Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Wi-Fi 6/E Upgrade: Here’s How You Can Today

Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade: Intel AX200 vs Intel AX210 Modules
Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade: An Intel AX210NGW Wi-Fi 6E module (right) next to an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 counterpart.

By now, you can easily make a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade to your home network. There are just so many excellent options. In fact, I bet you’ve done that already, which is why you’re reading this post — you want to do that on the other end of the connection.

And you’re right! It’s possible to do a Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade on many, if not most, existing computers. This post will walk you through the process of determining the possibility and the actual work of upgrading an existing Windows-based computer to the latest Wi-Fi standard.

Before continuing, though, make sure you’re comfortable with opening up your computer and install/replace a component.

Most importantly, keep in mind that Wi-Fi 6E is still in a pre-certified state and will be like that until mid-2021, give or take. Before it’s officially certified, hardware from different vendors might not work (well) with one another.

READ NOW:  Wi-Fi 6E Explained: It's Here but Still a Blur. No Need to Hold Your Breath

Dong’s note: I first published this post on May 27, 2019, and updated it on November 28, 2020, to add additional relevant information, including that of Wi-Fi 6E.

Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade: What you need

First and foremost, you need a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E adapter card to add it to your computer or replace the existing one.

There are a couple of options.

(You can read more about Wi-Fi 6E in this post, but an add-on card of this standard is basically a tri-band 2×2 Wi-Fi adapter that includes a 2.4GHz band, a 5GHz band, and a 6GHz band. Only one of these bands is used at any given time.)

All Wi-Fi 6/E modules I’ve known also have Bluetooth 5.2 built-in, which is always a bonus.

Note: In the future, chances are there will be USB Wi-Fi 6/E adapter cards. In this case, make sure you use it with a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (formerly USB 3.0) or faster port. USB 2.0 caps at just 480 Mbps, which is too slow to handle Wi-Fi 6.

READ NOW:  Device Connections Explained: It's All about USB-C

Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade: Find out if your computer qualifies

All of the Wi-Fi module mentioned above and likely all future Wi-Fi 6/E adapters use the next generation form factor (NGFF). Specifically, they are 2230 M.2 cards — 22m wide and 33mm long — that use the A or E key to connect to a host.

That said, to qualify for the upgrade, your computer must have a compatible slot for this card design.

Wi Fi 6E vs Wi Fi 6 Modules
An Intel AX210NGW 2×2 Wi-Fi 6E module next to a fully assembled desktop Wi-Fi adapter card with an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 module. Both are ready to be installed on a laptop or desktop, respectively. Note the Bluetooth USB connector of the latter.

Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade on a laptop: Highly possible

You can’t perform this Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade on all existing laptops, but chances are it’s possible with most laptops released in the past five or so years — most, if not all, use an NGFF Wi-Fi card and, therefore, have a 2230 M.2 slot.

To be sure, though, here’s how to check:

If your laptop currently uses an Intel Wi-Fi 5 adapter model AC-72xx, AC-82xx, AC-3160, or AC-92xx, it will likely support a Wi-Fi 6/E module. So those that use the following Wi-Fi 5 models from Rivet Networks: Killer 1435 and Killer 15xx.

Again, even if your machine doesn’t use any of the Wi-Fi card models above, but any Wi-Fi 5 card, it likely can handle a Wi-Fi 6/E one. The bottom line is the computer needs to have a 2230 M.2 slot and compatible antenna wires.

Let’s find out how to identify your computer’s current Wi-Fi card.

How to identify a laptop’s existing Wi-Fi card (on a Windows 10 machine)

Right-click on the Start button (lower-left corner) and choose Device Manager to open the Device Manager window.

  • On the list of devices, click on the right arrow (>) button before Network adapters to extend the list.
  • Look for the wireless adapter and note down its name. If it’s one of the card model mentioned above, your laptop is for sure ready for the upgrade.

(You can also Google its model number to find out if it’s a 2230 NGFF card. Check for a picture of the card. It should look similar to the ones at the top of this post. Check the antenna connectors to make sure it’s the same as those of the existing card.)

Device Manager
Bingo! This laptop will support the Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade.

Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade on a desktop: It’s all about PCIe

The chance is much higher on the desktop front. For one, some desktops have a built-in 2230 M.2 slot. Most importantly, all standard desktops released in the past decade have peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe or PCI-E) slots.

As a result, with an NGFF-to-PCIe converter card, mentioned above, you can, for sure, upgrade the machine to Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E.

PCIe slots come in different lengths to represent performance grades — the longer the slot, the faster an add-on device it can host. You’ll only need an x1 PCIe slot (the shortest one) for the Wi-Fi 6 upgrade, but a slot of any length will work.

PCIe Slos
The PCIe slots (blue and black) on a relatively old motherboard. All will work for the Wi-Fi 6 upgrade but you only need the x1 PCIe slot (shortest).

How to identify PCIe slots on a desktop

On a motherboard, PCIe slots tend to come in a few colors, including black, blue, yellow, or green, but they are rarely white, which is the color of older PCI slots. Also, no matter how long a PCIe slot is, its only key notch — a divider within the slot itself — is always at the same spot, about less than an inch from the left end.

If you buy a separate PCIe converter card, attach the Wi-Fi 6 module onto it, and you have yourself a Wi-Fi 6 PCIe add-on adapter.

Note: You might need an internal USB connector for the Bluetooth feature of the Wi-Fi 6/E card. Most motherboards have some of these near their bottom, below the PCIe slot area. If you only care about the Wi-Fi function, though, you can ignore this.

Steps to perform a Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade via adapter card installation

Now that you have done all the steps needed to make sure your computer supports the new card, here are the general steps to do the Wi-Fi 6/E upgrade.


1. Buy the hardware

Buy the Wi-Fi laptop module and the converter PCIe adapter card (if necessary) as mentioned above.

Again, if your computer, mostly a laptop, has a 2230 M.2 slot, you just need the actual Wi-Fi module. On a desktop, chances are you will need a full adapter card, which is the Wi-Fi module, and a PCIe to M.2 adapter.

Wi Fi 5 and Wi Fi 6E Modules
Wi-Fi 6/E Upgrade: A Wi-Fi 6/E shares the same design as most existing Wi-Fi 5 modules, note the antenna ports numbered 2 and 1 on the card.

2. Get the software driver

On your to-be-upgraded computer, download the Wi-Fi 6/E module’s driver software. (Here’s the link if you’re using the Killer AX1650x. If you an Intel AX200 (Wi-Fi 6) or Intel AX210 (Wi-Fi 6E) card, use this link.) Some card/module comes with a software DVD.

Technically, you can download the driver for Intel AX200-based cards using Windows Update. However, that’s only possible if the computer can connect to the Internet, which is not possible if the Wi-Fi card is its only network adapter. So, getting the driver software beforehand is a smart move.

3. Install the Wi-Fi module/adapter

Open up the computer, and install the module.

On a desktop, use any available PCIe slot. (Make sure you plug in the card’s USB cable if you want to use the card’s Bluetooth feature).

On a laptop, swap the existing Wi-Fi card with the new Wi-Fi 6 module — the two should look very similar. (Make sure you reattach the antenna wires correctly onto the replacement card’s connectors, marked as 2 and 1 on the module — replicate their positions as seen on the old card.)

Close the computer back up.

Wi Fi 6E Laptop
Inside that same laptop. The Wi-Fi 6E card is now in place.

4. Install the software driver

Start the computer up and, if necessary, install the software you downloaded in step #2. In my experience, the latest revisions of Windows 10 have a built-in driver for Wi-Fi 6 cards, and yours might work right away.

However, if you use a Wi-Fi 6E card, chances are driver installation is required.


And that’s it. If you’re using a Wi-Fi 6 router, your computer can now connect to it using a Wi-Fi 6 connection. There’s no Wi-Fi 6E on the market yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how a 6GHz connection pans out.

Note, though, that you might have to tweak the router’s setting a bit — make sure it works in the 160Mhz channel — for the card to connect at top speeds.

The new Wi-Fi speed after the upgrade.
No matter what card you use, be it Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, 2.4Gbps of negotiated speed is about the fastest you can get, for now.

Final thoughts

For now, it doesn’t matter which card you use, be it Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, you’ll get the same performance which is that of Wi-Fi 6. That was my experience with my new Intel AX210NGW card, anyway.

To experience Wi-Fi 6E speed, we’ll have to wait till routers of this standard are available. And chances are you’ll find out about that here (hopefully) soon.

By the way, the upgrade process is the same for any future Wi-Fi cards of different speed tiers or vendors.

58 thoughts on “Wi-Fi 6/E Upgrade: Here’s How You Can Today”

  1. Hi, I bought on aliexpress to ax200 chip. I have Asus z390-e gaming model motherboard. I changed default wifi chip 9560 wifi 5. But not worked. I just ask for you why ? I using windows 10.

    Reply
  2. Hi, I have thinkpad t440s with bios version 2.54. I am trying to install ax200 but my bios is whitelist. Do you have any idea how to unlock bios.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • I’m not sure what you mean by BIOS whitelist. Generally, change a hardware component has little to do with the BIOS, but the software driver.

      Reply
  3. I have an HP DV7T-7000 and it came with an Intel AC-7260 WiFi card. I want to upgrade to an Intel WiFi 6 card. Your article says if the current card is a 72XX, then it will work. The 7260 card has a different edge connector key than the WiFi 6 card. Are you sure the WiFi 6 card will work as a replacement?

    Reply
  4. I have a wifi 5 adapter on my Lenovo ThinkPad x1 Extreme which has an M2. E interface; I wanted to upgrade it to the new Intel Wi-Fi 6E ax210 adapter, however, it came with an M.2 E/A interface. I the wifi to work, but not the Bluetooth. It would not show up nor does it visible in the device manager. Do you know any way to fix the problem.

    PLEASE HELP. I love this adapter and wish I can get to work.

    Reply
    • Try to make sure you install the module and connect the antenna wire properly. Update the driver software to the latest. Also, you can always get a Bluetooth USB adapter. They are cheap and very tiny.

      Reply
  5. Ive got 2 Laptops, one with an intel AX200 and the other with an AX201. I can copy with about 80MB/s over wifi with the AX201 adapter but only with ~6MB/s with the AX200 adapter. to my understanding both support wifi6 2×2. are those speeds to be exspected? both laptops run windows 10. the AX200 one has a HM370 chipset and i7-9750H CPU. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  6. So basically if I understand correctly I could just upgrade my Pce-AX58BT to Wi-Fi 6A? Some other people were saying that you’ll need a different antenna and different board with different capacitors, but it didn’t sound right to me.

    Reply
    • Try updating the BIOS, E. Not sure what the issue is but you might just need to install the software driver if the new card fits. In that case, read the post again.

      Reply
  7. Hi Dong took your advice got the Asus rt-ax92u and I am very happy with it. I’ve also upgraded my 2017 dell xps 13 laptop with an Intel AX200 card, all working great.
    New question, can I upgrade my 2019 Samsung 8k tv model QN75Q900RBFXZA wifi card to a wifi 6 if it isn’t doesn’t already a wifi 6 card? I have been unable to find anything on this.

    Sincerely,

    Tom

    Reply
    • Unlikely that you can upgrade your TV, Tom. You can in the future with a streaming device, like an Amazon Fire Stick, that’s Wi-Fi 6-ready.

      Reply
  8. Sorry i guess i am misunderstanding/miss communicating? My connection rate says is 1300/866.7mbps. With an RT-AX58U ax3000 meshed with an RT-AC68R ac1900 & ex7300 ac2200. I am seeing an average local speeds of 1820/495 mbps on a usb-68 adapter. If min 30% wouldnt that be ~1300 mbps down? also if i may ask i see these cards are connecting @ 2.4 gbps but what speeds are you seeing from them? i am concerned going from usb 3.2 gen 2 (5 gbps) to pcie4.0 1x bandwidth will only allow an increase to 1.97 gbps max. so for me its not really worth it unless it will do the full 2.4 gbps (ie waiting for the usb 3 5 gbps version). Yes it would increase my upload speed on the 160 mhz band but going from 3×4 mimo ac to to 2×2 mimo ax also gives me some hesitation. am i overthinking this or lost my mind? was looking @ PCE-AX58BT model that uses the intel ax200 card.

    LAN Speed Test Results:
    Date: 2020-07-08 07:15:01
    Packet Size: 3 GB to 3 GB
    Total Test Time: 8.639032 sec
    Throughput: Average
    Write: 6.0575 (3,962,014,189)
    Read: 1.6479 (14,564,158,456)
    Tx Speed: 495.25 Mbps
    Rx Speed: 1,820.52 Mbps
    Write Cache: Disabled
    Read Cache: Disabled

    Reply
  9. Still waiting for the 2004 update, tried forcing it and wasn’t compatible with my settings yet, good to know and good stuff 👍

    Reply
  10. The latest windows 10 2004 wireless card drivers work much better than the Intel drivers. No more loss of wifi on laptops using AX200 cards!

    Reply
  11. thanks for the review and info. i have been looking at these to replace my current USB-AC68 ac1900 were real world i am see ~1.3 gbps. assuming this is pcie 4.0 1x max bandwidth is 1.97 gbps. even if the cards connects @ 2.4 gbps ax wifi6 and will you ever see the max speeds even @ perfect conditions? so unless u are using this in a laptop m.2 pcie x4 shouldnt we just wait for usb 3.2 gen 1 @ 5 gbps ?

    Reply
    • You don’t have real-world speed of 1.3 Gbps out of any Wi-Fi 5 card, E. The number you see there is likely the “negotiated” speed. You need to discount 30% to 50% to get the real-world speed out of it. And, yes, when there are USB Wi-Fi 6 adapter, chances are it’s going to use USB 3.2 Gen 1 or faster.

      Reply
  12. Upgrade your router first. A WiFi 6 router will deliver faster more reliable connections to even WiFi 5 devices. A WiFi 6 card while you’re still rocking a WiFi 5 router buys you absolutely nothing. Get the router first, and then upgrade your devices as it makes sense.

    Reply
    • This for the input, Chris. What you said might be true on paper, many of the Wi-Fi 6 routers I’ve tested didn’t work well with Wi-Fi 5 clients. In fact, some of them need new software drivers to work at all. It’s more true the other way around, though, current Wi-Fi 6 clients — there is just a handful of them — work well with Wi-Fi 5 routers. But you’re right that one should get the router first, before upgrading/getting their clients, which I mentioned briefly at the top of the post.

      Reply
  13. I plan on upgrading my household to WiFi 6E when routers are available later this year. I want a mesh network with each router on opposite sides of the house. I’d also like to upgrade older WiFi 4 and WiFi 5 mobile cards.

    QUESTION: Do you know if the Intel AX200 will support 6GHz in the future? If so, I’ll definitely buy one and replace the WiFi 4 at least.

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  14. Wow, that’s a pretty cinchy upgrade all right. Is there a mildly less cinchy way to make an old laptop (lol ProBook 6445b) with M2 slots be a good citizen on Wi5 and WiFi6 (until I can sail a Ryzen 4000 on a scooter to sites?) It seems the M2 (BCM943224HMS) card in there is either allergic to Debian or dead (heat x 10yr.) and of course won’t have the bandwidth to handle NGFF, but maybe there’s an evolution model other than via USB?

    Reply
  15. I leave here my feedback in case it is of interest to someone… I have a MSI GE63VR 7RE Raider and I am having problems with my Killer Wireless 1435. I bought an AX201, thinking it was compatible, as I understood from this article, and it is not detected by the laptop, I guess that it is not compatible.

    Reply
  16. The 1650x works in the pc with a pcie adaptor with wifi and BT, I bought another killer card which is an AC 1550 and that too doesn’t work with BT in my laptop, WIFI does. On a closer look at the two little cards, the original card has a all pins there where the A key is on the killer card, but the killer card isn’t using the same pins between the A & E key, but uses all pins before the A keywhere the original is missing a couple.
    Im guessing this Acer laptop motherboard was built to match the original wifi card and might not have the tracers on the board where i need them. Bugger for that. I doubt a reinstall will fix anything.

    I might leave the killer card in and use a USB bluetooth dongle when i need it just so i have the wifi performance and low latency in games.
    Cheers Mick

    Reply
  17. That’s what I thought.
    I installed the BT driver from the killer website, no errors but didn’t show up any BT device. I have bought a Pcie adapter to see if it all works in my other rig, if it does then I might try a fresh os install on a spare drive 🤔

    When I put original wifi back in I noticed BT driver for that was this years version so something happened.

    I’ll get back either way when adapter arrives. Cheers

    Reply
  18. Hi Dong, I have a 2018 predator helios 300, it has Intel 9560NGW (AC 9560) wifi board with E key notch, socket has exactly the same on laptop. I bought a Killer AX 1650 which has A & E key, it fits and wifi works but there is no BT. Should this work and is my wifi unit broken or aren’t they compatible?

    Thanks in advance. Mick

    Reply
    • If it fits perfectly (including the antenna cables,) BT should work, too. Check the Device Manager on your computer to see if maybe the drive for BT wasn’t installed properly.

      Reply
  19. Hi!

    The Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 1 has the Intel 9560 802.11AC vPro (2×2) & Bluetooth 5 card while the Gen 2 version does have the newer Intel AX200 Wifi 6 802.11AX (2×2) & BT 5 card.

    Currently, there’s NO information from Lenovo’s Support website on whether or not the X1EG1’s wifi card is ‘upgradeable’ to a wifi 6 card (though it can be upgraded manually as in remove old wifi card and put in new wifi card).

    Do you recommend any reliable laptop Wifi 6 cards?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • No vendors intend to support Wi-Fi 6 on their old laptop, Michael. They want to sell you new ones. That said, the X1 will *highly* likely support the cards I mentioned here. They are the ONLY cards on the market for now. Basically all cards you can find are based on the Intel AX200 chipset. And yes they are both reliable.

      Reply
  20. Hi Dong

    I have a HP – 17z LaptopProduct number: 1EX13AV I have a Realtek RTL 8188EE 802.11 bgn 1×1 WiFi Adapter.can I upgrade my WiFI adapter to or like the Killer with two wire connectors. If so do I connect my one wire to 1(Aux) or 2 (main)???

    Thanks

    Reply
  21. Dong, it looks like the connectors that came with my Fenvi card are the same size as the connectors on the ax200. I had a friend of mine look at it who is an engineer and he said the Fenvi card has the wrong size connectors. That may also explain why the card is recognized in device manager but no routers are detected. The signal isn’t strong enough maybe. I decided to instead buy two ready-assembled cards from different vendors and will try them tomorrow. The new router (Netgear AX12) is super fast. Compared to the Google Fiber modem (which tends to overheat and drop wifi occassionally), it’s much faster and more reliable. Even with an AC client (iphone XS), I get over 500mbps up and down over 30 feet away downstairs (Netgear which I am using as the wifi access point is upstairs). No more dead spots anywhere and almost double the speeds that I got prior. Can’t wait to get the ax200 to work on my new workstation. Upgrading from fiber is finally starting to make sense. 🙂

    Reply
    • Good sleuthing work there, Mike. Yeap, I think those Fenvi-like cards have bad quality control. I might try some different ones and update my post. And yes, the upgrade is totally worth the effort.

      Reply
  22. Dong, thanks for the advice. I got a new Fenvi and Intel ax200 card today and installed them in the PC. Device manager is seeing both the bluetooth and wifi card but I don’t see any wifi networks in Windows 10. Latest Intel drivers for both wifi and bluetooth installed today. Do I need to connect the small antenna cables on the Fenvi card to the ax200 M.2 card and if so, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to just connect them.

    Reply
    • No, you just use the external antennas and connect them to the card itself from outside the computer. Check to make sure you connect everything of the fenvi card properly. You’re very close.

      Reply
  23. Dong, I ordered the Fenvi PCI.e card as well as the Killer 1650 card from Amazon. Installed the Killer on the Fenvi and them on one of my PCI x1 slots (Asus TUG X570 with Ryzen 3900x). Installed the latest drivers and control software for the Killer card. The software isn’t even detecting the Killer card. Windows device manager sees it as a wifi device as well as the blue tooth but wifi isn’t working. No routers are displayed. After hours researching, it looks like lots of people are having problems getting these Killer cards and their software to run. Net, I suggest sticking with the Intel card and waiting until robust choices become available. Have you actually installed and configured this on a workstation and not PC and got this to work on Windows 10?

    Reply
  24. Any idea if I can upgrade from a Intel AC-9560? I’d love to future proof my machine and these cards don’t seem that expensive.

    Reply
  25. My HP laptop only has 1 black antenna and currently uses a realtek card. i wanna upgrade to the killer 1650x but idk how to install new 5ghz antennas or if i even need them. And i need some help! Also should I purchase this?: https://amzn.to/31HKUDs

    Reply
  26. will this work with a e7250? how do i get the attani wires to hook up? the card thats in there rn is a ac7265.

    Reply
    • Yes, that card should use the same slot as that of the wifi 6 card. You can just use the same antenna wires that connect to the connectors marked as 2 and 1 on the card. Basically, just swap out the old card with the new one and reattach the wires accordingly.

      Reply
  27. The Killer card antenna connections; Do the antenna wires push/pull from the top of the card connector post, or slide sideways from them?

    Do you have input on the new Asus AiMesh AX6600 kit, being two RT-AX95Q routers; (Q3 ’19 release)?

    Thank you greatly for your technical articles, kind sir!

    Reply
    • Push/pull from the top, Kerry. You can see the connector in the first photo in the post, marked as 2 and 1. It’s the same for the Intel AX200 card. Hope this helps! 🙂

      Reply
  28. Would you recommend any of the Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 network/bluetooth cards listed on eBay? Some of them include antennas and converter cards too and most of the sellers like “integrity-e” ship from China as well.

    Reply
    • I got mine from Intel and the Killer card from Amazon (sold by Rivet Networks itself). I can’t really say much about stuff on eBay. Shopping there has been hit or miss for me, personally.

      Reply

Leave a Comment