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Steps to make my 5 year old Macbook Air (mid 2011 13" model) like new again

Posted on 2016-08-21
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2016-10-27
I bought the above in Sept 2011.  I have never formatted etc like I would with an old Windows based machine to keep it clear of DLL files etc.

The macbook has become quite slow (mainly because I have like 70 chome tabs open) plus have used up lots of space (10gb HD / SDD space available out of the 120gb).  Apart from some grubby finger prints and a battery that is wearing down (condition reports as: replace soon), the laptop cosmetically looks new.  So my questions are:

1. Replacing the battery - I used to build computers as a hobby so I guess replacing this battery should not to bee too much effort right?  What model do I need and where is it best to get it from (UK web sites pls) if I want to avoid paying Apply high sky charges.  Does replacing the battery myself create any issues with Apple even though it is not in warranty

2. If I want to format it or reset it to factory settings, what is the best way to do this?  If I use time machine with an external hard drive, do I then not need to worry about moving any files off the macbook or doing other forms of backup?

3. Is there not an equivalent of disk defragmentation for Mac - I have never done this or found a way to do it compared to my windows machine....I think I was told that the mac manages itself pretty well....but still, is there no way to force to defrag?

4. I'm running the latest version of El Captain - If I do reset it to factory reset, is the install software now built into the mac or do I need to connect a CD drive to it and get the software from somewhere?

5. My charging cable is in tatters for the last 2 years so much so that the metal braiding has shreaded under the first plastic covering, to now reveal the final inner white covering.  Is this dangerous?  I have tried wrapped it in insulation tape in some 10 places on the cable but maybe time to get a new one?  If so, avoid non genuine/originals or are there reasonable cost quality alternatives?

Finally, is a 5 year old mac that look good still, still regarded as worth keeping?  Or have they become very old technology now, esp since I cannot upgrade the 4gig ram.

Question by:u587162
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LVL 14

Accepted Solution

Justin Pierce, CEH earned 1400 total points
ID: 41764346
Hi u587162,

Your 5 year old MacBook Air (MBA) is worth keeping depending on what you want to do with it. Meaning if you plan setting it up as a server and at the same time edit video with Final Cut Pro X, then you might want to upgrade to a MacBook Pro (MBP). In short, your MBA is meant for basic consumer use (web surfing, email, some light gaming, and basic office tasks).

Now, here are the answers to your questions:

1) You can replace the battery and according to www.iFixit.com, the task is of moderate difficulty. Here is a link to a step-by-step guide when have a new battery in hand: Link. A reputable place that has quality stuff for cheap is Other World Computing (aka Macsales.com). Here is link for a replacement battery: Link . Lastly, after the Mac is out of warranty, Apple doesn't care what you do with it (so, no worries there).

2) Best way to format is to start up in "recovery mode" (Power off then Power on. Hold CMD+R as the Mac starts up. Let go ). Once you're in "recovery mode" select "Disk Utility", click your HDD and then "Erase". Once it's finished, close that window and then either restore from TIme Machine or reinstall the the OS. If you choose TIme Machine, you don't have to worry about moving files from your Ext HDD (if that is where your Time Machine backups live at) since the Time Machine backup is similar to an image, like Acronis or Ghost.

3) There really is no reason to perform a defrag on a Mac, since HFS+ keeps things in order. In addition, your MBA is using an SSD which uses TRIM to keeps things aligned, so leave defraging to NTFS and Windows users. ;)

4) After wiping the drive you can reinstall the OS using your AppleID. Everything you buy or download from Apple is tied to your AppleID (make sure El Capitan was downloaded with your AppleID, so that you can pull it down from Apple when you're in "recovery mode'). Also, Ext CD drives for your OS was stopped with Snow Leopard (10.6). Lion (10.7) added the App Store and made life easier when users needed to reinstall the OS.

5) Yes your power adapter is dangerous. There are alternatives on the web for the MBA power adapter, and Amazon has quite a few: LInk.

All in all, your MBA is an awesome little computer. Here are few other things you can do to upgrade it:

1) Upgrade your SSD with a faster one: Link.

2) Get more storage by using your SD slot: http://minidrive.bynifty.com/?variant=22891142407

3) Keep heavy files off of the MBA and use your Ext HDD as the repository.

4) Backup with Time Machine and manually pull important files on to the Ext HDD, so that you have two copies of your important stuff. This helps in case the Time Machine backup becomes corrupt (rare, but it happens).

Hope this helps.

Author Comment

ID: 41765137
Ok Ive got a replacement battery of the same type and installed it last night.  Problem now is that when plugged in, the laptop works ok but shows as no battery present and when I disconnect the cable it goes off.   The battery icon has an x over it.  Not sure what is happening there.
LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Dirk Mare
ID: 41765910
I agree 100% with Justin's post (well done)

It could be a bad battery or connector problem. Replace old battery and see if anything changes.

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LVL 14

Expert Comment

by:Justin Pierce, CEH
ID: 41765991
Hi u587162,

Please try an SMC reset before throwing in the towel on that battery. If the SMC reset doesn't help then Dirk is right (bad battery or connector problem).

Author Comment

ID: 41766074
Unfortunately disconnected it now and returning to amazon tomorrow.   I did read something similar yesterday but was Shift, ctrl, alt and the power button depressed for a few seconds, but that didnt help.  Will try a replacement batter tomorrow / Wed when amazon prime deliver.

I think it was the connector.  Was smoothly going in the whole way.  Replaced with old battery and working fine again.

LVL 30

Assisted Solution

serialband earned 600 total points
ID: 41766973
SSDs do not need to be defragmented, whether on OS X or Windows.  The data is all random access and the speed of access is the same for any block of data.

Only physical spinning disk platters need defragmenting to put data closer together for faster sequential reads.  Apple hasn't needed a way to defragment in several years.  There were older 3rd party disk defragmenters back in the day when they did using spinning platters, but you'll only shorten your SSD life by "defragmenting".

Author Comment

ID: 41772165
Is it really safe to user other power adapters like the one in the link you mention.  I thought with all this news of cheaper Chinese model creating fires etc, anything other than an apple one is dangerous?

Also by reinstalling the operating system and wiping it, if I do not choose to restore from time machine, I can easily just copy across the files again from the external drive right?
LVL 14

Expert Comment

by:Justin Pierce, CEH
ID: 41772283
Hi u587162,

You can use other power adapters safely, but of course an Apple one is the best bet. That said, I have an alternative power adapter called "iReplace". I wanted you to have options (Amazon), so you didn't feel that I was pushing you into buying the adapter I had.

All in all, my guess with a lot of these alternative adapters is that people are using them on carpets and spaces that don't allow the heat to escape or dissipate. That of course ends with the adapter reaching temperatures that exceed its capacity. That said, there are shoddy adapters that just catch fire no matter what you do. =(

In response to you performing a clean install (wiping the HDD, reinstalling a fresh copy of the OS), yes you can pull the files from an Ext HDD if you backed them up to it. Meaning that you manually pulled the files over from your Mac to the Ext HDD before you wiped it.

I always like to backup my Mac using Time Machine and then manually drag my important files over to the Ext HDD, so that if something happens to the Time Machine backup, I still have my important documents. ;)

Author Comment

ID: 41777265
can you use the same external drive that's used for time machine to manually drag the files over to?
LVL 14

Expert Comment

by:Justin Pierce, CEH
ID: 41777284
Hi u587612,

Yes you can certainly use it. However, it is smart to use another Ext HDD (to drag files to, or backup the backup) in case the 1st one crashes.

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