When Alice heads off to Wonderland, she does so by falling down a rabbit hole, and experiencing a sequence of dizzying and terrifying transitions from top to bottom. I had a similar experience this morning, as I tried to find a newer Wi-Fi driver for the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 AGN interface device in my HP dv6t-2300 notebook PC. My first stop, of course, was at the HP support pages where, to my ultimate consternation and confusion, the Intel device was not listed among the options available for this notebook make and model. My immediate reaction: “WTF?!” was followed by extended poking around to see if I could find through other means what I couldn’t get by politely knocking on the front door. No dice.
My next move was to engage HP support in an online chat session to see if they knew something I didn’t. After going round and round with a very nice support tech, I did learn that my system was part of a special build put together for a promotion at the beginning of 2010 (I bought my system in February 2010 for just over $1100, in a configuration that HP no longer makes today, where neither the i7 Q720M processor nor the Intel 6200 AGN interface is available on current models). In fact, this particular tech couldn’t find any drivers for the wireless interface that was installed on my machine at all.
So I transitioned to a phone call, to a location coded PH (which Bing cheerfully informs me is in the Phillippines), and got down and dirty with another support tech instead. Interestingly, the HP support tech on the phone who picked up from his online counterpart couldn’t use the service ticket number the chat tech gave me to identify our session, but he was able to find the ticket using my phone number. Go figure…
After double-checking my product id and serial number six ways from Sunday, he told me my machine definitely included the aforementioned Intel Wi-Fi interface but that the general information for my make and model didn’t. He did some more poking around, and eventually found a source for the drivers that I hadn’t considered while conducting my own search — namely, the “reload drivers” function inside the HP Advisor software that HP installs on all of its PCs. Alas, however, this turned out to be driver version 126.96.36.199 when I was already running version 188.8.131.52. I am also aware that Sony has published version 184.108.40.206 thanks to my handy-dandy DriverAgent.com subscription, even though HP is apparently still lagging behind (and I can neither install the Sony driver on my HP as you might expect, nor can I extract sufficient “driver goodies” from the Sony Installer file using Universal Extractor to get the driver files that way, either).
The ultimate outcome of the adventure was to realize that HP doesn’t necessarily have access to information that’s any more current or correct than what’s available on the Web (even though they are the gatekeeper to this particular driver, as the Sony version won’t install on my HP machine, and the Intel Driver Update Utility says that I must contact the system vendor to get drivers for the 6200 AGN device that provides me with wireless network access).
As I’m watching my wireless bandwidth on the HP notebook on the one hand, and on my el-cheapo Asus EeePC 1000HE on the other, both connected to the same 802.11n WAP in my bedroom closet, I’m also struck that bandwidth on the HP box is bouncing from a low of 13 Mbps to a high of 130 Mbps, while the Asus stays solidly pegged at 150 Mbps when both units are literally sitting right next to each other. I was really hoping a new driver might help take care of this and put the more expensive machine on a par with the cheaper one, but apparently the Atheros Wi-Fi interface works a lot better than the Intel one. Maybe I’m going to have to look into antennas, machine placement, and yada yada yada. Sheesh!