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How to upgrade wifi adapter from 2.4G to 5G dual-band. (5GHz)

Last Updated on December 17, 2021 by Shivanandana Hegde

The gist of this article is how to upgrade old laptop wifi (2.4GHz) to a newer 5GHz adapter and hence, connect to high-speed internet.


There are 2 best options to connect your old laptop and PC to a 5 gigahertz or 5GHz or simply 5G wifi (upgrade from 2.4G wifi):

  1. Buy an external USB 802.11ac Wifi dongle (this may not give maximum speed)
  2. Replace the old 2.4GHz wifi adapter with a newer dual band (2.4GHz/5GHz) adapter

Background of this wifi adapter upgrade (2.4GHz to 2.4/5GHz dual band)

A decade ago, I bought a laptop which was already an old model at that time. Since then, I’ve upgraded it many folds (even its processor from 2nd gen i3 to i7) to be on-level with a modern-day laptop.

However, when I moved to a place where I can connect to super-fast WiFi (up to 1Gbps), I noticed that the high-speed 5G wifi doesn’t even show up under ‘available networks’. Basically, my laptop could only connect to a 2.4G slower wifi network.

upgrade 2.4G wifi to 5G wifi

So, I started learning about WiFi frequencies. As a result, realized that the built-in WiFi adapter in my laptop is too old and doesn’t support the 5 gigahertz frequency.

The speed difference is huge if your internet plan offers up to 1GBps speed.
Practically, below are the maximum speed of each frequency.

Old, 2.4GHz WiFi AdapterNewer 2.4/5GHz Dual-band Wifi adapter
Anywhere from 50 to 500MbpsClose to 1.3Gbps

Now, 500Mbps isn’t bad for day-to-day life right?

Unfortunately, many internet service providers and few Wifi modems/router manufacturers won’t allow that speed on the 2.4G band. So, my Samsung NP300 notebook was capped to a maximum speed of 50Mbps.

Spped test on old 2.4G wifi card
Speed test result on old intel Centrino, 2.4G wifi card.

So, to answer how to connect old laptop & PC to 5 gigahertz or 5GHz wifi network? I’ve tried both options!

1) Buy an 802.11ac USB WiFi dongle

I bought one online for about $10 USD. Simple, plug-and-play. I had to disable the built-in adapter so that my laptop always chooses the 5G wi-fi network.

The faster 5Ghz network now started showing up and I was able to connect to it!

Pros and Cons of 802.11ac USB dongle:

ProsCons
*Very simple to install. Plug and play.
* Easy peasy!
* It didn’t reach full speed.
* However, it was still twice as fast as my older 2.4GHz adapter.

2) Replace the old 2.4GHz WiFi adapter with a new dual band adapter

Bugged for not getting the full speed, I wanted to replace the built-in adapter. Let’s first see the pros and cons.

Speed Difference of USB 802.11ac vs Intel 7260 Dual band adapter

USB Dongle vs 5Ghz wifi speed
Speed comparison of 5G USB Dongle wifi vs 5G wifi adapter

Note: This way, you’re not only upgrading the laptop’s Wifi but also the Bluetooth!

Pros and Cons of 5GHz dual band wifi adapter

ProsCons
Full speed!!Complex to install
Comes with Bluetooth 4.0Complicated to setup
Portability:
* No need to carry the dongle
* USB port available for other accessories
Requires opening your laptop.
* Needs tools like screwdriver etc.
Long term and proper solutionRequires basic knowledge of circuits and connections
Very satisfying resultCan go wrong! USB WiFi dongle can be plan-B!

Warning: Obvious one. If you don’t know what you’re doing, do it at your own risk!

Follow these 5 simple steps to upgrade your laptop’s wifi adapter (2.4G to 5G)


  1. Disconnect power sources and open the back panel
  2. Find the Wifi adapter
  3. Remove any screws and both adapter pins/plugs/ports (Denoted 1 & 2 or White and Black wire pins)
  4. Insert the new dual-band adapter and re-connect screws and pins
  5. Done! Close the lid, connect the battery, and boot!

Before trying the upgrade, did I ask Samsung service centers and online support personnel about the possibility of this upgrade? YES!

Of course, they said it’s not possible since it’s not supported in old motherboards. They suggested that I have to buy their latest laptop instead.

Did I believe them? Of course not! Was it worth it? Of course Yes! 😀

I bought a dual-band, intel wifi dongle online. To be precise, ‘Intel 7260 Dual-band Wifi/BT Adapter‘.

So, time to get the hands dirty.

Step 1: Disconnect the laptop’s power and battery. Open up the back panel

Step 2: Find the Wifi adapter. It is very easy to spot and in most models, it’s not buried too deep

Where is wifi adapter located
Identify the 2.4G wifi adapter which should be upgraded to 5G wifi adapter

Step 3: Remove any screws and both plugs/ports/pins (Denoted 1 and 2 or White and Black wire pins)

I was able to do it just with my nails. Feel free to use a tool if you have any.

how to replace wifi adapter in laptop

Step 4: Insert the adapter and re-connect the pins in the correct order. (1 and 2).

upgrade wifi from 2.4G to 5G

Step 5: Done! Close the lid, connect the battery, and boot!

Kudos…!!!

About windows driver for Intel 7260 HMW adapter

Windows 10 should automatically detect the adapter. There is no need to install any external drivers. However, just in case if it doesn’t, then install either the official Intel driver or your manufacturer’s driver.

I found this one suitable for Intel 7260 HMW adapter.

If everything is fine, if you open up the device manager, you’ll see the new adapter in the list. Kudos!!

Have you tried this? Are you planning to? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers!! 🍺

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By Shivanandana Hegde

Shivanandana Hegde is a data practitioner. He works with digital analytics and marketing gurus to optimize online sales and user experience; thus, empowering his clients across India and North America.

He has a keen interest in electronic devices, communication networks, and computing machines to access and manage information. He has published a number of blog posts and publications over the last decade.

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