Network Adapters | Centre Com : Best PC Hardware Prices!

Wireless Network Cards for PC

Card / January 3, 2017

Each wireless computer on your wireless network must have a wireless adapter installed. As you learned in Chapter 4, wireless adapters are available in a variety of form factors, including PCI cards for desktop PCs, CardBus and PC Cards for laptop PCs, and USB adapters for both desktops and laptops.

There are hundreds of wireless adapters on the market today, so it simply isn't possible to give you detailed installation instructions for each one. But having installed dozens of wireless adapters myself, I can give you some helpful hints and tips that may save you some aggravation or a call to the vendor's tech support hotline. The number-one tip I can give you for all of these adapters is to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS packed with your card!

Note: Many wireless adapters come with driver software that must be installed before you install the hardware. If you install the adapter first, the computer will not have the proper drivers installed. The adapter won't work, and you won't be happy.

In the following sections, I'll describe the basic installation steps required for each type of adapter (PCI, USB, and CardBus). You'll also need to configure the software for your wireless adapter; these steps are the same for all wireless adapters.

PCI Wireless Adapters

PCI wireless adapters used in desktop computers can be difficult to install. You'll need to open your PC's case, identify an available PCI card slot, install the card, and put the case back together. This simple PC surgery is second nature to those of us who work with PCs every day, but if you're squeamish about opening up your computer, you may want to opt for professional installation.

To install a wireless PCI card in your computer, follow these steps:

  1. Read the instructions packed with your card. Most cards require that you install driver software from a CD packed with the card. Some cards require that you install the software before you install the card; others require that the CD be in the drive after you install the card.
  2. Install the software if necessary, then shut down your computer.
  3. Disconnect the AC power cord from your computer. If you need to move the computer to remove the case, you may have to disconnect the remaining cables.
  4. Remove the case or access door from your computer. shows a typical desktop PC with the access door removed.
  5. Locate an empty PCI card slot. shows two empty PCI card slots.
  6. Remove the blank cover from the rear of the PCI slot.
  7. Insert the card into the empty slot. Make sure the card is fully seated in the slot. You may have to push down firmly on the card, but you shouldn't have to force it.
  8. Replace the screw you removed in Step 4.
  9. Close the case and reconnect the cables.
  10. Orient the antenna so that is vertical. See .
  11. Install the driver software (if necessary), and configure the wireless adapter to operate with your wireless network. I'll cover this step in detail in the Configuring Your Wireless Adapter section.

CardBus, PC Card, AND USB Wireless Adapters

CardBus and PC Card adapters are the simplest of all cards to install; you simply plug the card into a vacant slot on your laptop and follow the prompts on the screen.

USB wireless adapters are a good alternative to PCI cards for desktop PCs because they are so simple to install. Some USB adapters include a long cable, so you can position the adapter (and its antenna) away from that jumble of wires behind your PC. Many USB wireless adapters come with a small piece of double-stick tape or Velcro, so you can attach the adapter to the back of your desk. Other USB adapters have no cable at all and are designed to plug directly into the USB port on a laptop computer.

To install a wireless adapter in your computer, follow these steps:

  1. Read the instructions packed with your adapter. Most wireless adapters require that you install driver software from a CD packed with the card before you install the adapter; others install the software after you install the adapter. You may need to reboot the system after you install the driver.
  2. For PC Card and CardBus adapters, plug the card into an unused card slot on your laptop. For USB adapters, plug the adapter into an unused USB port on your computer or USB hub. Windows will recognize the adapter and install the proper driver as shown in the next section, Configuring Your Wireless Adapter.