An Ethernet dongle is an external device that connects to a computer, or other type of hardware, allowing for input from an Ethernet cable where no previous input port was available. This type of device will usually connect through an existing port, such as a universal serial bus (USB) port, and effectively acts as a converter for the cable type. Such devices can be beneficial in a number of situations, such as for use with a computer that does not have an Ethernet port or if the port is no longer functional. An Ethernet dongle can also refer to a device that connects to an Ethernet port to provide other types of functionality.
Sometimes also called an Ethernet adapter, an Ethernet dongle usually refers to a device that connects directly to a computer or similar hardware. This is in contrast to a bridge or router that connects through a cable to one or more separate systems. The dongle will typically connect to a computer, or similar device, through a different type of port, usually a USB port. This allows the USB port to then be used to connect an Ethernet cable to the computer or device, which can be beneficial for creating a local area network (LAN).
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Ethernet cables are typically used for data transmission, especially between two computers or between computers and a router. Some older computers may not have an Ethernet port on them, and the use of an Ethernet dongle allows those computers, which still often have USB ports, to be connected more easily and effectively to a network. A dongle could also be helpful in a situation in which the motherboard of a computer no longer recognizes the Ethernet adapter and port on the board. New software may need to be installed to assist in the board recognizing the adapter, and a dongle could be used to connect the computer to a network to download the necessary software.
An Ethernet dongle can also refer to a device that connects to the Ethernet port of a computer or device, and then allows for other types of connectivity through that port. Some of the most common types of dongles that connect to an Ethernet port are wireless dongles or adapters. This type of Ethernet dongle will typically be fairly small in size with a small antenna. Once the wireless dongle is connected, the device or computer will be able to connect to a wireless network and send and receive data as though connected through an Ethernet connection.