Key Tips on Selecting a USB Network Adapter

by Aeyne Schriber on September 10, 2011 in Wireless

USB wireless Internet provides you with the capability to access WiFi from just about anywhere with the help of a USB network adapter.  Although using a USB network adapter is not difficult to use it is important to understand how this type of device operates so you can choose the appropriate adapter to help you achieve USB wireless Internet connectivity.

What is a USB Network Adapter?

A USB network adapter is a device that looks similar to a flash drive and plugs into your USB port on your PC to help you gain access to the nearest WiFi hotspot.  This type of device is handy to use in the event you have a PC that is not equipped with wireless capability.

Once you find the USB network adapter you want to use you simply plug it in to your USB port, follow the instructions on the screen for configuration, and then you are ready to find the nearest hotspot.  Before you go out and purchase a USB network adapter here are some things you should know that will make selecting the appropriate adapter a breeze.

Choosing a USB Network Adapter

When you go shopping for a USB network adapter you will find hundreds of different types available that serve different purposes and different types of connections.  You can start by browsing the different devices that are available so you can become familiar with some of the features.  USB network adapters are available online or through your nearest electronics or computer store.

As you browse through the different network adapters it is important to mention that there are basically two different types of USB network adapters. The types include one that resembles a flash drive and plugs directly into the USB port on your PC and  another other type is connected to your PC with a USB cable with the other end of the cable connecting to the USB network adapter.  The former is convenient if you are close to the router that delivers the wireless signal.  The latter type of USB network adapter works in environments where you may be a longer distance from the wireless signal.

  • A Word about IEEE Standards:  802.11 is a protocol that is defined by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) wireless standards.  The current standard that is being used is 802.11g with 802.11n starting to become more widely available.  When you choose a USB network adapter make sure it is compatible with 802.11g to accommodate current connectivity and then make sure it is compatible with 802.11n for future changes.  You can tell if the device is 802.11n compatible by looking for the letter “n.”
  • USB Network Adapters and Online Privacy:  Depending upon what you want to use your wireless connection for it is important to be concerned about privacy and security especially if you are logging on to a public access WiFi point. When you use a USB network adapter it will automatically search for the nearest hotspot and then sign you on to the Internet.  This represents a playground for hackers and eavesdroppers to “listen in” on your activity.

A quality USB network adapter should be equipped with privacy and security features that will provide you with peace of mind.  When you research different devices make sure you get one that offers Wired Equivalent Privacy.  According to IEEE standards there is the WEP-40 and WEP-104.  WEP-40 is designed to be used with 64-bit WEP protocol and WEP 104 is designed to work with the 128-bit WEP protocol. Look for WEP-104 or 128-bit WEP indicated in the specs on the USB Network Adapter.

  • OS Compatibility:  When you are shopping for USB network adapter you have to be certain that the network card is compatible with your operating system.  If you have an older computer the most recent network cards may not work with your system.

The other aspects to look for are installation software and compatibility with your system as well as making sure it is the most recent version of the software.  Some of the recent USB network adapters are designed to work immediately after you plug them in which eliminates the need for installing device drivers via the software installation CD.  Again, it is important to ensure compatibility with the current computer you are using.

Last but not least, do your research online and read the reviews from customers who have actually used the USB network adapter you are considering.  You can find reviews online on websites that offer the product and on trustworthy technology review sites such as CNET and PC World.  As an added tip, it is important to note that are different terms that are used for a USB network adapter that are synonyms for the same device.  You will also see this type of device referred to as a USB wireless network card, USB wireless card, and USB wireless adapter.

Although this information may seem overwhelming if you have never used a USB network adapter, you will find that the time you spend finding the appropriate device will result in accessing USB wireless Internet easily and achieving a reliable connection on a consistent basis.  It will also save you a lot of frustration over the long term because you will be able to easily locate public WiFi hotspots and then enjoy a reliable and hassle-free wireless connection.

 

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