Monday, January 7, 2013

Upgrading HP Compaq 6715s with a Motorola Surfboard SBG6580 wireless card

So after pulling apart the dead modem/router I wanted to use the only working part scavenged.

I opened my wife's laptop to access the wi-fi card. This is the easy part as it is just one screw for the panel and 2 screws that hold the wi-fi card in place.
HP Compaq 6715s back
HP Compaq 6715s panel that contains the Wi-Fi

A close up of the old WLAN card

The first problem appeared:
HP Compaq 6715s new WLAN installed

As you can see the new and improved Wi-Fi card is actually half the size of the old one. And the problem is that the mini PCI Express slot pushes the card upwards so it will be easier to handle. That's fine and dandy when you can put in the 2 screws to keep it there but with this small one there is no way to secure it.

Actually it's not that bad as when you push it down the slot actually holds it in place, so it can only be pulled out if it's at an angle. So what I did is to set it in the desired position and put the cover on so that it will be pushed down and secure itself. I am not saying that this is perfect or that it will stay in there if you move your laptop around a lot, but for the use this thing gets it will be ok, as it will only be sitting at the desk.

That's it for the hardware part now let's see if it isn't actually broken too as the rest of the Motorola Surfboard SBG6580.

Well, when booting up the laptop it seems that it does see quite well the new Wi-Fi, so well in fact that it complains that it is not a supported card.
The actual message is:
104-unsupported wireless network device detected
System Halted. Remove device and restart
This seems bad and searching for solutions revealed that the laptop would need a bios upgrade with a edited bios binary so that it will have this card on the whitelist. You can look here for more information as this is the best explanation I found. It seems that he first tried to hot-swap the wi-fi cards, I am not going to try that as it may end up frying the slot. Luckily this model comes with a button to enable/disable the Wi-Fi. Sadly it doesn't work before the error message appears, so no matter how I try to synchronize with the different stages of booting the button does nothing.

I wanted to give up at this point. I tried one last thing, entering the bios to look for settings. To say that this bios has a limited set of options would be exaggerating. You can only do a few enable/disable actions but no real settings. You can of course disable the WLAN completely but that will help no one. What I ended up trying is the buttons instead. It worked. So now I can boot the laptop and access  Windows. This step (F10 bios, Disable Wi-Fi button, Exit ignoring changes) needs to be done each time the laptop is powered off with the Wi-Fi enabled.

I connected the laptop with a Ethernet cable and let Windows do it's thing:
WI-FI card from Motorola Surfboard SBG6580
It worked, I can connect to my network and access the Internet.
Device Manager sees it and has a lot of options to configure:
Compaq 6715s with scavenged Motorola Surfboard SBG6580 Wi-Fi card

The problem of booting the machine with the WLAN enabled is still there but maybe I will get around to try and fix that, preferably after a new laptop joins the family and bricking this one won't be that much of a loss.

'Till next time, enjoy!


  1. Very interesting.

  2. looks very similair to my ubee UVW3200 Modem, intresting to see windows supports this wificard, maybe the board was running Linux and a port of openwrt would be easy? anyway, Thank you for this post :D