Manually Switching WiFi Bands on the Surface Pro 3

Manually Switching WiFi Bands on the Surface Pro 3

It seems Microsoft's latest firmware/driver update for the Surface Pro 3 is winning accolades. The majority of problems that have been plaguing Microsoft's latest tablet version since its release seemed to have been ironed out. Commenters here and on Twitter are praising the huge update, stating that their most sought after fixes are now in place. It took a good while, but kudos to Microsoft for finally delivering a firmware/driver update that solves so many problems. If you're not yet privy to the stack of updates in this system update, check out: Devil in the Details: January Surface Firmware Update is Bigger than Hoped.

One of the fixes included is a Marvell Wireless Network Controller and Bluetooth driver update, taking the version to 15.68.3073.151. This new driver provides quite a bit of fixed functionality including a working Hyper-V feature that now supports connected standby, better WiFi compatibility for European standards, and improved interoperability with 11ac mode for Cisco 3702 access points.

But, even more important is a new feature that allows those with dual-band routers to manually switch between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections. I'm one of these users and have faced issues where allowing the Surface Pro 3 to attempt to automatically switch between bands can confuse the built in WiFi into thinking no WiFi networks are available. The caveat here, though, is that you must use Device Manager to make the manual change – meaning, Microsoft provided no modern UI app to allow modifying the band. Instead, you have to open Device Manager, locate the specific network adapter, and select the proper band from a list.

It's a bit convoluted and harder than it should be. In a future update, I'd like to see Microsoft include this option in the Surface Hub app, at least.

Here's how to locate the new feature:

  1. Open Device Manager. You can locate it using the Windows 8.1 Search function or by right-clicking on the Windows 8.1 Start button.

  1. Locate Network Adapters, expand it, and find the "Marvell AVASTAR Wireless-AC Network Controller".
  2. Access the Properties by tapping and holding or right-clicking on the entry.

  1. With the "Marvell AVASTAR Wireless-AC Network Controller" dialog box open, switch to the Advanced tab, highlight the Band property, select the proper Value in the dropdown box, click OK and you're done.

Don't forget about this change when you take the Surface Pro 3 on a trip or visit a location with a different network, otherwise you might mistakenly think the WiFi has stopped working.

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