Asus N56VZ-DS71 – WLAN replacement

In September, I bought a new laptop.  I was tired of my Asus G51J ROG overheating and needing to be constantly on a notebook cooler.

And frankly, I find it a little embarrassing to be a computer professional with a terrible running machine.  I did some research, and landed on the Asus N56VZ-DS71.

Yes, Asus again. 🙂  I think they make an excellent laptop, especially for the dollar, and the graphics card Asus used in the old machine did have trouble in a lot of laptops, not just Asus machines.  The main complaint I heard about this model was the wireless card.  Because I know that Asus doesn’t tend to lock their hardware in the bios, it seemed like it might not be a big deal to change it.  Then I saw where it was.  It’s actually under a cross member for the frame of the laptop.   The general consensus on The Notebook Review Forums was that you’d have to disassemble the entire laptop to get to it.  Hmmm…

I might have left it alone if I was getting decent speeds out of the stock Atheros card, but it was abysmal.  I’m not positive that the Atheros card doesn’t support the higher speeds of N, what I am positive of is that my card, in my machine did not connect at higher than G speeds (54mbps).  In the specs, it’s capable of N speeds (300mbps – not dual band, but N capable)  In practice, I didn’t see any settings in the device properties with the 2 drivers I tried, that led me to believe that the card in my machine felt that “N” was one of its responsibilities.

It turns out, you can change the card without disassembling the whole laptop, no extra screw removal at all, in fact.  It takes intestinal fortitude and a gentle steady hand, but you can undo the screw that’s partially covered by plastic. If you use the smallest Philips screwdriver you can get a grip on the head of the screw with, you can set it almost upright while you’re loosening it. (The smaller the screwdriver head, usually the thinner the shank.  Consider that straighter and smaller is potentially less destructive than bigger and more crooked.  We’re not dealing with high torque screws here.)

Disclaimer: This worked for me, if you’re not comfortable with the process described in this post – please don’t do it, SE can’t be held responsible for any damage that occurs to your laptop, or Asus denying a warranty claim, etc, etc. etc.

Note:  If you want to do this, I recommend that you uninstall the Atheros driver (you might find them under Qualcomm as well) before removing the card.  If you try to uninstall the driver after the fact, it will fail, because the card is not present.

Note:  My machine has a fresh custom build of Windows 7 Professional on it.  I doubt this makes a difference, but it’s one of the ways this machine is no longer stock.  If you have trouble getting your card to work, it may be worth looking at a clean build without all of the Asus bloatware on it.  ( I assume most people undertaking this are not rank newbs and can handle a clean install, it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to cover that here.)

The reason it takes the intestinal fortitude is that it will put a small groove in the top plastic above the WLAN card, the shape of the screwdriver shank. It’s barely noticeable, but you need to be able to commit to it. Keep in mind it’s covered by the base cover anyway when the laptop is reassembled.

The reason for the gentle steady hand is that you have to make sure that you don’t flex the thin plastic enough to crack it. Just enough is lots.

I removed the Atheros card (reserved in case it needs to be sent in for warranty) and installed the Intel 6300 agn dual band Nic that I’d upgraded my G51J with.

It works almost as well.  The only problem is that there’s no grey antenna cable, so range isn’t what it could be.  I’ve seen the Intel card work at 200mb/s speeds, full speed I haven’t seen yet, but with 2 of 3 antenna cables, we might not see it. The Intel card was literally a pop it in, download and install the driver and go.

The driver I used for the 6300 is which is the latest for that card.

I also threw a plastic guitar pick under where I was working to protect the board, in case I slipped.

The screw is short enough that you can undo it, then gently lift the plastic blocking it from coming out while gently holding the WLAN card down, and the screw will fall out. Then take that same tiny screwdriver, put it into the hole that didn’t have a screw in it and pull the card straight down (towards you horizontally – assumes the HDD is on the left of card, and the ram is on the right.).

Installation is the reverse of removal.  Make sure the card is totally seated (I don’t actually think you could put the screw in if it wasn’t, but it’s worth mentioning)

Connect to your wired network and download the driver for your new card.  Alternatively, you could do this first, before you remove the old card.

I did notice at first, the 6300 didn’t see any wireless connections, I ran it through the networking troubleshooter, which enabled the card. Possibly the first time ever a Windows troubleshooter has helped me.

6 thoughts on “Asus N56VZ-DS71 – WLAN replacement”

  1. Thanks! This blogpost gave me the courage to cut the black plastic around the screw, and replace the wifi card with an Intel AC-7260. Much easier than taking apart the whole laptop 🙂 The wifi speed and signal are much better now!

    1. Hi, no the 6300 doesn’t have bluetooth. I actually had to go and check – I’ve never had need of bluetooth on that machine. I’m sure there are other cards out there that will work though that do have bluetooth. The main takeaways from the post are that the hardware is not locked – like some other brands – and that the card is replaceable without having to disassemble the whole machine. 🙂

      1. Thanks I have an N56VJ and having trouble with bluetooth, thinking of replacing the module. I’m reading there were a lot of problems with Linux and the intel products.

        1. Intel has always been friendly in my Linux machines but I always used very well established chipsets. Perhaps as Intel has become more interested in the individual consumer revenue stream this has changed?

          These days I don’t have as much time as I used to (running 2 businesses does that. :-/) so I don’t currently have Linux on a laptop – since I never could make the full conversion and still support my clients at a moment’s notice – but it’s on 2 servers here that were recently temporarily decommissioned.

          The Atheros cards were the ones that often gave me fits to get running.

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