Upgrade Core Duo Macbook Pro to 802.11n WiFi

February 24, 2007

Airport Extreme Base StationUpdate — kids don’t try this at home; see the update at bottom of this post

There’s been a lot of great press about the new Airport Extreme, which is dandy unless you’re like me, and bought a Core Duo MacBook Pro, before the newer Core 2 Duo models that already have the 802.11n hardware on board came out.

Early reports were that there would be no way to upgrade the Core Duo laptops, since 802.11n requires three antennas, and the Core Duos only have the 802.11g complement of two antennas built in.

Which leaves those of us early-Intel Mac adopters with a choice of external USB adapters, or an Expresscard adapter. Blech. Plus, so far I haven’t seen one of either that mentioned OS X drivers.

Which doesn’t mean we couldn’t use one of the new Airport Extremes, but if you’re going to drop nearly 2 Benjamins on a pre-N router, you don’t want to be stuck with (the much slower) 802.11g.

Well, good news.

it turns out that 802.11n DOES work with 2 antennas. Even better, it turns out that an Airport card for a Mac Pro (which you can buy as an individual component) is designed to use only two antennas, and will bolt up in place of the stock built-in Airport in a Core Duo MacBook Pro — and it gets pretty dandy performance even on two antennas. All without having something external dangling or trying to find 3rd Party drivers.

The bad news? Unlike the last generation of Powerbooks, which made it easy to replace the Airport card (you could get to it right next to the RAM), you have to do a substantial amount of disassembly on the MacBook Pro.

Like scary substantial, take pictures as you go and label each screw individually substantial. The good news is that you might as well swap in a bigger/faster hard drive while you’re there, because you’ll be in the same location.

I’m not sure I’ve got quite enough nerve to try this yet. Hopefully one of the “ship us your MacBook overnight and we’ll upgrade the hard drive” outfits will soon offer a deal on upgrading your WiFi at the same time.

In the meantime, if you’re feeling ambitious, the good folks at HardMac have a step by step guide to upgrading your Core Duo MacBook Pro to 802.11n

Update 2/26/07

Apparently Apple isn’t terribly amused by this whole idea:

The AirPort Extreme Card sold for use in Mac Pro and some iMac computers is not supported in any other products and could cause damage if installed in them. Because of this possibility, the AirPort Extreme Card is not a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) part and requires installation by Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs).

Well crap. Nevermind.

(via MacMarc)

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