Replacing an older MacBook Plus - Recommendations?

I’m trying to figure out how to best replace my aging MacBook Plus (2012 vintage with an SSD drive added) and curious what folks here think.

I’ve been looking at the recent MacBook Air models with Apple-native processor chips, and finding that they’re highly rated and generally meet all my needs. But I went to my local computer shop last week to replace my old USB Mac keyboard, and the person there said that everything Apple’s released since 2020 is no longer repairable. He suggested that if one component fails, they’re so fully integrated that nothing can be fixed and it just becomes unusable.

I’m curious how accurate this claim is, if it applies equally to the latest MacBook Plus models (which really exceed my needs), and if it also applies to the older M1 MacBook Air models, which I believe date from 2020. The person I spoke with suggested that 2020 was the cutoff year for equipment he can repair.

What do folks here think about this? Also are there any issues I should be prepared to deal with while upgrading my files from Mojave to the latest MacOS? I’m aware that older 32 bit apps won’t work, but is there anything else I should know?

Many thanks,

MacBook Plus? Do you perhaps mean MacBook Pro?

I would agree with you. Apple Silicon Macs are so powerful that for typical personal usage (web surfing, office apps, e-mail), literally any model Apple sells will have plenty of power. Since you’re migrating from a 2012-era Mac, even the least expensive Air will work great.

That having been said, some things to keep in mind:

  • RAM and internal storage are not upgradable. At all. You can expand storage with external devices (USB or Thunderbolt hard drive or SSD), but your RAM can not be expanded.
    • For this reason, I recommend a BTO configuration with at least 16GB of RAM
    • I would also recommend 2TB of storage, if you can afford it. If not, order it upgraded to 512GB, which should be big enough for all but a media collection (music, movies, photos, etc.), which you can store on an external drive.
    • You may need to upgrade nearly all of your apps. Rosetta will let you run 64-bit Intel apps on Apple Silicon, but 32-bit apps won’t work at all. And even apps that will run may not be supported, if you haven’t upgraded them for a long time.
      • A few years ago, when I upgraded from a 2011 Mac mini (running Sierra) to a 2018 mini (running Catalina), the lack of 32-bit app support forced me to pay for upgrades to Photoshop Elements (not very expensive) and FileMaker Pro (very expensive). I also had to upgrade Microsoft Office (free via my Microsoft 365 subscription) and quite a lot of open source apps.
      • Many of my games ceased to function and have no upgrade path. (One of these days I’ll see if I can install an older macOS in a VM in order to play them, but I’ve never gotten around to trying.)
    • You may need to upgrade peripherals. A MacBook Air has only two Thunderbolt ports (which can also support USB peripherals). If you have USB devices with type-A connectors, you’ll need adapters.
      • If you have any Thunderbolt-1 or -2 peripherals, you’ll need an adapter cable. Apple sells one, but it can only transport data, not power. So bus-powered TB devices won’t work.
      • HDMI video output will require an adapter to use one of your USB-C ports
      • The MagSafe connector has changed. So your old power brick won’t work with a new laptop. I don’t think adapters exist to connect a MagSafe 2 power brick to a MagSafe 3 laptop.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration.

You can not swap RAM and internal storage anymore. RAM is integrated with the M1/M2 SoC module and can not (for all practical purposes) be replaced. Flash storage is soldered to the motherboard and is cryptographically paired with the SoC so even if your tech could solder in new flash chips, it wouldn’t work.

But things can be repaired. According to iFixit, the battery, speakers, headphone jack, Thunderbolt ports, screen and trackpad can be replaced.

But note that some items (e.g. the screen and Touch ID sensor) need to be specially paired with the motherboard after replacement, and this requires special tools that Apple probably doesn’t provide to third-party repair shops. Without that pairing, a replacement Touch ID sensor won’t work and a replacement screen won’t support TrueTone.

On the other hand, if you don’t spill water on it (which will probably require a board-level repair), the parts you are likely to need to repair/replace over time will be the battery (as it wears out over time) and screen (if you drop/crack it), which are replaceable.

Make one or two backups of your old system before you start. I’d migrate from that backup - I’ve found it easier than migrating directly from another computer.

Don’t erase or get rid of the old computer until you’ve thoroughly exercised the new one (and made at least one post-migration backup), just in case you need to start over from scratch for some reason.


David, I tried responding to your reply by email yesterday, but it bounced for some reason. I wrote:

Many thanks — very helpful. Of course my current laptop is a MacBook Pro. I was talking to someone the other day about my first Mac Plus in the late ‘80s and must have still had that on my mind this morning!

Good to know that repairs of recent model Airs are indeed possible, and I also have access to a fully Apple authorized shop just an hour away in Burlington, VT if needed. Would you say there’s any significant difference in repairability between 2020 vintage M1 Macbook Airs and the more recent M2’s?


I haven’t looked that closely, but I think the two are very similar in terms of repairability. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any iFixit repairability scores, but I compared the battery replacement procedure (the repair you’re most likely to need as the computer gets older) and although the procedures are definitely different, they appear to be comparable difficulty.