Home Picture Galleries Writing Technical Arcana Books Archive About This Site

Google search Hamfisted

I had a lot of problems with my D-Link DBT-120 Bluetooth USB dongle. I managed to fix them, but it wasn't much fun. I wouldn't recommend buying one.

DBT-120 Bluetooth Dongle

After I bought myself a Nokia 6230 cameraphone, I decided that my days of fumbling behind my laptop to infra-red-beam data from my phone were over. I was buying me some Bluetooth action, for no other reason than for my own convenience. After cruising the stores, I decided on a D-Link DBT-120 USB dongle, for maximum portability and increased daily use of the word "dongle".

Unfortunately, my experience with the wee gadget was less than stellar. I faced three major problems, one of them so severe that it required me to swap the unit for another one back at the store. So, I've decided to document them, along with their solutions, in the hope that future generations might be saved from my annoyance and pain.

Problem One: Drivers Don't Work with XP SP2

With Service Pack 2, Windows XP got Bluetooth functionality, along with many other bugfixes, improvements and enhancements. Unfortunately, as most of the existing Bluetooth drivers were built to run without this additional feature, SP2 often broke Bluetooth on a system where previously it had been be working perfectly. This breakdown showed itself as two Bluetooth icons in the taskbar, the white one indicating that Microsoft's Bluetooth was trying to work, and the red one indicating that D-Link's Bluetooth wasn't working at all.

Luckily, a fix for this issue (459KB, PDF) was available on the D-Link website. I've made a local copy of it just in case it gets removed or the link is changed. The fix requires some fiddling with the Device Manager, but the instructions are fairly clear.

Problem Two: Dongle Nuked by Mac Firmware Update

This problem is bad, bad, bad. Simply put, Apple's Bluetooth Firmware Updater 1.2 makes the DBT-120 permanently unable to work on Windows systems. This happened to me when one of the designers at work borrowed my dongle to transfer a bunch of photos from his phone to his Powerbook. He denies doing it of course, but he probably ran the automatic software update and said yes to everything in the list. The major symptoms that your dongle has been trashed in this manner are:

  1. When you plug the dongle into a Windows system, it is detected as a Human Interface Device instead of a Bluetooth device.
  2. The D-Link Bluetooth icon in the taskbar stays red, and has the error Bluetooth Device Not Found in its quick menu. It will also say Bluetooth Device Is Not Detected in the Hardware tab of the Bluetooth Configuration screen.

There is information on the D-Link site about this problem, but it's ridiculously limited and quite hard to find. At the very least, a warning message in large red letters should be on the main product page, and possibly included inside the product packaging. Of course, a better solution would be for D-Link to release a software tool that could flash the firmware back to the original version, but that's probably too obvious.

I was lucky enough to still be inside the thirty day return policy with my dongle, so I took it back and swapped it for a new one. This was a very shabby solution, and my problems weren't over yet...

Problem Three: Valid Security Code Not Found

When I swapped my trashed dongle for its replacement, I guess it was silly of me to expect everything to just start working again. Instead, I received a new error: Valid Security Code Not Found. Searching the D-Link site returned quite a few articles on invalid security codes, but none of the fixes seemed to do anything. Then I found one additional article that helped a great deal. Basically, the problem had absolutely nothing to do with security codes at all - it was all about the fact that the previous dongle had left inactive Bluetooth devices behind that were confusing Windows. A quick trip around the device manager and a reboot, and everything was fine.

This problem was (once again) unnecessarily annoying, particularly as the security code articles on the D-Link site do such a good job of sending a troubleshooter in completely the wrong direction.

Final Words

I would NOT recommend buying the DBT-120. Even though I now have it working successfully, it's had several problems, with one of them serious enough to be considered fatal to the device. One might argue that the dongle would remain completely safe if it's kept well away from those filthy Macs, but to have the dongle irreversibly scuppered is pretty bad form. The driver support for the device is also pretty poor. D-Link should really support XP2 without a glitch by now, and they should certainly fix that completely misleading security code error message.

Final dongle rating: 5/10


D-Link Australia has a downloads for DBT-120 page, with drivers and info. Be careful, as there are actually three different revisions of the DBT-120, and three entirely different sets of drivers that don't work together.

There's also the DBT-120 Main Support Page, which also might help.