USB Wi-Fi Adapters/Dongles Buying Guide

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USB Wi-Fi Adapters/Dongles Buying Guide

Wireless Internet is one of those revolutionary inventions that symbolises a milestone in human civilization. The invention of the automobile, the airplane, and the computer are similar human achievements that have improved how people live and communicate on a daily basis. Wireless technology has enabled computer users to connect to the Internet without the use of wires and cables that clutter an office or room in the home. Today, there are very few mainstream places left that do not offer access to wireless technology to one degree or another.

Wireless hotspots have sprung up nationwide, and there are even whole regions in some areas that have their own Wi-Fi that covers the entire area. People who are in need of finding a good method to connect to a wireless network have several options to choose from. One of the more flexible and convenient options that should be considered are a USB Wi-Fi adapter as well as a dongle. Understanding the benefits of using USB adapter and dongles can go a long way in finding the right product. Although USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles are available in electronics shops, one can also find them at affordable prices on eBay.

Wireless USB

Wireless USB is a recently developed technology that allows users to access high-bandwidth radio communications on a short range plug-and-play device attached to the computer. Wireless USB operates independently of the internal hardware that exists in the computer, so regardless of how the machine is equipped to access Wi-Fi, it can receive a wireless signal once a wireless USB adapter is inserted in a USB port. Prior to the development of wireless USB, computers required the use of a wireless network interface controller installed internally through which radio signals from the local wireless network could be received and processed.

Wireless USB differs from the standard IEEE 802.11 wireless frequency typically used to create wireless local area networks. A wireless USB operates at shorter ranges but is better at penetrating obstructions to the signal. The chart below shows how wireless USB compares to IEEE 802.11 devices.                                      


Wireless USB



53 - 480 Mbit/s

450 Mbit/s


3.1 GHz - 10.6 GHz

2.4 GHz or 5 GHz


3 - 10 m

100 m

The two technologies are very similar except for distance. This makes wireless USB a very attractive alternative to standard IEEE 802.11 wireless connections. Wireless USB utilises ultra-wide band technology that allows it to connect to a signal even through obstructions, but at shorter distances.

Styles of Adapters

There are two styles of USB Wi-Fi adapters, and each has an advantage, depending on the needs of the user. USB adapters can also vary in size and generally, the larger the unit, the further away from the wireless source it can be. Wireless USB devices are designed to operate at frequency ranges that can pick up wireless signals at up to 10 m of distance.

Flash Drive/Dongle

The first style of USB adapter is the flash drive type version that resembles the small devices that are plugged into USB ports that users download data onto. This style of USB dongle is generally very small in size and is ideal for people who are constantly on the go and need something small to carry with them. These dongles are ideal for connecting to small laptops and netbooks and acquiring wireless signals that are close by. These adapters have a shorter range capability, so they work better when the user is in the middle of the hotspot.


The antenna adapter is much larger than the flash drive version but operates in the same manner by plugging into an available USB port. The antenna portion of the device is then extended upward to pick up the wireless signal. Since the antenna is larger than a flash dongle, it has the ability to pick up a wireless signal at a greater range, which translates into better signal quality. The downside to the antenna version is that it is more obtrusive for laptop users and is a design that is better suited for desktops.

How to Install a USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Installing a USB Wi-Fi adapter is a straightforward process that any computer user can manage regardless of the skills he or she may have in dealing with computers. Many USB adapters come with a software disk that installs the necessary drivers onto the computer. If the user is operating a Windows or Macintosh device, the operating system automatically acknowledges the existence of the USB device and begins the installation process after the adapter has been inserted into the USB port. If the computer does not recognise the device, it asks for the software disk to be inserted into the machine so that it can download the proper drivers. The user needs to follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation.

Benefits of USB Wi-Fi Adapter/Dongles

There are several benefits that users can realise through the use of a USB Wi-Fi adapter. The benefits range from allowing Internet access wirelessly to avoiding expensive upgrades.

Wireless Without a Card

Most computers in today's market come equipped with some form of network card that allows them to access the Internet. These cards are typically designed to have an Ethernet cable plugged into a port at the rear of the desktop. Some of the network cards have the ability to pick up wireless signals, but this is usually an upgrade on a desktop. For the most part, laptops feature a wireless card that can access the Internet due to the mobile design of laptops. However, for a user whose computer does not have a wireless network card or no network card at all, a wireless USB adapter is an economical and inexpensive way to access the Internet without having to install a card.

Extended Range

Another benefit of USB Wi-Fi adapters is that when installed in a machine that already has some form of wireless network card, the adapter can increase the range capability of that machine. When the antenna-based wireless USB adapter is plugged into a laptop or even a desktop, it improves the range from which the machine can detect and access wireless signals. This can eliminate the need for wireless repeaters to be placed within a home or office, and users can access the hotspot or router from further away.

Use on Multiple Devices

Wireless USB adapters are portable, which means they can be used with any device that has a USB port and requires access to the Internet. The wireless USB adapter can be removed from one device and easily plugged into another device in a matter of moments, making it very convenient.

No More Cables

One of the main benefits of a USB Wi-Fi dongle is that it eliminates the need for the computer to be hooked to the router via an Ethernet cable. When the adapter is installed into the USB port, the machine can access the local wireless network without the need for a cable.

Easy Upgrade

A USB Wi-Fi adapter is an inexpensive and easy way to upgrade an older computer or one without a wireless network card. Many people do not feel comfortable opening up a desktop or laptop in order to install a wireless network card. For these users, simply plugging a USB adapter into a port and having the ability to access the Internet solves the problem of costly and technical computer upgrades.

How to Buy USB Wi-Fi Adapters/Dongles on eBay

After you have decided to purchase a USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle, the next step is to take advantage of the powerful search tools available on eBay in order to find the right product at a great price. Start your search by going to the eBay home page and entering a term, such as "USB Wi-Fi adapter", into the search box. A list of available adapters is displayed, and you can browse through each one until you find the adapter that suits your needs. If you already know the exact style and brand of USB adapter or dongle you want, you can enter that information directly into the search box and eBay returns results that only relate to that term.

Once you have found the wireless USB adapter or dongle, make sure you review the feedback and rating of the seller prior to committing to the transaction. The eBay community utilises buyer feedback to rate sellers on how they perform on every transaction. By purchasing from a seller with a history of positive feedback, you can feel more confident as you initiate your transaction on eBay.


A USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle is an inexpensive way in which any computer user can upgrade a machine to have the ability to access wireless networks. Rather than going through the expensive and laborious process of installing a wireless network card in the machine, the user can take advantage of the simple plug-and-play features of a wireless USB adapter to upgrade the computer. A wireless USB adapter eliminates the need for unsightly cables and is capable of extending the range of a machine that already has a wireless network card installed. If a user's wireless network card has developed problems, then installing a wireless USB adapter is a quick and inexpensive solution for the problem.

A buyer searching for a USB Wi-Fi adapter to install in a computer does not have to look any further than eBay. The advanced search tools and safe shopping environment on eBay allow buyers to search for and compare the various USB adapters available online to easily find those that meet their needs.

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