Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Intel AX210 Driver: Enabling 6GHz sans Registry Hack or Windows Insider

This post is a supplement to the one where I explained Wi-Fi 6E in great detail. It’ll work you through the process of getting your (newly added) Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E module to work fully on a Windows 10 computer.

Specifically, you’ll be able to connect to a Wi-Fi 6E router using the new 6GHz band. And no, you won’t need to mess with the computer’s registry or installing the beta version of the Windows operating system. This is a legit and generally safe method.

READ  Wi-Fi 6E Explained: Better Wireless Connections at the Expense of Range

Dong’s note: I first published this post on  April 28, 2021, and updated it on May 11 with additional extra steps for those needing to downgrade their official driver to make the 6GHz band work, for now.

Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E Module
It’s easy to acquire an Intel AX210 module to upgrade your computer. Getting it to work the way it’s supposed to is another story entirely.

What are you talking about exactly?

Well, if you have read the post linked above, you’d understand that as of right now, chances are you can’t use the 6GHz band — the hallmark of Wi-Fi 6E — on almost any Windows computer (let alone a Mac).

The scare options of 6GHz clients

Specifically, if you get a Wi-Fi 6E router, you’ll end up only using it as a dual-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz) broadcaster. To use its 6GHz band, you’ll need the Samsung S21 Ultra, which is currently the only official Wi-Fi 6E client on the market.

Another option is the Intel AX210 chip you can buy and install on select computers today — both desktops and laptops. This is a tri-band chip that includes a 2.4GHz, a 5GHz, and a 6GHz band.

READ  Wi-Fi 6/E Upgrade: Here's How You Can Add It To Your PC Today

In this case, though, for now, the new adapter will also work as a dual-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz) receiver. The current official driver software for the chip doesn’t support the 6GHz band.

That’s because Microsoft hasn’t officially supported this Wi-Fi band yet, not until the end of 2021 or so.

The real workaround is to sign up for the Windows Insider program (it’s free) — the latest pre-release Windows 10 build has native drivers for this chip. But test builds of Windows 10 are (expectedly) buggy and therefore not suitable for those needing a computer that works.

This is where this post comes into play.

The real alternative, right now

I decided to extract the 6GHz-ready driver of the Intel AX210 chip from the latest non-public Windows 10 build, per the demand of so many. You’ll be able to download it here. In other words, you’ll get to use the driver without having to install the entire pre-release OS build.

(This software driver is signed — it’s verified and approved by Microsoft — and will work on any version of Windows 10. I’ve tried it on multiple releases, as old as version 1803 of July 2018. But you should use the latest Windows 10 anyway, which currently is at version 20H2.)

That said, this post applies only to those who already have Intel AX210-based clients and have one of the following broadcasters:

(Or any other router that supports the new 6GHz band.)

Still, please note: This driver is meant for a pre-release operating system. Use it at your own risk. Consider yourself warned.

How to install the Intel AX210 driver that unlocks the 6GHz band

If you’re an advanced user, just download the driver via the link below and install it manually. For those who are new to this, the steps below will walk you through.

Generally, it’s a good idea to download the software (step 1) before installing the hardware on your computer. But this post assumed that you had gotten the AX210 adapter ready with the latest official driver.

1. Download the Intel AX210 driver software

Here’s the link to download the Intel AX210 driver.

(Again, I extracted this working driver from a Windows 10 pre-release build. Use it at your own risk. Proceed only if you can’t wait till Wi-Fi 6E is officially supported in Windows 10.)

Save the “AX210Driver.zip” file on your computer. Generally, the browser will save it in the Downloads folder of your Windows profile, but you can place it anywhere — make sure you know where it is.

2. Extract the software driver folder from the zip file

Open the “AX210Driver.zip” by double-clicking on it and drag the “AX210Driver” folder out onto a location you know. For this post, it’s the Desktop of the computer.

Extracting driver from the zip file
Intel AX210 driver: Extracting driver folder from the zip file.

(There are many ways to handle a .zip file, do however that works for your situation. Again, just make sure you know where you place this folder.)

3. Locate the current Intel AX210 hardware within Windows 10

  • Right-click on the Start button (or hit Windows + X combo on the keyboard) to open up the Menu X. (A)
  • On the menu that pops up, click on Device Manager to bring up the Device Manager window. (B)
  • On the Device Manager window, open up the Network adapters and double-click on the adapter in question. In this case, it’s: “Intel(R) Wi-Fi 6 AX210 160MHz”. That will bring up the device’s Properties window. (C)
Locating the driver in Windows Device Manager
Intel AX210 driver update: Locating the hardware Windows Device Manager.

4. Check the drive version and decide accordingly

Updated: This is a crucial step. It’ll decide what you should do. Make sure you pay attention.

Take a look at the Driver Version. If it’s 22.45.1.1 or earlier numerically — that’s 22.45.1.0 or “younger” — then continue to step #5. If it’s NOT, jump to the Extra Steps below.

(Reread the above sentence!)

5. Install the downloaded driver

These steps are the same as when you want to install any driver manually, by the way.

a. On the Properties window, click on the Driver tab, then up Update Driver.

Click on the Update Driver
Intel AX210 driver update: Click on the Update Driver.

b. Click on Browse my computer for drivers.

Click on Browse my Compater for Drivers
Intel AX210 driver update: Click on Browse my Computer for Drivers.

c. Navigate to the “AX210Driver” folder mentioned above (for this post, it’s on the Desktop), then click on Next and wait for the driver to be installed, which will take a few moments.

Navigate to the path of the driver folder
Intel AX210 driver update: Navigate to the path of the driver folder and click on Next.
Finished
If you see this message, the new driver version is now installed and ready.

And that’s it. Mission accomplished. Now you’ll be able to connect to see and connect your router’s 6Ghz band. If that’s the case, you can skip the next section and jump to the Final Notes (you don’t want to miss them).

However, if you see a message that reads “The best drivers for your device are already installed,” then continue with the Extra Steps below.


Extra Steps: How to install the older but 6GHz-ready driver version

These steps apply to those already using the official non-6GHz driver later than that of the “non-official” but 6GHz-ready version I posted here. The gist is that you want to force Windows to use a version that’s not considered “latest.”

This continues from step #4a above.

1. Click on Update Driver

Check the Driver Version
Check the Driver Version

2. Crucial step: Choose to pick the driver yourself

Choose Pick The Driver
Don’t Browse for the driver yet! Instead, choose to pick the driver yourself.

In this step, instead of browsing for the driver folder, you pick the option to choose the driver yourself.

3. Choose to select the driver from a “Disk.”

Select Have Disk
Ignore everything you see in this screen, just click on the “Have Disks…” button!

In this step, ignore everything you see. Just click on the Have Disk… button.

4. Enter the path of the folder that contains the driver you downloaded

Enter the driver location and click OK
Enter the driver location and click OK

Now enter the path of the folder that contains the driver. For this post, that’s the Driver folder on the Desktop. If you’ve chosen to do the same, replace “Dong Ngo” in the screenshot above with your profile’s name. You can also browse for it. Then click on OK.

5. Pick the working driver and install it

The next screen will show the driver you want to use, which is Intel(R) Wi-Fi 6E AX210 160MHz.

Select the driver and click on Next
Select the driver and click on Next to install it.

Select it and click on Next to install it.


And that’s it! Mission (re)accomplished. (Seriously, by now, I think I deserve a coffee or two!)

Final notes

You will note that since your Windows version doesn’t officially support the 6GHz band, the status window of this band will include less info than that of the 5GHz (or 2.4Ghz) band. Specifically, there’s no info on the current band, and the channel is shown as zero. All that doesn’t affect the performance, however.

8
Intel AX210 driver: The connection status windows of the 5GHz band vs. that of the 6GHz band. Note the missing information.

Finally, again, Windows and Intel might have newer versions of the driver that don’t support the 6GHz band — not before the companies officially unlock this band on the AX210 chip. (Eventually, the official version will support the new band, but we don’t know when yet.)

So if you update to one of these versions via Windows Update or any other way and subsequently are no longer able to use the AX210 chip’s 6GHz band, you will need to roll back to the version you downloaded here (via the Roll Back Driver button shown in the screenshot of step #4 above) or re-install it as described above.

2 thoughts on “Intel AX210 Driver: Enabling 6GHz sans Registry Hack or Windows Insider”

  1. Do not update to latest intel driver (22.50.0.7) or rollback to previous driver first, or you may have issues where windows will say it is “picking the best driver” and will not install driver 22.45.1.1 (the needed driver)

    Reply
    • Looks like folks didn’t read my warning at the end of the post. I’ll update it with a way to handle this even if they already had the latest (non-6GHz) driver. The things I do for my people! 🙂

      Reply

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