Deciding to make the jump to a MacBook can be a tricky thing, particularly if you are coming from a life of Windows computers. There are many factors about a Mac that are going to be very different from what you are used to, and there will definitely be a learning curve as you figure out where everything is, and how you need to approach familiar tasks in a new way. But, aside from learning a new operating system, many people are very happy once they have become accustomed to using a new Mac.
This is also true when you are talking about the MacBook Air, Apple’s incredible lightweight ultrabook. Unless you are switching to the MacBook Air from another ultrabook or from an older MacBook Air, then there are some elements of this computer that you might not be aware of, or which you had simply come to accept.
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Important Features of the MacBook Air That Will Affect Your Usage
- Only 2 USB Ports
- Small amount of storage
- No HDMI out port
- No ethernet port
- No optical drive
Obviously there are other factors that will be very important when you are using this computer, but these are five of the ones that you can do something about when buying accessories. With these factors in mind, here are some important accessories that you can buy to solve these problems and ensure that you are ready for most problems that could arise when you are using your new computer.
Solving the Small Number of USB Ports Issue
There are two ways to approach this problem. The first is to take action to provide yourself with additional USB ports, which you can accomplish with a device like this USB 3.0 hub. There are cheaper options if you do not want to preserve the USB 3.0 connectivity that exists on your MacBook Air, but this device will keep your transfer speeds, while giving you additional ports.
The second way to approach this problem is to buy devices that don’t require a USB connection. I know that my biggest concern in this respect was an external mouse. While the trackpad on the MacBook Air is extremely good (in fact, many reviewers consider it to be the best one in existence) you may find that you still want to use an external mouse. You can overcome the need for a USB port by purchasing a Bluetooth mouse. There are a number of Bluetooth mouse options available on Amazon, so look around until you find one that you like.
Getting More Storage Space
The solution to this problem is a little less desirable, because you are going to have to buy a portable external hard drive, or you are going to have to get a cloud storage subscription to a service like Dropbox. Dropbox will require you to have an active Internet connection to access your files, however (you are going to need to store the files on your computer if you want to use the Dropbox desktop app, which is the problem we are trying to solve), so the portable hard drive option is the most desirable for locally storing your files. I recommend a large capacity USB 3.0 portable drive, like this one on Amazon, so that you won’t run out of space and your file transfers will be nice and quick.
This solution is going to require a little bit of strategy, however, because you don’t want to constantly have the portable hard drive connected to the computer, as that will take away from the overall portability of the MacBook Air. So consider using the portable hard drive to store large files that you don’t use constantly, such as audio, video and picture files. As a bonus, you can also use this portable hard drive as a storage location for your Time Machine backups.
No HDMI Out Port
Chances are high that you will eventually want to connect your MacBook Air to a bigger monitor or television screen either to watch a movie or to share something that you have created, and the easiest solution for doing that is going to involve an HDMI cable. Unfortunately you cannot connect the MacBook Air to an HDMI device out of the box, so you need to get an HDMI adapter cable on Amazon. Luckily this is a relatively cheap piece of equipment, and is one of the first things that I think any MacBook Air owner should buy. It’s small, easy to carry with you all the time, and it gives you access to a very helpful method of connection. It is much more compatible with newer MacBook models, however, so read through the product description and the user comments to ensure that it will work with your laptop model.
No Ethernet Port
At first this wasn’t even a problem I anticipated having. Almost everywhere I go has wireless network connections, and the MacBook Air has a really good wireless card. But you will find that there are some places that don’t have wireless networks, such as certain businesses and older hotels. Without an adapter cable that gives you an ethernet port, you would otherwise be unable to access the Internet or network resources in places such as this. So consider getting an ethernet port adapter cable, such as this one on Amazon, to give you that functionality. I like this specific one because it is made by Apple and it uses the Thunderbolt port instead of a USB port, which will still leave those open for you to connect your other USB devices.
No Optical Drive
This is perhaps the biggest concession that you have made by purchasing an ultrabook. Removing the optical drive from your laptop has significantly decreased the weight of the computer, while simultaneously helping to increase battery life. Many software developers and media distribution companies have gone to a download or streaming model, which has drastically increased our reliance on physical media. But CDs and DVDs still exist, particularly when you are dealing with older versions of software or data that has been stored on a disc. So while there are ways of accessing these things over a network, your situation might require you to have an optical drive connected directly to your MacBook Air. So consider getting the Apple SuperDrive on Amazon, which you can connect to your laptop via a USB port.
You may encounter other situations where you are ill-equipped because of the missing features on your MacBook Air but, if you have all of the items mentioned above, then you have taken a step in the right direction. So, to summarize, the five must-have accessories for your MacBook Air are:
- USB hub
- Portable hard drive
- HDMI adapter cable
- Thunderbolt to ethernet adapter
- Apple Superdrive
Now it can get a little cumbersome if you are carrying all of these things with you whenever you travel with your MacBook Air, so it’s a good idea to make sure that any laptop bag you purchase can also fit each of these items. I have noticed that a lot of the MacBook Air custom cases tend to try and keep things as compact as possible, so it might be a better idea to look for a standard 13-inch laptop bag, which will generally have a couple of extra pockets.
Good luck with your MacBook Air, and I hope you enjoy using one of the best computers on the planet!
Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech tutorials since 2008. His writing has appeared on dozens of different websites and been read over 50 million times.
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science he spent several years working in IT management for small businesses. However, he now works full time writing content online and creating websites.
His main writing topics include iPhones, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Android, and Photoshop, but he has also written about many other tech topics as well.