Wireless devices are everywhere—in our phones, routers, computers, and tablets. A number of these devices also can share their internet connection with other wireless devices without using any network cables. The mechanism behind this is called Wi-Fi. WiFi cards are hardware components that allow your device's wireless functionality by creating a radio signal for it to receive and transfer data over.

What Does a Wi-Fi Card Do?

A WiFi card creates the signal, which other devices can receive via antennas, which are part of the hardware. The network card is usually located in either an internal or external slot. You will likely find your card inside your computer or laptop, while docks, routers, or portable hotspots might have external slots for inserting cards.

Different Types of Wireless Cards

Internal Card – Most laptops have this type of card built-in. It is always best to check with your computer's user manual for this information before purchasing a new wireless card. If you don't know whether your device has an internal or external card slot then it most likely has an integrated WiFi adapter that cannot be upgraded. An internal adapter usually comes in the form of PCI Express (PCIe) expansion cards with either Mini PCIe-802.11n/ac, M.2 802.11n/ac, 2T2R 802.11n/ac, and 1T1R 802.11ac designations. These cards connect directly to the motherboard.

 

Most laptops have this type of card built-in. It is always best to check with your computer's user manual for this information before purchasing a new wireless card. If you don't know whether your device has an internal or external card slot then it most likely has an integrated WiFi adapter that cannot be upgraded. An internal adapter usually comes in the form of PCI Express (PCIe) expansion cards with either Mini PCIe-802.11n/ac, M.2 802.11n/ac, 2T2R 802.11n/ac, and 1T1R 802.11ac designations. These cards connect directly to the motherboard. External Card – These cards are inserted into slots on your device to provide WiFi capabilities. You can identify an external card by looking for a metal casing that is slightly larger than the size of your average credit card.

 

These cards are inserted into slots on your device to provide WiFi capabilities. You can identify an external card by looking for a metal casing that is slightly larger than the size of your average credit card. USB Adapter – Sometimes it becomes necessary to use wireless capability via USB adapters (also called dongles). These devices are plugged directly into the USB ports of laptops, tablets, or other compatible devices and offer high-performance WiFi connectivity with dual-band, single band, and ac compatibility.

 

A Wi-Fi card is inserted into a USB port or a larger card slot on your computer. This card is designed to work with a particular WiFi network, so you must be in the range of a wireless Internet signal dedicated to that network to use it. In this manner, the Wi-Fi card serves as both a receiver and transmitter. It receives the signal from a router and then transmits that same signal to your computer.

 

Without a Wi-Fi card, you would have to send data via an Ethernet cable or through shared Internet from your device's cellular connection or mobile hotspot function. A wireless network card is useful when there is no Ethernet port on your laptop or there is a need for mobility and convenience.

 

Wi-Fi Cards for Desktop Computers

A desktop computer will usually have an external or internal Wi-Fi card slot. You can purchase either–or both! – depending on the situation. Some motherboards come with PCI express slots built-in, which allow you to add both types of cards. In other cases, you might have to add an expansion slot or a USB port so that your computer can receive a Wi-Fi card by attaching it to the device externally.

 

For a desktop computer to interact with a wireless router, it must have either an internal or external Wi-Fi card because a desktop computer cannot share the Internet from its cellular connection. Without this hardware, you would need an Ethernet cable connected directly to your router to use online services while inside the range of that signal. A WiFi card allows you access without being tethered by wires while maintaining high speed and efficiency regarding data transfer (depending on network type). Desktop computers also offer wide compatibility with many types of cards including MIMO, AC, n, and the latest AC1900 + MU-MIMO.

Wi-Fi Cards for Laptops

Laptops are much more portable than desktop computers since they are small enough to carry around with you. However, these devices do lack processing power when compared to larger desktops; therefore, laptops must have Wi-Fi cards that provide high performance even while on the move. These cards allow your laptop to communicate with wireless routers without having an Ethernet cable connected directly into the machine. It is important to check the type of card slot(s) on your laptop so that you can purchase the correct accessory. Most laptops offer internal and external connection capabilities.

 

When trying to access Wi-Fi at home or work, you need an internal card for your laptop for it to communicate with the router unless there is an Ethernet port available. You would then just use that connection rather than attempting to connect wirelessly via a wireless adapter instead. However, some laptops have no option other than connecting wirelessly due to hardware limitations; therefore, they require either an external or USB Wireless Network Adapter.

Routers

The wireless router is what transmits data from your laptop's Wi-Fi card to the Internet and receives instructions from your computer, relaying them to the Internet. The router serves as a go-between for two parties: your laptop and the Internet. It's not a middleman. It operates more like a wireless bridge. Routers are not typically sold with Wi-Fi cards, but if you wish to purchase one, you must double-check your device specifications before buying anything. Some routers are USB compatible while others are PCI compatible for an internal Wi-Fi card.

Conclusion

Internal cards are typically better than external ones because they utilize the available space inside the computer. External cards can cause heating issues, signal degradation, and performance problems if not properly manufactured; therefore, you must purchase only high-quality devices for your individual needs. If there is an Ethernet port on your laptop but no internal Wi-Fi card slot available, you don't necessarily need to invest in one since there's another way around it. Using an Ethernet cable with an adapter allows you to connect directly to the router rather than connecting wirelessly–unless of course, you want mobility. You can also view this guide for more information on choosing the right network adapters for your needs.