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What is a Wireless USB adapter/dongle?
Wireless USB adapters are small devices that connect to a computer, laptop, tablet USB port and talk to a router wirelessly with no need for cables.
These adapters, sometimes called Dongles, came in very handy for a number of reasons. The most common is to connect a desktop computer to a router without having to move wiring around, being able to put your desktop were ever you want.
Using one with a desktop is not the only use. If a laptops internal wireless card goes bad then a USB wifi adapter can be used to replace it. Some are made to boost a wireless signal and extend the range of a laptop or desktop computer.
There are many uses for a wireless USB adapter and all types but what ever the reason there is one made to fit your need and price range. Here are some examples.
Edimax EW-7811Un 150Mbps 11n Wi-Fi USB Adapter, Nano Size Lets You Plug it and Forget it, Ideal for Raspberry Pi / Pi2, Supports Windows, Mac OS, Linux (Black/Gold)
The Edimax EW-7811Un is small so the range will be much like a laptops built in wireless, but it is quite a versatile USB adapter. It is wireless N so it will be compatible with most any router out there. It also works with all major operating systems from Windows to Macs, it supports Linux and even works with a Raspberry Pi.
If you are looking for a wireless adapter to use around home that will work with most anything than this is a great dongle to get.
For someone looking for range or extending their wireless range than another adapter setup with a larger antenna would be best. There are dongles setup specifically to have more power (Read Below).
TP-Link N150 Wireless Nano USB Adapter (TL-WN725N)
The TP-Link TL-WN725N comes in two styles one small (very small) and the other version comes with a larger antenna (4 dBi) for more range. The small version is called the standard version and the other the High Gain version. Both use the same chipset (8188eu) so they are called the same model number.
It supports wireless N so it should have no problems with any router you need to connect to, and it support all the major Windows operating systems. There doesn’t seem to be any out-of-the-box support for Linux or Macs. A quick Google search shows how to install the drivers for both Macs and Linux but I wouldn’t buy one if I owned a Mac or Linux box.
For Windows users looking for a cheap wireless adapter this is a good one to have. For Mac or Linux users while there does seem to be online support I would look for one with out-of-the-box support.
Long Range Wireless USB Adapter
Alfa AWUS036NH 2000mW 2W 802.11g/n High Gain USB Wireless G / N Long-Range WiFi Network Adapter with 5dBi Screw-On Swivel Rubber Antenna and 7dBi Panel Antenna and Suction cup / Clip Window Mount
If you need a wifi adapter that has range than the Alfa AWUS036NH is a good one to get, in fact many wireless penetration testers and hackers use this adapter because of it range and capability. It is comes with a standard 5 dBi antenna but due to its popularity larger 9 dBi and up antennas can be bought and simply screwed on.
It is a large wifi dongle, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, along with a antenna that sticks out. This is not something you would need for everyday home use but only in extreme cases were range and distance is a factor. Such as a home that is two or three stories high, or a detached garage that a signal can’t reach the router.
Outdoor Long Range WiFi Booster
GXG-1987 NG120 Long Range Outdoor USB 150Mbps Wi-Fi Wireless Adapter with Antenna 10m Cable
Here is another long range adapter but one that is made for outdoor use and comes with a long USB cable. This would be good for someone who needs to extend range to a guest house or possibly on a boat and trying to connect to a docks wireless.
It uses the same chipset as the Alfa AWUS036NH which is a known good wireless chipset. Not made for a standard home user but defiantly has its niche market for those needing to get a signal from a distance.