The question of how to choose the right wireless networking card for a laptop can be a bit overwhelming, especially to those who aren’t familiar with the topic. After all, no one wants to purchase the wrong part for their computer and have to stress over trying to return it and find the right one.
In this article, we will cover what a wireless network card is, where to find out which one you have, and how to choose the right wireless network card for your laptop.
What Is a Wireless Network Card?
A wireless network card, or networking card, is a component usually found inside of your computer that allows the computer to connect to a wireless network. This is what makes it possible for you to go online from your laptop.
Although there are external drives, which will also make wireless connectivity possible, they are usually either known as wireless USB cards or dongles.
The internal wireless network cards are generally connected to the motherboard through an expansion slot. These slots are most often known as “peripheral component interconnection” or “PCI” slots.
In short, the wireless networking card makes it possible for you to access and share data via the internet. Without this card, you would have to connect through an ethernet cord, erasing the benefit of having a portable laptop instead of a desktop.
Different Types of Wireless Networking Cards
There are different types of these “gateways to the internet,” and understanding which type your laptop uses is the first step to choosing the right wireless networking card. As mentioned, the typical ones connect directly to your computer’s motherboard, but they can be removed and replaced since they join through an expansion slot.
If your laptop’s wireless network card does not connect to the motherboard via an expansion or PCI slot, then you may need a different type of wireless card.
One such type connects through the USB or wireless universal serial bus card. The USB wireless network adapter also has its advantages; it is small, portable, and easy to connect and disconnect.
Choosing a Wireless Networking Card
Just as with any part of your computer, the first step to picking the right wireless network adapter for your laptop is making sure you find one that is compatible with both your operating system and your device.
You will need to see if your motherboard supports a wireless networking card that connects via a PCI slot, or if you will need a USB wireless network adapter.
Some cards are compatible with both PCI and USB, which means that you will need to plug them into a slot that will support both. Then you will need to make sure that you have drivers available for the card you have chosen and for your laptop’s operating system.
If your laptop does not have a wireless connection, then you will need to go with a USB wireless adapter.
The Card is Compatible, Now What?
Once you have found a wireless networking card that is compatible with both your motherboard and your operating system, you will still need to make sure that it is the right one for the kind of network that you expect to connect through.
Wi-Fi cards are named for the type of technology that they use, the newest ones being Wi-Fi 6.
You might also want to choose a card based on its brand name. This is usually more of a personal choice than a beneficial one since most manufacturers don’t indicate specific features for different cards.
Additionally, make sure that your card includes “Bluetooth onboard.” This is an excellent way to connect wireless peripherals and devices to your laptop.
Just like the Wi-Fi cards have different names and versions, so does the Bluetooth. The most current version is 5.2. New versions of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can connect with older versions, meaning that they are backward compatible. You will lose some of your features with both if you choose to do this instead of purchasing a new, up-to-date card.
How do I Know if I Need a Wi-Fi or Wireless Card?
Before replacing a card, you should first be sure that you need a new one. Suppose you have noticed that your laptop keeps dropping its connection to the internet, or you get notifications that your computer has been disconnected from your Wi-Fi. In that case, you may have an issue with your Wi-Fi or wireless networking card.
There could also be an issue with your internet router, wiring, or something else that the provider will need to handle.
You can find out if there is a problem with your Wi-Fi card by going to your “Start” menu. Open the control panel, and then go to “Device Manager.” Next, go to “Network Adapters” and double-click on your wireless card. If it is working as it should, you will see a message that says, “this device is working properly.”
If you need to reset your wireless card, you can do so by taking a few steps:
First, you can disable or enable your Wi-Fi adapter by going to settings, then to network & internet, and choosing “change adapter options.”
You can reset all Wi-Fi network adapters by going to Settings, then Network & Internet, and choosing Network Reset, and “Reset Now.” You will then need to reconnect your internet and enter your password.
You can also tell if your wireless card is damaged by checking to see if your computer recognizes it. If your Wi-Fi card does not show up in the Device Manager list under the Network Adapters tab, that means your computer is not recognizing the card.
This usually indicates that the correct drivers for that card have not been installed or that they have been corrupted.
Wireless cards can wear out just like anything else that you buy. When this happens, you will experience drops in internet service or a bad connection. You might also notice that your computer claims that there are no networks available even though there are, or it may fail to recognize your Wi-Fi card.
How to Identify Your Wi-Fi and Wireless Cards
You can easily find out which Wi-Fi and wireless networking cards your computer has by following a few simple steps.
Simply click in the search box in your taskbar, or go to the Start Menu and type in “device manager.” Then you will scroll through all of the installed devices to “Network Adapters.” This is where you will find the Wi-Fi card.
You can find your wireless networking card by following those same steps and clicking on the plus sign next to Network Adapters on the list. This will show you a list of all of the networking devices on your laptop. A LAN adapter and your wireless card should be on that list.
Once you are sure the adapter for your wireless card is enabled, you should be able to select “Properties.” If the network card is working properly, it will give you a notification that says so.
What Are the Benefits of Using Wireless Internet?
There are several benefits to using wireless internet besides portability. It is very easy to set up and can be changed rather easily as well. In order to set up a wireless network, of course, each computer will need wireless network cards and a router.
While security was once a risk for wireless networks, time has brought many upgrades and fixes for the past security issues. Wireless cards and routers now offer the best, as long as they are set up properly. Wireless internet is also much cheaper than wired, leaving more money to strengthen security issues.
In addition, wireless internet is much faster than it was in the past. At one time, wired internet had much better speed than wireless, but that is no longer the case. In some cases, with the right wireless networking cards and adapters, wireless internet has become faster than wired.
While wireless internet used to pose a security risk and was too slow to be beneficial, there has been a lot of improvement in the tech world in recent years. With the proper wireless networking cards, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth cards, your wireless network can be both fast and safe.
Perhaps one of the best ways for the novice to choose the right wireless networking card for a laptop is to look at the type of card the laptop originally had. Moreover, the manufacturer can help you make sure that you choose one that is compatible with the computer that you have.
For the expert looking to build their own laptop, the choice of a wireless networking card will most likely be one of preference. In such cases, the user already has a favorite brand and knows exactly which cards are compatible with their specific needs.
We hope this article has helped explain a bit about wireless networking cards, as well as Wi-Fi cards and Bluetooth. Feel free to browse our site for informative articles about your computer needs and the tech world!