Because it was kind of difficult to find information about this, I figured I would post some details about a tiny little upgrade that I did to a Dell XPS 8900. It originally came with a Dell DW-1801 wireless adapter, which only supports 802.11 b/g/n, and not ac. Also, it doesn’t support the 5 GHz frequency, which is really unfortunate.
All of this means that wireless performance is kind of shaky upstairs in our house. I had started researching Wi-Fi extenders, and then went to check to see exactly what 802.11 ac profiles our router and wireless adapters supported, and was shocked when I realized what the problem was. I remembered that our XPS 8900s came with integrated wireless, and I seemed to remember that it was an M.2 device, so I looked to see if I could just swap out the wireless card with something better.
Amazingly, in spite of all of the exhaustive specification information you can find on the Internet, it was actually pretty hard to figure out what M.2 physical connector the existing DW-1801 card used. I tried looking through my system and service manuals, and wasn’t able to find that information anywhere. This thread on Dell’s support forums was the best source of information I found, and indicated that it is size 2230 with key A E.
I looked around to find a replacement adapter, and ultimately opted for this Intel 8260 NGWMG that I found on Newegg. Before installing, I went ahead and downloaded and installed the drivers from Intel. The physical installation was pretty straightforward, once I found the correct screwdriver to take off the old adapter and antenna wires. On bootup in Windows 10, the adapter was recognized and it started working perfectly once I rejoined the network.
So, yeah, for curious people on the Internet – you can, in fact, upgrade the wireless adapter in a Dell XPS 8900 with a third party M.2 card.