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Five Steps to Creating a Wireless Network --- Step 4

Nov 7, 2013

Five steps to setting up your Wi-Fi network:

Step 4 — Adding Wi-Fi to Desktop Computers

You can easily add Wi-Fi® to a laptop computer, but some desktop computers can take a little more effort. For most laptops, you simply slide in a Type II PC Card Wi-Fi radio, install the software and you're up and running.

Since very few desktop computers provide PC Card slots, they require a USB [Universal Serial Bus] Wi-Fi radio adapter or a PCI-based [Peripheral Component Interconnect] Wi-Fi radio adapter to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

USB Radio Installation

Installing a USB radio adapter is simple: Plug the radio's USB connector into a spare USB jack on the front or back of your computer.

Then install the software and configure the radio to talk to your network, and your computer should be ready to go.

PCI Adapter Installation

Installing a PCI Wi-Fi radio adapter can be a little bit more complicated. There are two types of PCI Wi-Fi radios: a one-piece PCI Wi-Fi Card Radio, and a two-piece solution that includes a standard Wi-Fi PC Card Radio and a special PCI PC Card reader or adapter.

The first step is to open up your computer to find a spare PCI slot.

Next, carefully remove the one-piece PC Card or combination PC Card and reader/adapter you've purchased from its protective wrapper and firmly insert it into an open PCI slot. Make sure you read the instructions that came with your card--especially the information about properly grounding yourself so that you don't damage the card because of an accidental spark of static electricity.

Once the card or card reader/adapter is firmly set into the slot, screw it down tight and close up your computer case. Then, following the manufacturer's instructions, install the software. For two-piece PCI solutions, you may need to install one set of software for the card reader/adapter and another set for the PC Card Radio itself.

Is a USB or a PCI Solution Better for You?

Most USB and PCI solutions cost about the same. And if they're Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™, you know they have been rigorously tested by the Wi-Fi Alliance. So which should you choose?

Because a Wi-Fi USB adapter is "plug and play," you don't need to be a technical guru to install and configure it - it's easy - and most new computers have two or more USB slots. In addition, because it connects via a cable, the USB solution offers the potential for improved range and performance compared to an embedded PCI solution. And, you can place the Wi-Fi USB Card Radio adapter anywhere - on top of your desk, on top of a computer, or on a nearby bookshelf.

If your computer doesn't have an extra USB slot or they're all in use, you can purchase an external USB hub with additional ports and hook it up to your existing USB jack to add Wi-Fi. But that means more equipment and more wire management off your computer.

The PCI solution may be best if you need the extra physical security (to safeguard from theft) that is provided by a Wi-Fi radio adapter firmly embedded inside the computer case. The only downside to locating your Wi-Fi radio inside the computer chassis is that the surrounding metal can affect both range and performance.

Of course, if your computer doesn't support USB, PCI is your only choice.