After recently moving to a new house, I decided to take some time to carefully plan out my home network. One of the sore points of living in a city is that you have neighbors; lots of neighbors with WiFi APs polluting the 2.4 GHz band. I wanted to avoid this at all costs and decided to enable the 5 GHz radio on my Netgear WNDR3700 v4 running DD-WRT build 22118 (highly capable hardware and firmware combination for a home AP).
Then the pain set in… My personal laptop was not compatible with 802.11an / 5 GHz. My personal laptop is a Dell Inspiron 1545. This wouldn’t be such an issue normally but, after testing the two broadcasting bands, I found myself getting only 30% of the speed and reliability of the 5 GHz SSID due to a very congested 2.4 GHz range.
So… do I toss out my laptop? Buy an external USB wireless adapter? No thanks. I’ll just replace my internal Dell Wireless 1397 WLAN Mini-Card.
No cables/adapters to mess with and no major hit to my bank account. Perfect solution. So the real question at that point was, which internal cards will work? First off, there is a physical size restriction. The internal card needs to be a “half mini PCI-e card”. Secondly, the new card needs to be compatible with 802.11an 5 GHz. I also wanted Bluetooth compatibility (as the Dell Inspiron 1545 doesn’t come with any).
After a little research, I found the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6000-series cards. The top of the series is the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6300 sporting up to 450Mbps communication using triple-stream technology. That’s really cool and all, but it does not come with Bluetooth.
The next version back is the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 which has support for 802.11agn, dual-stream (300Mbps), dual-band (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0. Perfect for what I want! After perusing eBay, I found one for roughly $20 and ordered it on the spot.
The Dell Inspiron 1545 makes it really easy to swap out cards from the internal half mini PCI-e slot. On the bottom of the laptop is an access panel with 4 screws keeping it in place. Removing those screws and the panel reveals certain components such as the fan and cooling assembly, RAM slots, and the mini (half) PCI-e slot.
There will be two antennae cables going to your existing wireless adapter (one will be white, one black) as well as one screw holding the adapter horizontal. Remove this screw and slide the adapter out of the slot. Then detach the cables from the adapter.
Insert the new adapter, make sure it “clicks” into the slot, then screw down the adapter. Plug back in the antennae cables and you are good to go. Boot up and your system will tell you it has found your new adapter and attempt to install drivers (which will fail). I personally just plugged into my router using an Ethernet cable to download the proper drivers from Intel, but you can also use another computer and transfer the installation package via flash drive if you want.