time putting them on, making sure to push any air bubbles out with a credit card.

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Matt Smith is an art teacher currently living in Michigan.

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