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How To Upgrade Your Macbook Air with an SSD

The definitive guide

Does a Macbook Air SSD upgrade sounds scary or hard? It's not really, we know you don't believe us, so we created this guide! It has everything you need to know, to make upgrading to an SSD easy. Read it now, save it for later or just work out how much it will cost compared to a new Macbook Air.

Keep scrolling, everything you need is contained here, provided free, no catches. If you think that is worth a like or a share, that would be awesome...buying one of our SSDs would be even better :-)

Macbbok pro -intro


If your Macbook Air has slowed down or you have run out of storage, we have the solution. You need a bigger SSD.

Why would a Macbook Air slow down?

To understand what is going on we have to explain how the Mac optimises itself. The Macbook Air has limited RAM. It can not be upgraded, it is fixed onboard. One of the reasons they run so fast with limited RAM is the paging to the SSD.

When the Macbook Air runs low in RAM is steals a bit of SSD space to emulate RAM. Even if it has plenty of ram it still create this cache in the SSD to optimise its activities and make it run faster. The general term used for this activity is paging. The Macbook Air pages to the SSD.

From our testing in the Upgradeable Labs (trying to crash the boss's Mac Air), it seems the sweet spot is 10 to 20% free space. The paging does not require this amount of space but it seems to be if the Macbook Air runs low in storage space, it reduces the amount of paging or the size of the cache.

Remove the cache the Mac will slow down, hang, or intermittently crash. Or as Davo from Bathurst explained to us; its running like a dog.

The solution is either free up space on your current SSD or get a bigger SSD. Maybe you just need to do some tidying up and delete some files on your SSD. Did I just save you the price of an upgrade or buying an expensive new Macbook Air? If so give us a Facebook like or give us some love and share this page on your social media accounts.

Sometimes deleting files is just a temporary solution. If you are sick of the maintenance of a small SSD or you are a power user that needs more space, this guide is for you my friend.

It is a mighty guide, and an example of how we try to over deliver our customer service. When you buy from Upgradeable, local tech support is just a phone call away. We have helped thousands of people with Apple computers upgrade their Macs. All that experience is distilled in this guide and many more on our website. We have tried to show exactly what you need to do in simple steps. We call this our "Four R method", because each step starts with the letter R. REPLACE, RESTART, READY and RESTORE. Choose the method that suits you best, and we'll show you how to do it, tell you the hardware you need and back you up with awesome customer technical support.


Four R method: Time Machine

Macbbok pro -intro

The easiest way to upgrade to a new SSD is to use Time Machine. All you need are tools and the SSD! You can either restore a whole back up, which includes macOS or you can migrate using the Time Machine after installing a new macOS.

Our Four R method is a proven easy way to upgrade to an SSD.



Remove old hard drive, and install SSD. We provide detailed printed instructions when you order an SSD, if you type your Macbook Air model into the customer notes at checkout.



Plug Time Machine into the USB port. If you have a wifi time capsule make sure it is turned on. Restart your Mac holding down the Option key. This tells the Mac to find all disks attached that it can boot from. It will recognise the Time Machine and display the icon on screen.



As the drive is shipped to you unformatted, you need to initialise the SSD to get it ready for the transfer of data. There is an option after you click into Time Machine called Disk Utility. You need to choose format type (use Mac OS Extended journaled) and a name, you can use Macintosh SSD or get creative and give it a person's name like Oscar. Click apply and this will format the SSD.



After formating the drive your Time Machine back ups should be onscreen. Choose the latest, and the Mac will ask if you want to restore back up? Yes. Done. Time Machine will now start restoring onto the new SSD. It will take a while, approximately 100gb per hour.

Software and tools you need

The great thing about a Time Machine restore is you only need the SSD and tools to open the Macbook Air.

• The tools you require are included in our SSD upgrade kits.
Choose an SSD drive here
• Don't have a Time Machine backup? Read the Apple guide on Time Machine backups

Four R method: Cloning

From 2010 the Macbook Air used a M.2 (card) shaped SSD that was non standard.

These cloning instructions are for the 2010 Macbook Pro to the current 2017 Macbook Air.

It is important to note the Envoy external case that is shipped with the new SSD is for the Apple SSD only.

This means the new SSD is installed first, the Apple SSD put in the Envoy and the finally doing the clone.

Macbook pro -cloning



Download and Install on your current drive SuperDuper! software (free software link is below in the green box).



Power off your Mac and replace the original Apple SSD with the new Aura SSD. We ship detailed printed instructions with your SSD. All the tools you need are included. Install the Apple SSD into the OWC Envoy external case.



Plug external Envoy into Macbook Pro and restart your Mac holding down the Option key. Your original drive should appear on screen, click on it to boot off that drive. The Mac might ask to turn the new SSD into a Time Machine, say no. Go to Disk Utilities and initialise the SSD



Clone your original SSD using SuperDuper!. When it has finished, unplug the external Envoy and boot your Macbook Pro from the new SSD.

Software and tools you need

Our SSD drives for the 2012 (Retina) Macbook Pro to 2015 models include everything you need to clone.
Kit includes SSD, printed instructions and tools. All you need to do is download SuperSuper!

SuperDuper! software by Shirt Pocket (free download).
Choose an SSD drive here

Four R method: Fresh macOS

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Sometimes a Mac needs a fresh start. Either you feel your Mac is compromised with malware, or multiple OS upgrades have taken it's toll. Whatever the reason, Apple makes it easy to reinstall macOS.

MacOS can be installed via Internet Recovery or via a macOS USB.



This method takes a little bit of planning. OSX or macOS (as it is now called) can be installed on an empty SSD via Internet Recovery (late 2010 onward) or installing from media such as a USB (pre 2010). If you are installing from USB, you need to make that macOS USB before you start.



Shut down your Mac.



Replace the current drive with the new SSD. The old drive can be used in the Envoy for super fast external storage.



Which ever method you choose, the new SSD first has to be initialised (erased) first via Disk Utilities. If you are installing macOS from USB, then insert macOS USB, hold down option key and restart Mac. If you are using Internet Recovery, restart the Mac holding down the three keys Option + Command + R. This will put the latest macOS on your Mac. Caution: If you use standard Recovery (Command + R) the macOS installed will be the version your Mac shipped with not the latest version!

Software and tools you need

There are many options when starting fresh. You can install the current version of macOS or a later version that is more compatible with your apps and programs. You can put the latest macOS on your new SSD then use the Apple Migration tool to copy over data and programs. You do not have to connect to another Mac, you can connect to a Time Machine or external startup disk to transfer files!

• Familar with how to Internet Recovery macOS or have an macOS USB drive.

Choose an SSD drive here all tools and instructions include in the SSD kit.

The Upgradeable Team is here to help. If you want advice or check with an expert, please call, chat or email.

Choose a new SSD for your Macbook Air

These SSD drives are designed for Macbook Air from 2010 to current. If you have a model earlier than 2010 please contact us for a quote.

Macsales P/N OWCSSDAB2MB10K - Read 763MB/s and Write 446MB/s - Our p/n UA1839
Apple compatible
Technical specifications
Macsales P/N OWCSSDAB2MB05K - Read 763MB/s and Write 446MB/s - our p/n UA1839
8x the capacity of your Apple factory SSD
Technical specifications
Macsales P/N OWCSSDA2A6K960 - Read 501MB/s and Write 503MB/s - our p/n UA1875
16x the capacity of your Apple factory SSD
Technical specifications
Macsales P/N OWCSSDA2A6K480 - Read 501MB/s and Write 503MB/s - our p/n UA1874
8x the capacity of your Apple factory SSD
Technical specifications
Macsales P/N OWCSSDA116K960 - Read 560MB/s and Write 460MB/s - our p/n UA1795
16x the capacity of your Apple factory SSD
Technical specifications
Macsales P/N OWCSSDA116K480 - Read 560MB/s and Write 460MB/s - our p/n UA1696
16x the capacity of your Apple factory SSD
Technical specifications

How to install macOS

There are various ways to install macOS on your Mac, Apple has made it very easy. This quick guide is designed to answer questions you have and provide a bit of clarity on the different processes. This is based on our experience and is always being revised. If you can add to these guides, please contact us accordingly.

Standard Recovery versus Internet Recovery
Standard recovery is commonly referred to as Recovery Mode. It can be used by restarting the Mac and holding down the keys Command + R. It uses the recovery partition on the drive to restore the last version of macOS installed on the drive. Using this method to install macOS on a new SSD is not the best option, as there is no recovery partition, the mac will use the internet to install the macOS version that originally shipped with the Mac. In our experience using Recovery Mode is the same as Shift-Option-Command-R which reinstalls the macOS that came with your Mac, or the version closest to it that is still available.
Internet Recovery is when your Mac uses the internet to restore macOS to the drive. When a spinning earth globe appears on screen, this indicates you are in Internet Recovery mode. If there is an apple symbol, then the Mac is using the recovery partition.

If you want to put install the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac then restart the Mac and hold down this key combination: Option-Command-R

Restrictions on Internet Recovery
Starting from and including the MacBook Air (11-inch and 13-inch, Late 2010) you can use Internet Recovery. If your Macbook Air is earlier than 2010 then you have to restore macOS from media such as external drive, or USB

Options other than Internet Recovery
You can install MacOS via a USB or via original Apple disks. Apple no longer makes MacOS disks, DVD, CD or physical media. All MacOS software is delivered digitally online. We recommend making a macOS USB.
If you are using Leopard, you need to first buy Snow Leopard OSX 10.6 media from Apple to upgrade the MacOS digitally.

How to create a macOS USB

There are a lot of options to create bootable USB to install macOS. We have recommended Diskmaker X in the past but the method we outline here is the recommended method from Apple.
This is our summary of how to make a Sierra macOS USB drive. With this drive you can install macOS on a blank SSD or boot from this USB and use the tools and utilities to check or format a Mac drive.


Download Sierra

Go to the App Store, search for macOS Sierra and download. After it has downloaded it should appear in your Applications as "Installer MacOS Sierra. If you have already downloaded and upgraded to Sierra you will need to download Sierra again.



You need at least an 8GB USB drive. It does not have to be a super fast USB 3.0 version, and older one can be repurposed. It does not have to be a USB. You can use an external hard drive (note: any data on the drive will be lost as it gets formatted). Go into Disk Utilities and rename the USB to "upgradeable". You can erase and rename. The MacOS creation method will reformat the drive, so it does not need to be any specific format type like Fat32 or Mac Journaled. What is important is the name of the drive, as it is used in the code below.


Using Terminal

We are going to use the command line app called Terminal to create the MacOS drive. Don't worry if you have never used it, it is very easy, not that scary. Open Terminal, it is found in the Utilities folder in Applications.


Copy this code

Copy this code:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/upgradeable --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\


Paste the code

Paste the code you copied into Terminal and hit enter. It will ask for your system password (usually the one you log on with at start up). Type Y and return when it asks if you want to erase this drive. When it is finished creating it will display "Copy complete". You can close Terminal.


How to use the USB

When the USB or external drive is plugged in, restart the Mac holding down the Option key. The USB will appear on screen as Install MacOS Sierra. Select and hit return. You do not need to select a network. If you are installing the macOS on a new SSD it will need to be initialised. Go into Disk Utilities, Erase and name. Proceed to install macOS Sierra.

How to initialise a SSD

When you get your new SSD it is uninitialised. This means it can be used in a Mac or PC. It needs to be initialised before use. In the PC world they call this formatting the drive. In the Mac World it is called Erase and it is a function of Disk Utilities

Disk Utilities is a tool included in many places. It is found in the Utilities directory in Applications. It is included in any macOS install drive. It is found in the recovery partition on a drive when a Mac is restart holding down the keys Command + R. It is also a part of the Internet Recovery boot up. There are many reasons why you would want to erase a drive, this guide is focused on initialising a new SSD, however for readers who are looking at general information we have added the following warning...
Warning: Erasing a disk will delete all data on the disk. Never initialise/erase a drive that has data on it that you want to keep. I know that sounds obvious but you would be surprised with the support calls we get :-). Four steps to initialise a new SSD.


Open Disk Utility

When you start Disk Utility, in the sidebar are the drives attached to the Mac. Select the disk name, not the indented volume name.


Erase button

Click on the Erase button. If there is no erase button select the drive again.



There are two to three fields that need to be selected.
Name: Enter a name for your disk, such as "Macintosh SSD"
Format: Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
Scheme (if available): Choose GUID Partition Map
Erase options in Sierra



Click the Erase button and the SSD will be ready to use.

How to clone with SuperSuper!

Please note: this process cannot be used to clone a Windows partition created by Boot Camp. We recommend WinClone by Twocanoes Software. It is commercial software requiring a license to use, however it is not affiliate with our company and that is not an affiliate link.

Before cloning, the SSD needs to be initialised, if that has not been done, please follow our instructions above.

The process is really only two and run. Superduper! is very simple but powerful piece of software.


Download and install

SuperDuper! software by Shirt Pocket (free download).

When the download is complete, install in your Applications folder.

Double click on the SuperDuper! icon to run



Choose your source (Macintosh HDD) and destination (Macintosh SSD) drives. Click Copy Now to begin. You will be notified when it is complete.
Erase options in Sierra

Simple Questions answered

Can I use any SSD to upgrade my Macbook Air?
No. The Macbook Air use a special card style SSD that is specific to the Macbook Air. You can not use a standard 2.5" notebook SSD. There is an SSD made specifically for your year Macbook Air, find them listed here.

Does the Macbook Air use a standard M.2 SSD?
No. It is only standard in it's physical size. A standard M.2 drive will not work. Apple has made their drives proprietary.

Are the OWC SSD drives faster than the Apple original SSD?
It is best to check specifically your model. Most SSD are faster.

Do I need a bracket to install the SSD?

Can I do this install myself?
Yes. We have had customers of every type of experience: students to pensioners do this upgrade. It is only slightly more complicated than a RAM upgrade.

Do I need any special tools?
The Aura SSD kits include all the tools you require.

Can I clone a bigger drive onto a smaller SSD?
No. If you have 900gb of data on a 1TB hard drive, you can not clone this onto a 525GB SSD. The cloning software we recommend does not selectively clone. It is all or nothing.

Does the original SSD and the new SSD have to be the same size to clone?
No. As long as the source (current hard drive) has less data than size of the new SSD. So 300GB on a 1TB hard drive will clone onto a 480GB SSD.

What size SSD should I buy?
We recommend you look at how much data is on your hard drive and then get a SSD at least 20% bigger than the data you have. We have found the optimal free space for a SSD to work with virtual and swap files is 20%. Aim for 30 to 40%. It all depends on your work flow and how much data you store and delete.

Can SuperDuper! clone a windows parition?
No. We recommend Winclone for this type of clone.