A wireless network adapter is a computer hardware component device designed to enable computers to communicate wirelessly over a network.
Many of us use the Internet on a daily basis. You may wish to connect wirelessly to the Internet, or without a physical connection from your personal network to another network. You use a wireless network adapter to establish a wireless Internet connection.
Wireless network adapters functions by connecting to the computer via expansion card devices, or cards designed to expand computer functionality, such as memory cards or PC cards. You can also connect a wireless network adapter via a USB port on the computer or via an internal adapter already contained within the computer
Why you need a wireless adapter
Usually, you need a wireless adapter connected to your computer if:
- you don’t have a built-in WiFi adapter on your computer / laptop
- you have a built-in WiFi adapter, but you need to connect to multiple WiFi networks
- you need to connect to the Internet from your computer using cellular data
Wireless network adapters pick up signals that a wireless network broadcasts. A Wi-Fi “hotspot,” or location, typically broadcasts radio waves through an area with a range between 75 and 150 feet. A wireless network adapter within range picks up the signal and establishes a wireless connection.
TYPES OF WIRELESS NETWORK ADAPTERS
Here are some types of wireless adapter cards and network adapters.
PCI Wireless Adapter Card for Desktop Computers
A PCI wireless adapter card connects to a desktop computer’s PCI bus. Because the PCI bus is contained inside the computer, the computer case must be opened and the wireless network adapter installed inside.
An example of a PCI wireless adapter card, the Linksys WMP54G, is shown here. This unit is more than 8 inches long to accommodate the standard connection strip required to electrically join to the bus. The unit attaches and fits snugly inside the PCI. However, the wireless adapter card antenna protrudes from the back of the computer.
Wireless PC Card Adapter for Notebook Computers
A PC Card adapter joins a notebook computer to a network. The PC Card is a device approximately the width and height of a credit card. It is compatible with the PCMCIA hardware interface standard.
The Linksys WPC54G is a typical PC Card network adapter for notebook computers. This adapter contains a small built-in Wi-Fi antenna to provide wireless capability. It also features built-in LED lights that display the device status.
PC Card devices insert into a slot on the side of a notebook computer. Wireless adapters, like the one shown above, typically protrude a small amount from the side of the computer. This design allows Wi-Fi antennas to transmit without interference. By contrast, wired Ethernet PC Card adapters insert fully inside the computer.
Given the small space they fit into, PC Card adapters become warm during normal operation. This temperature isn’t a major concern as the adapters are designed to withstand heat. However, notebook computers provide an eject mechanism to remove PC Card adapters when not in use. This protects the adaptor and may extend its life.
Wireless USB Network Adapter
The Linksys WUSB54G shown below is a typical Wi-Fi wireless USB network adapter. These adapters connect to a standard USB port available on the back of most desktop computers. In general, USB network adapters aren’t much larger in size than PC Card adapters. Two LED lights on the adapter indicate its power and network link status.
The installation of a wireless USB Adapters is simple. A short USB cable (normally included with the unit) joins the adapter to the computer. These adapters do not require a separate power cord, as the same USB cable also draws power from the host computer. The USB adapter’s wireless antenna and circuitry remain external to the computer at all times. On some units, the antenna can be adjusted manually to improve Wi-Fi reception. The accompanying device driver software serves an equivalent function as in other types of network adapters.
Some manufacturers market two kinds of wireless USB adapters—a basic model and a compact model designed for travelers. The small size and easy setup make these adapters an attractive choice if you want to simplify your network setup.
Wireless Ethernet Bridge
A wireless Ethernet bridge converts a wired Ethernet device for use on a wireless computer network. Wireless Ethernet bridges and USB adapters are sometimes called wireless media adapters, as these enable devices for Wi-Fi using Ethernet or USB physical media. Wireless Ethernet bridges support game consoles, digital video recorders, and other Ethernet-based consumer devices as well as ordinary computers.
The Linksys WET54G Wireless Ethernet Bridge is shown below. It is only a bit larger than Linksys’ wireless USB adapter.
True network bridge devices like the WET54G don’t require device driver software installation to function, which simplifies the first steps in using these. Instead, network settings for the WET54G can be made through a browser-based administrative interface.
Like USB adapters, wireless Ethernet bridges can draw power from the main cable that’s connected to the host device. However, Ethernet bridges require a specialized Power over Ethernet (PoE) converter to make this work, whereas the functionality is automatic with USB. Without a PoE add-on, wireless Ethernet bridges need a separate power cord.
Wireless Ethernet bridges commonly feature LED lights. The WET54G, for example, displays lights for power, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi status.
Wireless Adapter – Benefits
There are so many advantages of a wireless adapter on which we have to write a couple of pages to describe in detail. So, here we will highlight some of the main advantages and benefits of an external WiFi adapter.
- You will not require Ethernet cable anymore
In older times, we had to sit near the internet router to use the web on our computers or laptops. Landline phones were used to get the connections to the internet networks and we had to use Ethernet cables to use the internet on our PCs. So, if you want to use the internet in your study room and if the internet source is placed in the living room, then it is almost impossible to do it without the cables or dropping the phone outlet in the room where the computer is situated to access the web in such conditions.
But the wireless adapter has cut all these problems and situations. With the help of it, you are able to access the internet connection in any area within its range, doesn’t matter where the internet source is placed.
- You will not need to install extra hardware
Yes, there are options available if you do not want to use a WiFi adapter. You can install a WiFi card in the PCI slots of your computer or laptop. But, not every computer user (including me) knows how to install a hardware inside the system and ends up with damaging some of the ports or wireless adapter card during the process of installation.
The wireless adapters come as plug-and-play devices. You just need to plug in them into the USB port of your system. No need to install the drivers and if it is needed in some cases, you will be prompted to select automatic installation of the drivers. Many modern laptops come with the in-built wireless adapter cards, so you don’t even require WiFi adapters for them. If the laptop does not have a built-in wireless capability and if you want to use an adapter card instead of a WiFi adapter, then in almost all the cases, you need to buy the manufacturer’s model due to the compact space of the laptop and only the same company’s adapter card will fit into it. Use of a wireless adapter gives you relief from all these headaches and helps to enjoy your time without any extra hardware installation.
- Make your computer cable-free
I too have used old desktop PC at my home and know how messy it was to manage the cables on it, especially when I used internet connection on it via the landline phone.
The use of a WiFi adapter helps you to make your computer having a cable-free connection with the wireless router or any other networking device. You can connect multiple wireless enabled devices with your computer without using any USBs or Ethernets to receive or transmit the data.
Not only this, but when you travel and stays at hotel, at client’s location, or other office, then you need to bring the Ethernet cable with you to access the internet. A WiFi adapter gives relief from carrying this messy stuff with you at the time of travel and working from a remote location.
- Multiple devices can use a single wireless adapter
One of the most important benefits of a USB WiFi adapter is it allows you to make your multiple devices to become wireless enabled. You can share a single WiFi adapter across your different devices having USB ports to attach the adapter to it. Means any device having a single or multiple USB ports can use the wireless adapter to access the WiFi internet connection.
- You don’t need to upgrade your computer
You already have purchased an expensive system with all the supported graphics cards, sound cards, HDDs or SSDs, etc. and if your system does not have a wireless capability, then using a budget-friendly wireless adapter is the best option to choose rather than upgrading the hardware and software of your computer which can break your pockets.
Thanks for reading to this point. Hope you now know what is a WiFi adapter, what does a wireless adapter do and the main advantages and benefits of a USB WiFi network adapter. An inexpensive wireless adapter allows your system to become wireless enabled and use the internet connection of your network without messing with Ethernet cables.