[GUIDE] How To Add Wireless-N Capability To The Aspire One

Discussion in 'Acer Aspire One' started by lufcfan, Aug 17, 2008.

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  1. lufcfan

    lufcfan

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    Having had my Aspire One A150L for just under a week now, I have decided to start on a few modifications to the machine. The first was to get rid of the Linpus Linux OS, get XP Professional installed and the second was the one which we will go through today – the Wireless-N mod.

    I have recently acquired a new BT Home Hub v2.0 which ships with Wireless-N capability as a free replacement from BT after the v1.5 hub did nothing but crash, lock-up and drop connections all the time. It’s a nice piece of kit, looks smart and I must say I’m impressed! Anyway, I digress...

    As some of you may (or may not) know, the Aspire One uses a Mini PCI-Express Wi-Fi card from Atheros. Apparently, it’s a very good card but it’s only Wireless-G and as I do a lot of large file transfers between my computer and laptops, I needed something quicker than the 54mbps on offer from the Wireless-G on board the Aspire One.

    I chose the Intel 4965AGN card as my replacement, as it was a very cost-effective £23 shipped from a power-seller on eBay. It supports MIMO, and has WEP, WPA, WPA2, AES and 802.11i security compatibility. It’s also Intel Centrino certified. I bought two (one for each of my laptops) and the cards arrived the next day, nicely packaged and in their own individual sealed anti-static packets with the required extra antenna free of charge. If you’re interested in picking up a few yourselves then the seller is “justopeshop”. I’d highly recommend him and he ships Europe-wide!

    So, why do we need a guide to swap over a simple Mini PCI-E card? Well, as seen above, Wireless-N cards have three antennae as opposed to the two utilised by other wireless cards – so not only will we have to swap the card, but we’ll have to install a new antenna (in the screen with the standard issue ones) and route the cables through into the laptop before finally plumbing in the new card. So, without further a-do, let’s get started!

    First things first – let’s do a little house-keeping...
    Prior to cracking your Aspire One open, let’s do a little house-keeping. This will make things much easier for us later on!
    Firstly, if you did decide on the above Intel card (again, highly recommended!) then it makes sense to download the driver from Intel prior to ripping out the old Atheros wireless card. That way, we’ll be able to get on with installing the new card straight after we change it over as opposed to having to download it elsewhere, transfer it to the one and then install. It’s not really a problem for anyone with another system or laptop, but if the one is all you have then you’re going to be stuck as XP doesn’t have a driver for the 4965AGN card as standard! The link to the Intel driver page for the card is:

    http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Product ... uctID=2753

    Once you’ve got the driver, it also makes sense to uninstall any related drivers or software relating to the Atheros card and uninstalling the card through Device Manager. From there, you’re free to shut down the One and get to the installation!

    Step 1 – Disassemble the case
    The first thing we need to do is disassemble the case so we can get access to the old card. If you’re curios, it’s situated just to the left of the wireless switch at the front of the machine. I advise you lay something on your desk to protect the case while we’re doing this. An old bit of newspaper would be ideal – but I used the carton the One came in as I had it lying around.

    Flip the laptop over, and take out the three screws indicated below from the front of the machine. Then, carefully get a screwdriver underneath the rubber feet at the rear of the One and pry them up enough so you can grab hold of them and peel them off carefully by hand and remove the screws under these feet:

    [​IMG]

    Next, remove the battery and undo the three screws indicated below. You can then flip the laptop back the right way up:

    [​IMG]

    Now, lift the screen to reveal the keyboard. There are three tabs at the top of the keyboard by the screen we’ll need to depress first. They’re black in colour and are fairly easy to pop in. I recommend you go for the middle one first and then the ones on either side. They’re circled in the picture below. Once the three tabs are popped in, lift the edge of the keyboard (I went for the top right-hand side) and pull it forwards and upwards. It should release from the machine but be careful as it’s still connected via the data ribbon to the motherboard so don’t tug it too hard! If you find it’s hard to get off, there are two small tabs moulded into the case by the Enter and Caps lock keys (circled below). Just pull the edge of the case out slightly by one of these tabs while trying to lift the keyboard out again. You’ll find it gives you a bit more room to lift the keyboard out and it should just pop out. Don’t be afraid to give it a fair old tug – just make sure you’ve popped the three top tabs out and be careful of that data ribbon.

    [​IMG]

    Once the keyboard is free, you’ll need to flip up the edge of the Keyboard ribbon connector on the motherboard (the side where it plugs in) to release the ribbon. Once you’ve flipped the connector, the ribbon should just slide out. You should also disconnect the mouse-pad ribbon in the same manner (just below the keyboard connector – also circled below). Now, undo the screws indicated and put them aside somewhere safe. Finally, we’ll need to lift the keyboard surround from the case. Get your nail under the recess in one corner (again I went for the bottom right-hand side (indicated)) and lift it carefully! Be patient and make sure you pop all the tabs holding the top half to the bottom half of the case. Once you’ve done it, it should simply lift off, exposing the motherboard:

    [​IMG]

    Step 2 – We’re in! Now what?
    We have just one more connector to release before we can get to the serious stuff. The one we’ll need to release is for the screen. It should just slide out from its connector without much hassle. While you’re here, undo the two screws indicated below to aid the release of the screen when we’re ready:

    [​IMG]

    Step 3 – Releasing the old Atheros Wireless-G Card
    Removing the old card is easy! Unplug the two aerial leads from their connectors (they just pop off) as indicated and take out the screw from the edge of the card (again indicated). As you undo the screw, you’ll probably notice the card starts to lift at an angle. By the time the screw is fully removed, it’ll probably be sat at around 40-45® to the motherboard. Simply pull it free of the Mini PCI-E slot and place it to one side. If you’re going to keep it, place it in some anti-static packaging to keep it safe and pop it away.

    [​IMG]

    Step 4 – Preparing to remove the screen
    Now we’ll need to remove a few components to enable us to get access to the last couple of screws we’ll need to remove the screen. Firstly, slide the antennae cables out of the two clips moulded into the case (as shown) and remove the sticker holding the cables to the case (also shown). Finally, remove the two screws indicated on the daughterboard and lift it upwards and outwards to remove it. If you find it difficult to remove, try and slide it towards the screen a little as one of the USB Ports can catch on the case making it difficult to dislodge. With the daughterboard free, we can begin to remove the screen.

    [​IMG]

    Step 5 – Removing the screen
    Simply undo the two screws indicated below to detach the screen hinge assembly from the main chassis of the One. Once the two screws are removed, simply pull the screen upwards and it should come free from the laptop. Put the main laptop chassis on one side for now, as the next step is disassembling the screen...

    [​IMG]

    Step 6 – Disassembling the screen
    Disassembling the screen is not as complicated as it would seem. There are six screws you’ll need to remove first and these are indicated below. The screws are covered by little caps which are stuck on with double-sided tape. They simply peel off revealing the screws you’ll have to take out. Four are hidden by little rubber caps at the top of the screen, and the last two are hidden behind little “shield” shaped plastic covers at the bottom. Again, these covers are stuck on with double-sided tape.

    [​IMG]

    Now, all you have to do is get the two halves of the screen shell apart. The process is the same as getting the two halves of the case apart earlier. Simply get your nail in the recess in one of the corners, and pry the two halves apart. There are clips around the edges which you’ll need to pry apart but they come apart easily so don’t worry. Once they’re all unclipped the front of the screen should lift away exposing the inside of the screen.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Step 7 – Installing the New Antenna
    Now, we can install the new antenna in the screen. There is a small moulding in the right-hand side of the screen which is a perfect mounting point for the antenna. Simply butt it up against this moulding and glue it in. It would be best to super-glue it in – just be CAREFUL with it... don’t get it on the screen!

    If you DO, don’t panic! I did this with my other Acer laptop once and it will come off. Whatever you do, DON’T wipe it – it really will make a mess of the screen! Loctite make some stuff called “Glue Remover” in a red tube which is available from any decent DIY shop. B&Q do it for £2.48 and it works brilliantly! Leave it to cure (which sounds counter-intuitive, I know) buy some of this stuff, follow the instructions and viola! It’ll come up perfectly, and won’t leave a trace of anything on your screen whatsoever.

    Now we need to route the antenna cable. Just below where we mounted the aerial, there is a small bracket where the antenna cables are gathered to keep them neat. Fold the metal bracket upwards, run the cable underneath and fold it back down. Next, remove the screw indicated on the bottom of the picture below which secures the hinge to the screen.

    [​IMG]

    Step 8 – Routing the cable out of the screen
    Pop the hinge up off its mounting so you can run the antenna cable underneath it with the others, and then push it back on its mounting point:

    [​IMG]

    Finally, you can replace the screw you removed (as indicated) below and route the cable through the recess in the hinge as shown in the picture below:

    [​IMG]

    Step 9 – Reassembling the screen
    Now the aerial is installed, we can start reassembling the screen. Simply get the surround and start to push the clips back together. Finally, put the screws back in and put the screw covers back in place. Finally, ensure that the leads haven’t been trapped or pinched in the case and now we can begin reassembly of the One.

    [​IMG]

    Step 10 – Reinstalling the screen
    Now you can get the main chassis of the laptop back and reinstall the screen. Ensure the antenna leads run through the hole in the bracket provided for it as seen below and then you can begin to replace the screen. Start with the right hand bracket first. You’ll notice a lug on the right hand side of the case which the screen hinge locates inside. Slide the bracket inside this lug and the screen should square up with its mounting points. Now, push the screen down so the screw holes on the bracket line up with the screw holes in the case. You can now replace the two screws indicated and run the antenna leads back through the cable tidying clips moulded into the case as indicated. P.S. Don't forget to replace the two screws for the bracket on the other side of the screen too!

    [​IMG]

    Step 11 – Reinstalling the daughterboard
    Installing the daughterboard is the opposite of removal. Align the ports with the holes in the case, hold it up at an angle and slide the daughterboard into position. Push the back of the daughterboard down and ensure that the Wi-Fi switch on the motherboard engages with the plastic toggle switch on the front of the case. Replace the two screws removed earlier as indicated and route the Wi-Fi Antennae back into their original position. Now, we can start to install the new wireless card.

    [​IMG]

    Step 12 – Installing the new Wireless-N Card
    Installing the new card is possibly the easiest part of the whole install. Slide the new card into the connector via the contacts. You’ll find the card will sit up at an angle. Push it down gently so it lays parallel with the motherboard and reinstall the securing screw removed earlier as indicated. Finally, push the antennae leads onto the terminals on the new Wi-Fi card. The black lead goes onto the first socket (left) the new antenna goes onto the second socket (centre) and the white antenna clips into the third socket (right). Finally, make sure everything sits flush to the motherboard, tape down the antennae leads to make sure they keep neat and orderly and you can begin reassembly of the case which is the reverse of removal (in true Haynes Manual fashion ;) ). Once reassembled, we can begin with the driver installation...

    [​IMG]

    Step 13 – Installing Drivers and Configuring Your Network Settings
    Once your new prized possession is back in one piece, replace the battery and fire it up. Providing everything went well, the machine should POST successfully and boot into Windows. Once booted, the Add New Hardware Wizard will appear. Cancel it, navigate to where the driver files you downloaded earlier are located, unzip the file and run the setup program. Go through the setup wizard, restart when prompted and upon reboot your new card should be detected! Depending upon which version of the driver you installed, you’ll either see the little XP “Wireless Networks Detected” logo or the Intel PROset/Wireless “searching for networks” logo flashing away in the bottom corner of the screen in the systray (by the clock). Double click the icon (whichever you see), go through the settings wizard and enter your wireless access point settings and enjoy! If you did things correctly, you should see something similar to this:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Final Thoughts
    I hope you found this guide useful to you, and I’d look forward to reading your comments and answering your questions!
    This guide should be applicable to all models of Aspire One – including Linux versions. If you go for the Intel 4965AGN Card, Linux drivers are available for download from the Intel website given earlier in the post.

    I do have a few more modifications to do, and I’ll write up some guides for those too. In the next week or so, I’ll have my touch screen kit here, so if the other guide hasn’t surfaced by then I’ll write one up for everyone!

    Cheers guys, Andy aka. LUFCfan :D
    lufcfan, Aug 17, 2008
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  2. lufcfan

    judeh101

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    Nice mod!
    the screen cracking thing might seem a little scary since plastic tabs that keeps them together might snap off. :shock:
    judeh101, Aug 17, 2008
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