Tutorial: How to add an external antenna to an Acer Aspire One D150 (for 802.11N / XSpan support)

If you’re looking to get some serious wireless performance out of your netbook (this tut is for the Aspire One D150, but the general principle is the same for all of them) then you might consider adding an external RP-SMA jack + antenna to it.  A subtle addition is adding 802.11 N support.  Read my previous posts on the topic for more on that.  I positioned the antenna mount in place of the Kensington Lock, so if you can’t afford to sac your KLock then you may want to look for an alternate location (I found this to be the best location, imo).

Antenna Mod - Full

This is a very simple mod to do; you need:

  • Standard philips screwdriver
  • Thin, flat yet stiff tool (xacto knife, razor blade, thin jewlers screwdriver, etc) to pop the keyboard (very tight)
  • Dremel Tool, small drill or similar device for tooling plastic
  • U.FL pigtail to RP-SMA Male cable; mine was 12″ but I think 6″ should do; you want a nut / lock washers too
    • Optional: RP-SMA Male – Female Right angle adapter for a better antenna placement across the back
  • RP-SMA antenna – whatever works for you
    • Optional: 802.11N Mini-Pci card – refer to previous posts on topic

Start by gutting the netbook and unscrewing everything you see.

Antenna Mod - Step 1 (alt)

Use your flat tool to pop off the keyboard.  There is one spring-loaded tab above the F8 key that needs to be depressed; the remaining tabs are on the sides and are part of the bezel.  This is challenging if you are unfamiliar with the process – be gentile but don’t be afraid to use some force to pop the keyboard out.  You may want to use more than one tool to assist in getting under the keyboard to pop it off.  Disconnect all the ribbon cables you see and unscrew the bezel.  Pop her off.

Antenna Mod - Step 2

Here is an exposure of the right side – the yellow tape is the backside of the PCI slot; that is where your cable needs to end.  Notice the black and white cable running from said location up to the right joint – right next to the KLock.  These are the existing antenna wires.  Leave them alone – no reason to remove them.

Antenna Mod - Step 3-1

Locate the Kensington Lock here.  It’s attached to the case with 2 plastic mushroom plugs.  These are not intended to be removed, so you will need to tool them off.  They go without much of a fight or mess.

Antenna Mod - Step 3-2

Note the bit I used on my Dremel Tool – very nice for this application (it’s a drum cutting bit of sorts).

Antenna Mod - Step 4

Next you need to tool a larger hole in the side of the case for the SMA mount.  Take your time and be gentile – I emphasized on the right (short) side of the hole, and the remainder space was completely covered with my small washer – it works seamlessly.

Antenna Mod - Step 5

Mount the SMA adapter in the hole.  This can get tricky depending on how your cable was made because the hinge mount passes under where the lead is still fixed in place.  Don’t jerk your lead around or you may disconnect the wire from the jack.  You should unscrew the hinges and place the jack in the hole, then gently return the hinges to their mounts.  It may take some troubleshooting skills to get it to work, but it’s not difficult by any means.

Antenna Mod - Step 6

Now you just route your new antenna wire on with the other 2, return everything to normal (take your time) and plug your antenna into a U.FL jack on your card.  If you went with a .11N card, you need all 3 antennas; I used the far #3 plug for the external ant.  I don’t know the mechanics but it should work in any configuration.  G card users can just leave one of their antennas free and should be fine – if you ever intend to upgrade to N in the future you are now N capable!

Antenna Mod - Step 7

I can’t attest to the performance gain from just replacing an internal antenna with an external one, but if you used an N card with a compatible N router (I went with XSpan .11N 2.0) then I can confirm a working (theoretical) 300 Mbps wireless connection.  To top it off, I’m using Madwifi drivers and can confirm their functionality as well.

XSpan Screen

Thanks for following this development – comments are welcome.

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