A wireless network card is a computer component that can be connected to a computer, usually internally, to allow that computer to connect to a wireless network. Although external devices can be used for wireless connectivity, they are often referred to as “dongles” or Universal Serial Bus (USB) cards. Internal network cards are typically connected directly to the motherboard, usually through an expansion connector, such as a peripheral interconnect device (PCI) or similar connector. A wireless network card allows a computer user to connect to a wireless network and access data through that network.
The basic functionality of a wireless network card is to allow a computer or other device to connect to an established wireless network. This type of network is often created in local areas through the use of a wireless hub or router, which can be connected to a modem to allow users to access the Internet wirelessly. External devices are often referred to as dongles or USB cards, as they usually connect through a USB port. These external devices are generally easier to connect and disconnect, although they are not always as powerful as an internal wireless network card.
A wireless network card is generally quite small, especially compared to powerful video cards and other expansion components. This is typically a basic printed circuit board, with a connection terminal installed on a motherboard and an exposed faceplate on the back of the computer case. Different types of connections can be used to install a wireless network card, but they are usually connected to a basic expansion connector on the motherboard, such as a PCI or PCI Express connector. The faceplate that lines up with the back of the computer case usually has one or more antennas, which send and receive the signal wirelessly.
There are a number of manufacturers of wireless network cards, although this basic design is quite common among developers. The antenna on the back of a wireless card is usually connected directly to the card, often with a hinge to adjust the antenna. Some cards have an antenna connected via a cable, which allows the antenna to be placed in a convenient location for communicating with a wireless hub or router. Different letters can be used to describe a wireless network card, such as “Wireless-G” or “Wireless-N”; they indicate the specific type of wireless standards used by the card. In general, the “taller” the letter of the alphabet, the stronger the signal that these wireless devices can use.