I just installed a WiFi card in a Mac Pro and thought I’d share the ease of installation on my website. In my case, I installed it in my pride and joy, a 8-core Mac Pro 2008 model (Mac Pro 3,1) which kicks ass, but it works on newer models as well. As long as it’s a a model before the new late 2013 model (the fancy trash bin).
For this WiFi upgrade I used the Apple MB363Z/A Airport Extreme Wireless Upgrade Kit, found at Amazon new for $25, which MacOS X recognizes instantly – so no need for crazy drivers and weird WiFi apps. The Mac Pro, made out a metal alloy, has two build in WiFi antenna’s and this setup will pick up on 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz WiFi (if the same card is being used).
What we need to install WiFi in a Mac Pro
Well, it’s pretty simple: We need a Philips 0 (or maybe a Philips 1) and an Apple MB363Z/A Airport Extreme Card.
You can find the card at Amazon for $25, but I’m sure you’ll find them on eBay as well …
Why use a internal WiFi card?
Installing such a WiFi card is obviously less practical than just plugging in a USB WiFi dongle. So why did I use this card?
Unfortunately, USB WiFi dongles by our much appreciated Chinese friends, are not automatically recognized by Mac OS X and often come with specific drivers and specific software to connect to your WiFi network. In y experience, these applications work not even close to the convenience you’ll enjoy when Mac OS X natively supports you WiFi. So in my opinion: well worth the effort and not even that more expensive …
Installing WiFi in a Mac Pro steps …
With some pictures I’ll illustrate how I installed the WiFi card in my Mac Pro. The main reason why I’m describing it here is because when I Google’d it, the resulting pages still confused me a little bit.
Step 1 – Open the Mac Pro
Apple fans that actually open their equipment will agree with me: Apple doesn’t just do great design on the outside. The inner-workings of your Apple is a work of art as well. When will PC manufacturers follow this example?
First make sure to unplug your power cord!
Use an ESD strap if you have one, or touch something metal that is grounded (radiator for example) to prevent static discharges.
Opening a Mac Pro is easy: look at the back and pull the lever you’ll find there.
Once pulled the side panel can be removed – no need for force or screwdrivers.
Keep the lever extended – otherwise you’ll lock the drive bays.
Beauty in the details – Opening a Mac Pro
Step 2 – Remove the Hard-drives
To give yourself some working space and to be able to grab the antenna wires, we will temporary remove all 4 drive bays. Simply grab each drive bay at a time and slide them out. Just put them bays/drives on the side for now.
Removing the drive bays is easy, just pull and they slide out …
Step 3 – Locate WiFi Card Slot and Antenna Cables
This is probably the only thing that took me some time.
Locating the slot for the WiFi card in your Mac Pro is easy, as it’s located just below drive bay #2, next to the tiny Bluetooth card.
Mac Pro – Location of WiFi slot and BT (Bluetooth) Card
When you look at the WiFi slot a little closer, you see the two screw holes (A) and the card slot (B).
Mac Pro WiFi Slot (B) and Screw holes (A)
You will see a tiny black wire, marked “BT” running from the Bluetooth card to somewhere under the motherboard.
Follow this wire and try to find a set of 3 thin black wires, marked “1“, “2” and “3“.
I found it to be a small challenge to actually find these wires, you’ll recognize their endings (see illustration above) will have small plastic sleeves over them.
If you can’t find them right away: don’t worry, they are there, but probably tucked away really well.
Step 4 – Connecting the Antenna wires
Tip on connecting the antenna wires …
One of our visitors (Dan) suggested an alternative approach, which may or may not save you some headaches:
– First install the Wifi card first in the slot, and secure the 2 screws
– Next align wire/pin3 and push it down using the eraser end of a pencil, you will hear tiny click
– And after that do same for wire/pin1
When you’ve found these 3 wires: we only need the two wires marked “1” and “3“.
If you look at your WiFi card, then you’ll see that one side has two round connectors on the top. Make sure this side faces UP.
Hold the card in the position, as if it would be in the WiFi Card slot and you’ll notice that the two wires (marked “1” and “3“) are not equal in length and kind-a line up with these two round connectors. These connectors are, as you might have guessed, the antenna connectors. Connect the wires to the board.
Connecting these wires might take a little effort, they are tiny, are a pain to line up correctly and need some extra pressure to make the connection “click”.
I have seen people suggesting the use of a plier for this, but I really cannot recommend this.
Just practice patience and use your fingers and try clicking them in place until the “stick” and stay in place.
Connect the Mac Pro Wifi Antenna’s
Step 5 – Insert the Wifi Card
Next step is to insert the card in the WiFi slot and screwing the card down – you’re WiFi card should come with 2 screws (2x a M2 x 3mm).
Keep the card under an angle and slide it into the slot.
Insert the WiFi Card under an angle
Once the card is fully in the connector, push it down (flat on the motherboard) and make sure the two screw holes line up with the screw sockets on the motherboard.
Screwing the WiFi card down
Before continuing: Make sure you didn’t by accident disconnect the Bluetooth antenna wire.
Step 6 – Close your Mac Pro
The next step is obvious: Reassemble your Mac Pro.
Re-insert the drive bays,
put the panel back on the side and
push the lever on the back of your Mac pro, back into it’s closed position.
Step 7 – Does it work …?
Now reconnect your power (and other cables, if you removed any) and power up your Mac pro to see if WiFi works.
First got to “System Preferences” “Network“. Once the window opens a message like this will appear:
Genuine Apple WiFi cards will be detected right away
Click “OK” and you’ll see your newly installed WiFi card ready for use …
Mac Pro WiFi card ready for use
Of course you’ll need to switch the WiFi on – which will give you an idea if the antenna’s worked – by clicking the “Turn Wi-Fi On” button.
After a few seconds you should see (if you have a WiFi access point active of course) one or more network names appear.
Mac Pro WiFi card is enabled!