Mac OS X, AirPort: Compatible third-party wireless cards

This document describes how different types of third-party wireless PC cards may be used with Mac OS X.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Wireless cards for use in an AirPort environment may be either 802.11b or 802.11g. You should choose a card appropriate for the version of Mac OS X that you are using.

If your computer has an AirPort or AirPort Extreme card slot, you should consider using the corresponding Apple card for the most seamlessly integrated experience. However, a third-party PC card may be useful in situations like these:

  • You have installed Mac OS X on an earlier PowerBook that does not have an AirPort card slot.
  • You have a more recent PowerBook, such as the PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet), with an original AirPort Card slot. You may want to upgrade to 802.11g in this situation. Because an AirPort Extreme Card cannot be used in AirPort Card slot, a third-party PC card is an upgrade option.

Note: Only the corresponding Apple-branded card may be used in an AirPort or AirPort Extreme card slot. Third-party cards discussed here may only be used in the PCMCIA (or "PC") slot on the PowerBook.

Using 802.11g cards

Third-party wireless cards that may use the 802.11g protocol, which is also used by AirPort Extreme cards and base stations. This protocol allows data transmission at up to 54 Mbits/sec.

An 802.11g card may provide the best experience if you have Mac OS X 10.2 or later. Apple does not qualify specific third-party cards, so you should check card manufacturers' websites for compatibility information.


1. Use the Software Update feature of System Preferences to ensure that you have the latest versions of Mac OS X and AirPort software.

2. Use of an 802.11g card may not be possible without Mac OS X 10.2 or later. Mac OS X 10.2 may be purchased at the Apple Store (

3. If an AirPort Card is installed, it should be removed prior to using a third-party card.

Using earlier 802.11b cards

Many earlier wireless cards use the 802.11b protocol, which allows data transmission at up to 11 Mbits/sec. The original AirPort cards and base stations also use this protocol.

Installation of third-party driver software would be required to use a third-party 802.11b card with Mac OS X. You should check card manufacturers' websites for information on the availability of Mac OS X drivers.

Note: AirPort software for Mac OS 9 included drivers for Lucent WaveLAN, Agere Orinoco, and certain other third-party IEEE 802.11b-compliant PC cards. These drivers are not included in AirPort software for Mac OS X. For this reason, it is possible that an 802.11b card may work when started up from Mac OS 9 but not when started up from Mac OS X.

Note: Wireless Internet access requires an AirPort Card, AirPort Base Station, and an Internet service provider, for which fees may apply. Some ISPs are not compatible with AirPort. America Online (AOL) works with AirPort software version 2.0 or later. For more information on AOL compatibility, see technical document 106591: " AirPort: How to Use with AOL ." Range may vary with site conditions.

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Physical data rate based on IEEE 802.11g specification. Actual data throughput will be lower. Range will vary with site conditions. Assumes AirPort Express/Extreme network with 802.11g-enabled computer. Speed and range will be less if an 802.11b product joins the network. Accessing the wireless network requires an AirPort- or AirPort Extreme-enabled computer or other Wi-Fi Certified 802.11a/b/g-enabled computer.

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