The Do's and Don'ts of Buying USB Wi-Fi Adapters/Dongles

8 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful
The Do's and Don'ts of Buying USB Wi-Fi Adapters/Dongles

These days nearly everyone uses the Internet at least a few times a week. Some individuals even use the Internet on a daily basis, accessing the wealth of information from various devices each day. Many electronic devices, including computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, are equipped with the internal circuitry needed to connect wirelessly to the Internet. These Wi-Fi enabled devices send and receive signals from a wireless router, which allows individuals to access the Internet without having to plug in a telephone or network cable.

Individuals who own computers or laptops that, for some reason, do not have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities have two options for incorporating wireless Internet capability into these devices. The first option is to have a wireless network card or adapter installed internally and the second option is to use USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle.. For those individuals who decide that the adapter or dongle is the best option, there are several do's and don'ts to consider when shopping for these devices.

Do Determine Whether an Adapter is Required

Most computers these days come with wireless network cards built in. This means that an external USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle is not necessary. There are, however, two exceptions to this. Older computers and laptops may not have an internal Wi-Fi adapter, which means that in order for users to connect wirelessly to the Internet, they must either install an internal adapter or connect a USB adapter to the computer. Additionally, the wireless adapters installed in computers and laptops may stop working at some point during the life of the computer. If the computer is otherwise useable, the owner must decide whether to replace the internal card or use a USB adapter or dongle.

While some individuals may opt to install an adapter internally, those who do possess the knowledge to do so may want to use a USB adapter or dongle instead. These adapters are typically not much more expensive than the internal cards, but they are much easier to install and can even be shared. Once an internal card has been installed, it is not feasible to pull it out and put it into other computers when wireless Internet access is needed.

There is one last scenario in which individuals may opt to use an external USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle, even if their computer has a functioning internal wireless adapter. This scenario occurs when the individual is too far from the router or Wi-Fi signal and the internal card cannot pick up the signal. For computer users who are trying to determine whether this is the case for them, try moving the computer closer to the router. If the internal adapter can pick up the signal when the computer is closer, it is likely that the signal is not strong enough to be detected by the internal card and a USB adapter may provide a stronger antenna.

Do Determine Which Adapter is Needed

There are currently four different wireless Internet protocols, each of which has its own wireless range. When determining which USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle is the right one, prospective buyers must consider the type of router they currently own or plan to buy. This information dictates which adapters and dongles are appropriate. Wireless routers all bear the number 802.11. It is the letter that follows this number that designates the range of the router. Currently there are a, b, g, and n routers. Routers with the designation 802.11a offer the most limited range, while those with the 802.11n designation have the greatest range.

Individuals who already have a router should check to see which type of router they have so that they can purchase a USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle that has the same wireless protocol. Computer users who are shopping for both the router and the USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle together should consider purchasing an 802.11n router and wireless adapter. This ensures that they get the greatest signal range.

Router/Adapter Type

Indoor Range

Outdoor Range


Approx. 35 metres

Approx. 118 metres


Approx. 35 metres

Approx. 140 metres


Approx. 38 metres

Approx. 140 metres


Approx. 70 metres

Approx. 250 metres

As the above table shows, an 802.11n router and USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle has double the range of the a and b protocol devices. Those who live in larger houses and who want the luxury of connecting to the Internet wirelessly both indoors and out really need at least one 802.11n router in their home.

Don't Skimp on Quality

Not all USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles are created equally. There are some inferior models that may end up breaking in a short amount of time, so prospective buyers should be sure to buy adapters and dongles from trusted manufacturers rather than opting for the lowest price adapter. While prospective buyers do not have to purchase the most expensive model on the market, they should buy a quality brand so they do not end up having to buy a new adapter or dongle within a year or so.

Individuals who are having difficulty with the range of their existing wireless adapters may want to consider a USB adapter or dongle with a removable antenna. These models give users the option of switching out one antenna for a more powerful one. Using a more powerful antenna allows users to get a wireless signal further away from their wireless router.

Don't Forget to Consider USB Wi-Fi Adapter or Dongle Position

When shopping for USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles, prospective buyers find that there are some that are bulkier than others. Before making a purchasing decision, buyers should take a look at their laptop or desktop computer and see how many USB ports are free and where they are located. Most of the time, the USB ports are located all together, which means the items that plug into these ports need to be small enough that they do not block the other ports. Also, on laptop computers, the USB ports tend to be on the side of the laptop, so USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles that stick out may get broken when the user repositions the laptop.

Don't Forget to Count USB Ports

For individuals using USB laptops and keyboards with their computers, there may not be enough open USB ports to accommodate both of these and an adapter or dongle. Those who find themselves in this position should purchase a powered USB hub so that they can plug their additional USB devices into this port.

Shopping for USB Wi-Fi Adapters/Dongles

Prospective buyers should be able to find at least a few different USB Wi-Fi adapters or dongles at their local electronics or office supply stores, though the selection is bound to be limited and the prices may be higher than the prices online. When shopping online for USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles, prospective buyers should be sure to check prices from several different sellers before they decide which adapter to purchase. Buyers should pay attention to the brand names when shopping for the best price so they know they are comparing apples to apples.

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

If you are ready to take a look at the listings for USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles on eBay, go to the site's main page and type that phrase into the search box. After the search results load, you can narrow down the results based on brand, price, and several other criteria. If you already know the brand or other details, you can make your results more specific by entering that information into the search box. For example, if you want a Belkin USB Wi-Fi adapter,, type that information into the search box.

Before making a purchasing decision, prospective buyers should read through the listings carefully to determine whether the adapter or dongle uses the 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n protocol so they know the adapter is capable of providing the distance they need. Prospective buyers should also review the seller's return policy to determine whether, if the buyer changes his or her mind, it is permissible to return the USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle.


Although the computer equipment aisles can seem a bit daunting, especially for those who are not especially computer savvy, setting up a wireless network in a home does not have to be that difficult. The key is to determine which key pieces of equipment the computer user needs, then decide which product best suits the user's needs. Luckily there are only two pieces of required equipment for a wireless network: a router and a wireless adapter for each computer that requires wireless network access.

When shopping for USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles, the first step is to determine which type of adapter or dongle is necessary. Once that important detail has been sorted out, it is simply a matter of comparing brands and deciding which brand and style works best with the user's computer setup. With a little bit of patience and the do's and don'ts mentioned above, prospective buyers can find the perfect USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle on eBay.

Explore more guides