Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I bought a new desktop computer and my old one will be used in the living room. It is not very practical to lay a network cable through the living room to the desktop, so I was starting to think about how to make it wireless.

Beside the explicit solutions, like buying a network card with antenna, I was wondering if my broken laptop could help. The laptop has a functioning wireless adapter inside and I want to know (before tearing apart the laptop) if I could plug that somewhere in my desktop.

My doubts:

  • What type of connector would a wireless adapter have?
  • Is it even possible to get the adapter out of the laptop?
  • What steps to take to build it into my desktop?
share|improve this question
This may depend very specifically on the laptop model itself. Can you please be more specific? – Shinrai May 23 '12 at 19:38
I had a laptop where the wireless device was a small card in a slider, but I doubt that this applies to all laptops and I doubt even more that there are adapters to plug them in a normal desktop. – Baarn May 23 '12 at 19:40
and even if there was such an adapter it would presumably cost more or the same than some generic wireless-card or usb-stick. – Baarn May 23 '12 at 19:43
There are CardBus to PCI adapters and maybe also ExpressCard to PCIe adapters. So this is possible at least for older CardBus type wireless NICs. But you are probably right about the price. – Gurken Papst May 23 '12 at 21:28
I found an adapter for $7 on eBay... and I already have a space mini-PCIe WiFi card from when I upgraded my laptop's wifi. This looks perfect! – nhinkle Mar 28 '13 at 4:33
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Assuming that the wireless card inside the laptop is a mini-PCIe card (which most are), it's pretty easy to fit it into a desktop. It's the exact same standard as PCI Express (just with a different connector and smaller form factor) and adapters are easily found on eBay:
As you can see, most even come with an antenna or three already attached to the mounting bracket.

On the off-chance that it's an older laptop, converters from mini-PCI to PCI (sans the Express part) also exist, just modify that eBay search query accordingly.

For instructions on how to remove the wireless card, consult your laptop's service manual. The work needed to get to it may range from a simple removal of a bottom access panel to complete disassembly, but once you have access to the card, you just need to unscrew it from the motherboard and disconnect the antenna cables.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the clarification, I think I'll give it a try. This was the information I needed! – Mixxiphoid May 24 '12 at 6:54
It's also possible that it's hard soldered onto the motherboard (which is why I was curious about the exact model). That said, most newer laptops are indeed just mini PCIe, and adapters are plentiful. – Shinrai May 24 '12 at 18:01

Usually the wireless card inside a laptop is a mini-PCI or mini-PCIe device. Desktops don't have slots that fit them.

share|improve this answer

Just want to add to Indrek's answer above. These mini pcie adapters that are pulled from laptops are not all the same. I tried a mini-pcie to pcie adapter with antennae to mount an Intel n-1030 and 3945g adapter. One of them was a pull from a HP laptop and the other was from an older Toshiba.

The 3945 does not work in either Windows or Ubuntu. The n-1030 however works in Ubuntu but it gets a code 10 error in Windows. From what people in other forums and the Intel forums, it looks like these modules or drivers may be locked down to specific manufacturers.

For anybody who is thinking about going this route or to just replace a wifi card in the laptop it is important to buy the version that was made for the laptop OEM, or in the case of a desktop, to buy one that is not made for one.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .