Install a wireless network adapter

Most computers have wireless networking built-in. If your computer doesn't have a wireless network adapter, you can install one. The type of adapter you install depends on your computer and your level of expertise.

How to determine if you have a wireless network adapter

Before using your computer, check to see if it already has a wireless network adapter.

To find out whether you already have a wireless network adapter

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Click Network and Internet Connections.

  3. Under or pick a Control Panel icon, click Network Connections.

  4. Microsoft Windows XP displays your network adapters. Wireless network adapters are labeled Wireless Network Connection. If an adapter displays a red X, it is disconnected. If the Network Connections window is blank, your computer doesn't yet have a wired or wireless network adapter.

If you already have a wireless network adapter, you can set up your wireless network.

Tip

  • If your portable computer has a built-in wireless network adapter, but it doesn't appear to be enabled or working, check the back, front, and sides of the computer for a wireless adapter switch. Many laptops include a switch so that you can turn the adapter off to reduce battery consumption.

How to install a wireless USB network adapter

Adding a USB wireless network adapter is by far the easiest way to install an adapter.

To install a wireless USB network adapter

  1. Before purchasing a wireless USB network adapter, find an available USB port on your computer.

    Note

    • If you need to move your computer to reach the USB ports, you should shut down Windows to avoid damaging your computer. If you can easily reach a USB port, you do not need to shut down your computer.

    If you do not have an unused USB port, you can connect a USB hub to add additional ports or install an internal adapter instead.

  2. Purchase a wireless USB network adapter.

  3. If you had to shut down your computer to get to the USB port, you can now turn on your computer. Insert the CD that comes with the adapter in your computer, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the necessary software. If the adapter does not come with a CD, continue to the next step.

  4. Connect your USB adapter to the unused USB port on your computer.

  5. After a moment, Windows automatically detects and installs the new hardware, and then notifies you when installation is finished.

  6. If you are installing a wireless network adapter with a separate antenna, place the antenna in a location where you can get a clear wireless signal. Typically, you will get a stronger signal (and a faster network connection) if you place your antenna away from walls and in a location where it is not blocked by your monitor or computer.

Now you can set up your wireless network.

How to install a wireless CardBus or CF network adapter

Many portable computers have either a CardBus or CF card slot (they're the same thing, but the CF card slot is slightly newer and smaller). CardBus and CF cards are more convenient and easier to travel with than USB network adapters for portable computers, because the card fits neatly into a slot on the side of your computer.

To install a wireless CardBus or CF network adapter

  1. Purchase a wireless CardBus or CF network adapter.

  2. Insert the CD that comes with the adapter in your computer, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the necessary software. If the adapter does not come with a CD, continue to the next step.

  3. Insert your network adapter into a slot on your computer.

  4. After a moment, Windows automatically detects and installs the new hardware, and then notifies you when installation is finished.

Now you can set up your wireless network.

How to install a wireless internal network adapter

Internal network adapters are more complicated to install than USB network adapters because they go inside your computer. Also, they can be installed only in desktop computers that have a space (generally called a slot) available. If you are not comfortable opening your computer's case, you can have a technician install the hardware.

To install a wireless internal network adapter

  1. If your computer has an available slot, purchase a wireless internal network adapter.

  2. Insert the CD that comes with the adapter in your computer, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the necessary software. If the adapter does not come with a CD, continue to the next step.

  3. On the Start menu, click Turn Off Computer, and then click Turn Off.

  4. After your computer shuts down, make note of where each cable is connected to the back of your computer. A handy way to do this is to tape a note to each cable with a number or letter on it, and put a matching note next to the spot on your computer where the cable plugs in. Then unplug all cables from your computer.

  5. Lay your computer on a desk, table, or other flat surface. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to open your computer. Depending on the case, you may need to remove screws on the back of your computer. Unlike a watch or TV, most manufacturers design computers so that users can open them up.

  6. The slots are located at the back of the computer, typically in the bottom section of the case. Locate an empty slot that fits your card. If necessary, remove the small metal panel covering the opening of the slot, and save the screw.

  7. Remove the antenna from the network adapter.

  8. Touch an unpainted portion of your computer's case to discharge any static electricity. Then carefully insert the network adapter into the open slot. Gently wiggle the card back and forth until it rests firmly in the slot.

  9. Replace the screw that you removed in step 6 to hold the card in place.

  10. Attach the antenna to the network adapter

  11. Close the computer case.

  12. Reconnect all cables to your computer, start your computer, and log on to Windows. After a moment, Windows automatically detects and installs the new hardware, and then notifies you when installation is finished.

Now you can set up your wireless network.