This Instrcutable was made to show how to install an internal USB Bluetooth module into almost any laptop. I say almost any because the process should be similar, but I do not have experience with any laptop other than my own (Acer Travelmate 4400). As far as I have been able to gather from scrounging the internet for a couple of months, almost all laptops with the option of internal bluetooth use the USB standard to interface with the modules. I will show you how to wire a regular USB Bluetooth dongle into the connector (sort of) for the factory module. This is useful for folks like me, who figured they didn't need to spend another $80+ for a wireless protocol they had no use for ( /foot in mouth), or for people who's internal module quit on them after warranty. I did this with things I already had, so it was $0 for me, but I will try to remember what I paid for everything and list part numbers, if possible.
P.S. : It seems standard protocol to point out that this is my first Instructable, with hopefully more to come. So be nice.
P.P.S. : Disclaimer: I, Tyler Glenn, accept no responsibility for any damages to equipment, persons, or other property, that result from your attempt to try this. I know it is hard to come by for some people on the internet, but use some common freakin' sense. If you think that this is far far out of the scope of your technical ability, don't try it, it probably is.
P.P.P.S. : Do not take above disclaimer as me discouraging you from trying this, but don't blame me if you screw it up. Please.
Step 1: Materials Needed
First things first:
- A laptop with a factory option for internal Bluetooth. For this guide I will be specific with instructions for the Acer Travelmate 4400. (As far as I can tell this also applies to the Aspire 5020. They appear to share a chassis/mobo. Price: $400+ (I assume you have one if you want to try this)
- A USB Bluetooth dongle. To make it easy on yourself, I'd recommend trying to find the smallest one you can. I used a Kensington Micro Bluetooth USB adapter from Best Buy. Price: ~$40+/-
- A USB extension cable. 1.1 is sufficient because the Bluetooth standard can't currently transmit faster than 3.0 Mbps. (for those that don't know, USB 1.1 should be capable of ~12Mbps). I got my cable from a dollar store for, you guessed it, $1. Cost/availability may vary. Price:$1+
- Solder, wire, etc. I had this laying around. If you're inclined to try this project, you probably do too. If not, Radioshack or a Local hardware store should have some. Price: ~$5 a spool of wire/solder. (Should be cheaper, but that's my upper limit of spending.)
- Soldering Iron. For soldering (duh). Expect to pay about $18 for a basic starter kit. (Probably should come with some solder too. If you're good enough, you won't need any more than what comes with it. try and get one with a very small tip, we're going to be soldering in very tight quarters. I also, wouldn't exceed ~20 watts probably. This is a delicate board we're working on. I'd recommend a station with adjustable heat. I don't have one. But if this is what you do, get a good one.
- Screwdrivers, or a screwdriver with multiple bits. Got my Kronus at Radioshack. Do yourself a favor and get a good set. It'll come in handy all the time. ~$20?
- Pliers, Dikes, Pocket Knife. Same as screwdrivers, get a good set of tools, or you'll regret it.
Price: ~$20? (For the Immature, Dikes are what I grew up calling Wire Cutters or Diagonal Cutters.)
- Continuity tester. Not necessary if you're good. I use it for peace of mind. Helpful regardless. I left mine at my grandparent's house, and didn't feel like going to get it. So I made one out of an LED, wire, and a CMOS battery :P.
- Dishes. Useful for pudding. Also useful for sorting screws so you don't lose any.
- Safety Gear. You might be inclined to wear eye protection, unless you don't care if you go blind by a soldering iron to the eye. Gloves might be useful if you're unsure about burning yourself.
- First Aid kit. Just in case. (BTW, Honey is better for treating burns than ointment. Wash burn with cold water, and apply honey on gauze and bandage as normal. Not recommended for severe burns, i.e. with blisters.)
- Nerves of steel, and a bit of insanity. You're going to be opening up and modifying an expensive piece of equipment. Think about this one. Chances are if you have the type of income to be buying 20 laptops to modify, you either do this professionally, or you have people to do this for you.
- Will. Patience. Don't give up!
Step 2: Install Bluetooth Adapter
I know it seems out of order to do this first, but you don't want to put it inside only to realize that the dongle doesn't work. You want to install the Bluetooth adapter into any available usb port and make sure it works. I'd recommend spending a day or two getting familiar with the software included, and making sure it's going to keep working before you void your warranty.
Step 3: Open the Laptop
If you are not capable of doing this, I wouldn't recommend continuing. I won't go in to too much detail, but the acer laptops are pretty easy to take apart. There are no hidden screws under stickers, so you should be able to figure it out. There is one screw holding in the keyboard, (don't forget the ribbon cables!), and one screw under the keyboard. It is not necessary to take apart the screen, but you may be inclined to do so.
Apologies, I don't have any pictures of the teardown, only the end result. I decided to make this guide halfway through.
Step 4: Locate Bluetooth Connector
If you're using a different laptop than I am, you're on your own. For those with my laptop, the bluetooth connector is on the top of the motherboard near where the hard drive activity light is. It is nicely labeled "Blue 1". Can they make this any easier?
As a side note, while your laptop is open I'd recommend cleaning it, especially the air vents and fan area. You might as well kill two birds with one stone.
Step 5: Test Fit Pieces
At this point, it's a good idea to make sure all of your stuff will fit inside. On the Travelmate, there is quite a bit of space to the right of the connector, where the stock adapter would fit. (Mine even had double stick tape in it with one side un-peeled. :P)
Plug the USB dongle into the end of the cable with the socket (duh) and make sure it will fit somewhere in the laptop and be able to reach the connector on the mobo. Once you are satisfied, cut the cable to length.
Step 6: Trim to Fit
My laptop case wouldn't close all the way as the USB cable was, so I had to trim it down to make it fit. This is relatively easy with a pocket knife.
Step 7: Find Pinout for Your Connector
In the case of the Acers, the connector only needs the first 4 pins, (more on that at the end), which, imagine that, is the number of pins for a USB connection. Find the pinout for the connector on your mobo. For the acers, look below.
Pin 1 = +3.3/5 volts (I would guess 5, but everything I've read says it's 3.3. Either way, it's enough to
power a USB Bluetooth Adapter.)
Pin 2 = Ground
Pin 3 = Data +
Pin 4 = Data -
(Pin 1 in marked with an arrow on the Acer's Mobo. It's the pin farthest towards the back of the laptop, where the power connector is.)
For the unintiated, a standard USB device has the following pinout:
Pin 1 = +5 Volts
Pin 2 = Data -
Pin 3 = Data +
Pin 4 = Ground
Step 8: Solder!
Solder it up!
If you don't know how to solder, you shouldn't have started. Since this is not a guide on soldering I will continue.
Solder up the cut end of the cable to the connector on the motherboard. I found it was easier to remove the connector completely and solder to the pads directly. The order should be as follows.
USB -> Mobo
Pin 1 Pin 1
Pin 4 Pin 2
Pin 3 Pin 3
Pin 2 Pin 4
If your USB cable uses Standard wire colors, the color order on the Mobo side, from 1 - 4, should be as follows:
Pin 1 = Red = Pin 1
Pin 2 = Black = Pin 4
Pin 3 = Green = Pin 3
Pin 4 = White = Pin 2
My cable did not use standard colors, so don't go by the picture. The green and white on mine are correct, but the +5 line was brown, and the ground was orange. Weird, I know. Eh, it was a dollar.
Step 9: Test Again
Button everything up, but don't worry about screws just yet. I left the cable and dongle hanging out of where the dvd drive goes, to test the Bluetooth. Make sure it still works and shows up in your operating system's device manager. If it does put everything inside, make sure there are no shorts anywhere (insulate with hot glue if you are so inclined) and put everything back together for good.
Step 10: Enjoy!
Now you can turn the radio on with the button on the front. I'm currently working out how to get the light to come on in the button, but as it is, the Bluetooth aspect of it is functional. Once everything is working, all that's left to do is enjoy your re-freed USB port, internal Bluetooth, and accomplishment. Show it off in the best way you can: make an Instructable. :) (And maybe hope it makes hack-a-day. :P)
Thank you for following along even if you're not planning on trying this. This all happened because there wasn't a whole lot of imformation on the internet about doing this on a laptop that isn't the Asus eee. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone curious about trying this.