How to Use USB Wireless

by Jason Artman

    While virtually all modern laptop computers include built-in wireless adapters, many desktop computers and older laptops do not. Although many of these computers may have the necessary hardware needed to run modern Web browsers and connect to the Internet, the lack of wireless adapters means that they can only connect via Ethernet cables or dial-up service. Installing a USB wireless adapter removes this limitation, enabling you to connect the Internet without a cable.

    Step 1

    Set up your wireless router by connecting it to a power outlet and connecting an Ethernet cable from your broadband modem to the "Internet" or "Modem" port on the back of the router. After you have finished connecting to the router with your USB wireless adapter, consult the router's instruction manual for information about configuring its security settings.

    Step 2

    Consult the instruction manual included with the USB wireless adapter for information about installing the device driver software. Some wireless adapters include CD or DVD discs with the required software, while others have the software stored on the wireless adapter itself.

    Step 3

    Insert the software disc before connecting the wireless adapter if directed to do so by the instruction manual. In most cases, the software will prompt you to read and agree to certain license terms before you can continue. After you agree to the terms, the screen displays a prompt directing you to connect the USB wireless adapter. Skip this step if the driver software is stored on the wireless adapter rather than a disc.

    Step 4

    Connect the USB wireless adapter to one of your computer's USB ports. If you installed the driver software from a disc, the computer detects and installs the wireless adapter. If the software is stored on the wireless adapter, the installation program launches automatically. Follow the prompts to complete the installation process. When the installation is complete and Windows returns to the desktop, you should see a wireless connection icon -- shaped like a series of vertical bars -- in the lower right corner of the screen.

    Step 5

    Click the wireless connection icon and then click "Connect to a Network" in the menu that appears. Windows searches for wireless routers and displays their names on a list. If you have not yet configured your router's security settings, it has a generic name such as "Netgear" or "Belkin." If you have configured the router, look for the name you selected during the configuration process.

    Step 6

    Click the name of your router and then click the "Connect" button below. If you selected a password when configuring the router, enter the password to complete the connection process. You can begin using the Internet after connecting to the router.


    • Some USB wireless adapters support a form of automatic configuration called Wi-Fi Protected Setup. If your wireless adapter supports this, it will have a button labeled "WPS." To perform the automatic setup, press and hold the "WPS" button on your wireless router until it begins to blink. Next, press the "WPS" button on the wireless adapter and wait until the screen displays a message notifying you that the configuration process is complete. You can now get online immediately.
    • The performance and stability of a wireless connection depends largely on its signal strength. For best signal, place your wireless router as near as possible to a middle of your home and as far as possible from metal objects and other wireless devices.

    Required Items

    • Software disc for USB wireless adapter
    • Wireless router

    About the Author

    Jason Artman has been a technical writer since entering the field in 1999 while attending Michigan State University. Artman has published numerous articles for various websites, covering a diverse array of computer-related topics including hardware, software, games and gadgets.

    Photo Credits

    • Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images