MacBook Air Top Case Replacement

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My wife’s Mid 2011 MacBook Air is getting a little long in the tooth. If Apple comes out with a new, updated Air this year we will replace the old one. Meanwhile, I need to keep the 2011 Air running as best as possible. That includes installed a new SSD drive a few months ago, the original one was finished. And, now it includes replacing the Top Case, some of the keys on the original Top Case Keyboard stopped working.

Air Top Case

The Air keyboard is contained within the whole Top Case you cannot really repair it separately. I sourced a used Top Case in good condition on eBay. This Top Case was used, but like new. I used the iFixit Repair Guide for the 2011 Air. This repair is listed as “Difficulty Moderate.” I would say it was at least Moderate or Semi-Difficult. It definitely is not for the faint of heart. As you can see form the iFixit Repair Guide you do need some specialty tools as well.

Here is the deal with this repair. You have to disassemble the entire MacBook Air to install the new Top Case! Yikes! That takes a while let me tall you. Here is the Air when it is first opened:

Air Opened

You can see the battery taking up most of the space in the case. The SSD Flash Drive from OWC is right above it with the Logic Board under and above that. Yes, the whole Logic Board is removed. Here is a more closeup shot of the case:

Logic Board Area

The Fan is on the right over there. There are two I/O Boards, one on the left and one on the right. These are your USB, Thunderbolt and Power connectors. Here is a shot with the Battery removed:

Air No Battery

I wish I had taken more photos of the process, but I get so into it, I forget to do that sometimes.

After you remove almost all the parts to the machine, you separate the bottom area from the Display. The replacement Top Case does not come with a Trackpad, so you have to remove the old one from the original case, then install it on the replacement case. Not a difficult task, but there is an adjustment screw for setting the tension on the Trackpad.

Once the Trackpad is installed on the replacement Top Case you just connect it to the Display and put the remaining pieces back together in reverse order. Speaking of that, look at the white icicle carton in the above photo. You can see each slot is numbered. I needed two of these trays (could have used a third one) to complete this job. How do they work you ask? If you looked at the Repair Guide you would see each step is numbered. So for example, if you remove three screws from a certain part at Step 20, you would place those screws in the tray slot marked “20.” That is how you keep things in order as you proceed through the disassembly and reassembly. 

Speaking of reassembly, taking the machine apart is much easier than putting it back together. Reinstalling the actual hardware parts are not too difficult, but I always seem to have problems with cables or rubber buffer parts that are glued into the case area. Sometimes they just don’t want to go back in the right place.

By the way, following the take apart instructions, I did remove every part. However, I did not need to remove the speakers from the Top Case because the replacement case already had them installed. I just did not notice this when I took it out of the packaging.

Conclusion

Why would you repair an old Mid 2011 MacBook Air? Macs just seem to last forever. I think someone can get a couple of good years out of this Air, though it is not a super powerful machine. It will probably end up with one of my grandkids, we’ll see.

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