How To: Adding Internal Wireless LAN to a Notebook

Getting the Hardware

If you go into your local electronics retailer, it's unlikely you'll find mini-PCI wireless cards on the shelf next to the other wireless client adapters. But a Froogle search for mini-PCI 802.11 brings up plenty of options, although at prices much higher than you'd expect (or want) to pay.

An alternative to paying top price for a mini-PCI card is to "harvest" one from a product that uses one internally. I compiled Table 1 by digging through my past product reviews and you can use it as a starting point in your hunt for less-expensive wireless mini-PCI cards.

ProductCardFCC ID
Belkin F5D7130 802.11g Wireless Network Access PointBroadcom BCM94306MPQDS-BRCM1005
Buffalo Tech WBR-G54 802.11g routerBroadcom BCM94306MPQDS-BRCM1005
Buffalo Tech WLA2-G54 AP/BridgeBuffalo Tech WLI-MPCI-G54 (copy of Broadcom BCM94306MP)QDS-BRCM1005
Buffalo Technology WLI-USB-G54 AirStation 54Mbps Wireless USB AdapterBuffalo Tech WLI-MPCI-G54 (copy of Broadcom BCM94306MP)QDS-BRCM1005
Buffalo WZR-RS-G54 AirStation 54Mbps Wireless Cable/DSL Router-g with AOSSBuffalo Tech WLI-MPCI-G54 (copy of Broadcom BCM94306MP)QDS-BRCM1005
D-Link DI624Atheros-based 11gKA2DI624SA1
DrayTek Vigor 2900G Broadband Security RouterBased on Conexant's 802.11g PRISM GT chipsetN/A
Gigabyte GN-A17GU 802.11g Access PointGIGABYTE GC-WIAG-101 (Atheros' AR5002G chipset)JCK-GN-WIAG
Linksys WAP54G (original)Broadcom BCM94306MPPKW-WAP54G
Linksys WRT55AGAtheros-based 11a
Broadcom-based 11b/g
Linksys WRT54G (original)Linksys WM54G (copy of Broadcom BCM94306MP)

- PKW-WM54G (original)

Linksys WRT54G (variations)Revised January 28 2005
None. Radio integrated onto main board

- Q87-WRT54GP2
- Q87-WRT54G11
- Q87-WRT54GV2
- Q87-WRT54C

NETGEAR WG602Zcom XG-600 (PRISM-based)

- PY3WG602 (original)
- PY3WG602V2
- PY3WG602V3

SMC SMC2870WAirVast Technology WN360g (PRISM-based)QDWWN360G
USR 5450 APGlobalSun (based on Texas Instruments' TNETW1130)07J-GL2454MP-0T
ZyXEL ZyAIR G-2000ZCom XG-601 (Conexant PRISM-based)M4Y-XG-600
ZyXEL HS-100W HomeSafe Gateway (w / wireless)ZCom XG-601 (Conexant PRISM-based)M4Y-XG-600
Table 1: Products using mini-PCI cards

An 802.11g wireless router is a good choice for harvesting, since it will still function as a non-wireless router when you remove the card, or even just an extra switch if you don't need a router (just disable its DHCP server). But you may have to search on eBay to get older versions, since current versions of popular bargain-priced routers such as D-Link's DI624, NETGEAR's WGR614, and Linksys' WGT54G all have integrated radios (part of the reason why they're so inexpensive).

Tip TIP: Vendors usually add a version number (example: WGT54Gv2 or similar) to the product's model number when they make a significant design change. However, retailers generally only stock by base model number (example: WGT54G), so if you're buying on-line, you won't know what you're getting until you receive it. Fortunately, manufacturers usually do show the version number somewhere on the product box. So if you make your purchase at a brick-and-mortar retail store, you can verify that what you're buying is the model you need.