Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet
So what is a wifi adapter and what does a wireless adapter do? It’s important to know the difference between a wireless network adapter and a wired network adapter. Your laptop or desktop will have one or both of these adapters, depending on how it connects to an existing wireless network at your home, school, office, public space (coffee shops), and Internet Cafes.
The basic difference is that a wireless adapter allows you to connect wirelessly (wi-fi) and a wired connection is made via an Ethernet cable plugged into your computer’s RJ45 port – the same port used for telephone connections. Wireless networking uses radio waves; hence we call it “Wi-Fi”. A router is what sends out those waves and broadcasts an available signal for laptops, PCs or smartphones to connect to.
Wi-Fi vs Wired Connection
A great way to understand the basics of How Wi-Fi Works is by thinking about how you can connect to your home’s router wirelessly versus connecting with an Ethernet cable. If you want to use Wi-Fi, you need a wireless network adapter installed in your laptop or PC, and if you want to connect with an Ethernet cable connection, then your computer will need an Ethernet port (which older desktop computers might not have).
Wireless network adapters are more common on laptops than they are on desktops because it’s convenient for users that move their machines around frequently—it doesn’t matter whether there’s a wireless or wired internet connection at any location since either will work. There are also slight differences between wireless network adapters which you should be aware of.
Mobile devices – Also called “cellular” or “mobile broadband” adapters, cellular-enabled laptops allow users to connect without a cable, but they’re only available in a few countries and have a monthly subscription fee associated with them.
Ethernet vs WiFi USB Adapter
An Ethernet port is simply an RJ45 jack where an Ethernet cable can be plugged into your computer for wired connections. They come standard on most desktops and laptops unless you’ve recently purchased a very small laptop (subnotebooks) like those designed for business travellers. While it may seem as though Wi-Fi is preferred over Ethernet because of portability, power users tend to require faster speeds than Wi-Fi can offer.
Note that if you want to connect via an Ethernet cable to your computer, then you will need either a wireless network adapter or an Ethernet broadband modem with USB connectivity (usually provided by your ISP) in addition to the required RJ45 port on your computer—so keep this in mind when shopping for cables/adapters.
Advanced features – The advanced features supported by some adapters are typically related to security and encryption protocols. For example, many adapters support more secure forms of wireless encryption like WPA/WAP2 which prevents “hackers” from connecting wirelessly to your internet without permission. Since these more advanced features are geared towards gamers and other tech-savvy users, they won’t be discussed in this article.
WiFi adapters for desktop PCs & laptops explained
Now that you understand the basics of Wi-Fi technology and how it relates to your computer, let’s look at some common types of network adapter wireless cards available for both desktops and laptops. We’ll also touch upon their limitations.
Keep in mind that there are many varieties of Wireless adapters on the market today—these are just general guidelines that should point you in the right direction when shopping for a new adapter or replacement card. If you still have questions, please ask them below in our comment section!
Coaxial Connectors – The “twin-lead” or “balun” type of wireless adapter that came standard with older desktop computers from the 90s until the early 2000s. This type of adapter is rarely used anymore since it’s been replaced by its better-performing counterpart, but coaxial adapters continue to be useful as a low-cost solution for adding Wi-Fi capabilities to your computer via an aftermarket USB dongle.
USB – Although most newer desktops and laptops come standard with built-in Wi-Fi adapters, there’s no harm in installing a new USB dongle if you find yours has stopped working—just don’t throw away your old one! With so many types available today it should be easy enough to replace
PCI / Card bus – These types of wireless cards typically fit in a special expansion slot that’s compatible with both desktops and laptops, but not all machines have this type of slot available. If your computer does have a cardbus or PCI card slot, then you can more than likely find one which will work for you without much trouble.
These are the most common types of Wi-Fi adapters used today, so if yours more closely resembles any of these designs it’s safe to assume they’re interchangeable. It should also be mentioned that there are other types like PCIe (PCI Express) wireless adapters which are newer on the market—but they tend to cost more than standard PCMCIA cards even though they perform similarly.
While USB adapters are convenient, they are limited by the fact that you can’t upgrade them to support newer 802.11ac routers because their maximum download speeds are capped at USB 2.0 (or 3.0 Gbps). If this is an issue for you, then it might be time to upgrade your router—especially if your current one isn’t capable of running mesh networking or having multiple access points connected simultaneously for full-home coverage.
Wi-Fi Adapters FAQ’s
How do I know which type of adapter to buy?
When it comes to choosing a Wi-Fi network adapter, the two most important factors are software compatibility and speed performance. You’ll likely notice that there’s a large selection of wireless cards on Amazon, eBay, Newegg, etc., but how do you know which one to buy? Well, just follow these steps below and you’ll be on your way to better Wi-Fi speeds than ever before!
Step 1 – Determine the make and model of your computer If your laptop or desktop PC isn’t listed on the manufacturer website, then check its owner’s manual for details. If this information is unavailable, try searching the web for technical specifications (like “motherboard bios version”) if you know what type of operating system it runs on.
Step 2 – Order a compatible WiFi adapter online Once you’ve established which type of adapter is compatible with your machine, head over to Google Shopping or Amazon and search for that specific name/model number. It should take no more than 3 minutes (tops) to find the one you need, and it should cost about $10-30.
Why is USB 2.0 or 3.0 important?
The only reason to care about a USB adapter’s speed rating is if yours has a maximum download rate of 480 Mbps, which means it can’t take full advantage of the blazing fast speeds offered by 802.11ac networks—although most adapters these days do happen to be compatible with at least Wireless-N routers/devices, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue in my experience.
How do I determine if my wireless adapter is being recognized by Windows 7 or 11?
If your computer came standard with a Wi-Fi adapter then you’re likely already enjoying faster wireless speeds, but if you recently installed a new one or simply want to be sure it’s getting power (since some won’t work unless powered via the USB port), check the Device Manager menu in Windows, and right-click on Network adapters in Windows 10—the list should show your adapter(s).
If there is no mention of a wireless device then it means that either: Your OS doesn’t detect that a wireless card has been plugged into the computer; The wireless card is not compatible with this OS; The OS can’t find any drivers for this card; or, You need to press F5 before booting up to enter your BIOS menu, which will then allow you to enable Wi-Fi/USB Power options.
How do I determine if my wireless adapter is compatible with Linux?
If you’re using Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, etc., then simply open the Terminal and type: lspci -nn | grep Network If you see some numbers and letters followed by “Network controller,” then your system can support a wireless card. Alternatively, go to System Settings > Details, and at the bottom of the menu it should say something like “Wi-Fi: Not Detected.”
How do I update my old 802.11g adapter?
Updating an older 802.11g wireless adapter can be done in just a few minutes—and it’s actually quite simple once you know where to look! Assuming that your device is currently running Windows XP/7/8 /10 or 11, just download the latest drivers directly from your manufacturer’s website.
How many wifi adapters can I have with one pc?
You can have as many Wi-Fi adapters as your laptop or desktop PC has USB ports, but it’s usually a good idea to limit the number of wireless cards you have plugged in at once since they can reduce each other’s performance due to interference.
How good are virtual wifi adapters?
Virtual Wi-Fi adapters are not meant to replace real physical adapters, so if you need a high bandwidth connection for online gaming or HD video streaming, consider buying one instead.
How far can wifi adapters reach?
The distance between your Wi-Fi adapter and wireless router can make a huge difference in connection quality, so if you’re planning on wardriving (checking the Internet for open Wi-Fi networks while you’re out and about), make sure to use an external USB dongle with an antenna that can be raised upright for maximum signal strength.
What USB wifi adapter should I get for gaming?
If you’re looking for a wireless USB dongle that can dramatically improve your gameplay, then it’s best to stick with devices that are compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 (since they have lower latency rates than most Wi-Fi adapters), and those that support beamforming since the technology reduces interference from other wireless devices in the area. Furthermore, it should automatically detect and set up any available Internet source within seconds after being plugged into a powered USB port!
As far as USB adapters go, it’s best to stick with ones that are certified by the Broadcom, Qualcomm Atheros (QCA), or Ralink brands—these devices tend to be more reliable than others since they’ve been tested for compatibility by many different game developers.
What wifi adapters work with Xbox 360?
Unfortunately, only the Xbox 360 Arcade model has an internal Wi-Fi adapter (802.11a/b/g compatible), while the other models require you to purchase a separate wireless USB dongle for Internet access (only 802.11b and g adapters are supported, but they must be sold separately).
What’s the difference between a wifi adapter and a wireless adapter?
Wi-Fi adapters like PCI cards and USB dongles allow you to connect your computer (desktop, laptop, etc.) directly to an Internet source via hardwired Ethernet cables. Wireless adapters, on the other hand, use radio frequencies to transfer data wirelessly at speeds that can range anywhere from just 8 Mbps up to 25+ Gbps! That being said, not every wireless adapter has Wi-Fi capabilities—so be sure to check your device’s capabilities before buying.
What Is A Wireless LAN or WLAN?
A wireless LAN (Local Area Network) is a computer network that connects devices without using wires. Devices that can connect to a wireless LAN include laptops, tablets, smartphones, printers, and routers.
A wireless LAN operates in the same way as a wired LAN, except that it uses radio signals to connect devices. This means that users can move around within the range of the wireless LAN and still stay connected to the network. It also means that users can connect to the network from anywhere in the coverage area.