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Picking a wireless USB adapter is fortunately not a huge problem. It is often good to go with a recommended solution, so you know you'll be able to get support.

How do I pick a wireless USB adapter? My retirement community is offering Wi-Fi service to all of our residents. They suggest an EGenius Wireless USB adapter that they sell for $39. Is this a good choice? I run Windows XP from my desktop and intend to get a WiTopia VPN so I can use it for banking and so forth.

In this excerpt from Answercast #81, I look at a wireless adapter that is being recommended by a shared internet connection.

Picking a wireless USB adapter

Using a USB wireless adapter on a desktop is a fine, fine solution for taking advantage of Wi-Fi that's being provided to you by a third party - or to actually take the place of wires in your own home if you have a wireless hotspot.

The question of course is, "Well great! What wireless adapter to get?"

To be honest, I'm not familiar with the EGenius, so I can't recommend a pro or con on it specifically.

Support for the device

If they are recommending it, my assumption is that there's some level of support (or at least experience) with the device. That would be helpful should you run into any problems down the road.

The other side of the coin is - I happen to be fairly happy with LinkSys and/or Cisco equipment (they're actually the same company these days). I know that LinkSys makes a wireless adapter. It may not be quite as cheap. I'm not sure. I haven't checked the prices lately. But, like I said, my experience with them as a brand has been very good - and the same is true for some of the other name brands.

Typically, in a situation like this when I've got no direct experience with the specific piece of hardware, I look for the name brands like LinkSys, like Cisco, like NetGear, and a couple of others.

Fortunately, it's not actually a problem, especially in a case like this where it's being recommended by someone who's closer to your situation than I am. It seems like a pretty reasonable approach to go.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6171 - December 24, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

December 25, 2012 9:17 AM

I've been working as a PC technician for about 10 years now. And reading Leo's newsletter for about 7-ish? Can't really remember, but I started reading them back when I wasn't as good of a technician as I am today. I can say with experience that EnGenius does make some AMAZING products.

My first experience with them was when I swapped out a buggy Linksys PCI adapter. The EnGenius was only $20, had generally good reviews, and seemed a good fit. It worked for my client so well that I swapped my old Linksys with it, also. If you need a new adapter, I'd definitely recommend EnGenius. Another good choice... Alfa. Both of these companies make adapters with great range and signal strength/clarity. You really can't go wrong with either of them.

December 25, 2012 3:36 PM

First of all I had a good knowledgable Sales Person ,, who directed to EnGenius for my price range ,,
I now have the EnGenius 11N for my "7 year old" laptop with XP ,, that one ,, coupled with a DLink 7dBi antenna,and 20ft of USB firewire will always get me connected !!

Ron N.
December 25, 2012 4:17 PM

I buy the older Linksys silver USB adapters off ebay for about 10 bucks. They work very well, and I've given them to many customer's. The later black colored devices just don't work as well.

Also, Windows 7 already has the proper driver built-in. Just plug it in and go.

It is also Linux friendly with Mint and Ubuntu. I use the older versions. Plug it in and you are online.

Best Regards

December 25, 2012 8:19 PM

I also have an EnGenius wi-fi adapter which I use when we travel and the signal in an RV park is not strong enough to pick up easily. The CD with it was blank, so I downloaded the software from their web site, and it works great. At home I have Medialink USB 11n-adapters for my desktop computer that has no built-in adapter, and an older laptop that only has 802.11g, that work with my Medialink n-router. I imagine they would work just as well with other router brands too.

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