How Can I Add Wifi to a Desktop PC?

Not all desktop PCs come with built-in wifi, which makes total sense—why wouldn’t you just use an Ethernet connection for a system that’s going to mostly sit under (or on) your desk? It’s still good to have options, especially if your desktop PC happens to be located in an area that is difficult (or annoying) to access with a cable, and adding wifi to a system that doesn’t have it is easy.

You have a few options for connecting your desktop PC to your wireless network: you can use a USB wifi adapter, install a dedicated PCIe wifi card, or upgrade to a new motherboard with built-in wifi. (We suspect most people will go for the easiest options—numbers one and two.)

The convenient option: USB wifi adapters

A USB wifi adapter couldn’t be any simpler to use, assuming there aren’t any quirks with how your operating system recognizes or uses the device. Simply plug it into your desktop or laptop. You might have to install some drivers to get it up and running, but giving your system wireless capabilities should be an easy plug-and-play routine after that.

Since it’s a USB adapter, you can plug it into any working USB port on your system—on the front or rear of your system, and USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, too. (Though you might want to try USB 2.0 if you encounter any issues with a USB 3.0 port on an older desktop.)

The disadvantage of a USB wifi adapter is that you might find yourself bumped offline should your system go to sleep. You’ll want to play around with Window’s settings for sleep mode (sometimes, the answer might be a not-so-obvious choice ). You might even have to jump into your motherboard’s BIOS to make sure there aren’t any settings that are kicking off your USB devices when your system sleeps. You could also just disable sleep mode entirely, which isn’t the worst idea.

Additionally, USB wifi adapters can be hit and miss with their performance . Make sure whatever you buy is at least rated for speeds your router can support—don’t buy a cheap wireless-n adapter if you just purchased a brand-new AC1200 router, for example. And know that an adapter isn’t a guarantee; you might still have spotty connectivity wherever it is you’re trying to connect your system, or the adapter might not be as strong as it sounds on paper.

If you know your system is always going to need wifi access, you’re better off investing in a PCIe adapter with dedicated antennas. While these aren’t guaranteed to always beat USB adapters for performance in every situation, odds are good that you’ll encounter better speeds and lower latency (at least, compared to a tiny USB 2.0 adapter).

Best for connectivity: PCIe wifi adapters

PCIe wifi adapters offer the same kind of connectivity you’d find on motherboards with built-in wifi. They generally tend to work better than USB adapters—the tiny ones, at least—giving you more stable connections across longer distances (and better throughput). They’re also great if you know you’re going to need to use most of (or all) or your system’s USB connections. Offload your wireless adapter elsewhere so you have plenty of space for that flash drive, gaming mouse, or humping dog .

There are only three real downsides to PCIe wifi adapters, and they’re relatively minor. First, these devices can be a little more expensive than USB wifi adapters, depending on what capabilities you’re looking to get. Second, you’ll have to install them in your system. That shouldn’t be a problem for most people, but it can be daunting for newbies. Finally, depending on your motherboard’s configuration and how much other hardware you’ve stuffed inside your system, you might not have room for a dedicated PCIe wifi adapter. If so, it’s back to a USB adapter for you.

Best if you’re already upgrading your PC: A wifi-enabled motherboard

If you’re planning to upgrade your PC anyway, and you suspect you might need wireless connectivity at some point—even if it’s just to have a simple backup solution if your Ethernet connection ever gets wonky—consider shopping for a motherboard with wifi capabilities built in. Some might even come with external antennas that connect to the rear of your motherboard and allow you to position them wherever you want (like on your desk), rather than having them shoot directly out the back of your desktop PC. It’s a minor point, but one that might get you a slightly stronger signal (or work better for your desk setup).

This article was originally published in April 2014 and updated on 12/5/19 with more thorough and current information.

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How to Install a New Router

Every wireless device in your home connects to your router, and if you’re like many people today, it takes only an hour or two without Wi-Fi to leave you feeling some anxiety at being disconnected. Get your connections up and running by installing a new router, using this simple guide.

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While this basic process should help you get any new router online, it is worth noting that each model will be a little different. Many new models have a streamlined setup process that combines or skips some of these steps, or that lets you manage your setup entirely through a smartphone app. When in doubt, follow the directions that came with the router. But if you want a general walk-through of setting up your home network, these steps should get you fully connected.

1. Check Your Internet Connection

If you’re connecting your router to an existing modem or ISP gateway, then you probably already have a good idea of whether or not your internet is working, but it’s always worth checking. A bad connection can make for a long and frustrating attempt at router installation when there may be nothing wrong with the router itself.

If you’re installing your router as part of moving into a new home or apartment, it’s all the more important to make sure you have an active internet connection, since you are likely to be setting up your router alongside a newly installed or activated internet service.

To check internet status, simply connect to your modem or ISP gateway using an Ethernet cable, and plug it directly into your laptop or desktop PC. (If you don’t have an Ethernet port on your laptop, you’ll want to get an Ethernet adapter.) If your computer is getting an internet connection, you’re in good shape to set up the router.

Also, some ISP gateways offer combined modem and router functions. In this case, you’ll want to make sure the modem/router combo is set to bridge mode. This should be explained in whatever instructions came with the gateway device.

2. Place the Router

As you unpack the router, pay attention to any documentation that’s included. Keep an eye out specifically for any stickers or slips of paper that may include vital setup information, like the address for the router’s web interface, or the default username and password.

If antennas are separate from the main router unit, you’ll want to install them. This is usually done by screwing them on to the connectors on the back or sides of the router. In other cases, the router’s antennas will be built in, and only need to be extended and positioned.

Once it is unpacked and assembled, you’ll need to find a place to install the router. The ideal router position will be in a central location, rather than at one end of the home. Since routers broadcast in all directions, you’ll want to put it roughly in the middle of your home to get the best coverage and signal strength.

A higher position — such as up on a shelf — is preferred, since radio waves move out and down as they propagate through your home. You’ll also want to avoid potential interference from metal objects, brick or concrete walls.And stay away from the microwave, since it puts out the same frequencies that your wireless signal uses.

3. Connect to Power

Once it is powered on, you should see the router’s indicator lights activate. Some will blink or change color during the setup process, indicating certain functions and changes, but there should be a light that shows when the router is properly plugged in and turned on. Wait a minute or two after plugging in the router, as it may take a few moments for it to get up and running.

4. Connect to Your Internet Source

Next you’ll want to connect your router to your internet source, be it a cable or DSL modem or similar ISP gateway. For this, you’ll use a basic Ethernet cable, plugged into the router’s WAN or internet port. This port is usually distinguished from others on the device with a different color, or it may be physically separated from the rest of the ports with a space.

Watch the router’s LED indicators as you plug in the cable. You should see a color change or a new light that indicates an active internet connection has been established. If there is no confirmatory indicator light, double-check the connection, ensuring that you’re plugged into the correct port and that the Ethernet cable you’re using is in good working order.

Finally, you’ll want to confirm that the router has a working connection by plugging your laptop into one of the device ports on the back of the router. You should be able to quickly open a wired connection, just as you did when confirming an active internet connection.

5. Access the Router’s Web Interface

While you have a computer connected to the new router, now would be an ideal time to set a new network name and password. Additionally, you’ll need to log in to the same web interface to upgrade your firmware, adjust your security settings and activate your Wi-Fi. Check out our handy guide to walk through the process, or follow the instructions that came with the router.

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While you’re activating the Wi-Fi, you’ll also want to choose an encryption protocol for your wireless network. Skip Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) if it’s offered, since the standard has been shown to be woefully insecure for at least the last decade. We recommend using Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protection, since it’s much more secure.

It’s also worth noting that many new routers use a dedicated app for setup. In these cases, you can usually complete the setup without plugging in a PC at all.

6. Connect Wired Devices

If you want to physically connect any devices to your router, such as a printer, game console, TV or internet phone system, you’ll need an Ethernet cable for each. Plug the wired device into one of the available ports on the back of the router.

7. Connect Your PC or Device to Wi-Fi

Finally, once your Wi-Fi network is up and running, you’ll want to get the rest of your devices connected. If you haven’t already, you may want to set a new name and password for the router, and logging onto your new Wi-Fi network will require knowing both the network name and password.

Troubleshooting your router or want to take a deeper look at connected devices? Here’s how to find your MAC address on Windows 10.

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How to upgrade your laptop’s Wi-Fi card

Memory and storage are frequently upgraded on laptop computers for better performance. Upgrading your Wi-Fi card can have a big impact on performance as well.

Intel Centrino Wi-Fi cardThe Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 is a 300Mbps, dual-band Wi-Fi card that includes Bluetooth 4.0. Ed Rhee/CNET

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Memory and storage are probably the two most commonly upgraded components on laptop computers. They’re easy to upgrade and have an immediate impact on system performance. Wi-Fi cards are upgraded less frequently, but upgrading them can have a dramatic impact on performance as well, with greater range and faster throughput.

In this tutorial, we’re going to upgrade the Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 inside a Toshiba U925t Ultrabook , with an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235. The Intel 2230 card is a good midrange card, but it lacks dual-band support, so we’re going to replace it with the Intel 6235, which supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

Choosing your new Wi-Fi card

There are a few things to consider when choosing your new Wi-Fi card. The first thing you should find out is if your laptop manufacturer uses a whitelist in the BIOS of your laptop. If your laptop’s BIOS uses a whitelist, it’s possible that the Wi-Fi card you want to use may not be supported. It’s not something most manufacturers advertise, so you may need to spend a little time searching the Internet to find out. If you can’t find a definitive answer, it’s up to you to decide if you want to move forward and try it anyway.

The next thing to consider is the size of the Wi-Fi card. Locate the old Wi-Fi card in your laptop and check the size. Most new cards are half-height cards, but some older laptops use full-height cards. If your laptop isn’t compatible with the newer half-height cards, you can try using a bracket adapter to make it fit.

Full height versus half height cards Full-height card on the left and half-height card on the right. Ed Rhee/CNET

Lastly, make sure that the number of antennas used in the new card matches the number in the old card. If you want to use a card that requires three antennas but you only have two, you can purchase a third antenna separately. You’ll just need to spend some time figuring out its optimal placement inside the laptop.

Upgrading your new Wi-Fi card

Before you get started with the upgrade, make sure to unplug the power adapter from your laptop and remove the battery if possible. If you have a nonremovable battery, be careful not to accidentally turn on your laptop while you’re working inside it.

Once you’re inside your laptop and looking at your old Wi-Fi card, carefully detach the antennas from the old card, making note of how they’re connected. You may want to take a photo of it for reference.

Old Wi-Fi card (Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230) Old Wi-Fi card (Intel 2230). Click to enlarge. Ed Rhee/CNET

After the antennas have been detached, unscrew the old card from the mounting area, which should cause the card to pop up. Carefully lift it out of the slot.

Empty PCI-E slot Click to enlarge. Ed Rhee/CNET

Line up the contacts of your new Wi-Fi card to the slot, then carefully insert it at a slight angle. It will only fit in one way, so don’t force it if it doesn’t slide right in. Once it’s properly seated, screw it down. Next, reattach the antennas, then close up your laptop.

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New Wi-Fi card (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235) New Wi-Fi card (Intel 6235). Click to enlarge. Ed Rhee/CNET

When you turn your laptop back on, it’s possible that the operating system will already have the correct drivers for the card you just installed. Even if that’s the case, we recommend that you check for the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s Web site. Once you’ve confirmed that your system has the most current drivers installed, join a wireless network and enjoy your new Wi-Fi card.

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How to Manually Install Adapters on Windows 7

Before the installation, please download the latest driver from TP-Link official website, you can click here to go to the download page.

Note: If there already is a driver but it's not working, you need to uninstall it first before installing the new driver. (control panel》program》uninstall program》uninstall driver for our wireless adapter)

Then please follow the steps below:

Step 1

Insert the adapter onto your computer.

Step 2

Right click Computer, and then click Manage.

Step 3

Open Device Manager. Right click the adapter and then click Update Driver Software. .

Step 4

Click Browse my computer for driver software.

Step 5

Click Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.

Step 6

Highlight Show All Devices and click Next.

Step 7

Click Have Disk.

Step 8

Click Browse.

Step 9

Point to the inf file in the driver folder, and then click Open.

Note: Please click start button, right click Computer and go to properties to confirm operating system and system type of your computer.

Step 10

Click Next.

Step 11

Click Install this driver software anyway.

Step 12

Click Close.

If there are any further problems, please visit our FAQ page or contact TP-Link support.

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How to install WiFi drivers for Windows 10

Without requisite drivers installed, the hardware you try to connect to your PC will fail. Manufacturers develop drivers so that the OS running on your machine can work harmoniously with your devices and applications. Internet WiFi connections can fail if suitable drivers are not installed. In this post, we will see how to install the WiFi driver in Windows 10.

Install WiFi drivers for Windows 10

A driver is essentially a piece of software designed for a specific operating system like Windows 10, Linux, and others. The OS uses it to communicate with other hardware devices like a mouse or a printer. Most hardware manufacturers feature their own product support page where you can find the necessary drivers available for download.

You will find that the Windows OS has a set of drivers installed already and you do not have to do anything except plug in the device. If the driver is not available locally, it will pull it down from its web server and install it for you automatically, once you connect the device.

But there may come a time when you face issues using your WiFi and at such times you may have to reinstall your WiFi drivers.

To download the WiFi driver, visit your device manufacturer’s website and search for the right driver you would like to install. I use an HP laptop so when I install their website and allow them to scan my laptop, it displays the drivers or updates available for my device.

Wireless drivers

Next, you need to download the right Wi-Fi driver, if available. You need to know the exact name and version of the driver so that you can download it. You can get this information from the Device Manager as explained below. Make sure that you have downloaded the right wireless adapter driver.

When done, launch the setup of the new driver that you downloaded earlier and run the file. Follow the on-screen directions to install the driver.

To verify if the correct version of the driver is installed, open Device Manager. To open it, right-click on the Start button and then select Device Manager.

In the Device Manager, look for Network Adapters. When found expand its category to make visible all network adapters, including the wireless adapter.

Here, the Wi-Fi adapter can be spotted by looking for the “wireless” term in its entry.

To check the version number of the driver, right-click on the wireless driver entry in Device Manager, choose ‘Network adapters’ and then click Properties.

re install wifi driver

Select the ‘Driver’ tab and view details. If all looks well, it means you have installed the correct version of the driver.

Finally, restart your Windows PC.

Installing the right version of a driver for your device is essential as it includes the latest fixes for your device.

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