Q&A: Adding WiFi to an old Mac Pro

Q I have recently retired my pre-Nehalem (2009) Mac Pro from everyday use, and now need it to network via WiFi. As it has sat with a wired Ethernet connection all its life, I was surprised to discover that it does not have an Airport card or interface. Could I put the card from my dead iBook G3 into it, or is there a better way?

A Apple has wisely fitted WiFi as standard in almost every model of Mac since, but it was an optional extra for earlier ones such as your Mac Pro.

Even if you were able to find a PCI-E adaptor and get the iBook’s card to fit into your Mac Pro, as it will only run slow old 802.11b protocols, not modern Extreme performance, you would be deeply unhappy and fatigued with the result.

Apple discontinued supply of separate Airport Extreme cards that could fit your Mac Pro some years ago. Thankfully there are several third-party options, with a huge choice of different USB ‘nano’ dongles which are extremely cheap. You will, though, need to be careful to ensure that your choice is compatible with your Mac.

An alternative and more expensive solution would be to connect the Mac Pro using an Ethernet cable to an Airport Express or other wireless base station, and configure that as an extension to your existing wireless network. That can be tricky to configure at first, but in the long run could prove most flexible.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 27 issue 7, 2011.