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Can You Use Internal And External Wi-Fi Adapters?

Posted By Tim On January 22, 2013 @ 2:15 PM In Hardware & Peripherals,Mac OS,System Tune-Up Help | Comments Disabled

Jack from Worthington, OH writes:

My laptop has a built-in wireless LAN adapter that I currently use. Can I plug in and use your advertised plug-in and use an external adapter (the USB kind) without interfering with my built-in adapter? Will it upset the future use of my internal adapter? What about my encryption and security settings?


The most common complaint in regards to Wi-Fi is related to losing or having unreliable connections. Each computer manufacturer chooses a card type for the built-in adapter and location/design of the antenna which can greatly affect the quality of your wireless signal. The best solution to improve your Wi-Fi signal is to purchase an external USB adapter.

The good news is that installing an external USB adapter is a pretty simple process. Your adapter should include a CD (sometimes the CD’s are the smaller 3″ variety so check your package) or a website address to download a driver. Run the setup program from the disk or website and once the setup program has finished installing drivers connect your USB Wi-Fi adapter.

At this point you can either choose to run both the internal and external adapter (the new adapter will most likely be shown as Wireless Network 2) or (and I would recommend this option) disable the built-in wireless adapter. In Microsoft Windows it’s as simple as going to Control Panel then Device Manager and clicking the + next to network adapters. Locate the internal card in the list, right click on it and select Disable. You can re-enable it in the future by right clicking again and selecting Enable.

To configure the wireless connection you can use either your operating systems built-in wireless configuration client or the network cards client. I recommend using the built-in client since operating system vendors put a lot of effort into making connecting to a network as simple as possible.

You can find detailed instructions on how to use the built in client by choosing your operating system below.

Once you’ve connected to the wireless network, the settings should be remembered and you will automatically log in when in range of the Wi-Fi signal. If the network shows up as unsecured or WEP, I would highly recommend not using it. The best Wi-Fi security currently is WPA2 and should be enabled by default on most new routers. Public access points, like those in malls or restaurants, may be unsecured so be careful of what you transmit and receive there.


P.S. If your wondering what makes one adapter better then another, it often comes down to antenna design and size. Bigger external antennas receive and send signals better then smaller internal ones.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Windows XP Instructions: http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/wlan_client_connect.mspx?mfr=true

[2] Windows Vista Instructions: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/928429

[3] Windows 7 Instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/View-and-connect-to-available-wireless-networks

[4] Windows 8 Instructions: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/zxue/archive/2012/03/08/win8-howto-18-configure-wifi-connection-and-airplane-mode.aspx

[5] Mac OS X Instructions: http://support.apple.com/kb/VI25