Help Select Mini-PCI or PCMCIA Wireless Adapter


I recently purchased a refurbished Alienware Area 51-M 7700 (Intel 915P Chipset) laptop, and am in the process of upgrading it. I would like to add wireless networking capability, but am uncertain whether I should install a mini-PCI or PCMCIA wireless adapter. I spent several hours sifting through Google searches yesterday, but couldn't find any quantitative comparisons of the two. Do any of you have advice to offer on this matter?

Also, would you please suggest specific brands and/or models that are known for being reliable and having good range?


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  1. Does the laptop have an internal antenna to accept a minipci card? If you look in the area where the minipci card goes and there arn't two little wires hanging around in there you are probably out of luck for an internal antenna.
    That leaves you with only one option, a PCMCIA card. I've actually been testing a bunch of those lately and I've found that if you want to be able to connect to the widest range of devices get an off brand like Trendnet or Zonenet. If you plan on only connecting to your wireless ap at home just get a card of the same brand as your ap. Mixing up large manufacturers generally doesn't work out so well.

    If you do have antenna plugs inside the case then definatly go for an internal card, though they are sometimes hard to come by. I'd get either an Intel pro wireless card or an Atheros based card (many manufacturers make them). Make sure you find a picture of it so you can make sure that they little antenna connectors will reach the <A HREF="" target="_new">posts</A> on the card.

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  2. Hello, Folken!

    I opened my laptop last night, and confirmed that there are two internal antennas beneath the keyboard. The black and light gray antennas have clear protective sleeves over their heads/jacks, and are taped down in the general vicinity of the mini-PCI slot. Both have enough 'slack' that I don't think they'll have any problem reaching the ports on a mini-PCI wireless card.

    After reading your response last night, I did a little web browsing and found several online stores that sell various Intel mini-PCI wireless cards. Unfortunately, I had less luck locating cards that I was certain were built around the Atheros chipset. Could you recommend a couple of reputable brands and/or specific models?

    Thanks again!
  3. I have had very good luck with Atheros based IBM wireless cards. Toshiba cards are also Atheros based.
    If you are on a budget an intel card would probably be the way to go. Atheros cards tend to be more expensive. You can get an Intel 2200bg card for around $20-$30. A bg Atheros card usually starts at about $50+. The abg cards can be well over $100.

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  4. Hello again!

    The consensus here and elsewhere on the Internet seems to be that a wireless card based off the Atheros chipset is the way to go, if possible. After reading your last post, I researched the Mini-PCI cards offered by IBM and Toshiba. I immediately noticed that their descriptions/specifications list what models of (their own) laptop these cards will work with. Is it safe to assume that these cards will also work in my Alienware laptop, since it has a standard Mini-PCI port?

    I apologize for asking a seemingly stupid question, but I want to be careful. It's usually difficult to return items purchased through the Internet, and I don't want to accidentally spend a good bit of money on a card that turns out to be proprietary to a specific model of IBM or Toshiba laptop.

    Thanks again for all your help!

  5. I've put a toshiba wireless card in an hp laptop and it worked fine. Haven't tried an IBM card in a different laptop but it "should" work fine. I dont see how they could make a mini-pci card proprietary. As long as there is a regular windows driver you should be ok. IBM drivers come in a funky pack but there are regular inf files in them.

    I just remembered somethin else you should check. Is your laptop centrino? If it is your only choice is an Intel wireless card. When you put a non Intel wireless card in a centrino notebook it wont boot.

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  6. Hello!

    I checked both the Alienware website and the printed documentation that came with my Area 51-M, but neither mentioned that the laptop uses Centrino technology. There's also no Centrino sticker on the laptop itself - for what little that's worth. ;)

    I've decided to try a Toshiba or IBM Atheros-based wireless adapter first. If for some reason I can't get that to work, I'll probably fall back on a wireless adapter produced by Intel.

    Thanks again for all your help, and have a great weekend!

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