12" Powerbook External Antenna Hack





Introduction: 12" Powerbook External Antenna Hack

Everyone knows Powerbooks have terrible wi-fi reception. Unfortunately, only 15" and 17" Powerbooks facilitate adding your own external antenna. With just a few quick cuts you can modify a 12" Powerbook to take an external antenna as well.

Step 1: Size Up Your Existing Antenna Hookup

Airport Extremes use the MC Card connector. You could use any antenna you want as long as you get the right pigtail for it (and the impedance matches, which I think is 50 ohms here). I opted for a 5.5db flat blade antenna ($15), but there are many other options over here: http://sharperconcepts.zoovy.com/category/24ghzantennas/

The connector coming off the existing internal antenna is going to have to be pushed back into the notch it comes out from. You'll quickly realize it doesn't go back far enough and obstructs the little metal flap from closing back. We'll cut part of that flap off.

Step 2: Eyeball the Route for the Cable to Travel Out of the Battery Compartment

The battery itself is another problem. You'll have to cut a notch in the flat metal that sits right above the metal Airport Express flap in order to let the cable out.

Step 3: Cut a Notch in the Airport Extreme Flap/door to Let the Cable Out of the Airport Extreme Slot

Start by covering up all the little crevices and cracks with masking tape so that only the little piece of the metal flap is exposed. Take that out with a Dremel using a cutoff wheel, then blow away the filings really well with compressed air.

The flap should close around the internal antenna's connector with it shoved all the way back into the notch it comes out from. Unfortunately, the flap probably won't stay put any longer because you just cut off the piece of metal that keeps it in place. But that's ok. Now you need to notch the battery to let the cable out.

Step 4: Cut a Notch in the Battery Itself

If you cut a notch in the Airport Extreme flap properly, you should be able to lay the battery down on top of the cable as it snakes out. You can eyeball where you'll need to cut into the battery itself, in the flat piece of metal that sticks out. Mask the battery to prevent filings from getting in anywhere, and hit it with the Dremel using a cut-off wheel

Step 5: Fit It All Together

Getting it all back together can be a little bit of a trick. The problem is that the original internal antenna connector juts out just a bit too much, and I feel comfortable notching neither the connector nor the part of the battery that hits it. It's so close that you can just tightly tape the connector back in it's little nook, tape the flap shut, and drop the battery down with a little bit of jiggling. Voila! You've hooked up an external antenna! Now you realize the cable is thicker than the gap under the Powerbook. You need to put new feet on the bottom that raise the whole thing up about 4mm or so. I snagged some feet from the bottom of a Sonicwall Firewall that was being rackmounted, but you can improvise with anything that suits you, and Radioshack usually has some stick-on feet that will work.

Now just stick some stick-on velcro on the back of the antenna to mount it to the display. You can substitute any antenna you want, provided it's designed for wi-fi usage. However, just about anything will perform better than the stock antenna!



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    22 Discussions

    in reply to 'sights_set', your right im sitting 5 feet away from my belkin router (clear line of sight)and it says: siginal strength good speed 36.0mbs WHAT THE HELLS GOING ON WITH THAT!!! GIVE ME RECEPTION!!! :P

    4 replies

    Chalky says LOL if your sat 5 feet from your router stick yer cable in dude :)'
    Thats what Im doing now - Now that Ive got a longer cable!! not the 1m patch used for setting up


    a better way to route the cable from the airport card: notch the metal door as mentioned to allow the door to shut, then snugly tuck the cable within the battery compartment (no perm modification of the case), such that it runs towards the side of the case with the optical drive slot. There is a small phillips screw close to the optical drive slot which is only used to hold the case to an internal bracket. Remove this screw and pass your antenna wire through it. Then just stick/run the cable below the optical slot and up the side of the laptops screen. This does require the use of antenna wire (a core with a shield) which can fit through the screw hole.

    I've been reading a LOT of this WiFi stuff here on our extraordinary Instructables.com and was wondering if anyone has tested the strainer method against the coffee can or pringles method and also against using an old directv satellite and such. Which one would give me the best reception? I'm guessing the satellite dish but I am new to this. TIA!

    this is possibly the most ridiculous piece of smut on the face of this earth. what excactly are u trying to do??? go out and buy a 10 dollar USB wireless card. jeez. dont go voiding ur warranty with something like that.

    2 replies

    Smut? That doesn't even make any sense.

    The $10 USB wireless stick:
    - is slower than the internal wireless
    - sticks out
    - is shitty hardware that probably has shitty drivers...and escaping from that is the whole point of getting a Mac.

    i do not know about that, perhaps it is the router you are recieving the lame signal or something, who knows?¿?¿, but, what ever works for you is fine, its american, in my humble opinion, if this is really the case, i would trash the 12 in and get the 15 in, i am not convinced it is, but, what dose this BH know. ... good look and keep on powerbooking. ........guitartom

    Ah, found it, and MC-card type connector.

    McWhizzleteeth, Nice mod. I have an older 867 MHz 12", and the reception is not so great. I've read elsewhere that part of the problem is interference caused by the aluminum case. Sticking a decent antenna to the outside of the computer should work pretty well. I'd be happy with any improvement in Wi-Fi performance, regardless of how good or bad it is at present. Who doesn't want greater range etc? I wondered if you could tell us which connector to request when ordering an antenna from the supplier you mentioned? I didn't see it in your instructions. Many Thanks, tnoble

    I broke my internal connector to the wireless card on my 12 inch. I bought a kit (the price was a bit much, but I needed it right away) from a company called "QuickerTek" which makes a range of wifi products for laptops. The thing I wanted to point out, was the mod for the 12 inch, was to run under the bat, inside the bat compartment. There was no modification of the laptop at all, except that I took a frame/case screw out. It runs from the card, around the bat, out the screw hole in the side of the case, (comes out of the right side of the laptop, so it sits flat) and runs up the right side past the CD slot, to the hinge and up the back of the LCD. The kit came with poor ways to attach the antenna, so I ended up using some electrical tape to fix it in place.

    1 reply

    Haha, it's funny for you guys to write this as you sit literally on top of your Belkin 54G router while getting full reception (it works well? really?). But in an environment with lots of noise and many networks... my thinkpad actually does do better. Can we have a real mod? I want reception. :(

    god i just get so mad!! i could just punch you so hard!!!

    Check the date ! Idiots!!!

    I must not be part of the "everyone" community. I'm on a wi-fi 15" powerbook with a Belkin wireless router and I've never had any problems. I even video chat with 2 other people with no problems.


    12 years ago

    To be fair to McWhizzleteeth, not everybody is as lucky with their wireless reception as you. I would rather have an ugly mod, and wireless -than no mod and no connectivity. Without an internet connection, my powerbook is as useful as a brick (note that I am typing this message on a Thinkpad because my powerbook has no connectivity here!) If the mod works, it works. More power to the author for sharing it. Craigy

    Who says that powerbooks have "terrible wi-fi reception"?? I have a powerbook and get amazing reception. I live in an apartment complex and pickup wifi from floors away. That, is the most disgusting mod I have ever seen to a apple. I would never bring that in public.