Wireless Network Administration: Adapters
Each computer that will connect to your wireless network needs a wireless network adapter. The wireless network adapter is similar to the network interface card (NIC) that’s used for a standard Ethernet connection. However, instead of having a cable connector on the back, a wireless network adapter has an antenna.
Just about all notebook computers come with wireless networking built in, so you don’t have to add a separate wireless network adapter to a notebook computer. Desktop computers are a different story: They typically do not have built-in wireless networking, so you’ll need to purchase one of two types of wireless adapters:
A wireless PCI card is a wireless network adapter that you install into an available slot inside a desktop computer. In order to install this type of card, you need to take your computer apart. So use this type of card only if you have the expertise and the nerves to dig into your computer’s guts.
A wireless USB adapter is a separate box that plugs into a USB port on your computer. Because the USB adapter is a separate device, it takes up extra desk space. However, you can install it without taking your computer apart.
You can purchase a combination 802.11b/g PCI adapter for less than $50. USB versions cost about $10 more.
At first, you may think that wireless network adapters are prohibitively expensive. After all, you can buy a regular Ethernet adapter for as little as $20. However, when you consider that you don’t have to purchase and install cable to use a wireless adapter, the price of wireless networking becomes more palatable. And if you shop around, you can sometimes find wireless adapters for as little as $19.95.
The following illustration shows a typical wireless network adapter. This one is a Linksys WUSB11, which sells for about $50. To install this device, you simply connect it to one of your computer’s USB ports with the included USB connector. You then install the driver software that comes on the CD, and you’re ready to network.
The device is relatively small. You’ll find a little strip of Velcro on the back, which you can use to mount it on the side of your computer or desk if you want. The adapter gets its power from the USB port itself, so there’s no separate power cord to plug in.