Repair oldish Macbook Air through Apple or some third party, or replace?
January 2, 2017 12:14 PM   Subscribe

My Macbook Air (2012 model) has a bad hard drive, I think. Should I try to take it to Apple for maintenance, or a third-party?

It stopped working one day and when I restarted, it showed a white screen and then after about 2-3 minutes shows a blinking file icon with a question mark. It had been working fine, but it's about 4.5 years old so I'm not sure what my next step should be.

Should I try to take it to Apple for maintenance? They're trustworthy, I think, but don't know if their repairs are overpriced. The Macbook Air is supposed to be difficult to repair/upgrade because everything is soldered on. Will a third-party be able to handle it, would it be any cheaper?

A refurb model of a slightly higher-spec'd 2015 model would run about $1000, so I imagine it wouldn't make sense to do any repairs more than $200-300, considering who knows how long the rest of the components will last.
posted by skewed to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Apple might cover it:
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:17 PM on January 2, 2017

Apple repair has been competent and reasonably-priced for my 2011-era MacBook Pro (which has been in a couple of times for various things). As I understand the pricing structure, there's a "max repair" price that is essentially, "no matter how screwed up your Mac is, we'll fix it for this price or less." (It's probably the price of a comparable refurb -- if they can't fix it economically, they'll replace it?) Anyway, talk to the Apple Store people. They'll get you sorted out.
posted by spacewrench at 12:18 PM on January 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

If Apple will do it for free like Seeking Directions suggest do that. Otherwise don't pay Apple to replace a hard drive. Their part costs are totally insane.

Don't know if you want to repair the computer yourself, but it looks like you can buy a compatible drive for $72. Do double check that your laptop is compatible with that drive. You'll also need a couple of goofy screwdrivers.

It takes only about 15 minutes to replace the drive on a Macbook Air. In that video they don't mention it, but be careful around the batteries; don't put any pressure on them, don't poke then with a screwdriver, etc. (The batteries are the black rectangles at the bottom of the laptop shown in the video.)

After putting in the new drive you can run through the Apple online OS recovery thing. Select Reinstall macOS, and then hit yes/ok 1000 times. Or if you have a Time Machine backup you can select Time Machine Backup.

I normally woudn't suggest putting money into a computer that's 4+ years old, but this is a cheap repair.
posted by gregr at 12:51 PM on January 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

So, having just done something similar (mid-2012 hard drive replacement), the guy at the genius bar told me to either do it myself or go to a third-party place. It turned out that one of my friends had just done about the same thing for another mac, so he took care of it and the longest part of the process was just transferring the data to the new disc.
posted by klangklangston at 5:28 PM on January 2, 2017

Just to be clear a 2012 Air doesn't have a hard drive, it has a solid state drive. There was a known failure of the 128Gb solid state drives from 2012 that was revealed only upon EFI firmware update -- had you recently tried to do that? Alas the warranty extension has since ended. I know because I ran into this on a family machine. I managed to talk apple into doing it anyway but that was over a year ago.

It's cheap and relatively easy to pop a new solid state drive in a 12" air. I agree either Apple does it for free or go elsewhere.

Alas I can practically assure you your data are not recoverable. Once you get that new drive in you're very likely starting from scratch.
posted by spitbull at 6:01 PM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Apple store confirms that the SSD is dead, and it is one of the macbooks that has a known problem with the SSDs, but it's past the three years they provided coverage (which sucks, I think; they knew it was potentially defective, but wouldn't do anything about it until it broke). Anyway, I guess 4.5 years of heavy use is a decent run.

Thanks for the suggestions to replace the SSD, I went ahead and got a replacement and the special screwdrivers to do the install, if it goes smoothly I'll be very happy, it's even twice the size of the original and only $140.
posted by skewed at 8:58 AM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Final report: new SSD installed, works fine, physical installation was pretty easy, getting the OS installed was a bit tricky, but it's all done now, and it's working good as new, thanks for the suggestion to buy a new SSD!
posted by skewed at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

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