The $6 bluetooth upgrade for laptops

The $6 bluetooth upgrade for laptops

If you have done like me and got the cheapest laptop available because all you do with it is surfing and programming, this hack is for you.

Like expected when buying a cheap laptop, parts of it are not as good quality as higher end models. For instance, the touchpad on my Toshiba actually gives me sore fingertips after a couple of hours of use. So I started looking for a wireless USB mouse, and I soon realized how much I was missing built-in bluetooth capability on my laptop so I wouldn’t have to use one of my two ¬†USB ports and have to carry around the USB dongle. So here comes the trick.

Please note that most computers are different from each other and this post is only meant as a guide for those trying to do a similar hack on their laptop.

First, order the parts you need. I went on goodluckbuy.com (because they’re cheap and shipping is free) and bought the absolute cheapest USB hub and mini bluetooth dongle for the total of $6. The idea is to take them apart so they take up as small space as possible, then solder them to one of my two USB connectors pins. You need to separate the dongle from the USB connector with a hub or else the USB port on your laptop is not available to other devices! I also bought the cheapest bluetooth mouse so I could start testing, then maybe later upgrade if I was not satisfied with its performance. Remember to test all devices before taking them apart! Please read through the whole guide before you start modifying your own laptop.

Here is the delivery, and some pictures from taking them apart.

The USB hub with its casing taken off.

 

Bluetooth dongle without plastics

The casing only came easily off on one side of the bluetooth dongle, so I clipped the plastic edges with a small wire cutter.

 

 

Now it’s time to solder the wires from the hub onto the bluetooth dongle which metal casing has to be opened with some small side cutter plier or similar.

Use a multimeter beforehand to identify which wire color goes where if uncertain. Look at a USB connector from the top, it is
Red – +5v
White
Green
Black – Ground

The USB hub has 4 of each colored wires on the device side. Pick any red and black, and then a green and a white that must be a pair right next to each other, starting with white from the bottom. Apply solder to both the tabs at the dongle and at the stripped wire ends on the hub before soldering, it will make the job much easier as the thin wires are very fragile.

Verify that your setup is still working.

 

 

 

Now disassemble your laptop by removing all screws on the underside, carefully sorting the different lengths and types as seen on the picture. Mine were marked on the laptop casing next to each screw, so that made the job much easier. Be sure to remove the battery, there are most probably some screws hidden under it just like under the lid for the RAM and hard drive. Keep the battery removed until you re-assemble the laptop!

Turn the laptop right side up and lift the screen cover all the way back. Gently pry open the casing starting in one corner. If you haven’t had any experience with this before, or loves your computers aestethics, consider buying a special prying tool specifically for this purpose to not leave marks on the edges. Identify one USB connector and its 4 pins.

Apply solder to all 4 pins. Now cut the male USB connector on the laptop side of the hub and slide back the black rubber insulation as earlier, leaving as much wire length as possible so it’s easier to position your setup inside the laptop afterwards. Apply solder to the wire ends, then solder them in the right order directly to the pins on the USB connector in the laptop like shown. Use electrical tape around both the dongle and the hub to be sure not to short circuit anything when installing the device and closing the laptop case. Also use electrical tape to insulate exposed wires on the laptop printed circuit board.

Position your device carefully somewhere with enough space under the cover of your laptop, and reverse the deconstruction part. You’re done!

When firing up your laptop again, you should see something similar to these devices in Windows device manager

After pairing your laptop with the bluetooth mouse.

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