You love your laptop, but its WiFi network adapter is on the fritz. You could try to get it repaired or plunk down at least a few hundred bucks for a new computer. There’s also an easy, inexpensive option that will get you back on the network in no time: Use a USB-based WiFi adapter.
Plugable’s new USB-NANO-11N WiFi adapter offers 802.11n wireless connectivity in an incredibly small package.
At just 0.25 inches long by 0.5 inches wide when plugged into a USB port, the USB-NANO-11N is barely noticeable. With such a low profile, you don’t have to worry about the adapter snapping off from an accidental nudge. In fact, you won’t even need to unplug it before you stuff your laptop PC your backpack or totebag.
The drawback of such a small form factor is that the USB-NANO-11N has a small antenna, which limits the performance and range of the adapter. While it theoretically could connect to an 802.11n wireless network at a top speed of 150 Mbps, real-world usage shows that speeds up to 24 Mbps are more likely.
Distance from the WiFi hotspot also will cause the connection quality to vary. For optimal performance, we recommend the USB-NANO-11N for customers who plan to use the adapter in the same room as the hotspot.
If the USB-NANO-11N is right for you, there’s an important step you must take before plugging it in to your computer: Download and install the latest drivers first.
There is a drivers CD included with the adapter, but it’s always best to use the latest drivers available online. And if you’re going to use this on a Windows PC, you definitely want to install the updated drivers rather than rely on Windows to pick the right ones for you.
Given that you’re probably going to use the adapter on a computer that doesn’t currently have an Internet connection, you’ll need to find a computer where you can get to the following URL: http://plugable.com/products/usb-nano-11n/driver. This will take you to the drivers page for the Realtek 8818CUS chipset that’s at the heart of the USB-NANO-11N.
Download the drivers you need–they’re available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7; Mac OS X 10.4 and up; plus versions of Linux (Note: the Android drivers are for developers only)–to some kind of portable media (USB drive, CD) that you can use on the computer where you need to install them.
Once the drivers are in place (a restart may be needed), plug in the USB-NANO-11N, and you should be good to go. The adapter works in USB 2.0 and 1.1 ports, though you’ll get faster throughput in a USB 2.0 port. When you have an active connection, an LED at the top of the unit will flash intermittently.
The driver install also will add Realtek’s USB wireless LAN utility to you computer, which allows you to manage the adapter’s settings, set up usage profiles, and see info about the state of your network connection. It’s all the same functionality that’s available through your computer’s operating system but in one handy location for the USB-NANO-11N.
As noted, the adapter supports the 802.11n draft WiFi specification for data transmission in the 2.4Ghz band, but it is compatible with the older 802.11b and g specifications. It also supports the common WiFi security protocols (64/128 bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK and Wi-Fi Protected Setup).
In future posts we’ll look at some other uses of the USB-NANO-11N, such as
- adding a second network adapter to a PC to use it for Internet connection sharing and
- getting all your wireless devices on the same 802.11 spec for improved WiFi speed.
If you have pre-sales or support questions about the USB-NANO-11N, don’t hesitate to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help.