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What You Need to Know When Shopping for a Mini PCI Express Wi-Fi Card

You can use a Mini PCI-E wireless adapter to add internet or local area network connectivity to any computing device that has this type of interface. You might need to replace a wireless adapter in a laptop, or you could be adding wireless connectivity to an embedded device. These cards also sometimes include Bluetooth support.

What is a PCI Express expansion slot?

PCI Express is a high-speed bus interface used in most desktop computers to add various expansion cards, such as network interface cards, sound cards, or graphics cards. PCI Express slots come in several sizes, referred to as x1 to x32 lanes. A card that is smaller than a PCI Express slot can be inserted, but a card will not physically fit into a slot that's smaller than itself.

What is a Mini PCI Express expansion slot?

The Mini PCI Express slot is a special, low-profile version of the standard PCI Express slot designed for computers that lack the space for cards to be installed upright. Laptops often use the Mini PCI-E expansion slot to allow users to add or to replace their wireless adapters. These slots are also used in embedded or industrial computing devices that lack the space for standard PCI Express cards.

What are types of Mini PCI-E Wi-Fi cards?

You can find a couple of different product types that use the Mini PCI Express slot in one way or another to add wireless connectivity to a computer.

  • Mini PCI Express adapters: These wireless cards install directly into any Mini PCI Express slot, typically in a horizontal position relative to the motherboard. They have onboard antennas that can transmit and receive Wi-Fi signals and that often support Bluetooth connections as well.
  • PCI Express to Mini PCI Express adapter cards: These cards are designed to plug into computers with standard PCI Express slots. They differ from normal Wi-Fi adapters in that they have a slot to allow a Mini PCI Express wireless card to be installed on them. They usually include external antennas to help boost the wireless connection's range.

What does wireless-N or wireless-G mean?

The letters A, B, G, N, and AC are codes that indicate the version of the protocol that a wireless card is compatible with. If the card uses a version that is also used by a wireless router, then a connection can be established between the two devices. Be sure to check that a wireless card is compatible with your router before buying it.

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