How to mask off the “wifi power off” pins on M.2 NGFF wireless cards. (The old Mini PCI Pin 20 trick)

 

 

This week I was presented with a problem where a laptop wasn’t connecting to Wi-Fi.

 

 

The laptop, to the end user, would report no networks in the wireless network list and when the “diagnose my network” wizard was run it would report that the “Wireless capability is turned off”.

wireless-capability-is-turned-off

However to confuse things further.. the hotkey to turn off and on wireless (often an Fn and F key combination) wasn’t reporting that the wifi card should have been off.

The netsh command would report “The wireless local area network interface is power down and doesn’t support the requested operation.”

img_20161104_211644

Essentially something had gone wrong, either with the softkey wireless control or somehow with the motherboard.

This problem used to happen a lot on older laptops, especially Toshiba laptops. They had physical wireless switches on the laptop and they would either get broken or go wrong forcing the wifi card to be turned off. We regularly ended up taking out wifi cards, putting tape on them, and putting them back in. The last time I had to do this was quite a few years ago and on a Mini PCI card, not an NGFF M.2 card.

Turning wifi off and bypassing it to always be on
When you use the soft-key or physical switch the motherboard should apply a 3.3 volt “signal” to one (or more, maybe in the case of M.2) of the pins on the wireless card.

mini-pci-pin-20-masking-exampleThe wireless card then understands that it is commanded to be off and disables it’s radio.

The trick to ensure a wifi card is always on, no matter what the wifi switch is set to, is to put something in the way so that 3.3volt signal can’t reach the wireless card.

This was incredibly well documented for Mini PCI cards. Cut out a small slither of tape and stick it over Pin 20 and put the card back in the machine.

 

M.2 NGFF connectors and keying
Things have moved on since Mini PCI and Mini-PCIe in laptops. Quite a few now have what is called M.2 NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) which can be used for SSDs, Bluetooth, WWAN (cell phone cards), WLAN and GPS (and, I expect a lot more!).

The first problem I came across was identifying the type of socket that the card used. I knew the model card was an M.2 NGFF card so I initially tried putting the M.2 wifi card into my M.2 to USB SSD converter but the “keys” didn’t line up (the cut out bit or bits along with, in the socket, the plastic wall).

This confused me somewhat until I found that there are _many_ different types of M.2 socket. The best reference I found was this pdf on page 6 with a lot of diagrams. I believe my USB M.2 converter is “B Keyed” but the wifi card is “A Keyed”.

How to force an M.2 wifi card to stay on?
The problem I faced is a complete lack of information on NGFF M.2 pin outs and masking. Initially I found quite a promising website..

https://puri.sm/posts/hard-not-soft-kill-switches/

The above url seems to be an article for people who might be worried about snooping (webcam, microphone, wifi etc.).

The top picture on the page starts off well and shows a motherboard with a M.2 wireless card with the same “A keying” as the card I had problems with.

Scroll down the page and there is also some helpful wording and an explanation about how the voltage is applied to disable the card. Their aim is to fully disable it all the time, my aim is the opposite but the information is still good.

They say “The WiFi/Bluetooth Hardware Kill Switch works by applying to pins 56 and 54 an input of [3.3volts]” but then inexplicably then go onto show a photo of what appears to be a Mini-PCI or PCIe slot and an arrow pointing to a pin. This doesn’t match up with (1) the photo at the top of their page or (2) the layout of an M.2 slot.

DAMN.. now I can’t be lazy and copy the pin from an arrow on a photo. I have to work it out myself. I also couldn’t validate that their claims on the pin numbers were correct. If they have junk photos on their website then maybe the other stuff is entirely made up too. Still worth a go though.

Because there is very little information about M.2 and, especially, “A Keyed” M.2 sockets on the internet I had to attempt to work out which of the pins, on my card, were 54 and 56. trying to count pins – especially when many are not present – is very difficult.

Wikipedia and paint.net had to come out for some heavy image editing / overlaying of connector diagrams on top of a photo of the card I had in my hand.

m-2-key-a-connector-wifi-mask-ngff-card-front

M.2 A Keyed NGFF overlay with B and M Keyed diagram for pin location.

I started with the front side, the one that would (or should) line up best. This made it easy to identify pin 57 (or where pin 57 should be).

Turning the card over was then fairly easy to guess at which pins were 56 and 54 but I did want to be sure.. more paint.net handiwork and I was confident I’d identified the right pins.

m-2-key-a-connector-wifi-mask-ngff

After playing about lining up the “top” pin diagram with the “top and bottom” socket diagram and then drawing lines – the pins identified are right in the position where 54 and 56 would be (they don’t line up top to bottom as the pins are slightly offset on either side of the card and socket).

Out came the tape and scisors and then some surgical precision “sticking” it on top of the pins and chucked the card back into the laptop….

img_20161104_213240

Success!

So.. I hope this documentation helps someone. I’ve posted it as it looks like accurate and verified, tested as working ok, information doesn’t exist for M.2 wifi pin outs – until now.

WARNING: Make sure you know what you are doing. Don’t blame me if you mess up your wifi card or laptop motherboard. If in doubt take this information and your computer to someone who you are confident has the skills to perform this work.

Update 2020-07-14: Website visitor fernsx has made another good image showing the correct pins:

b5ZxUJA

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49 Responses to How to mask off the “wifi power off” pins on M.2 NGFF wireless cards. (The old Mini PCI Pin 20 trick)

  1. wily coba says:

    hi your job is awesome, could you help me to understand something, i need to install a second wifi card (A key M.2)inside my laptop and the only available slot is (B key M.2) how to convert the A key M.2 pinout to B key M.2 pinout to install the second wifi card,
    the purpose of this is stay connected at the same time to internet and another wifi system controller for a factory process,
    thank you for everything

  2. Hi Wily,
    That is beyond what I can help with :( If you didn’t care about the card and did not mind potentially breaking it I would be tempted to file off as few pins as possible at the key point and then see if it works. Likely to not work and also to break the wifi card – but you never know.. I hear stories of CPUs that work with corners cut off or broken pins. Seems sometimes a lot of redundancy is built into some of the pin connections.

    Or simpler might just be to use a USB wireless card instead.

    Good luck.

  3. Tester08 says:

    Hi, you only mentioned WiFi issues here, did you also have Bluetooth issues which were solved by your fix?
    For mPCI cards, some folks had success taping pin 51. Still, maybe your fix would also help me in my case.

    It’s actually quite funny, I replaced the stock 7260N card in my Sony Vaio with 8260AC. As long as I don’t force switch off the computer (ie by removing battery), everything works as expected. But if I do, BT is not detected in Device Manager or anywhere else, probably switched off by hardware. Then I have to insert the stock card again, power on, so BT is back. And now I can exchange the stock card for the new one again, BT still available. Strange…

  4. F1 says:

    Thank you so much for this. It’s a lot harder to do this on the m.2 cards. Your information here is absolutely outstanding and works like a charm.

  5. Glad it helped and thank you for leaving feedback/a thank you.

  6. Egon Tonsic says:

    Dear Author,

    I’m very thankful, your info help me a lot!!
    Thanks to you i have bluetooth working in my intel 8260 Wifi card.

    Like someone says in upper comments, it’s harder to find information about the NGFF connector, so thank you again for sharing this helpful information.

    Best regards!

  7. Matthew says:

    I have just carried this out on an Intel 9260, I now have Bluetooth 5.0 working!
    Thank you very much for your work documenting this solution, as mentioned there are plenty of posts covering the mini PCI-E cards but none for the M2. Well done :)

  8. My pleasure.. thank you for the thanks!

  9. Thanks! Your guide helped me fixing the same issue. Also required some paint.net work as my PCB layout was lightly different (other pins missing), but it worked out fine!

    I’ve posted pictures on
    https://gathering.tweakers.net/forum/list_message/56418057#56418057

  10. Perhaps you can shed some light on this question, that I seem to fail to understand. From the puri.sm website you refer to the pin 54 and 56 are clearly documented as W_DISABLE1 and W_DISABLE2. That sounds to me like these “disable radio” PINs are defined by the M2 standard.

    What I don’t understand is why this button doesn’t simple work then with a new NIC. Wouldn’t the laptop with the old original card also trigger pin 54 and 56?

    So to rephrase my question: Why doesn’t the Fn+Fx key work without masking pins, if the exact pin/pins is the same?

  11. Not entirely sure but some older (and maybe continues to newer model) Lenovo and HP laptops restrict the model of wifi card that can be used. If they detect an incompatible card they don’t allow it to work. Could be related to that? I’m not really sure as I’ve not come across a machine like that in a few years.

  12. This as an Asus V3-371 laptop. The replacement card was identified and working according to Windows (basically exact same conditions as you described in the post). But it could be. In this case it is a soft switch (Fn button) so it might do some magic in the BIOS. Maybe it identifies the slot on which to pull up this pin by looking for PCI ID or something. Who knows.

  13. Hello, i have the similary problem with my m2 wifi card Intel AC9260, i tested your solutions but it not work for me, principally for Bluetooth, (wifi work), i’m french and i posted here in french with pictures:
    https://forum.hardware.fr/hfr/Hardware/Materiels-problemes-divers/probleme-ac9260-masque-sujet_1034904_1.htm

    please tell me if I have stuck the tape, thank you in advance, sorry for my bad english :)

  14. I tried this(on intel 9260) but it didnt work with fenvi m.2 to pci x1, i tried putting the pci module to pci x4 slot and it worked. And yes i’m using AMD Ryzen and MSI B350M motherboard. Hope it helps somebody.

  15. R413 says:

    Upgraded my stock Atheros card inside Acer Helios 300 PH317-51 with Fenvi Intel 9260 m.2 Key A E:
    Wifi was working fine, however Bluetooth was nowhere to be found. Covering pin 56 helped a problem and now both BT and wifi are working fine.

    If you cover pins 54 and 56, then you’ll have BT working and wifi disappear ;)

    Thank you very much for this article!

  16. Thank you for taking the time to say thanks :)

  17. P says:

    I upgraded my Acer s7-392 with an Intel wireless AC 9260. It worked great in Linux, but not Windows 10. Couldn’t find any way to resolve this issue via software or BIOS. I almost gave up until I found your article. You are a life saver! Thank you for putting up this fix and all the detail with it.

  18. Thank you for taking the time to say thanks :)

  19. Matthew says:

    I just wanted to add that this is working on the new AX-200 cards as well. As mentioned above you only need to mask pin 56 to enable Bluetooth, which is relatively easy because there are no adjacent pins on one side. Now I have Wifi 6! :D

  20. Edward says:

    Amazing!, I was trying to figure out the PINs on my own remembering the PIN20 hack years ago and stumbled upon this. Thank you for sharing this, I was able to convert 2 of my boys HP laptops to a chromebook using cloudready with working wifi for school because of this!

    So much better than having to find a working usb dongle and solder it internally for durability for them.

  21. Adam says:

    Thanks for this information! I have a late model hp laptop that came w an 802.11ac+bt5 card, but when I swapped in an ax200 card Windows didnt even see BT device, WiFi permanently disabled with no way to enable. All I have is an airplane mode soft key, which was useless. Taping both pins seems to have resolved both issues but now I’m concerned that I’ve created an excessive power drain scenario where the radios will be on 100% of the time, even in sleep. Any insight on either the validity or ridiculousness of my concerns? Also a little worried that the tape could permanently deform the socket pins, rendering problems down the road should some bios or firmware issue actually resolve the issue and allow me to remove the “hack”

  22. Don’t know on the sleep power use but I’d be amazed if the port remains powered up in sleep mode. wouldn’t worry about that. Perform a test. Sleep it for 12 hours without he card in and we how much the battery percentage goes down and then do the same with the card in?. Pins on the socket also unlikely to suffer unless you have unusually thick sellotape. I wouldn’t use thick black electrical tape! On my one I think I might have even used two layers of my cheap thin sellotape to make sure the pin didn’t cut through the tape and make contact.

  23. rebelliouswhiz says:

    Hi man, I have a VAIO S11 (the new VAIO, not Sony Vaio any more..), and faced the same issue. I was thinking along with the same pattern by taping pins like on PCI adapters. Then I googled and found your post.

    I must say I can’t thank you enough, this issue has been bugging me for months, and you saved my life!

    Please let me know how to buy you a coffee!

  24. Thank you for the command and the offer but in a quest to try to be anonymous – I’ve got no sensible way for you to send me anything.

  25. Davide says:

    Hi mate, you did a great job ! Could you confirm me which type of tape you have used ?
    I have to use insulating tape ? Because with the classic scotch tape didn’t work…
    The thickness it’s an important point to remember…

  26. I don’t recall but likely either black insulating tape or two layers of sellotape.

  27. rebelliouswhiz says:

    Then please accept my sincere appreciation!

    BTW, do you mind me translate your article into another language? Please let me know the reference requirements, thanks!

  28. You can post your own interpretation elsewhere as long as it is a personal blog or forum post and not sold or written for a content network. Make sure you link back to this page.

  29. TheBaguetteThatYouSaved says:

    Thank you for this wonderful information.
    I had issue when I broke the wifi cards’ sms connector, the cable as well. I replaced the card with an Intel Centrino Advanced-n 6235 as well as the new antenna cable (I had to resolder the cable to the antenna in the screen.).
    Sadly once the card replaced and booted into windows, it was not considered enabled. You could see it was enabled as an network adapter, latest drivers and all. I was unable to find a way to enable it, I used several software, bios options, key combinations…

    Then I found your post about the Pin 20 on the back of the wifi card that enables to wifi. I carefully cut a thin strip of sticky tape/scotch and placed it on the exact same pin as your picture of the mini pci from allthingstechie.net. It had the same pins, except one pin was slightly larger. I carefully pressed down to make sure the tape was properly glued to the pin, and carefully inserted the card back into the slot.

    Success, I see wifi access points again!!!!
    Thanks a bunch man!!!!

  30. Thanks for the thanks :)

  31. mrfaheemm75 says:

    I purchased a pci-e card with dual band 2.4/5g + bluetooth…for Toshiba satellite C55-B5296; SN# 5E277268P. The wifi capability is working fine, but the trouble is the bluetooth is completely none recognizable in my OS…which is win.10, 64b ×64 bp.
    The seller recommends to masking “pin 13” to enable the bluetooth.
    The seller also referred me to your link where you cover “M2-ngff-wireless-cards” but you work the old mini pci-e pin 20 trick and also pin 54 and 56 –of course, that was for wifi off problems. However, I have bluetooth problems. So which pins to mask off?

  32. I don’t know the answer to that one – sorry.

  33. mrfaheemm75 says:

    You don’t know the answer???
    You have a big article here, in reference to my comment…like, wtf???

  34. The article is about applying the old PCI-e technique to NGFF cards. Also this is all about WiFi not Bluetooth. You have an awful attitude about something that I’ve posted for free. I don’t know the answer. You’ve also made me not even want to do a cursory google search to try to help or point you in the right direction.

  35. R413 says:

    mrfaheemm75, The answer to the question is just a little bit above in the comment section. Find it and its will likely solve your problem. Also be grateful that this article exists at all and put some effort into looking for answers, that YOU need.

  36. Copperpot says:

    Thank you, you’ve been a life savior! In my case it was a mini PCIe card, so I only focused on the first part, but relaying it in layman’s terms helped me realised the easiest way to deal with an obstinate motherboard/WiFi card combo (after trying, unsucessfully, to fix it via SW). Great job!

  37. fernsx says:

    Bluetooth functionality went away since i had to remove the wifi card to disasemble my laptop for a ram upgrade.

    Contacted the laptop manufacturer, intel itself, reinstalled OS, tried linux distros.. cmos clear ups, nothing!

    Until i found that old intel pcie cards had this problem and blocking some contacts did the work..

    Then found your post about doing this on new m.2 pcie cards.

    In appreciation to your investigation, id like to post a picture i made to locate the pins, in my case its an intel 7265 ngw card.

    [img]https://i.imgur.com/b5ZxUJA.jpg[/img]

    BIG THANKS!

  38. Thank you, do you mind if I re-post the image on the page here in case the imgur one ever disappears?

  39. fercho says:

    Oh please! sure, post it!

  40. Hatem says:

    I have a Toshiba SATELLITE P755-S5262 running on windows 10.
    I have an Intel(R) Centrino(R) Wireless-N 1000 wifi card.
    My wifi has the exact same symptoms as described above.
    I want to know if there is an alternative solution to the problem that does not require me taking out the card.
    If not, do I follow the exact same procedure on my specific wifi card or is it in any way different.
    Thanks a lot for your help.

  41. Other than checking software settings such as flight mode on Windows 10 or any wireless software switches in any Toshiba software that may be installed.. I can’t think of a way without opening up the machine.

  42. Hatem says:

    What type of card is the Intel(R) Centrino(R) Wireless-N 1000 and what pins do I need to mask off here.Thanks in advance for the help.

  43. Sam says:

    I’ve been searching all day after I woke up to no wifi. I finally found the pin 20 solution then realized my card looked nothing like the ones in the pictures. A more detailed search brought me here and I was able to fix my wifi. Thank you so much!

  44. Sam says:

    Yup! My wifi adapter (Intel AX200NGW) had 2 extra pins, but your details and explanations helped me through it. My Laptop was just short of worthless but for me, it was useless. Taping the 2 pins (used scottch tape, the basic tape found in an office) fixed the issue very well!

  45. Vic says:

    Which pins are for Bluetooth I have ax210 I wonder if it’s the same as the ax200?

  46. Martin says:

    I replaced an Intel AC7260 NGFF with Intel AX200 in a Toshiba Kirabook – afterwards WiFi worked, Bluetooth not. I had to cover Pin 54 to get Bluetooth working, but had to cover Pin 56 as well because of the size of the connector

  47. Jumbo says:

    The Wi-Fi radio will be active only if both HW RF kill pin and SW RF kill mechanism are in
    “enable” state.
    So you still able to turn off by SW command.

  48. Pingback: VAIO、TOSHIBA 等日系笔记本电脑更换无线网卡无法启用的解决方案 – 家园鱼的技术分享

  49. Diego says:

    HI guys! Thank you very to all of you and yours comments.
    After some days of searchs and headaches, I finally found this page!

    Same problem of all of you, Windows and Linux saw my AX210NGW always OFF.

    The difference between the AX200 and AX210 is that the last one, have 6 PIN and not 4 (as you can see in the image -> https://ibb.co/6YKcLBF ). I tried to “scotch” the same PINs, but the system didn’t see the card. So, I thought “I can try to cover the other two PINS” (at my own risk xD) at voila!
    It works!
    I hope that my comment could be useful for others persons!
    Have a good time guys!

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