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Wireless Laptop Cards - Selecting Wireless Laptop Cards

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If you have a new laptop and are wondering why you can’t get on the internet through Wi-Fi, one of the problems may be that your laptop requires one of the wireless laptop cards created for just such a purpose. Almost all new laptop computers today come with a wireless card built into the laptop. You don’t see the card any more than you see your video card or your hard drive. At the most, there will be a switch on the side or keyboard face of your laptop that turns the card on or off.

If you are using an older laptop, chances greatly increase that your computer does not have one of the new built-in wireless laptop cards. In this case, you will have to buy an external card if you desire to use the internet wirelessly. Wireless laptop cards come in two basic form factors: USB and PCMCIA. Neither type has any advantage over the other except that a USB card will take up one of your valuable USB slots that you may need for other peripheral devices. Most people don’t use their PCMCIA card slot at all. This is a long thing slot with a spring-loaded cover along one side of your laptop. Some laptops don’t have a PCMCIA card slot, so that makes your choice much easier. Every laptop made in the last 10 years will have USB ports.

Once you have decided the form factor you want, the next feature of choosing among the wireless laptop cards available is the speed and range standard of the card. There are four standards, but only two are commonly used today. All of the wirelesses networking standards are known as 802.11. The oldest of these is 802.11a, but this standard became obsolete years ago. The only place you will find one of these is in a museum.

The next wireless standard to develop was 802.11b. This standard offered a range of up to 500 feet and speeds up to 11 mbps. These cards are also obsolete, but you may find a used one occasionally up for sale. If you do find a used 802.11b card, avoid it. It is too slow to be effective and the next higher standard is still very inexpensive. If someone is giving you one of these cards for free and you don’t have the option to buy a better one, then it will allow you to get on the Internet for basic functions.

The most common wireless standard today is 802.11g. This standard offers an extended range and speeds of up to 54 mbps. For most intents and purposes, this card is all you will ever need. They can be found inexpensively in both PCMCIA and USB types. If you are on a budget and just need your laptop for surfing the web or listening to streaming audio, this card is for you.

The fastest wireless standard is 802.11n. The newest wireless cards will work on this standard, but are also backwards compatible to work on 802.11g networks, so even if your location doesn’t broadcast in 802.11n, you will still be able to connect at 802.11g speeds. 802.11n is capable of connecting at 300 to 500 feet and provides theoretically maximum download speeds of 150 mbps. You can find these wireless laptop cards relatively inexpensively, especially if you catch them on sale. If you frequently download large files or watch streaming video, this card will be your best choice.

One factor of wireless laptop cards that people over-consider is the brand. If you really want a quality brand, look for Netgear, D-link, or Linksys, but be prepared to spend a little extra on them. Other brands also have quality wireless laptop cards, but you should read the consumer reviews online before purchasing.

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