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X220 WLAN slot defective?

X200/X201/X220 (including equivalent tablet models) and X300/X301 Series
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axur-delmeria
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X220 WLAN slot defective?

#1 Post by axur-delmeria » Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:08 pm

Yesterday my X220's WiFi connection conked out after a resume from suspend. I did the standard "unload/reload kernel module" (I'm running Debian Linux) but it didn't work. Ran lspci but the WiFi card wasn't listed. That's bad.

Today I replaced the WiFi card (it's an Intel 6205) with one from my "spare parts X220".
After booting Linux, WiFi APs were detected, but when I tried to connect, it failed, and when I ran lspci, the WiFi card was missing. Now this is really bad.

Looks like the WLAN slot is toast, right? Or should I try with a non-Intel WiFi card first?

In case the WLAN slot is indeed broken, I'm looking for options that don't end with a cable or dongle dangling out of a USB port.
Any suggestions?
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#2 Post by dr_st » Wed Sep 30, 2020 11:49 pm

Yeah, doesn't sound too good.

Check the kernel log for errors. Maybe you will find something relevant.

In case the WLAN slot does turn out to be bad, are you using the mSATA/WWAN slot? I wonder if there exist some USB-based mPCIe WLAN cards that could be used there.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), T490 (20N3), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG
X61 7673-V2V, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#3 Post by RealBlackStuff » Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:13 am

6205 cards are notoriously bad, try a 6200 or 6300 instead.
Still NOT a great day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff).
Ireland is on FULL lockdown until Easter 2021!
Covid-19: Stay safe, so Mask it or Casket!

axur-delmeria
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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#4 Post by axur-delmeria » Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:01 am

RealBlackStuff wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:13 am
6205 cards are notoriously bad, try a 6200 or 6300 instead.
I just tested the X220's WiFi card on my X60F, and it works. In fact, I'm typing this post on said X60F. Now it really looks like the X220's WLAN slot is kaput. :cry:
dr_st wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 11:49 pm
In case the WLAN slot does turn out to be bad, are you using the mSATA/WWAN slot? I wonder if there exist some USB-based mPCIe WLAN cards that could be used there.
I'm not using the WWAN slot, so that's an option. Now that you mention it, maybe I could grab one of those mPCIe to USB adapters and use a USB WiFi adapter like the TP-Link Archer T3U. That could work right? I already have an AC-capable router (Archer C6 v2).
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#5 Post by dr_st » Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:15 am

axur-delmeria wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:01 am
I'm not using the WWAN slot, so that's an option. Now that you mention it, maybe I could grab one of those mPCIe to USB adapters and use a USB WiFi adapter like the TP-Link Archer T3U. That could work right? I already have an AC-capable router (Archer C6 v2).
It should work, I just wonder what kind of performance you'll be getting out of that tiny dongle hidden inside the chassis, compared to a proper mPCIe card that you could connect to the existing WiFi antennas of the chassis.

I was thinking something like this (not necessarily the same card/chipset).
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), T490 (20N3), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG
X61 7673-V2V, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

axur-delmeria
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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#6 Post by axur-delmeria » Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:59 am

dr_st wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:15 am
It should work, I just wonder what kind of performance you'll be getting out of that tiny dongle hidden inside the chassis, compared to a proper mPCIe card that you could connect to the existing WiFi antennas of the chassis.

I was thinking something like this (not necessarily the same card/chipset).
I see. But that type of WiFi card would probably be hard to find and expensive relative to its features and capabilities-- for example, the card in your link is 1T2R, 2.4GHz-only BGN, meaning its 150Mbps max, well below the 6205's 2T2R dual-band ABGN @ 300Mbps. I reckon that a USB mPCIe WLAN card with similar features would cost much more than the ~20 USD price of the Archer T3U.

Regarding the antenna performance, I could remove some of the aluminum foil on the palmrest, specifically the part above the WWAN slot, in order to improve reception. Note that there's no tape on the area above the Bluetooth module.

Another bottleneck would be the USB 2.0 interface (the Archer T3U is designed for USB 3.0), but I think I can live with that. An internal solution, even a hacked-together one, is IMO better than a WiFi dongle sticking out, or relying on a USB-tethered Android phone (which is what I'm using at the moment).

Other possible solutions would be an Expresscard WiFi adapter or maybe even an Expresscard to mPCIe / M.2 adapter, but the former is rare and expensive and the latter doesn't even exist. :cry:
Last edited by axur-delmeria on Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#7 Post by RealBlackStuff » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:02 am

Still NOT a great day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff).
Ireland is on FULL lockdown until Easter 2021!
Covid-19: Stay safe, so Mask it or Casket!

dr_st
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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#8 Post by dr_st » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:16 am

axur-delmeria wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:59 am
I see. But that type of WiFi card would probably be hard to find and expensive relative to its features and capabilities-- for example, the card in your link is 1T2R, 2.4GHz-only BGN, meaning its 150Mbps max, well below the 6205's 2T2R dual-band ABGN @ 300Mbps. I reckon that a USB mPCIe WLAN card with similar features would cost much more than the ~20 USD price of the Archer T3U.
I can see cards based on RaLink RT3090/RT5390 for about $8 on AliExpress:
https://www.aliexpress.com/popular/usb- ... -card.html

They are both 150Mbps cards, so theoretical performance is lower for sure. What matters, though is practical performance and stability. I don't have experience with any of these products, so I cannot testify.
axur-delmeria wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:59 am
Regarding the antenna performance, I could remove some of the aluminum foil on the palmrest, specifically the part above the WWAN slot, in order to improve reception. Note that there's no tape on the area above the Bluetooth module.
As a rule of thumb, I would prefer a proper internal solution that can utilize the laptop's antennas than a mini-dongle via an adapter + chassis mod. But again, I haven't done an actual comparison.

My own experience with the X220 was that I sometimes experience a "limited connectivity" issue out of the blue that goes away on its own. It was pretty bad with the 6205, and although much less frequent with the 6300, still happens sometimes. The known workaround is to disable 802.11n (I never had it happen while using 802.11g only). So what good does it give me that the card has theoretical higher performance, if I have to turn it off to achieve stability?

Then again, perhaps the reason for these drops are actually issues with the laptop antennas? In which case their advantage becomes moot. I don't know.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), T490 (20N3), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG
X61 7673-V2V, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

axur-delmeria
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Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#9 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:11 pm

TBH I haven't heard of WiFi interference issues on Thinkpads, unlike the Raspberry Pi 4 where the HDMI could jam its own WiFi when the former is set to 2560x1440--an issue that was fixed through a firmware update.

I have experience with Ralink USB WiFi adapters, specifically the RT3070. Its (proprietary) firmware has a known quirk: it won't accept the long device names like "enp0s29u1u2" that newer Linux kernels (or was it udev and systemD) and prefers the old ones like wlan0, etc.

AFAIK Ralink was absorbed by Mediatek, so newer chips have the prefix MT (like the MT7610U), but they still have this odd firmware quirk-- the solution is to force the use of those old device names via a kernel boot parameter.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

axur-delmeria
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Posts: 2818
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 5:49 am
Location: Metro Manila, Philippines

Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#10 Post by axur-delmeria » Wed Oct 07, 2020 5:30 am

The TP-Link Archer T3U arrived first. On Debian Linux, not even the backported 5.6 kernel had the proper driver.
A quick internet search led me to https://github.com/cilynx/rtl88x2bu, where I adapted the instructions for a DKMS-based installation.
First I needed to install git and rsync (DKMS and build-essentials were already installed because of tp-smapi and acpi-call) then clone the repository.

I opened a terminal window, navigated to /dev/shm (on second thought I should've used /tmp instead).

Code: Select all

git clone https://github.com/cilynx/rtl88x2bu.git
Then I got root privileges using "su -c" and ran the following commands:

Code: Select all

cd rtl88x2bu
VER=$(sed -n 's/\PACKAGE_VERSION="\(.*\)"/\1/p' dkms.conf)
rsync -rvhP ./ /usr/src/rtl88x2bu-${VER}
dkms add -m rtl88x2bu -v ${VER}
dkms build -m rtl88x2bu -v ${VER}
dkms install -m rtl88x2bu -v ${VER}
The original instructions called for "modprobe 88x2bu" to load the kernel module, but it was unnecessary, as Linux automatically loaded it after detecting the Archer T3U had been plugged in.

After that, I deleted the source directory downloaded by by git.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

axur-delmeria
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Posts: 2818
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 5:49 am
Location: Metro Manila, Philippines

Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#11 Post by axur-delmeria » Mon Oct 12, 2020 4:54 am

The mini-PCIe to USB adapter arrived today and I finally installed the Archer T3U inside. I removed the aluminum foil under the palmrest and I'm getting a decent 72% signal. :D Will post some pics at a later date.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

axur-delmeria
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Posts: 2818
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 5:49 am
Location: Metro Manila, Philippines

Re: X220 WLAN slot defective?

#12 Post by axur-delmeria » Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:01 pm

As promised, here are some pics (click on them to see the full-sized images):

Here is the mPCIe to USB adapter with the TP-Link Archer T3U AC1300 WiFi dongle. Didn't remove the shell so as not to void the warranty.

Image


Part of the aluminum foil tape on the underside of the palmrest was removed so as not to hinder WiFi signal reception.
The removed section covers the area with the yellowish residue (it's cyanoacryllate + baking soda used to repair cracks) up to the touchpad's flex cable.

Image

The Linux kernel does not have a built-in driver for it, so the 88x2bu driver needs to be downloaded and compiled. Fortunately, the included instructions are clear and the installation script makes it easy.
Note: the linked driver is more recent than the one in my earlier post, and works on Linux kernel 5.9.

After using it for two months, I can say it has better reception than the stock WiFi. With the old Intel 6205, I had problems connecting to the main router from my shed-- 5GHz was a no-go, while 2.4GHz sometimes drops out. With the Archer T3U, I could consistently connect at 5GHz with no issues.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
:cry:

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