Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly common in desktop computers, but not all desktop computers have it. By adding Wi-Fi, you can connect to the Internet wirelessly and host Wi-Fi hotspots for your other devices.
It is a simple and inexpensive process. Buy the right little adapter and you can even take it with you, quickly adding Wi-Fi to any desktop you come across by plugging a small device into its USB port.
Why add Wifi to the computer?
If you’re satisfied with your current Ethernet connection, there’s no need to ditch the cables and connect wirelessly. Old Ethernet cables are still useful. They provide faster speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connections than Wi-Fi.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the advantages of Wi-Fi, even for desktop computers. With Wi-Fi, you can place your desktop computer anywhere in your home or office, as long as there is a power outlet nearby. You can then connect it to your router without going through an Ethernet cable.
Adding Wi-Fi to a desktop computer can also help even if it already has an Ethernet connection. With Wi-Fi, you can host a Wi-Fi hotspot on your computer, allowing other devices to connect through their Internet connection.
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The Easy Way: USB to Wi-Fi Adapter
Just as you can add Bluetooth to an old computer by plugging a small Bluetooth dongle into its USB port, you can add Wi-Fi to a computer by plugging a small dongle into a USB port. This is an easy and cheap option.
There are a large number of USB Wi-Fi adapters of varying quality on the market. Their price ranges from a few dollars to 60 or 70 dollars, depending on the quality of their manufacture and characteristics. Just because it can cost a lot doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot. There are plenty of inexpensive options that will work just fine.
The cheaper options tend to be small and use outdated Wi-Fi standards. If you’re looking for a basic connection, something like this adapter from TP-Link is just fine. TP-Link has been around for decades and the company consistently delivers great products. This type of adapter is small enough that you can put it in a USB port and completely forget about it, and you won’t risk dropping it accidentally.
If you’re looking for something a bit more premium, like a Wi-Fi 6 or WPA3 compatible adapter, you’ll have to spend more. This adapter from D-Link is a great choice if your router is Wi-Fi 6 compatible or if you just want to protect yourself from future dangers. Bigger and better antennas should improve your connection (up to a point).
If connection strength is a big concern and you have the space, there are many USB adapters from reputable manufacturers that come with full-size antennas. This adapter from TP-Link costs $23 at the time of writing in April 2022 and should offer better connectivity compared to its cheaper counterparts.
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Install an internal Wi-Fi card
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You can also add a Wi-Fi card to your desktop computer. To do this, you need to open your computer, then install a dedicated internal Wi-Fi card into a PCI Express (PCIe) slot, PCI Express Mini slot, or similar slot. If your computer is designed to be opened easily and has a spare expansion card slot, this should work just fine.
The advantage of using a dedicated internal Wi-Fi card is that it will likely have better reception than a micro USB dongle – mainly because the internal version may include a larger antenna that protrudes from the back of your computer, or can be placed nearby. They often contain a Bluetooth adapter.
High-end PCIe Wi-Fi cards, such as the GC-WBAX210 from Gigabyte, come with the latest and greatest wireless features, such as Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and WPA3. It’s not limited to the bandwidth of the standard USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface and equipped with full antennas. If you have a router that supports it, you can’t do much better.
There are cheaper PCIe cards if you have an old router that doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, like TP-Link’s Archer T5E. Archer T5E supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2, which is sufficient for most applications. If you are just looking to put a desktop computer on a wireless network at a reasonable price, this is a great option.
Before purchasing a Wi-Fi card, make sure that your computer has a free slot of the right type and that you are comfortable installing it yourself. Assuming you can easily open your computer, all you have to do is turn off the computer, open the case, plug the card into the slot and screw it in, close the case, and boot. As always, be sure to follow safety precautions so you don’t accidentally damage any component.
When done, your computer will be able to connect to Wi-Fi like a regular laptop. You may first need to install the drivers that came with your Wi-Fi device.