ThinkPad X230 Wireless LAN upgrade

This guide focuses on upgrading the wifi card in the Lenovo ThinkPad X230(applies to X230i, X220, X220i aswell).

ThinkPad X230


1. Introduction
2. Prerequisites
3. Process


Why would I do this?

The ThinkPad X230 ships with a selection of default wifi cards, the most common being Intel 6205, 6300, and 1000M. These wireless cards are quite outdated and under-featured.
Compared to modern options, they lack 802.11AC/AX, built-in bluetooth, and on top of that require proprietary blobs. The bluetooth is handled by a proprietary addon card.
This document covers the replacement process, and provides recommendations. This document does NOT cover whitelist removal,and possible issues with stock firmware and modded solutions.


It won't work without these

First you will need to remove the WLAN whitelist from your ThinkPad. For the X230, you will either need to dump the stock rom and modify it(or pay someone to mod it for you, I recommend dudu2002 on bios-mods), or flash coreboot. I went the coreboot route as it gives me other advantages.
For the X220, you can flash a modified stock firmware internally, or coreboot externally.
You will also need the wifi card that you are going to be installing.
For blob-less drivers, check this list of ath9k cards. Make sure to pick one for "Mini PCIe(half)". These are recommended for GNU+Linux ath9k card list
For use with Windows and newer bluetooth revisions, Intel 7260AC, Intel 8260, Intel 9260, and Intel AX200 are recommended. You can purchase a 7260AC in a retail mPCIe form factor, you can also purchase an 8260 in the mPCIe form factor from aliexpress on an adapter board. 9260 and AX200 require an m.2 adapter board. The AX200 also supports bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11AX
For use with MacOS, bcm43xx is the way to go. Personally i have only used the DW1510 and i can confirm it works. Consult hackintosh forums for newer alternatives. Beware, bcm43xx cards are not recommended for Windows and GNU+Linux.

Note: You can find Atheros cards in old low end Acer and HP laptops. They are easily identifyable by their black sticker on the RF can.

The process


First step, remove all screws labeled with the keyboard symbol, and addin card symbol.

Second step, remove the keyboard. Push the keyboard away from yourself and towards the display, and pull up from the bottom.

Third step, remove the palmrest. Lift it up from the inside, be very careful with the clips at the front, slowly lift it until you hear them pop.

Unplug the antennas, and unscrew the wireless card. It will lift itself up at an angle, then you can pull it out. Plug in your new wifi card at the same angle, push it down, screw it back in, and connect the antennas.

Now repeat all the steps in reverse order. When putting the palmrest back on, make sure to pop in the front clips. You can check it by looking at it from the bottom and seeing if its perfectly flush.

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