#1 Edited by Mike (16241 posts) -

I've got a mid-2011 13" Air that is functional except for the keyboard. Right now I'm using it as a media server with an external keyboard, but I would like to be able to take it with me while traveling and stuff like that when I don't want to lug my 15" retina around.

Has anyone here attempted this? I know the parts can be found on ifixit and they have a detailed guide as well for replacing the upper case, but I'm really curious if anyone around has actually attempted this on their own. I am fairly comfortable working with electronics and have built PC's and tore down laptops before, and can use a soldering iron, but I've never so much as taken a screw out of a MacBook let alone replaced a major component.

If it's too difficult I will just have either Apple or a third party service replace it for me.

Thanks everyone

#2 Edited by Kidavenger (4025 posts) -

That's pretty crazy that you have to completely disassemble the laptop to change the keyboard...

I've taken apart a bunch of laptops and successfully put them back together, the hardest thing is keeping track of the screws, it is time consuming though, if the apple store is going to charge you $50-100 to do it for you, it may be worth it depending on how much you value your time.

#3 Posted by Mike (16241 posts) -

@kidavenger: The repair at the Apple Store is around $800 since it involves so much labor and an expensive part, the entire top case. I could buy a slightly used replacement Air for that price, so it's definitely not an option.

#4 Posted by Mike (16241 posts) -

Fast forward to six weeks later. I've been using this MBA as a media server with some external hard drives attached to it and controlling it with either screen sharing or an external keyboard and mouse. I've been checking the computer periodically to see if it's working and had no look.

Today, it started working as if nothing was ever wrong with it in the first place. Who knows how long this will last, but for now, it's magically fixed.

#5 Edited by Mike (16241 posts) -

Update for anyone else who may see this in the future: Shortly after my last post, the L key on the Air stopped working and never worked again. I did a little research and found a shop in the area who has a solid, long-standing reputation for fixing stuff like this. I brought it in for a free diagnostic and they determined the top case needed to be replaced. I asked about the battery since it was sitting at 585 cycles (!) and got a quote of $90 for the part and no additional labor to replace it. So...I went for it. Total cost for new top case (with keyboard), new battery, and labor was $390 out the door. $200 for the top case, $90 battery, and $100 labor. Not too bad I guess, and it'll give the MBA a new lease on life and I bet I can get another 3-4 years of use out of it easily.

When the guy was working up the quote I had a number in my head that if exceeded, I would not get the unit repaired. Since a replacement would be $1000 and I'm not really interested in spending $600-$700 on a used one, I decided the cost was worth it.

#6 Edited by Ben_H (3767 posts) -

Sounds worthwhile. I've not dug into any of the newer, less modifiable Macs, but from what I've heard, it can get pretty ugly. Especially since some stuff is glued in now, rather than just screwed in like the older ones. Given that this will keep the resale value up there, it is probably worth it just from that perspective, let alone how much it will extend the life of the machine. I'm always shocked how well these things hold their value.

I've taken apart a few older unibody style Macbook Pros and they are actually insanely easy to take apart. I took out the optical drive in my 2012 15" Unibody MBP and replaced it with an HDD, and that entire process took about 15 minutes. But alas, the new Retinas and Airs are an entirely different beast.

#7 Edited by Mike (16241 posts) -

@ben_h: I talked to the tech who did the service on my Mac and he said it was a total nightmare getting it all back together properly. He didn't go into detail about what exactly the issue was, but he sure did a great job. They even tightened the LCD hinge for me...machine feels brand new now.

It may be just my imagination but the replacement top case feels like it has the slightest amount of additional key travel compared to the old one. The texture of the keys is also a change since the keys on my old one were all worn smooth from three years of near daily use. The track pad was salvaged and transplanted over to the new top case, on this unit they aren't integral. Being glass it still feels as good as the day I got it though, in fact with my eyes closed I can't tell the difference between the trackpads of this three year old Air and my new 15" Pro.

Well worth it. It's nice to have the smaller machine back, especially with a new battery. I can lug it around with me everywhere and not feel like I'm carrying a sack of rocks in my backpack.

#8 Posted by IcedWhale (64 posts) -

Happy to see this ended happily ever after (: