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Tips For Selecting a Wireless Network Adapter

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 1/13/2009

When you are looking for a new network adapter card there are a number of things to keep on a checklist to make sure you do not make a mistake.

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    Wireless Network Adapter

    For those whose laptops do not come with a wireless network adapter built in, or want to use wireless Internet with their desktop computer, you must purchase a wireless Internet card. Since this is a peripheral device you have some choices, as the options out weigh the usual needs by quite a bit. You are going to need to pick up a good enough local Wi-Fi signal to have high speed Internet, so there are a few things to consider when you are out shopping.

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    Connection Type

    The first thing to look at is the kind of Internet connection you have to begin with. If you are not using some sort of broadband, then updating your service should be your first priority before going this route. Make sure that you have a good wireless router and that it is in a central location in the home. If you don't do this then you may not be able to pick up a satisfactory signal.

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    Built In Card

    Make sure that you do not already have a wireless card built into the computer. This is a common mistake, but most laptops now come equipped with one to begin with. This should be apparent right from the start because it will be registering wireless networks from the moment you first turn it on. If you are unsure of your overall status you can head to the Control Panel and check under Device Manager. The sub-section should be titled Network Adapters. Other than this it is best to check the hardware specifications on your order or purchase report. These do tend to break at times, and getting an external wireless card is easier than replacing the internal one.

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    Synergetic Brands

    You may want to look at wireless cards that are the same brand as your wireless router. It is not because they may not be compatible, but that it will be easier to work with the two together. You can call the same help line to fix all the problems that you may incur, and all of the gateway information will be the same. This will simplify the process and help you troubleshoot on a variety of issues.

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    Card Types

    When looking at network adapters you are going to see a variety of different kinds that you can get. Internal cards are difficult because you will either have to go through the delicate process of installing them, or have to pay to have it done. The best bet is going to be one that fits into an existing card slot on your laptop. The express card options will be the fastest and most stable, but they also have the largest chance of not being compatible with your specific computer. The fail safe is the USB adapter, which is a little slower but almost always works. It is also physically more durable and will take a little more trauma. If you can fit an adapter card then that should be your top priority. These are the main types, and really the only ones that should be considered when buying an external card.

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    Take a look at the antenna that comes standard with the adapter, if there is one. Make sure to avoid any that are fixed because this will limit your chance of receiving a proper signal.