2012 i7 quad loses wifi connection

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by macmesser, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. macmesser macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 13, 2012
    Location:
    Long Island, NY USA
    #1
    My Mac Mini connects unreliably to wifi network. Slow to no connection. When a usb drive is attached connection degrades to nil. When drive is removed the connection is flakey: could be very fast and then drops to dial-up speeds. Other Macs on the same network connect at close to nominal fiber speed. Apple told me to upgrade OS and see. I tried downloading OS installer, installing on external drive, and booting from same. Could not connect, so I conclude software is not the problem and tat maybe USB is starving wifi of power or wifi unit is bad and that is why wifi connection fails.

    If USB is fried does that mean I need a new system board?

    If wifi is bad, that subsystem can be replaced. Correct?

    Fortunately I have Applecare. I'm hopeful they can fix my mini since it has upgraded RAM and drive.

    Any insights appreciated.
     
  2. treekram macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 9, 2015
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    Honolulu HI
    #2
    I also have a 2012 i7 Mini. I usually don't use the WiFi although when I do, I don't have a problem.

    The USB drive issue could be interference. Actually, the WiFi issue itself could be interference. I'd try to reduce possible sources of interference (nearby USB, Bluetooth, other wireless sources) and try it again. I don't recall anybody on macrumors having a WiFi board power issue.

    If the drive was upgraded recently and you have had the problems since the upgrade, then it could be that something wasn't done correctly in the upgrade. If you have AppleCare, I'd take it in and have it looked at. At the very least, they should be able to figure out if it's an interference problem. As I recall, some people have had problems with Apple repairing the Mini if the drive has been replaced, others not. There are two components to the WiFi - the antenna which is attached to the grill and the Bluetooth/WiFi card. One place was selling the Bluetooth/WifFi card for $80 new, FWIW.

    https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Mac+Mini+Late+2012+AirPort-Bluetooth+Board+Replacement/11709
     
  3. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    Thanks. Good to know that wifi can be purchased at a reasonable price. I don't know the drive history as it was bought used. 1TB +240GB micron SSD forming fusion drive. Tested fine with many repair/diagnostic utilities which checked hard and software. The wifi diagnostic wizard from El Capitan generated a report and seemed to agree with your hunch that it's interference, advising that I switch channels. There are iPads, iPhones and Macbooks all in proximity, as well as a wireless printer. Also several neighbors' wifi networks visible and strong. Only the Mini has a problem. Unless these are known to be very prone to interference I have my doubts as to that being the cause, however it's certainly something to eliminate as a cause.
     
  4. treekram, Dec 16, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015

    treekram macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    So, I presume you've recently acquired the Mini. In which case, given that the other devices don't have problems, I would suspect something is wrong in the Mini. It could be the drives causing interference although there's not a high likelihood of that. If you have the original Apple HDD (you can use System Report to find out), the chances are even less so. That being said, it wouldn't hurt to research if the Micron or the HDD (if it isn't an Apple HDD) has reported issues with interference. More likely is some problem that was introduced when the SSD was installed. Besides the card, there could be numerous other issues.

    A good number of people have broken something or other in doing a drive replacement in the 2012 Mini. If you don't feel comfortable with what I'm about to suggest, don't do it. With that caveat, it shouldn't be difficult to just check the WiFi antenna. In the ifixit URL I gave above, it shouldn't be difficult to do steps 1, 2, and then steps 8-10. You can see if there is anything obviously wrong, particularly with connector (step 10). I did the drive replacement without breaking anything, BUT ... I found that I couldn't put back one of the outer screws on the antenna. Whether mine was originally jammed in there to begin with, who knows. (I haven't had a problem with the lack of one screw.) If you're missing a screw, then you know that's likely what happened. It'd be very difficult to change the drive without removing the antenna so if both of the outer screws are there, then you can proceed knowing it's likely you'll be able to put them back again as well. Beyond this, diagnosing gets more difficult. If you go that route you can re-trace the steps using the iFixit guide.

    EDIT: You're going to need Torx screwdrivers as noted in the iFixit guide if you do steps 8-10.

    EDIT 2: As I think about it, a viable alternative, given the circumstances, is a USB wifi adapter.
     
  5. elolaugesen macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    #5
    Intel wrote a paper on the issue of usb3 interfering with wifi. Then OWC came up with a small sticker(?) to block interference. Cost. 10-20 dollars. i have the same machine but have no wifi issues. I only use usb3 when backing up machine. Thusnever encounter the problem. Best. Elo
     
  6. treekram macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    The OWC foil was for Bluetooth shielding - I got it as part of the kit to add an SSD. A search for "wifi shielding" or "wi fi shielding" on the OWC site doesn't return any relevant results (whereas "bluetooth shielding" did). I put the foil in but I don't use bluetooth on the Mini. As mentioned earlier, I don't have WiFi issues, either before or after I added the foil. So I can't say if it would help or not.
     
  7. elolaugesen macrumors regular

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    #7
    You are right it was for blue tooth... Sorry. Elo
     
  8. elolaugesen macrumors regular

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    #8
    Back again....i read the summary of the intel paper again. Just search th web for intel usb paper. I will nw read the entire doccument again.

    But you are right the owc fix only seems to talk about bluetooth
    Exerpt from document.
    2.4 GHz wireless devices
    The 2.4 GHz ISM band is a widely used unlicensed radio frequency band for devices such as wireless routers, as well as wireless PC peripherals such as a mouse or keyboard. These devices may use standard protocols such as the IEEE 802.11b/g/n or Bluetooth*, or they may use proprietary protocols. The radios may use frequency hopping, frequency agility, or may operate on a fixed frequency.
     
  9. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #9
    The easiest solution to overcoming "USB interference" with wifi on the Mac Mini is to use an ethernet cable to connect to the net.

    Probably faster, too!
     
  10. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Long Island, NY USA
    #10
    Thanks for all the share experience and comments. Since the machine still had Applecare I took it in to the local Apple Store. They ran some tests and finally just replace the wifi card. I'm now connecting to my wifi network and browsing the web at full full speed, so that must have indeed been the problem. I found the comments about bluetooth interference interesting, as although my wifi is completely fixed my wireless keyboard/mouse will not connect now. I'm in the process of checking settings and will try deleting, adding and re-configuring them as they worked perfectly before.
     
  11. elolaugesen macrumors regular

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    Aug 1, 2008
    #11
    My battery was low and i could not connect keyboard. Sorry had not see your new thread. Best
     
  12. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    But a pain if you don't have the wire already run.
     
  13. datars macrumors newbie

    datars

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    San Francisco Bay Area
    #13
    I would test the power supply. Ask Apple if there's an easy way to do that without removing it. otherwisz pick-up a power-supply tester. But do check with ifixit
     
  14. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    fixit makes tool kits for Macs right? I've heard of them.
     
  15. datars macrumors newbie

    datars

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    #15
    iFixit has a store, plus Apple parts
     
  16. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Thanks.
     
  17. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    Location:
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    #17
    How is that Mac mini doing macmesser? I do not think that you should go beyond deleting and adding those Bluetooth (BT) accessories. I also suggest that you avoid technical diagnostics such as power supply checks. ;)

    You say that your Bluetooth problems started after the repairs correct? That AirPort/Bluetooth card contains radios for both networks. If Apple just replaced the WiFi card under Applecare then your wireless networking features should be covered! Don't check or change anything other than your batteries and BT connections. Perhaps that card is defective or they left an antenna lead loose. Either way Apple can find and fix the problem under warranty.

    You should box up the mini, mouse, and keyboard and hustle over to Apple immediately if you have not already done so. (Or unless reconnecting the BT controls (to the new Airport/BT card) solved the problem!)

    WiFi Board.png
     
  18. Partron22 macrumors 68000

    Partron22

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    #18
    Move your drive further away from your computer, say on the other side of the display.
    It helped with my wifi issues. Be sure to use quality cables with good shielding, and replace that old manky hub, if you have one, with something newer and better shielded.
     
  19. Negritude macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    #19
    "I don't know the drive history as it was bought used. 1TB +240GB micron SSD forming fusion drive."

    So, not only used, but modified by a third-party. What reason did they give for selling it? Did you know the person personally, or was this an eBay/Craigslist purchase?
     
  20. fhall1 macrumors 68040

    fhall1

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    Dec 18, 2007
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    #20
    Can you pair anything else that is BT (headphones, whatever) to your Mini? If not, I agree with Celerondon - the card Apple put in may work for Wifi, but the BT section might be shot.
     
  21. macmesser, Feb 5, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016

    macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Thanks for replies. I eventually got keyboard and BT mouse to connect and the wifi seems to be working well, if somewhat slower than my 2009 Macbook. It was strange that the BT devices wouldn't connect at first. The second time I went to the Apple store they reinstalled the OS and afterwards devices connected. I think there must have been some corrupted or erroneous settings which were eventually overwritten. The wifi connection speed in my environment is still not quite as good as my 2009 Macbook running the same OS, but not all systems are going to perform identically. Also, the fact that connecting a drive to the USB 3 ports affected wifi speed is still unexplained. (I have not adequately tested this issue since my last visit to the Apple Store. I have until June with Applecare so I will keep an eye on things. Could possibly be on board USB 3 problem.)
    --- Post Merged, Feb 5, 2016 ---
    It was an ebay purchase. Some guy in Montreal (I'm in NY). He didn't give any reason for selling but did state that Applecare was good until June, which they confirmed. It was modified but I don't know by whom so it could have been by an authorized tech. If in fact the modification voided Applecare and caused the problem I got ripped off. If so, he didn't tell them about the modification either because Apple did replace the card under Applecare and they have the records. This deal was dumb on my part. Third used Mac I've bought and the first one to have any problems. Although it seems fixed now it was a pita nonetheless.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 5, 2016 ---
    Pairing works and keyboard/Apple mouse work fine. Residual issue is USB 3 drive still seems to cause WIFI slowdown, but nothing like previous where it "froze." Hard to quantify this effect. It's possible this is to some degree normal for this system, I guess.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 5, 2016 ---
    Thanks for response. No hub for USB except the built in one. I will try a better and longer USB cable.The drives I've tried are good brands (WD, Lacie) but cheap and without smart support. Probably old models, which I got from reputable dealer on sale a while back, and maybe noisy.
     
  22. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #22
    Interesting that they confirmed that. Usually Applecare is only good in the country it was purchased in. Perhaps the original owner popped down to the USA to purchase the MM so USA is the original country, or perhaps Apple didn't know you were in the USA when you confirmed with them, and they assumed you were in Canada and covered.

    I've read the Intel white paper on USB 3 drives interfering with BT. Granted the white paper is about BT and not Wi-Fi as someone already mentioned, but they are the same frequency. One of the fixes they mention in the white paper is to wrap foil around the USB 3 cable's connectors (get as close as you can to the port). You might try that as it is a quick and easy fix, to see if it improves anything.
     
  23. macmesser, Feb 10, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016

    macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    Interesting fact I didn't know, that policy is valid in country of purchase only. The guy I purchased from mentioned he was going to have the Applecare transferred to my name. Maybe he didn't know either because he then later told me not to worry about it. (He also could quite easily have bought it from Mac Mall or some other US catalog store, which would have made it a USA purchase.) A month or so after I received the Mini and uncomfortable with uncertainty, I called Apple and asked about transferring the Applecare plan to my name and was referred to a manager. I gave him all my information, so he new I was USA based plus he knew I had registered multiple Macs (including two used Mac Pros) in recent years. I was told that there would be a paperwork process to transfer the Applecare, that transferring the policy was different from transferring ownership of the computer, AND that this would not be necessary because the policy was bound to the computer anyway. Drowning in complexity as I was (and generally am) I was glad to forego the policy transfer. I now think that was a wise decision as it left Apple some wiggle room to take care of a loyal user, which is what I think they were trying to do. The impression has formed from my dealings with Apple that I have generally been treated in the same way I, as a Mac enthusiast, would treat other fans were I an Apple employee myself.

    Thanks for the tip about shielding the cable, which gives me another idea I'll get to. Will definitely give the tinfoil wrap a shot and also see if there are any super shielded cables available. Very interesting to learn that wifi and BT frequencies are the same as it dovetails nicely with an observation I made a few days ago. After recently getting my mini back from two Apple Store visits to replace the wifi card and then confirm and tweak problems, I was slightly horrified to notice that even with no USB device attached the wifi speed was impacted by BT, increasing when BT was turned off and wired KB/mouse were used. It's much worse with USB added but quite noticeable without. Moreover, the mini at its fastest and with no USB devices AND BT turned off, connects to the same wireless network from same physical location at between 30% - 80% (at best) of my 2009 white Macbook (which connects at almost nominal Cablevision speed). The Mini also is much more affected on upload speed which seems strange. Since the Mini has much better specs it should be at least equal to the Macbook.

    All of this makes me think that a hardware design problem with this model (possibly the wireless card) could exact a hit on wifi performance, which is accentuated on a relatively fast internet connection. The first Apple tech I spoke to seemed to think it was a software problem and after urging me to upgrade to El Capitan (I didn't) ran a proprietary utility which cleaned out certain caches and stored data. This improved things, but very temporarily. So on the hope that software fixes have been developed I will go for El Capitan and incur some software replacement costs. A second possibility is that the observed effects are unique to my machine, indicating a bad card (unlikely, as newly replaced) OR system board damage (I'd be screwed but don't think it's the case), OR problem caused by improper/incompatible upgrade to fusion drive by adding Crucial SSD. This last possibility is interesting. Maybe adding shielding around the SSD and HD will help. It seems reasonable that an SSD could be emitting a lot more RF than a HD would. So I need to figure out how to build a faraday cage around the fusion drive. I wonder if there's such a thing as insulated foil or thin gauge metallic fabric. Could putting shielding around drives cause overheating? Maybe simply repositioning the drives would help.
     
  24. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    As it happens, there are kits available to do pretty much what I described in my previous post. Should have known. While surfing around I saw this at macsales.com:

    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/DIYIMM12BTS/

    I think I'll give this a try when I have a day off.
     

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