The Cheap and Simple Fix for Your Older Mac’s Broken Wireless

What happens when your MacBook Pro’s wireless card breaks or the antennae starts giving you horrible reception? Well normally, if your Mac was less that a year old, it would be covered under warranty. If you bought AppleCare, you’re covered if your MacBook is up to three years old.

But, what happens if it’s after the third year and you weren’t planning on a new Mac for another year or so? Does it make sense to replace a faulty wireless antennae on a four year old laptop? What do you do when your MacBook’s wireless stops working, or doesn’t work well, and it’s too old to be worth fixing?

Why this is an Expensive Repair?

In the old iBook and Powerbook days, wireless networking was a luxury sold separately as the user installable Airport (802.11b) and Airport Extreme (802.11g) card. Since late 2004, however, Apple began incorporating the wireless into the logic board. This means no more Airport Cards for the user to easily replace. So, unless you’re handy with laptop insides, you’ll need a tech.

That’s only half of the equation.

The antennae is run along the edges around the LCD panel. If that goes bad, the part is cheap but getting to it is a bit of work. On an old MacBook or iBook, the repair will cost more than the Mac is worth. And what if that doesn’t fix the issue? Fortunately, there’s a much simpler (and cheaper) alternative:

USB WIreless Adapters

Rather than fixing your Mac’s faulty wireless, its actually easier to just get a USB WIreless adapter for it instead. You get one, plug it in and you’re all set – right? Actually, no.. The trick with USB WIreless adapters is you must get one that works with OS X. Luckily, I found three that support OS X from 10.3 (Panther) up to 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

1. Edimax EW-7718Un – 802.11n USB Wireless Adapter.

2. Encore ENUWI-N3 – 802.11n USB Wireless Adapter

3. Panda Mini Wifi Adapter – 802.11n USB Wireless Adapter

Out of the three OS X compatible USB wireless adapters, the Edimax has the best reviews on Amazon, which specifically mention using it with OS X. The Edimax and Encore both use a Ralink chipset so there’s a good chance they’re running from the same driver.

So if your wireless is trashed and it’s an old MacBook, skip the repair and go for the USB Wireless alternative. If your laptop is old enough, you may even be upgrading to 802.11n.

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