Macbook Air (1st Gen) and Active MP SSD HD

By | October 9, 2010

I installed Windows 7 on my Macbook Air (1st Gen) and it ran okay, but I could tell the HD was dying with the infamous clicking noise laptop HDs make when they’re about to crash. There is a distinct click associated with a system pause or temporary freeze-up that will tell you that you better back up your system because the HD is about to crash. Long story short, my HD eventually died and my system wouldn’t boot.  I figured that i would install Mac OSX on it until it died completely.   3 weeks later it was completely dead.  Mission Accomplished!

Because I’m often a procrastinator I didn’t bother to look for a replacement HD until after my HD died.  After looking long and hard on the internet for a replacement HD (Samsung HS082HB – 4200 RPM) I was stuck with either paying an arm and a leg for a new one ($250) or about $125 for a used one made in early 2008. Neither of these options particularly interested me. With some research I found out that other electronics – like the iPod Video – use the same Samsung HD.  I investigated picking up a iPod Video cheap on Craiglist and taking the HD out of it, but I was still going to end up with a rather slow, used HD. After further research I ran across a google ad for the Active MP 64GB SSD.  It was a long shot, but I checked into it.  Guess what?  It’s perfect!  It even has the necessary ZIF connector that you will NEED to replace your old HD in the Macbook Air with a bad-ass, fast SSD. I got my AMP SSD at a reasonable price and had it shipped immediately (overnight, of course).

NOTE:  You MUST get a SSD with the ZIF Connection!  The MacBook Air has a specific ZIF connection cable that goes from the SSD to the motherboard.

Tips on Replacing old Macbook Air HD with new Active Media Products (AMP) SSD:
There are a few sites out there that already show you step by step on how to remove your old HD from the Macbook Air 1st Gen so I won’t repeat that information here. What I will do is let you know that the AMP SSD doesn’t come with a ZIF cable so you have to re-use the one that comes with your Samsung HD. The connection of the cable to the old HD is done with some black tape in order to hold the ZIF cable in place (wtf?). Cut this tape carefully so that you can remove the ZIF Cable from the old HD.  DO NOT CUT THE CABLE.  Pay attention to what you’re doing!  If you don’t know exactly what to cut, ask someone or e-mail me!  After you cut the tape the cable should slide out easily and you should see some golden leads on the end of it.   Follow the instructions on installing that cable on your new SSD.  It should be a relatively easy thing to do – probably consisting of sliding the ZIF cable into the new SSD.   Doesn’t get much easier than that.   I did have a problem keeping the ZIF cable in place so I used some Electric Tape (MacGyver Style, Mothafucka!)   At any rate, it works perfectly.  Boot your system, install the OS, and away you go!

Things I noticed about the replacement:
I’m not sure if this goes for all Macbooks, but some of the screws were incredibly difficult to remove.  In fact, I ended up stripping one of them that held the old HD in the rubber case and ended up having to drill it out.  Be careful when removing the screws!  I had to use gloves just to hold the tiny screwdriver in place without ripping the skin off my fingers.  I also had to use pliers to turn the screwdriver.  Did I mention the screws are hard to get out?  They are.  Pliers and gloves hard.

The SSD took an incredibly long time to load Mac OSX 10, which was surprising to me because I thought SSDs were supposed to be really fast.  There’s a possibility that my External USB DVD-ROM is incredibly slow.  Though the install said 34 minutes initially, it took well over an hour. I don’t remember how long it took with my old HD because I typically set the system to install and go get lunch or something, but I watched the install this time and it was like watching grass grow.  If you experience a fairly quick install please comment and let me know so that I can check out my system.

The system boots incredibly FAST now!   It takes about 20 seconds from the time I press the on button until the system is up and running.  Also, copying files and installing stuff to applications is crazy fast.   Could it be that I’m only impressed because my old HD was dying the entire time?  Maybe.  Regardless, the SSD is fast.

————-UPDATE!————

I’ve been using the SSD for about two weeks now and I’ve found it to be far superior to the HD that came with the Macbook Air. It is WAY faster and makes my entire system run faster. Big program installs like Photoshop are a breeze. The Laptop runs quieter, cooler, and faster.

————-UPDATE 2 (December 6)————
I had quite a few problems with my OS crashing and would not boot after restart. Instead, the flashing folder would appear. After a few days I find out that when I moved my laptop around it was more likely to crash. Then I had an extremely odd situation where my laptop would boot after taking the case apart and when I put it back together it wouldn’t work again. It was almost like I had a short somewhere. After 4 hours of tinkering I realized that apparently when the laptop is put back together the case doesn’t hold the new SSD in place and once the SSD moves around the system would freak out. I had to secure the SSD so that it didn’t move at all once the case is back together.

Mike commented on this below about the ZIF connector. Read the comments below for helpful tips on the install of the SSD.

19 thoughts on “Macbook Air (1st Gen) and Active MP SSD HD

  1. Steven

    Does the new SSD have to be a certain size or just any laptop drive?

  2. Uma

    I got the Active media 32 gig SSD drive N32G PATA but I am struggling trying to remove the cable from the old samsung drive. Do I have to pull a tab, I did remove the small black tape but then what?

  3. admin

    Uma,
    As soon as you remove the small black tape that holds the cable in the drive the cable should come out with a gentle tug. The trick is keeping it held into the new drive. I had a hard time getting the SSD in the rubber holder and back in the plastic (that surrounds the rubber) without pulling the cable out. It’s pretty tricky.

  4. Mike

    It sounds like you are doing something wrong. There is a black lever on the ZIF connector you have to flip up then it releases the cable.

    On the new drive you have to flip up the black plastic piece on top of the connector, slide in the zif cable, then push down the black connector and it will clamp the cable and hold it in.

    You should have to use electrical tape to hold the cable in, the connector should securely hold it.

  5. gstrouzas

    Hi… I have just replace my HD 80GB with a 128GB Photofast SSD. The system runs extreme fast and overall i am huppy with the update. The only problem that i can point is the slow start (20 Sec) after i press on/off Button until the white screen with apple logo appears. After that takes about 10 sec to boot.
    Does Anyone have notice something like that?

  6. Paul

    Your details are helpful! I bought a 64 GIB SaberTooth ZX. Unfortunately, DiskUtility can see it, but it won’t format or partition it. It simply says ‘Partition failed with the error: Input/output error.”

    Did this ever happen to you?

  7. admin

    Mike,
    I can’t seem to find out how to get the black piece to flip up. It seems like it is going to break.

    Gstrouzas,
    the SSD does take a second to boot – possibly longer than the standard HD. But I haven’t noticed a 20 second delay. Maybe 10 seconds for me.

    Paul,
    I didn’t have much problems with the install of the HD that I remember. I did have to format the drive, but once it was formatted I was able to install the OS. I have the macbook air and the superdrive and the install took FOREVER.

  8. Joe

    Been trying to upgrade my A1237 1st Gen MBA all day with the AMP N64gB Zif Z4 SSD drive. As mentioned earlier in the comments, I think I’m doing something wrong with the zif cable- it seems to go into the SSD drive, but I can’t get OS X to install (superdrive spins for a really long time, eventually a flashing question mark folder icon comes up). Tried doing a remote OS X install, but the laptop hangs once I put the WEP key in.
    Reset the PRAM, opened up the laptop again to check the zif cable, I can’t figure out what I’ve done wrong????

    So frustrated, any help is greatly appreciated.

  9. admin

    Joe,
    I had an issue with the install of the OS. It took a really long time, but it did eventually go through. I then had intermittent problems with the OS crashing. As described above, I figured out that the SSD was shifting and probably moving the ZIF cable around. Once I secured the SSD from moving the problems went away. I have been using the computer since (on it now) and it works great.

    Make sure you secure the ZIF connector and the SSD so that it doesn’t move at all when the case it put back together.

  10. David

    Thanks so much for the info. The HD in my wife’s MBA just bit the dust, so I’ve been looking at my options. Have there been any further developments with your computer? Is everything still working well? Do you still recommend the AMP SSDs?

    Thanks

  11. Jostein

    hi, gstrouzas
    could you pls inform of the details for the 128GB Photofast SSD you installed, it seems that it is the one I am looking for as I need to replace my HD, it died a couple of days ago.

    regards
    Jostein

  12. Vince

    Hi Admin,

    Which Amp Sabertooth did you get? I would like to get the Sabertooth ZF because of the higher read speeds. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  13. Abel

    Hey Admin, could please post a photo of the SSD you bought? I’ve just got a AMP Sabetooth ZF 64GB and it just does not work. But it totally different from the picture i saw in amazon. Sorry for the english, i’m from Brazil.

  14. Stuart

    How do I install the OS, or how can I make a flash drive to install the OS on the new disk? Once installed and turned on, it will just sit there, with no OS correct? How would I then install the OS to the SSD? Can I move my OS and all the updates and my home folder from my dead drive, while it is still breathing, to some flash drive so i can move everything to the new SSD without an install? I do not have discs for the latest version of Lion as it was all online

  15. Peter

    Hi Admin, that is very interesting that you could hear the infamous clicking sound of a dying hard drive… The MBA has a SSD drive and there is no clicking sound at all! There are no moving parts in a SSD drive.
    By the way, why do you install Windows on an Apple device? Why do you need Windows???
    Hi Stuart: Use the USB stick that came with your MBA and install MAC OS X by holding down the “alt” key at start up (then you have the option to boot from the USB stick). Or use the MBA DVD drive to install Mac Os X from a DVD (but you would need Leopard to install Mac Os on a new drive)
    You cannot move the OS to the new drive but you can move your home folder (in the classic versions of Mac Os it was possible to move the whole OS). If you have a Time Capsule back up you can move your file from there.
    Lion is no longer available and Snow Leopard does not run on a MBA 1st generation. Even if you have the DMG image of Lion you still needed to connect to the Apple server to complete the installation.

  16. Omarius

    Hi all! this is a really great post I’ve been looking for a long time.

    I also have a first gen MBA and, as I was feeling it was getting older, I decided to buy an SSD to empower him a bit. And I have 2 questions:

    1) how should I install the new SSD so it doesn’t move inside the case? in the video at “I fix it” they use some sticks to fix it to the case, but I think they are not sucha a common thing you can easily find. so what should be a good solution?

    2) Peter said that Snow Leopard wouldn’t work on a Rev A MBA, but I’v read at Apple’s website, that this would be the last SO compatible with the MBA original. But how to install it?, I’ve been thinking about a bootable usb, because I don’t find any other easy way, as the ZIF PATA is not easy to slave to another PC in order to easily install the SO through this.

  17. Maciej

    Hi there,

    firts of all I’d like to say BIG THANKS for writing this article, cause it pushed me finally to do this what I always wanted…….a ssd drive. I was a bit worried how and ect, but after reading this article I decided YES, I’ll do it. So, I’ve ordered 128GB Kingspec SSD. I’ve changed it myself in about 45 min, than used Time Machine to load all my data ……and…..all is working totally fine. I feel right now like I’d change my 3 years old Air for a new one. SSD is working really GOOD and fast. No problems about big size attachments in MAIL program (I’ve got more than 11.000 messages) or having open many programs in one moments.

    One more time BIG THANKS…..and to those who are still waiting with decision …. DON’T WAIT – DO IT NOW :)

    Cheers,
    Maciek

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