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Arctic Silver's application guide http://www.arcticsilver.com/intel_applic... shows mobile 15 processors for 2nd generation, recommending a spread technique. But the 3-7th gen i5 only lists vertical line technique. I can find the actual processor model used in the 13" mid-2011 MBA (Core i5-2557M, found here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4528/the-2...), but no way to correlate that to 2nd gen, 3d gen, etc.
I'm going to go with spread because it seems generally safer for laptops, but if anyone can confirm: What generation is the Core i5-2557M; and if it's later generation (3- on), is it really vertical line vs. spread?
Maybe I just lucked out but removing the mic cable was about the same effort as the left speaker cable. I wasn't ready to try Lorenzo's workaround above without a photo guide, so took my chances. Your mileage may vary.
Mine was very reluctant... couldn't get any purchase with a spudger, had to use flat tweezers to get enough grip on the cable. Exerted slowly increasing pull, but when it came out, it broke loose suddenly.
Year, from the top, the ribbon appears to be just the plastic strip. Copper connectors are on the bottom but at first glance it looks like I pulled the connector off the ribbon. Mine pulled straight out away from the connector, no upward angle needed or desired.