Nowadays, most people who use computers access the Internet on a regular basis, which means computers need to be connected to the Internet at all times. When the Internet was just getting off its feet, computers needed to be directly connected to the telephone line or cable line providing the Internet service; however, as technology has advanced, routers and other devices have allowed users to connect a number of computers or devices to one Internet source and have even allowed users to connect to the Internet wirelessly.
Wireless Internet, which is commonly known as Wi-Fi, requires a wireless router, which transmits signals through the air to computers and printers equipped with wireless network cards or adapters. Using Wi-Fi, computer users can connect to the Internet from practically any room in their homes and can even connect to the Internet on the go using Wi-Fi hotspots.
In order to connect to a wireless network, computers and printers must have wireless adapters. These adapters can be internal or external, and there are pros and cons to both varieties. The most commonly used external Wi - Fi adapters connect to the computer via a USB port while internal wireless adapters connect directly to the computer’s motherboard.
A Brief History of Wi-Fi
Although the term Wi-Fi was not used until 1999, wireless Internet was created as part of an FCC ruling in 1985. AT&T was the first company to work with this technology and created it for use in cash register systems. One of the major problems with early wireless signaling was that information waves were being bounced off objects and causing unclear reception on the receiving end. In the 1990s, an Australian company solved this problem and filed a patent for the wireless technology.
It took less than 20 years from the time Wi-Fi signaling was perfected for wireless Internet and wireless networking to pervade everyday life. Computer users and smartphone users connect to wireless networks on a regular basis to access the Internet and other networked devices. Cafes, libraries, bookstores, and even fast food restaurants offer their customers free or paid Wi-Fi and many homes have adopted wireless networks to allow every member of the family to connect to the Internet from virtually anywhere within the house.
The Benefits of Using a USB Wi-Fi Adapter
There are many benefits of using a USB Wi-Fi adapter, the top five of which are as follows:
1) Frees Computer Users from Cables
The main benefit of using a USB Wi-Fi adapter is that it connects a computer, printer, or other device to a wireless network and the Internet without requiring the computer to be hardwired to a router or other network device. The USB Wi-Fi adapter receives signals from a wireless router or other wireless device and translates the signal on the computer, so the computer user can access the Internet any time he or she is in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot or wireless network. This allows laptop computer users to be truly mobile and means that they can access the Internet anytime they are within proximity of a free Wi-Fi hotspot or within range of a wireless network they have the right to access.
Prior to the advent of wireless networking, desktop and laptop users needed to connect to a router using an Ethernet cable. Any time a laptop user traveled, he or she would have to bring an Ethernet cable to access the Internet from the hotel, satellite office, or client’s location. The computer user was then limited by the length of the Ethernet cable and if the cable was forgotten, he or she would have to purchase a new one in order to access the Internet.
2) Eliminates the Need to Install Internal Hardware
Internal wireless adapter cards are available for both desktop and laptop computers; however, most computer users are unfamiliar with installing hardware inside their computers and could end up damaging the wireless adapter card or the computer itself during the installation process. USB Wi-Fi adapters simply plug into a USB port on the computer, so there really is no installation required, making it easy enough for just about anyone to use.
Many laptops come with built-in wireless adapter cards, but if a user purchases one that does not have one, installing an internal adapter may not be possible because of the compact configuration of laptops. While internal wireless adapters may be an option with some laptop models, the adapter cards are usually quite expensive as they are manufactured by the laptop manufacturers and are the only ones that will fit. This means users have no choice but to purchase the manufacturer’s adapter card if they want to install a wireless card internally.
Occasionally internal components installed in computers and laptops go bad, rendering them useless. This is true of graphics cards, hard drives, motherboards, memory, and wireless cards. While a computer cannot run without a hard drive or motherboard, it can run without a wireless adapter card, which means users could use a USB Wi-Fi adapter to connect to the Internet rather than having to purchase a brand new computer or internal wireless adapter if this happens.
3) Eliminates the Need to Run Cables Throughout the Entire House or Office
In the past, computers had to be located very close to an Internet source, be it a telephone line or cable outlet because the computer had to be plugged into the network via an Ethernet cable. This made it impossible to have the Internet source located in the living room and the computer located in the home office without running some type of cable. Although not limited to Ethernet cables in this situation, users either had to drop a phone or cable outlet into the room containing the computer or run Ethernet cable from the active outlet to the computer.
In addition to eliminating the need for additional wiring, USB Wi-Fi adapters allow multiple devices to connect to the Internet via a wireless router without filling up all the outlets on the router. This means that users could have one or two computers connected through the router via Ethernet cable if needed along with a hard-wired networked printer and additional computers connected via USB Wi-Fi adapters.
4) Eliminates the Need to Upgrade a Computer
Computers can be quite expensive, especially if a user chooses to purchase the best computer he or she can afford so that he or she needs to upgrade less often. Those who are using laptops or computers that did not come with wireless network adapters installed do not have to spend a lot of money upgrading to a newer computer if the computer they are using still works in every other way. Purchasing an inexpensive USB Wi-Fi adapter will allow these users to connect to the Internet wirelessly without spending money unnecessarily.
Computer users whose internal wireless cards are broken or outdated can also benefit from plugging in a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Rather than spending the money to replace the broken or sluggish internal wireless adapter, users can simply disable the internal card and use the USB adapter to access the Internet. This may provide a much-needed speed boost for users whose internal cards are quite old. For example, wireless adapters that have the letters b or g after the 802.11 are slower than those that have the letter n after the number. B adapters can only support a bandwidth of 11 Mbps, while g supports up to 54 Mbps and n supports double that at over 100 Mbps. If the internal wireless adapter is only an 802.11b adapter, users will gain quite a bit of bandwidth by purchasing a USB Wi-Fi adapter that supports 802.11b connectivity.
5) Can Be Used on Multiple Devices
One of the best things about using a USB Wi-Fi connector is that it can be shared across multiple devices quite easily. Because it is an external device that plugs into a USB port, it can easily be unmounted and unplugged when it is needed on another computer. Since all computers come with several USB ports, the USB Wi-Fi adapter can be used on virtually any computer. Windows-based computers as well as Macs support the USB technology, and as long as the manufacturer has drivers for both Windows and Mac operating systems, the same USB Wi-Fi adapter can be used on both types of computers. This makes it easy for households or offices that have both types of operating systems on their computers because they can purchase several of the same USB Wi-Fi adapters for use on all their machines, and there is no confusion about which adapter goes with which operating system.
Although USB Wi-Fi adapters should not be left plugged into a laptop when not in use because it could break off and damage the USB port or the entire laptop, the adapters are extremely portable and easily fit into any laptop bag alongside a laptop making accessing the Internet while traveling a breeze.
Shopping for USB Wi-Fi Adapters
Computer users can purchase USB Wi-Fi adapters in a wide range of shops, including electronics stores, office supply stores, and even mass merchandise stores. There are many companies that manufacture these adapters, so the selection may vary dramatically from store to store. Additionally, computer users can turn to the Internet to find USB Wi-Fi adapters for their home or office computers. Online retailers as well as auction sites like eBay offer a wide selection of USB Wi-Fi adapters from many manufacturers and in many styles so users are sure to find what they’re looking for online.
Although the prices of USB Wi-Fi adapters vary from model to model, they are all fairly inexpensive and users should consider the features offered by each model before making a decision. For users who use both Mac and PC computers, look for models that offer drivers for both operating systems. This will allow users to use the same adapter on both operating systems, which will eliminate confusion and save time.
If possible, computer users should purchase USB Wi-Fi adapters that support 802.11n Wi-Fi as this is currently the fastest and most reliable type of wireless connection. It provides data transfer rates that are 10 times the speed of 802.11b and double the speed of 802.11g, as well as a wider range of connectivity. Although these adapters are usually more expensive than 802.11b and 802.11g adapters, the speed may appeal to some users.
There are a few additional factors users should consider before making a purchasing decision about USB Wi-Fi adapters, including what type of security the device offers, what types of support the manufacturer offers, and how long the warranty period is. Although not of the utmost importance to most computer users, these factors could help users decide between comparable models.
USB Wi-Fi adapter users may want to consider purchasing a USB extension cable for use with the wireless adapter, especially if the USB port is at the back of a computer as this could affect the antenna’s ability to pick up the wireless signal. Some models include an extension cable in case it is necessary, but the cable can easily be purchased separately as well, so this should not be the only deciding factor for computer users comparing USB Wi-Fi adapter models.
Buying Wi-Fi Adapters on eBay
If you’re ready to look at some specific Wi-Fi adapters on eBay, head to their <a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.ebay.com/electronics/computers-networking" href="http://www.ebay.com/electronics/computers-networking" and="" networking"="">Computers, Tablets and Networking department and continue to the Home Networking and Connectivity section. Once there, continue to the USB Wi - Fi Adapter / Dongles subsection. Once there, you can sort between the variety of adapters including Wi - Fi 802.11 n, Wi - Fi 802.11 b, Wi - Fi 802.11 g, and Wi - Fi 802.11 a adapters.
You can also take advantage of the various search modifiers in order to help you find the adapter you need. These modifiers include brand, condition, price, location, seller, and more. Make sure to check who is selling the item and check their feedback to ensure that they are reputable sellers.
A USB Wi-Fi adapter is an easy way for nearly any computer user to connect to the Internet wirelessly. Wi-Fi adapters slip easily into an available USB slot and there are USB Wi-Fi adapter models compatible with all operating systems. These portable devices increase the portability of laptops by allowing users to connect to wireless networks anywhere and eliminate the need for extra cables and internal installation. If a wireless network or Wi-Fi hotspot is already in place, users simply need to plug the Wi-Fi adapter into an available USB port, start up the computer, and install the necessary drivers; within minutes, they can be surfing the Web.