How To Convert A Desktop Computer To WiFi

Unlike laptops with built-in WiFi, desktops often require wired connections to connect to the internet. While wired connections usually do the job when dealing with desktops, going wireless can help improve your overall experience, making connectivity a breeze wherever you set your desktop up.

I have to mention that I’m not too fond of the term “convert a desktop to WiFi”. The better way to say it is to add or enable WiFi connectivity to your desktop.

How To Enable WiFi On Your Desktop PC (No Ethernet Cable)

The easiest way to connect your desktop PC to a wireless network is through a USB WiFi adapter or by installing a dedicated PCIe WiFi adapter. However, you can upgrade to a motherboard with built-in WiFi if you change the motherboard. 

Below is a brief description of how the above methods can connect your desktop PC to the internet without an Ethernet cable

1. Use a USB WiFi adapter

A USB WiFi adapter.

The easiest way to connect to WiFi without using an ethernet cable is through USB WiFi Adapters.

These devices connect fast once plugged into the desktop, as the operating system quickly recognizes them. While you might need to install drivers to get the USB WiFi adapter to work, subsequent wireless connections should be straightforward. 

Since you’re working with a USB adapter, you can plug it into any functional USB port in the front or rear of your device. Both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 can work. However, getting a USB adapter compatible with your router’s transfer speeds (in Mbps) is even better.  

Although easy to install and use, USB WiFi adapters also have shortcomings. First, USB WiFi adapters — similar to other cables plugged into USB ports — will stop working once the system enters sleep mode.

That means you might need to tweak your Windows settings to ensure your device doesn’t enter sleep mode after a short period of inactivity. Another disadvantage of using USB WiFi adapters is inconsistent performance.

Buying adapters that don’t suit your router’s total speeds might lead to unsteady, inconsistent connections. Therefore, if you intend to use a wireless connection to connect your Desktop to the internet consistently, a USB adapter might not be the best option.

Instead, go for PCIe WiFi adapters, which we’ll discuss in the next section. 

2. Install a PCIe WiFi adapter

A dual antenna PCIe WiFi card for a desktop computer.

PCIe WiFi adapters deliver better, more consistent performance than USB adapters.

With a PCIe adapter, you’ll get similar performance to what you’d get when using motherboards with WiFi (built-in). Going with the PCIe WiFi adapter is also recommended if you’re the type to use all, if not most, of the system’s USB connections.

A PCIe adapter tends to cost more than the basic USB WiFi adapters due to its ability to provide a seamless wireless connection. Moreover, PCIe adapters also require a fairly complex installation process that can prove daunting for first-timers.

Your motherboard’s configuration can also hinder installing a PCIe WiFi adapter, especially if you’ve stuffed other hardware into the system. Installing a PCIe to your desktop PC’s motherboard shouldn’t be an extremely tall order. You must turn off the computer and open the casing to expose the motherboard.

Open PCIe slots usually sit near the graphics card slot. Once you’ve installed the PCIe expansion card, the drivers should install automatically when you turn the desktop on.

However, you might need to download the drivers manually from the manufacturer’s official website. 

3. Upgrade to a WiFi-enabled motherboard

A motherboard with WiFi built-in showing connectors.

Although not the most preferred way to make a desktop PC wireless, this method might be useful if you plan to upgrade your desktop’s motherboard and other components anyway.

The cost of upgrading to a WiFi-enabled motherboard will be higher than buying WiFi adapters or PCIe WiFi adapters. However, it’ll be, by far, the most effective and hassle-free alternative in the long run. 

Luckily, there are many motherboard models to choose from that have WiFi built-in.