Two weeks ago I started my journey to try to upgrade my Laptop’s, Wireless Card. I bought this laptop (HP Spectre 13) four years ago in my first year at university. As with all my things, it has aged very well and it is in pristine condition. Last year I finally decided to give up on Windows and move to Linux. Unfortunately was right here where all the problems started. It wasn’t Linux’s fault, but that old Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 card works so bad in Linux that it drives me insane. Sometimes it works OK but out of nowhere, it starts losing connection over periods of time.
After disassembly of the laptop, I was greeted with this super tiny daughterboard. That worked out to my advantage, but you will only understand why later.
With these findings, I laid out a plan on how to replace that Wireless card. I started searching the internet in order to find a suitable replacement. Unfortunately, I was out of luck, this daughterboard is proprietary and as far as I know, it is only used in this computer model (HP Specter 13). Right here was where I decided that I was going to give a shot at replacing the soldered Intel chip. If you are asking yourself where to find a more modern replacement chip, at that time I was too. After a lot of searches, I was feeling very defeated by this idea, until I finally understood that Intel stopped making the Mini PCI-E cards. I don’t really know if it was luck but I discovered that the new Mini PCI-E cards are made by off-brands and have inside the M.2 1216 Intel cards. So we are back on track. I searched the web for a suitable Mini PCI-E card and ended up finding this one.
It is marked as MPE-AX3000H, and yes this model number doesn’t even exist at all. With a little bit of search, I found out that this is an Intel AX200, a much newer model than what I had before, and even supports WiFi6. After careful disassembly of the card’s shield, I was amazed at how lucky I was.
I then proceeded to carefully remove the shielded antenna wires. It’s now showtime, and trying to remove the new Intel chip is still on this date, one of the most difficult solder jobs I ever attempted. I used my cheap knockoff hot air rework station.
And voilá, I have a replacement chip. Now to the most difficult part. Because I wasn’t needing the Mini PCI-E board any more, removal didn’t need as special care as the removal on the computer’s one. If I kill my computer’s board, I am out of a computer, as it is the only one I have. So to take extra precaution I bought a new and identical replacement daughterboard for my computer and I am going to try to replace the chip on it instead.
Based on past experiences with much simpler electronics, I set the soldering temperature to 330°C and used a lot of flux to unsolder the chip. After a little while, the old chip was free from its prison and I was capable of soldering the new one in. This was the moment that I was the most nervous for and the only moment that I knew it could all go wrong pretty fast.
Now that the new chip is soldered, it is time to test it out. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and this is where the story ends for now. Multiple factors could be the cause of this unsuccessful attempt. In my mind, the culprit was my lack of experience in soldering these tinny chips. I think this is completely possible but it is going to be the end of it for now. I am sure that someone, somewhere with better experience and equipment could attempt this upgrade and be successful. In the end, I just felt happy to share this failed attempt and my overall experience with it, and that’s why I am sharing this story.
Thank you all for reading this and have a wonderful day.