Bluetooth dongles are truly remarkable. Seriously. These inexpensive USB dongles, which can be purchased for as little as $10 USD for the most basic model, are a cost-effective way to add functionality to your computer. However, there are times when they are not an option. Perhaps you have an extremely old computer or a SoC (system-on-chip) that simply does not have a USB interface. Perhaps the only USB ports available to you are through adapter cards that do not provide sufficient power. Other possibilities include running out of USB ports (which is more common). If you want to instal a Bluetooth module in your computer using one of the more unusual methods, such as mSATA or M.2, this guide will walk you through the process step by step. This will include the installation of the necessary drivers as well as the connection to your first Bluetooth-enabled device.
Part 1 Getting the Right Module
1. Check your motherboard’s expansion ports to see if there are any available. If you have an OEM machine (such as a Dell Optiplex desktop or a laptop of any kind), you can typically find the User’s Manual for your computer by searching for the model number on Google (so, for example, Dell PowerEdge 2950 User Manual). Once you’ve arrived, look for a section labelled Expansion in the Table of Contents.
2. Determine which Bluetooth module is compatible with the port in question. Aside from the aforementioned USB interface, the most commonly used Bluetooth modules are PCIe, mSATA, and M.2. There is no inherent difference between the various ports in terms of the quality of the connection; simply ensure that you purchase a module from a manufacturer you can rely upon.
Part 2 Installing the Hardware
1. Open your computer and physically insert the module into its proper location. If this is your first time disassembling a computer, search YouTube for a Disassembly video for the specific module of your computer you intend to disassemble. Follow the steps in the video to the letter.
Some expansion ports, such as Mini PCIe, are typically installed without the need to disassemble your computer.)
If the thought of going through this process scares you a little, there is a paid alternative. You can bring your machine and the part you need installed to most big box computer retailers (such as Best Buy or MicroCenter) and they will complete the installation for you for a small fee.
2. Check to see that the part is recognised as being installed.
The Device Manager application (Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Device Manager, which requires Administrator privileges) is where you will find this information on Windows. In the Unidentified Devices section, look for (hopefully) a new entry labelled Bluetooth, or in the event of a new Unidentified Device with a yellow triangle, click OK.
Users of Mac computers may wonder, “Why are you here?” Since the late 2000s, Bluetooth has been preinstalled on every Mac that has been purchased. If you’re replacing a broken Bluetooth module, the new module should appear in the Bluetooth menu under System Preferences; if you’re building a Hackintosh, you’re officially outside the scope of this article.
When it comes to installing new hardware, Linux users should consult the man pages for the particular flavour of Linux that they are familiar with.
Part 3 Installing Software and Connecting Peripherals
1. Install the software only if it is absolutely necessary. If your Bluetooth device does not appear in Device Manager as a Bluetooth device, installing software is the only thing that is a problem. Go to the manufacturer’s website for the Bluetooth module you purchased and download the drivers that are appropriate for your particular flavour of Windows (7, 8, 8.1, 10, and x32 vs x64, as applicable) and your particular flavour of Bluetooth module. All of this information can be found by going to Start > Control Panel > System and Security > System, which is located under the Windows Edition menu. Start the driver installation programme, allow it to complete its tasks, and then restart the computer as necessary.
2. Try it out and see how it works. Now comes the crucial moment: syncing with a Bluetooth peripheral, such as a keyboard or a headphone headset.
Alternatively, Windows users can return to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound, where they should now find an option to “Add a Bluetooth device.” Ascertain that your Bluetooth peripheral is in pairing mode (consult the manual for instructions), then click “Add a Bluetooth device” and wait while your computer’s Bluetooth module searches for the Bluetooth peripheral on your network. Select your Bluetooth peripheral from the list that appears, enter any security codes (the default for most is 0000, but check your documentation if they require specific codes), and proceed through the wizard until you have a fully functional Bluetooth device.
For Mac users, the procedure is very similar to that described above. You should see a small window for bluetooth peripherals under System Preferences > Internet and Wireless > Bluetooth, if you look in the right place. Make certain that the “On” checkbox is selected so that your computer’s new Bluetooth module can be activated. As with Windows users, first ensure that your peripheral is in pairing mode (consult its manual for instructions), then locate it in the Bluetooth Peripheral window’s listing and double-click on it. Simply follow the on-screen prompts, enter any security codes or PINs that the computer requests (again, most default to 0000, but check your peripheral’s documentation to be sure), and you should have a fully functional Bluetooth device at the end of the process.
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