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iggibar 08-17-2013 04:49 PM

DIY: Fix Mac Pro Bluetooth Range Issues
What does this tutorial fix?
The notorious bluetooth range issues on Mac Pros caused by bluetooth to aluminum grounding issues never fixed by Apple.

What models can be fixed with this tutorial?
All Mac Pro models can use this method. However, Mac Pro 1.1 -3.1 have an easier fix that involves the swapping of wifi and bluetooth cables to fix the issue. That method isn't as easy on the 4.1+ models since they have revised logic boards with different Airport and bluetooth locations

What do you need for this DIY method?
The minimum required for this fix to work minimum:
- ~20" U.fl IPX to RP-SMA Male cable
-RP-SMA antenna. 2dBi depending on range needed. A good 2dBI antenna will work better than a cheap antenna that is rated at 10 or more dBi! Don't buy junk! Range distribution also is an issue when going above 2dBi. Most home routers use 2dBi, so it should be more than enough for a Mac Pro to work if it is located with the same room as the bluetooth device.

My Mac Pro 4.1 was only 4 feet 5 inches from the trackpad, but the bluetooth signal was too weak to pass through the aluminum. I wanted to test something, so I went the dual antenna route, but the 2dBi antenna worked perfect. What you see in the pic below is a 20" U.fl IPX cable, spare PCI card slot cover, 2dBi D-link antenna, 9dBi antenna with base, and RP-SMA male to two RP-SMA female adapter.
All but the PCI cover and small antenna can be purchased on eBay for ~$20 shipped.

Here we go!

Make sure you are wearing a grounding harness, especially when working around carpet or around other fabrics.

Step 1.
Get your Mac Pro. Unplug all wires from the back. With the Mac Pro now off, hold the power button for 15 seconds. Start removing the processor tray, graphics card, and any other PCI cards for convenience.

Step 2.
Drill a whole in the PCI cover to accommodate the female end of the antenna.

Step 3.
Secure the antenna onto the PCI cover, and route the antenna as neatly as possible inside. Make sure it has enough room to easily be connected to the bluetooth board. At the same time, don't let it come close to the rear fan. Place the PCI cover into the PCI slot.

Step 4.
The bluetooth cable we are putting out of commission is labeled "BT." Disconnect it from the board by pulling the head straight up.

Step 5. With tape or a rubber tube, cover the old bluetooth cables end to prevent any possible shortages. Connect the new antenna head by pushing it straight down. I used the wire clip to secure the taped end.

Step 6.
Put your Mac Pro back together.

That's all the work required inside.

With the antenna connection at the back, you can decide if you want to connect straight to an antenna, or use an extension to place the antenna elsewhere. I tried both routes by using a splitter. The connection only got better at distances that were completely useless to me, so I returned to the single 2dBi antenna.

You can go with a small antenna:

Big antenna:

Or both with a splitter:

As I mentioned earlier, the quality of antenna will give you different results. A good 2dBi antenna will work more than enough for a room, while a cheap one might not show any improvements. The 9dBi antenna works just as well in the same room, but has noticeable strength when operating the magic trackpad outside the house(!).

This problem is so easy to fix, yet there are people replacing their Mac Pro because of this issue.

pigoo3 08-17-2013 06:21 PM heck of detailed writeup iggibar...with some really great photos. Real nice DIY bluetooth fix.:)

When I had my 2009 Mac Pro 4,1...I don't think that I ever used the bluetooth for I guess I didn't have the unfortunate experience of finding out how poor the bluetooth performance was.

- Nick

harryb2448 08-17-2013 11:23 PM

Very interesting.

When using Mac Pro 2.1 never had any Bluetooth troubles. Airport sand Bluetooth always worked faultlessly.

iggibar 08-23-2013 09:36 AM

There's a few threads on Apple's site, with one being 10+ pages.
Looks like the distance people notice problems with is after 3 feet. I have a bunch of things that I believe are interfering with it as well, especially after installing the new triple-monitor stand. All is good now though. I have yet to find something that shows what causes this issue, but my guess is that there is a problem with the chip at the end of the original bluetooth's antenna(hidden next to the PCI slot covers), and the antenna is left to pick up data from the short wire leading to that chip. Having this issue seems to be a hit or miss though, and does not show true span of the problem since not everyone uses bluetooth.

iggibar 12-16-2013 05:51 PM

Just wanted to update folks a bit. Ever since I did this fix on my Mac Pro, I haven't had a single issue, not even as the batteries were totally depleting.

pigoo3 12-16-2013 07:15 PM


Originally Posted by iggibar (Post 1556896)
Just wanted to update folks a bit. Ever since I did this fix on my Mac Pro, I haven't had a single issue, not even as the batteries were totally depleting.

I was just rereading this thread...and looking at all the photos of the parts used. Normally bluetooth range (I think) is around 20-30 feet. With the rig you got going...I'm thinking your bluetooth range should be something like Cleveland to Pittsburgh!;)

- Nick

iggibar 12-17-2013 11:27 AM

Hahaaa! I'm happy it 's such an easy fix. I've mentioned this to a few other, and they have been problem free since. It amazes me that Apple continues to replace logic boards, and whole systems to try and fix it, when it has nothing to do with those. Get's me mad thinking too much about it.

DJFrantic 01-14-2014 12:48 PM

I can confirm that this fix works - finally I can move on with my life. These are the items on ebay that I used:

RP SMA 2 4GHz 7 dBi Wireless WiFi WLAN 5 x Range Booster Antenna Extender Base | eBay

20inch U FL IPX to RP SMA Female RF Pigtail Jumper Cable for PCI WiFi Card 50cm | eBay

The range booster is pretty small but clearly sufficient for my needs, i.e. a magic mouse.

Thanks iggibar!


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