Wireless networks have become essential to home and work life, but not all devices are able to join a wireless network, particularly older ones. A wireless USB adaptor lets you connect your computer to the internet whatever make or model you have, by plugging your adaptor into the computer’s USB port. You can find information below on why a USB adaptor may be right for you, and how to set up a wireless connection.

Diagram showing radio waves linking a laptop with a USB adaptor, a mobile and a router to form a wireless network

What is a wireless USB adaptor?

A USB adaptor lets you connect wirelessly to networks, even if your device doesn’t have a wireless network card. Once you’ve purchased a USB adaptor, you'll have to see whether it connects automatically to a wireless network. You can find this out in the instruction manual.

If it doesn’t connect automatically:

  1. You'll have to install the driver software on your computer. Your adaptor will usually come with an installation CD. Load the CD on your computer and follow the instructions. If your device doesn't have a CD drive, connect it to your router using an Ethernet cable. Don't connect your wireless adaptor to your computer yet.
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions. These will depend on your adaptor. You’ll be instructed to connect your adaptor during this process.
  3. Select your wireless network from the ones in range.
  4. Enter the password for your wireless network.
  5. The adaptor will then connect wirelessly with your internet router and any other relevant devices on your network (e.g. Smart TV, games consoles, phone, etc).

Benefits of using a wireless USB adaptor

There are many reasons why a USB adaptor may be the best wireless set-up for you:

  • You don’t have to install any additional computer hardware.
  • Wireless set-up is quick and simple.
  • You don’t need to use a cable to connect your device.
  • It’s less expensive than other upgrade options if you have an old laptop or device. It means you don’t have to buy a new computer with better Wi-Fi access.

Is a wireless USB adaptor the same as a dongle?

Although USB adaptor and dongle are often used to describe the same thing, they're actually very different devices. A USB adaptor converts a device that isn't Wi-Fi enabled, letting it connect to a wireless network. There needs to be a pre-existing wireless connection available in the location where you want to use your device.

A dongle is a pay-monthly device used for mobile broadband. It works in a similar way to a mobile phone's internet connection. It provides a connection for you, even if there is no wireless network around.

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