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Best USB Wireless Adapters

Best USB Wireless Adapters

To connect to a wireless network, it is necessary for a computer to have a wireless adapter. While most laptops have such adapters built-in them, older laptop models and desktops do not have such adapters and hence need an external adapter to become wireless. Read on for a look at the best wireless adapters that connect through a USB port.
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Nowadays everything is wireless and networking is no exception. In most households, the home network is completely wireless, with devices connecting to the Internet through a wireless signal sent out from the router. But the ability to receive and process a wireless signal is built-in, in the device itself, like most recent laptop models and cell phones. What about older laptops and desktops? The solution is a USB wireless adapter, which acts as a receiver for your computer. Plug it in, install it and connect to your wireless network. This type of wireless adapter should not be confused with an USB Internet modem, which provides a complete Internet connection to the computer.

How to Choose the Right USB Wireless Adapter
  1. The adapter receives a wireless signal from your router, who creates and runs the network. So based on the router's speed and connection strength, the adapter picks up the signal accordingly. If your router has a poor signal and strength, then the adapter will not work well.
  2. Choose an adapter based on your router's networking specs. If your router uses the Wireless-N standard for broadcasting, then the adapter should be the same. The same applies for security formats (WEP/WPA/WPA2). The ones which are present on your router should match the adapter.
  3. Your system's operating system should support the USB adapter, otherwise the adapter will not work or install in the first place. Check for OS compatibility, especially for Windows 7 systems. Some wireless USB adapter brands will specify that the drivers have to be downloaded and installed, then only the adapter will work.
  4. Try to match the adapter's brand with your existing network devices to avoid compatibility issues. For example, if you have a Linksys router, then opt for a Linksys USB wireless adapter. In most cases, all such networking devices are compatible with each other but this measure is a sort of safety precaution.
  5. Understand the technical specifications prior to purchase. Dual-Band adapters can connect to 2 different network types, ONE at a time. This does not mean it can connect to 2 networks at the same time.
  6. Be realistic in your expectations. Speeds, range etc. all are round figures or approximations. The actual performance will vary based on a number of factors.
  7. Warranty, store policy with regard to returns and technical support - 3 key points to look for, manufacturers make umpteen conditions and loopholes to avoid the consumer's complaints or issues with the product.
Now that you know what to look for, read on for a round-up of the best USB wireless adapter models, available today.

Great USB Wireless Adapters

The following models are divided based on brand and standard used (N or G).

LINKSYS® by Cisco

Linksys AE2500
  • Wireless-N Dual-Band adapter, operates in either 2.4 or 5 GHz wireless bands
  • Quick installation with Setup Wizard software provided with adapter
  • Backward compatible with 802.11 a/b/g networks
  • Compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP OS
  • Price: $40
WUSB54GC
  • Works with Wireless-G network standard, connects to 2.4 Ghz band
  • 2.0 USB port support, security standards - WEP and WPA
  • Compatible with Wireless-B and Wireless-G networks
  • Compatible with Windows XP/Vista
  • Price : $50
D-Link

DWA-140 RangeBooster N USB Adapter
  • Allows wireless connectivity to Wireless-N networks
  • RangeBooster feature allows for stronger wireless connection and greater coverage area
  • Quick and easy setup with Quick Adapter Setup Wizard
  • Conveniently manage network with provided Wireless Manager software
  • Supports WPA and WPA2 security protocols
  • Can connect to Wireless-G networks as well
  • Compatible with Windows Vista/XP/2000
  • Price: $80
WUA-2340 RangeBooster G USB Adapter
  • Works with Wireless-G standard, connects to 2.4 Ghz band
  • Speedier and better wireless connection with RangeBooster G feature
  • Included software allows for quick CD installation as well as easy connection to existing wireless networks
  • Connects to either Wireless-G or Wireless-B networks
  • Uses USB 2.0 or 1.1 port, compatible with Windows XP and 2000 OS
  • WEP and WPA encryption for secure wireless network connection
  • Price : $35
Belkin

N300 Micro Wireless USB Adapter
  • Works with Wireless-N standard networks with up to 300Mbps speed
  • Connects to Wireless-B and Wireless-G networks as well
  • New micro size, adapter will not project out from computer when plugged in
  • Security protocols - WPA/WPA2/WEP with WPS enabled
  • Compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP
  • Price : $50
N600 DB Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter
  • Allows connections to Wireless-N networks
  • Dual-band adapter: can connect in 2.4GHz and 5GHz standards
  • Backward compatibility with Wireless-G networks
  • Supports WEP and WPA/WPA2 security standards
  • Capable of WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
  • Compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP
  • Price: $60
NETGEAR WNA3100
  • Works with Wireless-N 2.4 GHz standard
  • Backward compatible with Wireless-G and Wireless-B networks
  • Quick and easy setup with provided CD
  • Equipped with Push 'N' Connect security feature
  • Holding cradle provided with adapter
  • Compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP
  • Price: $40
TRENDnet TEW-664UB
  • Works with Wireless-N standard; speeds up to 300Mbps
  • Dual-Band enabled - connects to either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band network
  • Connects to Wireless-N/G/b/a networks and devices
  • Security formats: WPA2-PSK/WPA2/WPA/WEP
  • Works with Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 and Mac OS 10.3/4/5 systems
  • WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) feature for easy connection to existing secure network
  • Price : $60
Note: All prices mentioned are approximate and depend on various factors like location and offers available.

Those were the top choices in this "Best USB Wireless Adapter" round-up. Convenience wireless connection with an easy setup - the main idea behind a USB wireless adapter.