Walk into a crowded area, and the chances you’ll see people connected to the internet on their laptops is pretty high. Many laptops now have an in built wireless card, but if you don’t have this feature, you can also access the internet in a wifi hotspot via a USB connected wireless card. A wireless card is also known as a wireless adaptor and this tiny credit card sized gadget enables your device to access the internet.
Let’s go back to the basics. A central point receives internet via a dedicated phone line, DSL or high speed cable. This router can then wirelessly transmit data in the form of radio waves over a certain distance which can be accessed by anyone who has the password or has the capability to access the connection.
The wireless card picks up on those radio waves broadcasted by router and then converts those radio signals into binary code for your computer to understand. Similarly, when you are transferring data back, the tiny in built antenna in the wireless card converts the binary code into radio signals which can be then transmitted back to the router.
Although we say that this card utilises radio signals, do not confuse it with the radio communications used in cell phones. These wireless cards function at higher frequencies so that more data can be transmitted – in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band.
Even better, these cards can jump between channels so to reduce interference, especially when you are in a crowded space. These cards operate under 802.11networking standard, with the faster 802.11n being the most common, and the new 802.11ac generation gaining popularity.
As all laptops made in recent years have an in built WiFi card, you probably don’t have to worry about this. But older models of desktop computers can get the wireless card connected to their gadgets. You can even get a new wireless card to upgrade your internet speeds thanks to the cards that work on a higher data rate.
PCIe(Peripheral Component Interconnect) wireless card for your desktop computers: the mini PCI is now factory embedded in your laptops and a PCI wireless card is installed in desktops.
USB wireless card (which resemble flash drives) for your laptops which are the more popular choice
PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) wireless cards for your laptops. They can be inserted into the slot at the side of your laptop and use their inbuilt wifi antennas to transmit signals better as they stick out.
Express cards which are phasing out the older PC wireless cards as this thin design makes it easier to fit into the side slot of your laptop.
WCF cards which exist for PDAs like Blackberry.
WWAN PC Card (Wireless Wide Area Network) card that enables users to access the internet through a cellular network. This may be pricy in the long run and users may have to be locked into a cellular service’s contract.
There are various wireless cards, but with wifi hotspots and wireless connectivity being more common than ever before, it may be a smart idea to know what to get if need to be connected urgently on an older device. Afterall, technology has evolved leaps and bounds, but that doesn’t mean we have to relegate our older devices to the shed.
Hey, it's Tomas here! I'm the founder and chief editor here at BlueGadgetTooth. After spending hours explaining my parents how to hook up their Internet, why it's being so slow etc. I decided to start this blog to help people with their gadgets and questions about technology.