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How $70 made my 7-year-old MacBook feel new

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

Apple released its long-awaited update to the MacBook Air this week. The new ultralight laptop has a better screen, lighter weight, and incorporates the powerful ports that make charging and other devices potentially more convenient.

Unfortunately, it’s $1,199 or more, which is a heavy price to pay to upgrade an old computer. Apple wants you to consider an iPad as an entry-level computer, but if you already have an older MacBook, there may be something else you can do: replace your battery.

While Apple has incorporated updated processors that are faster and more efficient, many older MacBook computers are still powerful enough to do everything but gaming or heavy video editing. In fact, I frequently use a 2011 11-inch MacBook Air — a seven-year-old underpowered computer — without issues, even though I open way too many tabs in Google Chrome.

After seven years, however, the battery couldn’t keep me going for more than an hour without needing to be plugged in. When you’re in that position, it’s tempting to recycle it and buy a new one, but I figured I would replace the battery.

Apple charges $129 for MacBook Air, old MacBook, and smaller MacBook Pro battery replacement and $199 for newer MacBook Pros. But if you’re willing to spend 20 minutes, this is the type of repair that is 100% doable yourself for about half the price.

I browsed Amazon for MacBook Air batteries and found one with many good reviews and bought it for $70. It came with the special screwdrivers required to open up the back.

The entire process took less than half an hour. I unscrewed the underside of the computer, putting the screws together in a cup (there are two big ones and the rest are small). I disconnected the battery with a pen by pulling up the battery’s contact, and then disconnected the five screws that hold the battery in place. I put away the old battery, put the new one in its place, and put back the screws.

I connected the battery to its terminal, and replaced the computer back.

After giving it a full charge, my computer feels new again. Instead of a pathetic 50 minutes of power before needing a charge, the computer works for hours, perhaps up to 4.5 if I don’t have 35 tabs open.

With new phones coming out every year, it can be easy to forget that computers aren’t really in that cycle. The new MacBook Air was the first real update in eight years, and every year hasn’t contained wild paradigm shifts, just incremental updates in power and storage every couple years that while nice. While welcomed, they don’t make your old computer obsolete unless you require tons of power to game or edit video.

Unless, of course, your computer really is ancient, uncooperative, and simply not working. My 2008 MacBook, sadly, is probably toast. But even if that’s true, doing a full factory reset or even adding RAM for $50 may get you another year or more of good use.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Confidential tip line: emann[at]oath[.com].

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