Wi-Fi is becoming more common on desktop computers, but not all desktop PCs have it. Add Wi-Fi and you can connect to the Internet wirelessly and host Wi-Fi hotspots for your other devices.
This is a simple, inexpensive process. Buy the right little adapter and you can even take it with you and quickly add Wi-Fi to any desktop you come across by plugging a small device into the USB port.
Why would you want to do this?
If you’re happy with your current Ethernet connection, you don’t need to throw away the cables and go wireless. Good old Ethernet cables are still useful. They offer faster speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connections than Wi-Fi.
Of course, the benefits of Wi-Fi are hard to ignore, even on a desktop PC. With Wi-Fi, you can place your desktop computer anywhere in your home or office, as long as there is an outlet nearby. You can then connect it to your router without an Ethernet cable. Adding Wi-Fi to your desktop PC can also be useful, even if it already has an Ethernet connection. Wi-Fi allows you to host a Wi-Fi hotspot on your PC so that other devices can connect through the Internet connection.
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The Easy Method: A USB to Wi-Fi Adapter
Just like you can add Bluetooth to an old computer by simply plugging a small Bluetooth dongle into the USB port, you can add Wi-Fi to a computer by plugging a small dongle into a USB port. This is an easy and inexpensive option.
There are a huge number of USB Wi-Fi adapters of varying quality on the market. Their price ranges from a few dollars to 60 or 70 dollars depending on the build quality and what features they have. just because they can Costing that much doesn’t mean you have to spend that much – there are plenty of cheap options out there that will do just fine.
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The cheapest options tend to be small and use older Wi-Fi standards. If you’re looking for basic connectivity, something like this adapter from TP-Link will fit the bill. TP-Link has been around for decades and the company consistently delivers good products. This kind of adapter is small enough that you can plug it into a USB port and completely forget it’s there, and you’re not likely to accidentally turn it off.
TP-Link Nano AC600 USB WiFi Adapter
The TP-Link Archer TU2 Nano is a low-profile USB Wi-Fi adapter. It supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. It is easy to use and reliable.
If you’re looking for something more expensive, such as an adapter with Wi-Fi 6 compatibility or WPA3, you’ll have to spend more. This adapter from D-Link is a good choice if you have a router that supports Wi-Fi 6, or if you’re just interested in future-proofing.
D-Link Wi-Fi 6 USB Adapter
D-Link’s DWA-X1850 has all the Wi-Fi bells and whistles you could wish for: it supports both Wi-Fi 6 and WPA3 and is backwards compatible with older standards.
Bigger, better antennas should improve your connection (to some extent). If connection strength is a major concern, and you have the space, there are plenty of USB adapters from reputable manufacturers that have full size antennas plugged in. This adapter from TP-Link will cost $23 dollars at the time of writing in April 2022 and should offer better connectivity compared to its cheaper counterparts.
TP Link Archer T3U Plus
The TP-Link Archer T3U Plus offers Wi-Fi 5 compatibility, a more sensitive antenna and support for all major operating systems. If you need better reception and don’t mind a bigger antenna, this is a good choice.
Install an internal Wi-Fi card
You can also add a Wi-Fi card to your desktop PC. This involves opening your PC and then installing a dedicated internal Wi-Fi card into a PCI Express (PCIe) slot, PCI Express Mini slot, or similar. Assuming your PC is designed to be opened easily and has an extra slot for an expansion card, this should work fine.
The advantage of using a dedicated internal Wi-Fi card is that it can have better reception than a small USB dongle – especially since the internal version can include a larger antenna that protrudes from the back of your PC or into the can be placed nearby. They almost always include a Bluetooth adapter as well.
High-end PCIe Wi-Fi cards, such as Gigabyte’s GC-WBAX210, are packed with the latest and greatest wireless features, such as Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 and WPA3. They are not limited by the bandwidth of a standard USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface and come with full antennas. If you have a router that supports this, you can’t do much better.
GIGABYTE WiFi 6E GC-WBAX210
The GC-WBAX210 comes with everything you would expect from a WiFi card in 2022: WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 and WPA 3.
Cheaper PCIe cards are available if you have an older router that doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, such as TP-Link’s Archer T5E. The Archer T5E supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2 – enough for most applications. If you’re just looking for a desktop on a wireless network on a budget, this is a good choice.
TP Link Archer T5E
The TP-Link Archer T5E is a solid choice for most everyday applications in 2022. It supports Wi-Fi 5 (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2
Before purchasing a Wi-Fi card, make sure that your computer has a free slot of the correct type and that you can install it yourself. Assuming you can easily open your computer, all you need to do is turn off the computer, open the case, insert the card into the slot and secure it with a screw, close the case, and boot. As always, make sure you follow proper safety precautions so as not to accidentally damage any part.
When you’re done, your computer can connect to Wi-Fi just like your average laptop. However, you may need to install the drivers that came with your Wi-Fi hardware first.