How to Upgrade Your PC to Wi-Fi 6 Right Now

Intel AX200 Chip
The Intel AX200 module is one of the few Wi-Fi 6 adapters you can get right now. Note the E- and A- keys on its connector end.

To have a complete Wi-Fi 6 upgrade, you need a router and at least one client of the new Wi-Fi standard. It’s easy on the router front — there are a lot of options, such as one of these. On the client-side, only new devices will have Wi-Fi 6 built-in, and not all of them do.

That said, if you have a Windows laptop or desktop computer, chances are you can upgrade it to Wi-Fi 6 for less than $50 each. This post will walk you through this process. Before continuing, though, make sure you’re comfortable with opening up your machine to install/replace a component.

Wi-Fi 6 upgrade: What you need

First and foremost, you need a Wi-Fi 6 adapter card to add it to your computer. The card you can get right now is the Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650x Module from Rivet Networks or the Intel AX200 chip. The two are mostly the same. The former, based on the latter, has some gaming features as extras. Apart from Wi-Fi, both cards also have built-in Bluetooth 5.

If you want to upgrade a desktop, chances are you will also need a converter, which generally costs about $15. Or you can get a full adapter card, like this one, which includes the AX200 adapter.

Note: Soon, there will be USB Wi-Fi 6 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.

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

The Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650x and Intel AX200 module, as well as likely all future Wi-Fi 6 adapters, use the next generation form factor (NGFF). Specifically, this is a 2230 M.2 card — it’s 22m wide and 33mm long — that uses A key or E key to connect to a host. That said, to qualify for the upgrade, your computer must be able to host this card design.

A 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 module attached to a PCIe converter add-on card.

Wi-Fi 6 upgrade on a laptop: Highly possible

Clearly, you can’t do this on all existing laptops. But the good news is most laptops released in the past five or so years use an NGFF Wi-Fi card — they have a 2230 M.2 slot and are ready for the upgrade.

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 the new AX200-based module. Those that use the following Wi-Fi 5 models from Rivet Networks will, for sure, work, too: Killer 1435 and Killer 15xx.

Again, even if your machine doesn’t use any of the Wi-Fi card models above, it still likely supports an Intel AX200-based card. My take is if it’s using a 2×2 or faster Wi-Fi 5 card, it will probably accommodate a Wi-Fi 6 module. The bottom line is the computer needs have a 2230 M.2 slot.

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

  1. Right-click on the Start button (lower-left corner) and choose Device Manager to open the Device Manager window.
  2. On the list of devices, click on the right arrow (>) button before Network adapters to extend the list.
  3. 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.
Bingo! This laptop will support the Wi-Fi 6 upgrade using an Intel AX200-based module

Wi-Fi 6 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, you can, for sure, upgrade the machine to Wi-Fi 6.

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.

The PCIe slots (blue and black) inside a desktop. All will work for the Wi-Fi 6 upgrade but you only 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 AX200-based Wi-Fi card. Most motherboards have some of these at the bottom of the motherboard, below the PCIe slot area. If you only care about the Wi-Fi function, you can ignore this.

Steps to perform a Wi-Fi 6 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 upgrade, using the Killer AX1650x or any other Wi-Fi 6 module.

Wi-Fi 6 Upgrade: The Killer 1650x in the place of the older Wi-Fi 5 Killer 1535 card.
Wi-Fi 6 Upgrade: The Killer 1650x in the place of the older Killer 1535 card inside a laptop.
  1. Buy the Wi-Fi laptop module and the converter PCIe adapter card (if necessary).
  2. On your computer, download the Wi-Fi 6 module’s driver software. (Here’s the link if you’re using the Killer AX1650x. If you use any other Intel AX200-based cards, use this the link.)
  3. 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.)
  4. Close the computer back up.
  5. Start the computer up and, if necessary, install the software you downloaded in step #2 — the latest revisions of Windows 10 have a built-in driver and your card might work right away. (By the way, technically, you can download the driver for Intel AX200-based cards using Windows Update. However, for that, the computer needs to 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.)
The new Wi-Fi speed after the upgrade.
The new Wi-Fi speed after the upgrade.

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. 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.

Faster future cards

All Intel AX200-based Wi-Fi 6 modules feature the mid-range 2×2 specification. As a result, they have the ceiling speed of 2.4Gbps with real-world sustained speeds likely lower. Keep in mind, that’s not the top speed of the Wi-Fi 6 standard. For that, you’ll need to wait till add-on cards of higher tiers are available. And then, the upgrade process will likely be the same.

39 thoughts on “How to Upgrade Your PC to Wi-Fi 6 Right Now”

  1. 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
  2. Still waiting for the 2004 update, tried forcing it and wasn’t compatible with my settings yet, good to know and good stuff 👍

    Reply
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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

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