Mac 911: Can you re­place an Air­port Ex­treme fan? What you get when you ex­port Cal­en­dar and Re­minders in macos

So­lu­tions to your most vex­ing Mac prob­lems.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY GLENN FLEISH­MAN


In 2010, Ap­ple started to re­lease Macs with solid-state drives (SSDS) that used a socket and—with vary­ing amounts of ef­fort—could be re­moved and up­graded by the owner or by an Ap­ple or third-party tech­ni­cian.

But start­ing in 2016, nearly ev­ery Mac re­leased has the SSD sol­dered di­rectly to the moth­er­board. The imac is a no­table ex­cep­tion, but see the note at the end of this sec­tion.

If you have a Mac of the proper vin­tage, it can be from van­ish­ingly easy to ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to get the “blade”style SSD out of the Mac and re­place it with a higher-capacity model. These blades plug into a slot, some­thing like RAM but with a nar­rower con­nec­tor. Ap­ple de­vel­oped mul­ti­ple, pro­pri­etary con­nec­tors ( go.mac­ across

its use of blade SSDS. In my wife’s re­cently pur­chased 2014 Mac­book Pro, noth­ing is eas­ily ser­vice­able ex­cept for the SSD, which is a cinch to ac­cess, re­move, and re­place.

But what to do with the SSD you re­moved? If it’s 256GB or greater, it seems a shame to waste it, and it’s hard to sell lower-capacity drives to a Mac user with a com­pat­i­ble com­puter, as most peo­ple who want an SSD are up­grad­ing from a lower capacity al­ready.

Put it in an ex­ter­nal case

You could pur­chase an ex­ter­nal case from Other World Com­put­ing, which of­fers USB-3 en­clo­sures com­pat­i­ble with Ap­ple drives. Make sure and fig­ure out the right model to buy based on the par­tic­u­lar type of SSD blade that came out of your Mac. The En­voy Pro ( go.mac­ is the most likely match, as it supports drives shipped with Macs from 2013 to present. But there are three other En­voy and En­voy Pro mod­els ( go.mac­ for ear­lier gen­er­a­tions of Mac and drive.

The price may be a snag. At $100, the En­voy Pro for 2013 and later blade SSDS makes lit­tle sense for up to a 500GB drive, as you can pur­chase a 500GB SSD in a USB 3.0 or 3.1 ex­ter­nal en­clo­sure new for about $100. For a 1TB drive, it makes much more sense, but it’s unlikely many of you are up­grad­ing from 1TB to 2TB, and the 1TB blade SSD has a lot more re­sale value to own­ers of com­pat­i­ble mod­els.

For some­what older Macs, the OWC en­clo­sure can be just $50, mak­ing it a more cost-ef­fec­tive ar­range­ment for a 500GB drive, but likely not for lower ca­pac­i­ties. (OWC’S en­clo­sures make much more fi­nan­cial sense as part of their kit up­grade bun­dles that come with a high­er­ca­pac­ity SSD.)

You should also run the SSD through Drivedx ( go.mac­, which will give you a sense of the re­main­ing life­span: SSDS even­tu­ally wear out, and it doesn’t make sense to buy an en­clo­sure if the drive doesn’t have much time left on it.

A note on imacs

If you own a more re­cent imac, you might be tempted to up­grade its SSD, but I’d sug­gest you care­fully re­view the ifixit guide first ( go.mac­ I re­cently was at a re­pair shop and talked to a tech­ni­cian who had just dis­as­sem­bled and re­assem­bled a modern imac. They told me they’d hoped to never do so again: the risk of dam­ag­ing the com­puter was so huge due to frag­ile ca­bles and the process of sep­a­rat­ing the dis­play that it was hard to take in such jobs. If Ap­ple takes an imac in for re­pair and hits a snag that makes it un­us­able, they can sim­ply swap in a new com­puter for you from their stock. Not so for third par­ties—or you!


A mys­te­ri­ous whirring and grind­ing noise from his late-model Air­port Ex­treme Base Sta­tion dis­turbed one Mac­world reader. Why would it make such a sound? He hadn’t turned it on for a year, but was about to re­ac­ti­vate it with a new broad­band con­nec­tion.

My re­ply: The po­lite ver­bal equiv­a­lent of a shrug, be­cause—i wrote—there’s no fan in an Air­port Ex­press, and only a Time Cap­sule has a hard drive. Time Cap­sule drives cer­tainly fail, like any spin­ning stor­age me­dia, but the grind­ing de­scribed would surely have meant the drive was on its way to fail­ure, if not al­ready de­stroyed.

But your faith­ful Mac 911 colum­nist failed to do his re­search. I own a newer Air­port Ex­treme—one of the “cracker­box” mod­els that looks like a gleam­ing white mi­cro-tower. It’s never made a peep. I even thought I’d even looked at pic­tures of the in­sides of this ver­sion from Ap­ple’s now-dis­con­tin­ued se­ries of routers.

My cor­re­spon­dent was per­sis­tent, though, and he sent me a record­ing of the Air­port Ex­treme mak­ing a loud and ugly noise. And sure enough, when I dug into ifixit to see their dis­as­sem­bly of the model, there’s a fan! Ap­par­ently, in my

setup, the base sta­tion has never heated up enough to ac­ti­vate the fan or it’s re­mained whis­per silent de­spite a lack of, ahem, dust­ing on my part.

The fix

Re­plac­ing the fan is some­what elab­o­rate ( go.mac­, and an Ap­ple­branded or -cer­ti­fied fan re­place­ment part isn’t avail­able di­rectly from sup­pli­ers. But it can be done. Com­pat­i­ble fans can be found on Ama­zon ( go.mac­ and ebay.

There’s one po­ten­tial for peo­ple who pur­chased an Air­port Ex­treme at just the right mo­ment, how­ever. If you bought an Air­port Ex­treme and then within two years pur­chase a Mac of any model and bought the Ap­ple­care ex­tended war­ranty from Ap­ple ( go.mac­, you gain up to five years of war­ranty cov­er­age for your Wi-fi base sta­tion (two years, then a Mac pur­chase, then three years). It’s worth check­ing your pur­chase dates to see if you qual­ify.


The Mac App Store some­times throws out odd er­rors when you try to down­load and in­stall soft­ware, er­rors that lack in­for­ma­tion on Ap­ple’s sup­port pages. These seem to come up most of­ten with Ap­ple’s own soft­ware, es­pe­cially the five free apps (Garage­band, imovie, Key­note, Num­bers, and Pages) that re­quire an Ap­ple ID, but no prior pur­chase.

Just a few weeks ago, I ex­plained how to solve “Up­date Un­avail­able with This Ap­ple ID,” ( go.mac­ but that’s not the only one.

An­other one that comes up with lit­tle help is, “Could not as­sign ap­pli­ca­tions to your ac­count.” Here are four ways that may re­solve the prob­lem and let you down­load the apps you’re at­tempt­ing to.

> Sign out of your itunes ac­count (Ac­count → Sign Out) and then sign back in. > Sign out, quit or restart your Mac,

then sign back in.

> Up­date your itunes pay­ment method in Ac­count → View My Ac­count.

> Contact Ap­ple di­rectly ( go.mac­world. com/ctsp), and a sup­port per­son may pro­vide you with a down­load code to re­deem, ac­cord­ing to some fo­rum posters.

A num­ber of peo­ple re­port that de­spite hav­ing no pay­ment er­rors they were able to clear the er­ror by con­firm­ing their pay­ment method (usu­ally by re-en­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion), up­dat­ing it, or chang­ing it. Oth­ers dis­cov­ered that Ap­ple had been un­able to charge their listed pay­ment method, but they hadn’t re­ceived a no­ti­fi­ca­tion about it. Clear­ing up that charge solved the down­load is­sues as well.


The Cal­en­dar and Re­minders apps in macos let you cre­ate back­ups through an ex­port option. In Cal­en­dar, you can se­lect File → Ex­port → Ex­port or Ex­port → Cal­en­dar Ar­chive. Re­minders lets you se­lect File → Ex­port. The ex­ported files can used for re­cov­ery or im­ported into other apps and sys­tems.

What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween these options, and why se­lect one over an­other? All the options pro­duce some vari­a­tion on an ICS file, a stan­dard cal­en­dar for­mat sup­ported by Ap­ple, Google, and

Mi­crosoft, among oth­ers.

> The ex­port in Re­minders pro­duces a sin­gle ICS file that con­tains all to-do items you’ve ever set and never deleted when com­plete, as well as all ac­tive items.

> Se­lect a par­tic­u­lar cal­en­dar in the Cal­en­dar’s left side­bar and then choose File →; Ex­port → Ex­port and an ICS file con­tain­ing all that cal­en­dar’s as­so­ci­ated events will be ex­ported, past and fu­ture. This file doesn’t in­clude re­minders that are as­so­ci­ated with that cal­en­dar, how­ever.

> Choose File → Ex­port → Cal­en­dar Ar­chive, and the Cal­en­dar app pro­duces an ICBU file. This is a macos pack­age (a folder that acts like a file) that con­tains the en­tire struc­ture of all cal­en­dars and their events as well as all re­minders, all in ICS for­mat. Ap­ple high­lights that by nam­ing the ex­port “Cal­en­dars and Re­minders” plus the cur­rent date and time.

Be­cause the un­der­ly­ing cal­en­dar and re­minders files get backed up by Time Ma­chine and drive cloning (if not third-party cloud backup soft­ware, which can vary), there’s typ­i­cally no good reason in modern times to back up the data. But it’s a use­ful in­ter­change for­mat if you’re chang­ing cal­en­dar soft­ware (from Ap­ple to Mi­crosoft) or set­ting up a new sys­tem in some very clean way in which you don’t want to sync from an old ac­count. ■

Ap­ple has used a va­ri­ety of blade-style SSD con­nec­tors.

A com­pat­i­ble Air­port Ex­treme re­place­ment fan as seen on an on­line re­tailer.

The splayed out con­tents of the ICBU pack­age file, which is full of fold­ers of ICS files.

Cre­ate back­ups of Cal­en­dar by choos­ing File → Ex­port → Ex­port or File → Ex­port → Cal­en­dar Ar­chive.

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