Wi-Fi is becoming more common in desktop computers, but not all desktop computers have it. Add Wi-Fi and you can connect to the Internet wirelessly and host Wi-Fi hotspots for your other devices.
This is a simple, inexpensive process. Buy the right little adapter and you can even take it with you, quickly adding Wi-Fi to any desktop you come across by plugging a tiny device into its USB port.
Why You Might Want to Do This
If you’re happy with your current Ethernet connection, there’s no need to throw away the cables and go wireless. Good old Ethernet cables are still useful, offer faster speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connections than Wi-Fi.
The benefits of Wi-Fi are tough to ignore, even in a desktop PC. With Wi-Fi, you can position your desktop computer anywhere in your home or office, as long as there’s a power outlet nearby. You can then connect it to your router without running an Ethernet cable. Adding Wi-Fi to your desktop PC can also be useful even if it already has an Ethernet connection. With Wi-Fi, you can host a Wi-Fi hotspot on your PC, allowing other devices to connect through its Internet connection.
The Easy Method: A USB-to-Wi-Fi Adapter
Just as you can add Bluetooth to an old computer simply by plugging a little Bluetooth dongle into its USB port, you can add Wi-Fi to a computer by plugging a tiny little dongle into a USB port. This is an easy and cheap option.
You can purchase a USB-to-Wi-Fi adapter for as little as $10 on Amazon. It’s a simple way to add Wi-Fi to any computer. You could leave the device in a spare USB port and forget it’s there or take it with you so you can add Wi-Fi to any desktop computer you come across. This is also a great way to add Wi-Fi to a Raspberry Pi.
Install an Internal Wi-Fi Card
You can also add a Wi-Fi card to your desktop PC. This involves opening up your PC, and then installing a dedicated internal Wi-Fi card in a PCI Express slot, PCI Express Mini slot, or something similar. Assuming your PC is designed to be opened easily and has a spare slot for an expansion card, this should work well.
The advantage of using a dedicated internal Wi-Fi card is that it will potentially have better reception than a little USB dongle—mostly because the internal version can include a larger antenna that sticks out of the back of your PC.
Expect to pay somewhere between $15 and $35 for an internal Wi-Fi card on Amazon. Before you purchase one, be sure your computer has a free slot of the appropriate type and that you’re comfortable installing it on your own. Assuming you can get your computer open easily, it should just be a matter of shutting it down, opening the case, plugging the card into the slot (and securing it with a screw, closing the case, and booting up.
When you’re done, your computer will be able to connect to Wi-Fi just like your average laptop. You may have to install the drivers that came with your Wi-Fi hardware first, though.