USB adapters can be a great way to connect a computer to a wireless network. They can be used to either connect a computer without wireless access to a wireless network, or upgrade the internal card in your computer.
Top USB Adapter Picks
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Please read on to find out about why you should use a Wifi USB adapter on your desktop computer, as well as to see a rundown of three USB adapters.
Why Use A Wi-Fi USB Adapter For My Desktop?
When looking to connect a desktop PC to a wireless network you have two options. These are installing a wireless PCI card or plugging in a USB adapter. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to using a USB adapter.
Ease Of Set Up
This is by far the biggest advantage to a USB adapter. Quite simply, all you have to do install your wireless adapter is plug it in. The required will then be installed by your operating system almost instantly.
You will then be able to connect to your wireless network within around 30 seconds of plugging it in. When compared to the effort and time that it takes to install a PCI card, this is almost nothing at all.
Loads Of Options
Despite the ease of setup, you don’t really lose out on much functionality by using a USB adapter instead of a PCI wireless card. You can buy wireless adapters that use wireless AC for fast speeds, wireless adapters that come with multiple antennas for a large coverage area and tiny adapters you will barely notice are there.
Basically, whatever your reason for needing a USB adapter, there will be one for you.
Ability To Place The Adapter In The Optimal Location
Sometimes, being stuffed under your desk and at the back of your computer means that your PCI card is in a less than advantageous position to receive your wireless signal. This can be especially pronounced if your computer is already in a room far away from your router.
Some wireless adapters on the other hand come with a cable that allows them to be placed away from your computer in a location that can receive a great signal.
Takes Up A USB Port
One of the biggest disadvantages of a USB adapter is that it will permanently take up one of the USB ports on your desktop. If you have a lot of USB ports or an extra USB hub this may not be much of a problem, but if this isn’t the case you could be in a bit of trouble.
Antennas Often Not As Good As Those On PCI Cards
While some USB adapters have external/multiple antennas, many just use a small antenna inside the adapter for connecting to your network. PCI adapters on the other hand will usually have at least a couple of external antennas that could give you a better signal than if you use a USB adapter.
If you want the best signal possible, be sure to get an adapter with External antennas.
Wireless AC vs Wireless N USB Adapter
When searching for adapters you will probably notice that you can either get a wireless AC adapter or a wireless N adapter. Both these adapters have their own advantages, but here is a quick rundown of what they are.
Wireless AC adapters use one of the latest wireless standards. They offer faster data speeds than wireless N adapters. They are perfect for if you are planning to transfer files, play games or stream HD movies on your network.
Wireless N adapters, on the other hand, use a slightly older wireless standard. However, they can be used on the 2.4GHz channel and as such can provide a better signal if your computer is far from your router.
Another thing to consider when choosing which wifi standard to use is the type of standard used by your router. While both standards will work with any router, only by using a wireless AC adapter with a wireless AC router will you get the advantages of wireless AC.
Top Rated 3 Wi-Fi USB Adapters For Desktop Computers
Linksys AE6000 Wireless AC580 Mini USB Adapter
This USB adapter from Linksys allows you to connect using either wireless N on the 2.4GHz band or wireless AC on the 5GHz band. This means that you can get the benefits of either faster data transfer rates or a connection further from your router from the one adapter.
It is a tiny adapter that you won’t even notice is there once installed. This combined with its easy setup means you could easily switch between using it on your desktop computer and a laptop computer if required.
It is a reliable adapter and will be perfect for people who need a faster wireless AC connection.
TP-Link TL-WN822N N300 Wireless High Gain USB Adapter
This is a USB adapter that uses the wireless N standard. What it loses in not having AC connectivity, however, it more than makes up for in the strength of its external antennas.
When compared to the adapter above it is much bigger, but this is only so TP-Link could fit in two adjustable external antennas. These allow for a much stronger signal than you would get with adapters that just have a small internal antenna.
As well as this, it connects to a computer via USB cable, which means the adapter can be placed away from your computer in the most advantageous position for your signal.
One stand out feature this adapter offers, is that it has the ability to create a wireless hotspot. This means that should your computer only have an Ethernet connection, this router will be able to share this wired connection to other devices near by.
If your computer is a bit further from your router, or you want to share a wired Ethernet connection and you don’t mind the lack of wireless AC, this could be the adapter for you.
Note that there is an arguably better version of this adapter available here. It is .11ac (AC1200).
Cable Matters Gold-Plated Wireless N300 USB Adapter (202050)
This is another wireless N adapter with an external antenna. Despite only having one antenna, it should still offer a better signal than many other adapters.
It plugs straight into your computer which means you don’t have to worry about finding space on your desk, although it does limit where you can put it.
Its biggest selling point is the price of the adapter, which is much less than the other two adapters on the list. If you need a cheap adapter that should provide a decent signal using the wireless N standard, this could be the adapter for you!