Wireless internet, commonly known as Wi-Fi, requires a wireless router, which transmits signals through the air to devices equipped with wireless network cards or adapters. Using Wi-Fi, computer users can connect to the Internet from practically any room and can even connect to the Internet on the go using Wi-Fi hotspots. There are dual and single band routers, with the former providing much faster Internet. To connect to a wireless network, a computer or other device must have wireless adapters, whether internal or external. The most commonly used external options are USB Wi-Fi adapters.
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 and smartphone users connect to wireless networks on a regular basis. Cafes, libraries, bookstores, and even fast food restaurants offer their customers free or paid Wi-Fi, and many homes have adopted wireless networks.
5 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
A USB Wi-Fi adapter eliminates the need to hardwire the computer to a router or other network device. What's more, mini options truly take up minimal space. The adapter receives signals from a wireless router or other wireless device and translates the signal so the computer user can access the Internet any time they are in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot or wireless network. This allows laptop users to be truly mobile; they can access the Internet anytime they are in proximity of a free Wi-Fi hotspot or within range of a wireless network they have the right to access. However, when people use new, free Wi-Fi- networks, they should be aware of security issues that can arise. Password protected networks are generally safer, and private networks should be used to guarantee that information is kept private. A dongle is often used to connect and share private information.
Prior to the advent of wireless networking, computer users needed to connect to a router using an Ethernet cable. Any time they traveled, they would have to bring an Ethernet cable to access the Internet at the hotel, satellite office, or client's location. The computer user was then limited by the cable length, and if they forgot it, they would have to purchase a new one to connect to the Internet.
2) Eliminates the Need to Install Internal Hardware
Internal wireless adapter cards are available for both desktop and laptop computers. However, most people 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, installing an internal adapter may not be possible because of the compact configuration of laptops. While it may be an option with some laptop models, the cards are usually quite expensive as the ones made by the laptop manufacturers are the only ones that fit an individual computer. This means consumers 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. That means consumers could connect to the Internet using a USB Wi-Fi adapter, rather than having to purchase a brand new computer or internal wireless adapter if this happens.
3) Eliminates the Need to Run Cables
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. This means users could have one or two computers connected through the router via Ethernet, 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 they can afford. Those who use 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 allows these users to connect to the Internet wirelessly without spending money on upgrading to a current model.
Those 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 Wi-Fi 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." "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 can gain quite a bit of bandwidth by purchasing one 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 un-mounted and unplugged when needed on another computer. Since all computers come with several USB ports, the 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 one can be used on both types of computers interchangeably. 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 ones for use on all their machines, and there is no confusion about which adapter will match with which operating system.
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. However, once the USB is removed, the adapters are extremely portable and easily fit into any laptop bag, which makes accessing the Internet while traveling a breeze.
Shopping for USB Wi-Fi Adapters
Customers 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 them, so the selection may vary dramatically from store to store. Additionally, computer users can turn to the Internet. Online marketplaces like eBay offer a wide selection and in many styles so users are sure to find what they're looking for online.
Belkin is a commonly used USB Wi-Fi adapter, and it is available in a mini size or a larger, more robust version. Belkin and other brands, such asTRENDnet and Keebox, make models that come with 150 Mbps and 300 Mbps capabilities. Although prices vary from model to model, they are all fairly inexpensive, and users should consider the features before making a decision. Buyers who use both Mac and PC computers should look for models that offer drivers for both operating systems.
If possible, computer users should purchase models that support faster wireless connections, such as 802.11n Wi-Fi. It provides data transfer rates 10 times that of 802.11b and double that of 802.11g as well as a wider range of connectivity. Although faster adapters are usually more expensive, the speed may appeal to some users.
Moreover, there are a few additional factors to consider, including security, manufacturer customer support, and the warranty period. Although not of the utmost importance to most computer users, these factors could help users decide between comparable models.
Finally, 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 Wi-Fi antenna's ability to pick up the wireless signal. Some models include an extension cable, but purchasing the latter is simple and easy, so this should not be the only deciding factor.
Buying Wi-Fi Adapters on eBay
Buying Wi-Fi adapters on eBay is easy. Sart at the search bar at the top of any page and enter the terms you'd like to search, such as "Wi-Fi Adapter" or "USB wireless adapter." You can take advantage of the various search filters to help you find the adapter you need. These modifiers include brand, condition, price, location, and more. Make sure to check out the item description and the seller's feedback.
A USB Wi-Fi adapter is an easy way for nearly any computer user to connect to the Internet wirelessly. It slips easily into an available USB slot, and there are models compatible with all operating systems. What's more, they eliminate the need for extra cables and hardware 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, and install the necessary drivers and software. Within minutes, they can surf the Web.