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How do I Choose the Best WLAN USB Dongle?

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  • Written By: J. Airman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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Used to access a wireless local area network (WLAN) using a device attached to a universal serial bus (USB) port, a WLAN USB dongle is a lightweight and portable way of connecting a computer to a network. Normally, a WLAN USB dongle is simply called a USB WLAN adapter, external wireless adapter, or USB wi-fi card. Getting the best WLAN USB dongle requires that you find a dongle that is compatible with your computer, ensure that it provides the types of WLAN connectivity you need, and research the product and company to ascertain the quality of the WLAN USB dongle. With this information handy, examine the WLAN USB dongle selections side-by-side and compare their features to choose the best and most cost-effective WLAN USB dongle.

A WLAN is a network that is broadcast over a wireless connection and made accessible to computers with the hardware and log in information to access the WLAN. Computers on a WLAN access the network through a hardware device called a router, which communicates with the wireless adapters in the network computers to exchange data within the network. The types of wireless networks that a wireless USB dongle will connect to should be compatible with the networking signal put out by the desired WLAN. Common types of WLAN signals include 802.11b and 802.11d. In addition to wireless network capabilities, many brands of WLAN USB dongles also connect to a Bluetooth signal.

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The quality of a WLAN USB dongle can vary widely depending on the company that makes the USB device. Before purchasing a wireless USB adapter, research the manufacturing company and the model of hardware you wish to buy to ensure that the company has a good reputation for hardware quality and customer service. Read consumer complaints about the device to make sure that common problems with the device will not significantly affect your intended use of the USB dongle. Price and extra features do not necessarily dictate the quality of function in a wireless USB dongle; some cheap wireless adapters conduct data more efficiently than some more expensive devices with upgraded features.

Most frequently seen in operation as a software piracy prevention method, a dongle is a USB device that adapts a computer to perform a specific function. The word dongle is usually used to describe USB software keys required to unlock some types of high-end software. Some software manufacturers design software with piracy protection that employs an external hardware key to verify that the user has legitimately paid for the program. Without the dongle, the software will not run. Anti-piracy dongles are particularly common in computer design and media software like Pro Tools™ and VectorWorks™ design programs.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Soulfox -- I think that is mostly true. Almost any portable device (laptop, netbook, smartphone or tablet) will have built in wi-fi. There are still a good number of desktop computers sold that don't have wi-fi, so one of these USB adapters would be necessary unless the computer is wired directly to your router (the way things are often done with desktop machines).

And, let's not forget there are still a lot older computers out there that still need those adapters.

They might not be as common as they used to be, but people still need them.

Soulfox
Post 1

I well remember when these things were common as sin. It seems that most computers already have wi-fi built in and that means a USB adapter for wireless access is rarely needed.

But, here is the good news for people who still need them. Because those aren't as sought out as they once were, you can probably pick one up dirt cheap thanks to the good old law of supply and demand.

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