Hooking up an external antenna to my ORiNOCO Silver card was causing the SNR to halve, so I figured that I must have broken a trace from the PCB to the jack. I decided to document the process with photos to aid anyone else who might want to take their card apart. It wasn't fun getting the cover off. It took a lot of gentle prying with a tiny jeweler's screwdriver. Don't try to slide the cover straight out...the antennae are in the way. Instead you need to pry the outside edge away from the body and then gently wiggle the cover out and away from the card. You can't just side the cover straight out because the antennae are under the big hump in the cover. Note the long tabs at the back of the cover which hold it into the main body of the card:
Here's what's under the cover:
Note the 2 big antennae which nestle under the hump in the cover. No wonder this thing gets better reception than most other 802.11b cards. While the cover is off, examine the alignment of the antennae in case you bent them while taking it apart. One thing which should bring relief is the beefiness of the design. The jack is pretty large and long, and has massive solder blobs holding it in place. Unlike some other cards I've examined, it's designed to take some serious abuse before the solder joints break off. Here is a closeup of the connections:
On the side and back there are white insulators for the internal connections. To my dismay (and simultaneous relief), I found nothing amiss inside my card. Everything was tight and undamaged. So I finally took a closer look at my pigtail, and found that the problem was in the plug on the pigtail! ARGH! All that wasted time taking apart the ORiNOCO for nothing! There's a tiny pin in the middle of the plug which can get bent:
With some gentle manipulation using a jeweler's screwdriver, I was able to straighten it:
As a testament to the quality of these things, I was surprised that I was able to straighten out that tiny pin without breaking it off! Now everything is good as new.
The moral of the story? Check the pin in the tip of your pigtail plug before ripping your card apart!