How to Replace a Laptop's Wireless LAN Card

If you can't log on to the Internet, it might be time to replace the wireless LAN card on your laptop. This is a moderate computer repair task that takes a little more research before you begin, but the physical part of the job should take about 20 minutes.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Small Phillips head screwdriver
  • Small needle nose pliers
  • Computer with Internet access
  • New wireless LAN card (purchase after Step 2)

Step 1: Research for Compatibility

Your first task is to learn from other people's mistakes. A wireless LAN card that you purchase might not necessarily work for your laptop, even if the packaging and the manufacturer's website says it will. Figure out the exact brand name and model number of your laptop. Search the web to figure out which brands of wireless LAN cards other users have been able to install in your brand of laptop. You'll find a lot of frustrated users, but you'll also save yourself a headache by weeding out LAN cards that won't work for your system.

Step 2: Determine Card Size

There are two sizes of wireless LAN cards: half-height and full-height. Take the back panel off of your laptop with a screwdriver and set the screws aside in a safe place. Locate your LAN card. It should have a black wire and a white wire running to it. Carefully detach the wires; use needle nose pliers if you have to. (It's not a car battery, so there's no danger of shocking yourself.) Unscrew the card and pop it out of the laptop. Once you figure out whether the card is half-height or full-height, you can purchase a new LAN card that is the correct brand and size for your laptop.

Step 3: Install New Wireless LAN Card

Install the new wireless LAN card in reverse order from how you took the original out of your laptop. Pop the card into place and reattach the screws. Pay careful attention when reattaching the two wires. They might be in reverse order on the new card, so you want to make sure they're connected correctly.

Step 4: Replace Back Panel

Reattach the back panel of your laptop. Make sure the screws are tightened, and turn the laptop on. The wireless LAN card should automatically detect your network and allow you to access the Internet. If not, continue to Step 5.

Step 5: Download and Install Drivers

You might need to install drivers in order for the new wireless LAN card to function properly. Wi-Fi cards don't typically come with an install disk, so you'll have to access the Internet on another computer to locate the correct drivers. Search the card manufacturer's website for a Download section, and locate the correct driver for your operating system. Download the driver and transfer it to the laptop. Install the driver and reboot your laptop.

Step 6: Try Again

Once your laptop has been restarted, attempt to connect to your network with your new wireless LAN card. If the new drivers have been installed and the card is properly in place, you should be able to connect to the web. If not, it may be a compatibility issue between the card and your system. The only option at this point is to return the wireless LAN card for a refund and try another one.