Monday, June 8, 2009

Simultaneously Charging the Novatel MiFi 2200 via USB and using Wifi, and Other MiFi Thoughts

Updated 7/27/2009


I recently upgraded my wireless USB modem from a Sprint Novatel Ovation U727 to a Sprint Novatel MiFi 2200.  The MiFi 2200 is a great, tiny device that integrates a 3G modem with a wireless router so that you can connect multiple wifi-enabled devices to your 3G modem.  There are all sorts of reviews of the MiFi 2200 on the Web already, so I won't add an in-depth review.  I will say, though, that:
  • The Sprint version of the MiFi 2200 doesn't come with an included USB Micro data cable, so you'll need to get one if you want to tether or charge from your computer.  On the other hand, unlike the Verizon version which does come with a cable, the Sprint version doesn't require being connected to a Windows PC for activation, so it's easy to setup
  • The Sprint version of the MiFi 2200 includes GPS, but it's pretty useless.  You have to go to a Web page on the router and go to linked searches from that specific interface for local resources
If you connect the MiFi 2200 to your computer via a USB Micro cable, it acts as a tethered modem.  The instructions I wrote for using a Novatel Ovation U727 modem on Fedora work for the MiFi 2200 as a tethered modem as well.

One of the limitations of the MiFi 2200 is that if you connect it to your computer with a USB Micro, it won't work as a wifi router.  This creates problems if you want to charge your MiFi 2200 via USB while also sharing your connection or using an operating system/laptop without adequate drivers for using the MiFi 2200 as a tethered modem.  I've worked around this limitation in two ways:
  • Purchase a Belkin Mini Surge 3OUT This is a fanstastic, travel-sized power strip with 3 outlets and 2 USB jacks.  You can use this to power your MiFi 2200 via USB and also share a power outlet with other devices, like your laptop.  The Belkin Mini Surge is great if you want to use a power outlet in public, but it's already full.  By plugging in the Mini Surge, you can share that power outlet with other people
  • Purchase an iPhone USB Charging Adapter
    Even though this adapter says its for iPhones, what it really does is take a USB cable and strip out the data across it, leaving only power.  By plugging this adapter to a USB Micro cable, you can then attach your MiFi 2200 to your laptop's USB port to charge it but still have the MiFi 2200 function as a wireless router
Update 7/27/2009
One important thing to note is that the MiFi 2200 requires a lot of power to charge, and many off-the-shelf USB micro cables won't be able to send enough power to the MiFi 2200 to charge it from a USB port.  In fact, I've tried several different USB micro cables with my MiFi with varying degrees of successful charging.  So, if you buy an iPhone USB Charging Adapter or try using the Belkin Mini Surge but aren't able to charge your MiFi, the chances are that it's your USB Micro cable which is the problem.

I've recently purchased a Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800, which is a portable battery back that can power and charge the MiFi 2200 as well as other power-hugry devices (like my iPhone). 



The TekCharge comes with a retractable cable that is able to charge the MiFi from a computer's USB port, and it also provides a compact battery for giving your other electronic gadgets additional runtime and charge.  Since purchasing the TekCharge, I just use the cable that came with it and no longer need the iPhone USB charger.

66 comments:

SketchyD said...

Thanks for the tip Bryan. My problem is actually a little bit worse - my laptop's wireless card is fried.

So I need wired data, and ideally, it would also still broadcast wifi. Any idea how to make that happen?

One other question - this device runs linux, do you know if anyone has tried to crack it open and install a patched version with more features?

lwong said...

Rather than buying the iPhone USB Charging Adapter (which would require you to carry two cables), has anyone tried the Seidio Micro USB Charging Cable? The description says "this cable is for charging only". It'd be great if this cable would charge and let you use WiFi.

Benjamin Chodroff said...

aghhh noooo! I can't believe they would make that device so you can't charge and do wifi at the same time. say it aint so! I don't see any value in having a physical connection (unless they ever release a firmware update to fix this problem??) so I'm going to try to mangle my cable - essentially block the data wires in the USB connection with something - and see if that fixes the problem :)

Steve said...

I have device similar to the first item listed in this post. It plugs into the wall and then I can plug my iPod Touch's USB cable into it to recharge. I tried to plug the provided Verizon MiFi USB cord into it to recharge but it didn't juice up. Any reason why?

Benjamin Chodroff said...

I ended up purchasing the cable from thinkgeek and, while it effectively allows me to use the wifi, it isn't charging and eventually dies. Has anyone else had success with that cable or was it just a guess?

Steve said...

Looking forward to any power suggestions anyone has.

I've only the Verizon MiFi for a few days (going the Day Pass route) and so far my main complaint is that to buy a Day Pass I have to connect the MiFi to the computer that's running the Verizon software. I find this to be a huge pain.

Once the MiFi has been set up I should be able to connect to it with any computer any time. If I have no Day Pass time left then I should be taken to a Verizon web page where I can add money to my account.

Bookstores and coffee shops around the globe do this: connect to their wireless network but pay before you surf.

By the way, Apparently you CAN call the broadband customer support number to refill your Day Pass but on two different occasions when I tried this a recorded voice said they were "performing system maintenance." So if I needed to be online but didn't have the computer that the Verizon software is on, I was out of luck.

sierralima said...

Perhaps this is an RTFM question but I'm confused, can you still get both EVDO and WiFi service if the MiFi is plugged into the A/C adapter? (i.e., not tethered to your computer)

Steve said...

Yes, if the unit is plugged in with the provided AC adapter the wifi still works AND it connects to EVDO. (I'm doing that right now.)

Bryan Che said...

I added another section to this entry that answers some of the questions regarding cables and charging.

brian said...

I just ordered a Universal Micro USB charging only cable for our companies Sprint MiFi.
http://www.discountcell.com/cellular/pn/USBV9

It's so great of Sprint not to include the cable. Since the device is so small, we wanted a way to tether it to a computer so users don't leave it behind. I'm curious to know if anyone else has had luck with cables like these. In hind-sight, I hope the cable is Micro B not Micro A. I'm pretty sure the MiFi is Micro type B.

brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benjamin Chodroff said...

Hi Brian - let me know how that cable works out. I tried the iphone cable listed in the post but it didn't work for long. I believe my Lenovo T61 just doesn't put enough power into the USB ports to effectively charge and run the mifi at the same time. Unfortunately, that means it isn't a cable issue but a power issue - the MiFi is too power intensive to be run off of a standard USB port (500ma) while using WiFi. No cable will solve that problem...

Bryan Che said...

As I stated in my update, I can charge my MiFi fine from my notebook (a Lenovo T60) with the cable that comes with the Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800.

Benjamin Chodroff said...

Now that just doesn't make much sense to me but if you say so I'll give it a shot. I just don't want to buy a tekkeon just for the cable it comes with (unless you can buy it separate?). Brian - let me know if that new cable works, please!

brian said...

yeah I'll let you know. There was a large list of compatibles on that cable. I was hoping it would be hefty enough to work for the MiFi.

I ordered it yesterday and when it gets here I'll let you know how it works.

brian said...

This is to confirm that the generic $6 cable will charge the MiFi as well as allow it to keep it's multiclient router capabilities.

http://www.discountcell.com/cellular/pn/USBV9

Regards,

Brian

. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
. said...

any questions? ask.........

. said...

You can charge your mifi, through your computers usb connection and connect to the router simultaneously, go in to where you can back up the configuration file to the mifi, download the file, once downloaded, open up the file with notepad, once open scroll down to where you see routeroverusb 0 routeroverusb, change the 0 to a 1 and, click save, upload the config file back to the mifi, and bam, you can now connect and charge at the same time, also for a little power boost scroll down to where you see txpower 13 txpower, change the 13 to 25 and bam you now are using max power, make sure that you save after you edit file, and then upload.........

Bobbye (aka "Babs") said...

Bought the MiFi today after a week-long battle with Verizon, who first sold me a USB stick modem and router to connect my two wireless-less card desktops. I installed the MiFi on one desktop and it worked well as a wireless modem, connected immediately via the included software. But...my laptop (new/ that I know has a good wireless card because I use it all the time in WiFi spots) can't find it, says the wireless network does not exist.

I installed it on the laptop, and again, it works well as a wired modem, but as soon as I unplug, it disconnects and will not reconnect (network not found).

Hoping SOMEONE out there will tell me what I'm doing wrong. After I get this part figured out, still have to configure USB wireless adapters to each desktop, would be thrilled with tips for that. I've scoured the internet and nobody seems to be able to help...

I know it's simple, and usually I'm fairly computer savvy, but...I'm at a loss.

Bobbye
bobbyesox@gmail.com

James said...

Bobbye - By default the MiFi does not function as a hotspot when connected to a computer. Don't know why they did that but there is a fix, see the post just before your's.

Thanks for the tip whoever posted it.

James

. said...

but thats why if you do what i said as for changing the setting in the configuration file,
change the routeroverusb*0*routeroverusb to routeoverusb*1*routeroverusb then it will work you can connect to your laptop and it will charge also work as a hotspot, if you can not figure it out, let me you know that you know where to download the config file. If you make this simple change within the card it will work flawlessly, I could take a picture right now that is how my setup is right this moment, Im on the laptop, mifi connected charging, my sons in there room , on XBOX live, using this connection, also wife in kitchen with laptop looking up recipes................ Once you learn how to tweak it a lil, you will be amazed to grand this thing is............ goodluck, let me how you do,,, I can give you a step by step procedure , if need.

. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
. said...

so has everyone been successful besides Bobby? with this mod?

SketchyD said...

Re: the config file
Where do I find this file? Is there a setting to have the mifi function as both wireless modem (connected to my laptop with broken wireless via usb), and wifi router?

Stuff said...

Are there any speed advantages to using the USB connector rather than the wifi?

Todd Viegut said...

I wanted to say thanks for the "how to simultaneous charge and use WiFi" post. I tried the tip and it worked like a charm. Probably 2 minutes turn around time between downloading, editing, uploading and then testing the MiFi 2000.

Mike said...

Need some help--

I have the belkin adaptor, and modified my mifi router so it will charge over USB and work as a router. Here is the weird part - it works and charges when plugged into my T60p (as a hotspot). It does not charge when plugged into the belkin adaptor with the USB cable. Thoughts?

. said...

Hello everyone,
Todd did you see or adjust the power setting for TX and RX, I mentioned? Okay, now Mike, It charges when it is directly connected to the laptop correct? And does not charge when you plug it into THE BELKIN USB ADAPTER,Whats happening is that the usb ports on the laptop ARE "HOT" they have power,and the hub, or belkin adapter is not powered................ Bobby are you sure you have the MiFi setup on the right channel? Like a/b/g or N , also on the right channel 1-22, let me know thanks,

Mike said...

I switched to using the power cable that came with the device and scrapped the belkin adaptor -- works fine. The belkin adaptor usb charges my other applicances -- just not the mifi.

Tam said...

I have a question for .

My Sprint mifi 2200 config file doesn't have a routeroverusb entry to edit?

bob said...

I have the same problem as Tam... My Verizon 2200 .ini file has no "routeroverusb" entry.

David said...

Unfortunately the new firmware for the MiFi 2200 removed the routeroverusb entry from the .ini file. I'm wondering if this was done at the behest of Sprint and/or Verizon. Both have long histories of crippling products for marketing reasons.

David said...

Uuuggghh, I havent been able to charge my card from my cars cig lighter. The usb cable that I use works when I hook it up to my PC to charge the card, and I have 3 different cig lighter USB adapters that dont work with this, but work perfectly with the iPhone and my wireless headphones. Do you think its the cable or it the adapters? I might just go to the sprint store and buy one specifically for this MiFi device and see if it works... Anyone got the card to charge using theit USB adapter in their car?

. said...

if someone can provide this config file to me, I will edit it for you, and share as to which setting you set, thanks an await your response.

Tam said...

Pretty sure its not available in the current version of the firmware but here is the file

http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AWliDm5ckR1xZGR2cHNidnhfMGM4Yjg2N2c5&hl=en

ivanst said...

I just tried one USB car charger and two wall chargers with a USB to micro USB cable. My Mifi can charge fine off the laptop while still providing wireless access. It does not work with my car charger or one of my wall chargers (the one that came with my iphone). My guess is it's the wall chargers that have the problem and not the cable. Perhaps they just don't output enough power to my Mifi to have it charge. They all work fine with my iphone though. I wish everyone had the same standard for this.

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Ryan Hunt said...

The follow method worked perfectly for me. I've reposted it here so you don't have to search for it.

I think it is noteworthy to say that Just got my MiFi 2200 in just a few days ago from Verizon. So, as of very recently, the firmware that
Verizon is shipping on their MiFi 2200 devices will still allow this configuration.

Thanks to whom ever posted this:

-Ryan
http://huntscomputer.com/blog


"You can charge your mifi, through your computers usb connection and connect to the router simultaneously, go in to where you can back up the configuration file to the mifi, download the file, once downloaded, open up the file with notepad, once open scroll down to where you see routeroverusb 0 routeroverusb, change the 0 to a 1 and, click save, upload the config file back to the mifi, and bam, you can now connect and charge at the same time, also for a little power boost scroll down to where you see txpower 13 txpower, change the 13 to 25 and bam you now are using max power, make sure that you save after you edit file, and then upload.........

SEPTEMBER 14, 2009 10:35 PM"

M said...

Quick related question. My MiFi 2200 works fine connected via USB.

Sometimes (I believe this happens when I disconnect it without using the VZAccess Manager explicit disconnect WWAN button). When I turn on the mifi unconnected to USB, it stays with a solid green light and does not show up as a wifi hotspot.

Is this due to how it was disconnected and the fact that by default if the device is in USB mode, it doesn't act as a wifi hotspot?

Has anyone else seen this problem?

Thanks

Tyler said...

I know it has been a little while since the last post, but I just now got a MiFi unit, and I can't figure out how to upload the config file back to the device. I have tried about 20 combinations of file extensions for the final save of the text file, and none of them work. Will somebody please help me out? I am just starting back school after a few years off, and I have to have internet for my coursework!

Ryan Hunt said...

Tyler,
Here's the config file that i upload to my MiFi when i want the wifi to work when connected to my computer via usb.

Sample Config File

the correct file extension is filename.xml.sav. Your problem may be that notepad(or your txt editor) may be adding .txt to the end of the file name. in folder options on your computer, you'll need to enable showing file extensions for know file types. other wise, a text file with the name filename.txt will show up on your computer as simply filename. Therefore, your config file might look to you like it is configfilename.xml.sav ; when in fact it is actually configfilename.xml.sav.txt

Hope this helps,
Peace,
Ryan

Lorrie said...

I have a mifi and 2 laptops, 1 desktop at home. What do I need to make the desktop connect?

Ryan Hunt said...

you'll need to get a wireless network card for your desktop. the easiest ones to install just plug into a free usb port

SFJAH said...

Thanks Brian, I bought USBV9 from Amazon at good price and it also works with USB 5V wall adapters (Apple, etc.) very well.

findmory said...

does the "txpower 13 txpower, change the 13 to 25" setting use up the battery faster. more power.. quicker battery drain, it would seem. can anyone confirm? thanks

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Jonas Schwartz said...

I just altered the config file on the MiFi Admin portal, and it worked perfectly. I cannot imagine why the mods are not the default configuration settings. Thank you so much for the tip! It saved my data cable from mutilation. :)

ThomasJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ThomasJ said...

Does anybody know if there is a way to downgrade to the previous firmware that has the 'routeroverusb' in it's config file? I desperately need this feature. I was astonished when I got my new MiFi2200 and found that it couldn't do this. I bought it because I thought it was a router and not just a WiFi hub. Also has anyone discovered how to set incoming ports other than the ones that are predefined to the NAT tables? I need to route VoIP also.

planclos said...

It seems all of the fixes are for PCs. Does anyone know what to change on a Mac?

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