A network adapter is a term that can refer to any device that enables or modifies a computer network connection. Choosing the best network adapter requires first figuring out the type of network adapter you need. Next, identify types of network hardware that are compatible with your current computer setup. After identifying the right kind of hardware, choose among the different features and functions to determine the best network adapter for your situation. Types of network adapters include routers, signal boosters, network cards, and external network adapters.
Frequently used in home and office networks, a router is a device that connects multiple computers and bridges between the modem supplying the Internet connection and the computers. Sometimes called network hubs, routers can be wired or wireless. Routers also function as firewalls, protecting the computer from Internet attacks. When choosing a router, important things to consider include the type of network signal your computer accepts, whether it is wired or wireless, and what type of wireless signal it uses. Common types of wireless network signals include 802.11b and 802.11g; though some routers recognize both wireless signal types, they are not automatically cross-compatible.
A wireless signal booster, sometimes called a signal booster, is a device designed to expand the range of a wireless network device. These devices are used in addition to a wireless router. Normally, signal boosters are designed to work with a specific type of wireless router, and cannot be switched between brands. When choosing the best network adapter to boost a wireless Internet signal, the best choice is to choose the signal booster matching the router you already have.
Network cards are devices installed inside your computer that allow you to connect to a network. These cards can facilitate a wireless connection or create a connection point for a wired network. Wired network cards are sometimes called Ethernet cards, and usually connect to a category 5 (CAT-5) cable, which conducts a network signal to and from a modem or router. Choose the best network adapter for a computer, determine the right kind of network adapter for your computer; laptops and desktop computers use different hardware. If installation of an internal card is difficult in the computer, the best network adapter option may be an external network card.
External network adapters usually plug in to a computer using a universal serial bus (USB) plug. They are often small and similar in appearance to thumb data drives. One important step is to make sure that the external network card is compatible with your computer and operating system and that it can run on the power your computer has. Network cards do not have to match the brand of the router, so the best network adapter is not necessarily the brand matching the one you have. Ensure that you get a signal type matching that which your router outputs, and make sure you have an available plug on your computer to connect the external device.