XPS13 wireless: the ultimate fix

As frequently complained, Dell XPS13 which is otherwise a very nice ultrabook unfortunately offers horrible wireless experience while running Linux. Typical wireless issues include:

  • Not connecting to certain access points (some WPA2-PSK) at all, or taking long time to establish the connection;
  • Dropping the wireless connection frequently and keeping reconnecting;
  • Having bad wireless throughput;

Those issues are traced to the Intel N6230 WiFi card used by XPS13. Intel wireless cards are unfortunately supported rather poorly on Linux. Therefore the best way to address this issue is to replace this card. I had great experience with Atheros cards under Linux – they have a native driver developed in Linux kernel which is the most mature, and feature-rich. Because of this I purchased Atheros AR5B95 AR9285 Half Mini PCI-E card for $7.99. Other cards should work too, just make sure they are Half Mini PCI-E form factor.

Once you receive your card, the replacement is straightforward. See below how to disassemble XPS13 and replace the wireless card.

First you need to unscrew ten screws. Use a hexagonal screwdriver for this. There are no screws under the sticker, no need to remove it.

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Then remove the plastic cover:

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Gently remove the stick tape on the left covering the SSD hard drive and the screw holding the WiFi card. Disconnect two antenna cables (black and white) from the card, then unscrew the screw and remove the card:

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Here the card is removed.
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After that insert the new card, screw it in with the original screw (do not use the ones bundled with the card), and attach the antenna connectors.

The ultrabook boots fine with this card, no BIOS patches needed, and all wireless issues are gone after this replacement!

This entry was posted in Hardware.

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