What Can a USB Wi-Fi Adapter or Dongle Do for Your Computer?

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What Can a USB Wi-Fi Adapter or Dongle Do for Your Computer?

A USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle plugs into one of your desktop or laptop's universal serial bus (USB) ports, allowing you to connect to a wireless network in the home, office, or a public place. You can use this connection to access shared files, devices, and documents, or to connect to the Internet. This is a handy alternative for those using computers that do not have integrated network adapters. A USB device is often less expensive than a replacement network card. Adapters tend to be bulkier than dongles, but more powerful. However, dongles fit in the pocket, so are more portable. These devices resemble memory sticks.

To understand what a USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle can do for your computer, learn about Wi-Fi technology and how it can benefit you in your personal and business life. This includes understanding the different generations of Wi-Fi and what each has to offer. USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles are available from computer shops and online sources, such as eBay.

Understanding Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is a type of wireless computer network that uses high frequency radio signals to transmit and receive information using Ethernet protocol. Receivers and transmitters usually have ranges of about 20 metres indoors. Devices such as computers connect to the network via Wi-Fi hotspots. Mobile phones, media players, and other consumer electronic devices are also capable of connecting to these networks. Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to connect to the Internet wirelessly at home, in the office, at an airport, in a coffee shop, or anywhere near a public access Wi-Fi hotspot. You can work or browse the Internet without the need for cables and a hardwired connection.

Wi-Fi Technology

Wi-Fi networks work through radio technologies, called 802.11, to provide connectivity. These networks can connect devices to each other or wired networks using Ethernet technology. They operate in the 2.4 and 5 GigaHertz (GHz) bands, with some products offering dual-band connectivity. The radio technologies used are further divided, and demarcated by the addition of lowercase letters, for example 802.11a or 802.11b. Features, such as performance, bandwidth, and frequency, differ for each type. Newer generation Wi-Fi offers improved functionality and security.

The table below lists the most common types of Wi-Fi technology, the frequency bands on which they operate, and their bandwidth. Bandwidth describes the maximum speed at which data is transferred across the network.

 Wi-Fi Technology

 Frequency (GHz)

 Bandwidth (Mbps)











2.4, 5, or 2.4 and 5 (dual-band)


As Wi-Fi products work with radio waves, some household electronic products, such as mobile phones and microwaves, can interfere with signals. This applies more to those devices that work on the 2.4 GHz band. The 5 GHz band was included to minimise interference. Most Wi-Fi products are designed to keep interference to a minimum or to eliminate it completely. In general, Wi-Fi products are interoperable, which means that all manufacturers' products work together to avoid users getting locked into specific brands.

Adding a USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle to a computer with an outdated integrated network card, for example a 802.11a card, is an easy, inexpensive way to upgrade the system. Remember to disable the onboard card before using the USB device, as the integrated adapter will keep running instead of the newly added one.

Using Wi-Fi in the Home

Enabling your computer to connect to a Wi-Fi network by adding a USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle has several benefits. In the home, it allows you to connect your computer to other devices in order to share audio and video content. Multiple computers can connect to the Internet without running cables throughout the house. This means that a computer on the first floor can share a connection with a computer on the ground floor, provided both are within range of the transceiver. In this case, the two computer users can access photos, documents, music, video, and files that are shared.

If you have a home office, adding one of these USB devices means that you can connect your computer, printer, scanner, smartphone, and any other wireless devices to the same network without unsightly cables running across your desk.

Using Wi-Fi for Business

A Wi-Fi connection in the workplace allows users to connect to the local area network no matter where they are in the building. This includes meeting and training rooms and presentation halls. If the business is housed in more than one building a Wi-Fi network can connect buildings' networks to each other. If you own a small business, Wi-Fi is the perfect solution for staying flexible and keeping staff connected. Since there is no need to reroute cables, moving offices as the business starts to grow has no costs attached. Opting for USB dongles and adapters instead of upgrading or installing onboard network adapters could mean substantial savings.

Factors to Consider When Buying a USB Wi-Fi Adapter or Dongle

When buying a USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle, several factors should be taken into account. First, decide whether a dongle or larger adapter would be more suitable. A dongle is smaller and more portable, but may not perform as well as an adapter. The type of Wi-Fi technology used and whether the device is backward compatible should also be considered.

Generation of Technology

While it is generally best to buy the most up to date device to avoid having to replace it in the near future due to advanced in technology, it is important to choose a device that is compatible with the rest of the network. 802.11a devices may not connect to 802.11b or 802.11g devices. Newer adapters tend to be backwards compatible, which simply means that they are able to work with older Wi-Fi technologies. An adapter or dongle that works on 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and a combination of the two is the most versatile. Remember to take the bandwidth into account to make sure that the device is fast enough for your needs. Newer types of USB are also faster than the first version, which was 1.0.

Opt for an established brand, such as Netgear,, Linksys,, or D-Link,, to ensure that support and firmware upgrades are available for the useful life of the device.

Range of USB Wi-Fi Adapter or Dongle

The type of aerial featured will affect the device's range. Choose an adapter or dongle with a range that is adequate for your needs. Range may not be important if you are looking for an adapter for a computer that will never be moved and is situated near the router or hotspot. However, if you intend to use it in a variety of places, look for a device with a greater range.

How to Buy a USB Wi-Fi Adapter or Dongle on eBay

To find the ideal USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle, type a key phrase, such as 'Belkin USB Wi-Fi adapter&', into the search field, which can be found on every page. This will display all of the items tagged with these keywords. Narrow your selection by choosing the most appropriate category and item features. For more control over your search, use the advanced search option.

Before You Buy on eBay

Before you buy on eBay, take a moment to evaluate the item and the seller. Always read the full item description, which is accessed by clicking on an individual listing to go to the item listing page.. You can also find details about buying options, accepted payment methods, postage and packaging costs, and the seller's feedback on this page. To view the seller ' s feedback,, click on the number next to the seller's username. This allows you to see what other buyers have to say about a specific seller before buying from him or her.


A USB Wi-Fi adapter or dongle is used to connect a computer or laptop to a Wi-Fi network. If your computer does not have an integrated network card, this type of device lets you connect without the need to install a card in your computer. Similarly, if your computer has an outdated network card, you can upgrade without removing the old card. If this is the case, remember to disable the integrated wireless network card to allow the new one to work.

Wireless networking lets you connect your computer to other devices on the same network or share an Internet connection. The need for cables is eliminated, which is convenient if you use your laptop in different areas or you have more than one computer connected to a network. This means that you can share files, videos, printers, scanners, and an Internet connection. If you own a small business, keeping employees connected is easy, and there are no costs involved in moving computers from one office to another should your business grow.

One of Wi-Fi's most popular benefits is the availability of hotspots in public areas, such as shopping centres, airports, and coffee shops. Getting connected means that you can work or surf the Internet no matter where you are. eBay sellers offer a wide range of USB Wi-Fi adapters and dongles with a variety of features and functions.

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