How I Upgraded My VW With a MacBook Air -or- an Other World Computing Envoy Review

A MacBook Air’s Second LifeA MacBook Air’s Second Life

So as in my lament after the collapse of my previous MacBook Air’s logic board, I completely took it apart to see what was inside and recover the solid-state hard drive for secure destruction. I didn’t rush on destroying anything, and it occurred to me later that it might have a second life as an external hard drive if somebody out there bothered to make an external enclosure that would hold it. Time to take a trip to one the best online Apple aftermarket shops, Other World Computing!

Other World Computing has been specializing in Apple repairs and aftermarket upgrades almost as long as Apple has been in business. Apple makes a solid markup on easy upgrades like memory and hard drives; where it’s easy enough to work on, I prefer to get the lower-end models and upgrade for cheaper using OWC. One of their popular upgrades is larger solid state drives for MacBook Airs, which include an awesome little enclosure they call an Envoy. This allows for you to easily transfer all of your files after upgrading your Air’s internal drive and have a fast, slim, and nice-looking external drive. After doing some digging, I found where I could buy an Envoy by itself for only $24!

Here it is! It comes with a USB 3.0 cable and a travel sack.Here it is! It comes with a USB 3.0 cable and a travel sack.

Drive Installation

Taking it apart was a snap with my little $10 Tekton tool kit; perfect for working on Macs with all of their oddball tamper-resistant screws. You can’t stop me, Apple.

All you need is a Torx T6 bit and some love.All you need is a Torx T6 bit and some love.

Opened up!Opened up!

Solid state hard drive installed!Solid state hard drive installed!

As you can see from the pictures, the enclosure is all smoothly-milled aluminium that almost perfectly matches the exterior of Apple’s aluminium unibody MacBook line-up. The circuit board is held in place by one of the two Torx T6 screws, so it’s a little loose when opened up, but everything is very secured once the top plate is reinstalled.

Purring nicely.Purring nicely.

After connecting it for the first time, it mounted almost immediately without any issues. I wasn’t worried about retrieving any data off of it thanks to my fastidious backup habits, so I immediately set to reformatting it and getting it ready for my evil plan: put a hard drive in my 2011 VW GTI!

See, having outgrown the space available on the built-in head unit’s SD card slot, I was considering adding a hard drive using the VW’s optional USB cable. After a bit of reading, I quickly concluded that a solid state drive would work the fastest and deal with the relatively extreme temperatures of a car a lot better. The cheapest parts are the ones you already have on the shelf, so in goes the old MacBook Air drive! In my last post, I went over the process of getting the drive set up as well as some awesome shortcuts through Mac scripting.

All hooked up and looking great.All hooked up and looking great.

Everything worked perfectly. The VW head unit recognized the hard drive immediately and had absolutely no issue reading all of the files. Not only was it successful, it was fast. As fast as the in-dash SD card reader, in fact, despite having over 50GB of music to go through!

The drive and cables tucked in perfectly.The drive and cables tucked in perfectly.

Final Verdict

I know it’s just a hard drive enclosure, but given the specialty nature of the drives mounted in the MacBook Air line-up, I’m really pleased with how well the drive works. It mounts fast, the USB 3.0 operates at exceptional speeds, and the build quality is really solid. It’s a simple but functional design. With further consideration of the slender shape inside of the GTI’s console (where the multimedia connector is located), I would actually recommend that VW folks looking for a similar solution consider just buying one of OWC’s MacBook Air solid state drive upgrade kits which start at around $120 for 120GB and include the appropriate screwdriver and enclosure. Reformat it as FAT and it works perfectly out of the box, even if you’re not into Apple stuff. I noticed that more traditional self-powered hard drives might have a hard time fitting in the console without more extensive modification. Top marks to OWC for inexpensively helping my MacBook Air to have an awesome second life as a VW part!