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I tend to collect MacBook Pros as I upgrade. I recently dusted off a 2018 MBP because I needed an Intel processor (my current Mac is an M1), and it seems the Wi-Fi no longer works.

That is, the system recognizes there’s a Wi-Fi radio, but it can’t see any available networks. Ethernet via dongle works fine. Hardware diagnostic turns up nothing.

I suppose it’s possible the antenna got disconnected. I’ve never dropped it (I suppose someone else might have, but there are no dings or other evidence of a drop).

Before I open it up to check the antenna cables, does anyone have any other advice for figuring this out?

Update

As luck would have it, it was a loose antenna connector. All three of them, in fact, which is troubling. They popped on without much force, making me worry they’ll pop off again in the future. I added a bit of Kapton tape to hopefully help prevent that:

Antenna connectors disconnected Reconnected and with Kapton tape

Put it all back together, and it seems to be working!

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    You mention a hardware diagnostic, but did you also run a Wi-Fi diagnostic (⌥+clicking the Wi-Fi menu bar item > Open Wireless Diagnostics)? And if yes, what were the results? Wireless diagnostics also has a scan, info and other useful options under the "Window" menu.
    – Redarm
    Jan 20, 2023 at 10:42
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    To see if the antenna is disconnected, take the MBP to close proximity to the WiFi access point. You should see the SSID at that point indicating an issue with the antenna. If not, it’s likely the transceiver in the AirPort card failed.
    – Allan
    Jan 20, 2023 at 18:13
  • @Allan This is a great suggestion. And as luck would have it, it does show signs of life when I do that. Now to crack the case open and see if it’s just a disconnected antenna wire, or something worse.
    – Rick
    Jan 20, 2023 at 21:27
  • @Redarm Thank you for the reminder. Thanks to the close proximity this time, I can see the networks.
    – Rick
    Jan 20, 2023 at 21:27

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Boot into Startup Manager by holding down Option. You'll see a list of boot devices, and also a dropdown selector for WiFi networks. If you don't see anything in that, then either something is wrong with the interface or antenna, or there are no WiFi networks. You could also try shifting the laptop screen to a more extreme angle, as the antenna usually runs alongside the screen. I've seen cases on MacBooks where the WiFi would drop out when the screen was at a normal viewing angle, but was restored when adjusted.

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  • Thanks to the comments on the question, I was able to determine that it’s an antenna gain issue (hopefully just came loose inside). Adjusting the orientation doesn't seem to have any effect.
    – Rick
    Jan 20, 2023 at 21:28
  • There are many technical ways to attack this, but I like simple things. This method was easy and cost nothing to do. Plus, you didn't have to break out the screw driver to get a point in the right direction! Glad you are getting closer to your solution!
    – Allan
    Jan 20, 2023 at 22:30

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