How To Convert a Desktop Computer to WiFi

Unlike laptops that come standard with built-in WiFi, keyboards, and mice, desktops often require wired connections to link the various hardware. While wired connections usually get the job done when dealing with desktops, going wireless can help improve your overall experience, making browsing or typing a lot easier. So how can you convert a desktop computer to wireless?

To convert a desktop computer to wireless, use USB adapters and PCIe WiFi adapters to connect your desktop to a wireless network. A unifying receiver can also help establish a wireless connection between your desktop and a mouse or keyboard. Or you can upgrade to a motherboard with built-in WiFi.

Converting a desktop computer to wireless shouldn’t be too hard if you follow the proper steps.

I just 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 WiFi connectivity to your desktop.

Read on as we break down how to connect WiFi, keyboards, mice, and other devices to your desktop computer wirelessly. 

A WiFi router is being held up with a blue background.

How to connect a desktop to WiFi (no ethernet cable)

The easiest way to connect your desktop PC to a wireless network is through a USB WiFi adapter or installing a dedicated PCIe WiFi adapter.

However, you can also upgrade to a motherboard with built-in WiFi if you plan on changing the motherboard. 

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

How to connect a desktop to WiFi using USB WiFi adapters

An orange USB WiFi adapter with a built-in antenna sticking up at an angle.

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 is quick to recognize them.

While you might need to install drivers to get the USB WiFi adapter to work, subsequent wireless connections should be pretty straightforward. 

Since you’re working with a USB adapter, you can plug it into any functional USB port, either in the front or rear of your device.

Both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 can work. However, it’s an even better idea to get a USB adapter compatible with your router’s transfer speeds (in Mbps).  

Although easy to install and use, USB WiFi adapters also have their 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 that comes when 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, then a USB adapter might not be the best option.

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

How to connect a desktop to WiFi using PCIe WiFi adapters

A dual antenna PCIe WiFi card for a desktop computer.

PCIe WiFi adapters tend to 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 the PCIe WiFi adapter way 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 be a hindrance when installing a PCIe WiFi adapter, especially if you’ve stuffed other hardware in the system. 

Installing a PCIe to your desktop PC’s motherboard shouldn’t be an extremely tall order. You’ll need to 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.

On some occasions, however, you might need to download the drivers manually from the manufacturer’s official website. 

How to upgrade to a WiFi-enabled motherboard

Although not the most preferred way to make a desktop PC wireless, this method might come in handy if you planned to upgrade your desktop’s motherboard anyway.

The cost of upgrading to a WiFi-enabled motherboard will definitely 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. 

How to connect a wireless keyboard to a desktop 

A wireless keyboard for desktop PC with RGB backlighting.

You can enhance your desktop’s usability by ditching the wires and using a wireless keyboard.

Like WiFi, connecting your desktop to a wireless keyboard shouldn’t be too challenging of a task, especially if you follow the steps below. 

Install the batteries and insert the Unifying Receiver

Some wireless keyboards come with built-in batteries, while some will require you to insert a battery before use.

If you need to insert a battery, install it correctly for the keyboard to work as desired. 

The next step is to remove the unifying receiver from its casing and insert it into your PC’s USB port.

This process is fairly straightforward, especially since receivers are usually designed to fit snugly into USB ports. 

Turn on the wireless keyboard and wait for the keyboard to pair

The on/off switch is usually located on the side or back of your keyboard and is easy to press.

Press the button for half a second and allow the wireless keyboard to pair with your desktop PC.

If any dialogue appears on your screen, be sure to confirm and allow the two devices to connect or pair.

However, the connection might take a while (during first-time installation), so don’t be in too much of a hurry to start using the keyboard. 

You might also need to update your wireless keyboard driver in case it’s missing or outdated.

Again, updating the wireless keyboard’s driver should be straightforward. You’ll need to go to the manufacturer’s website and search for the latest driver for the wireless keyboard.

Ensure you choose a driver that’s compatible with your Windows version and wireless keyboard model.

How to connect a wireless mouse to a desktop 

Connecting a wireless mouse to a desktop computer shouldn’t be a hard task either.

Generally, you have a choice between the mouse’s receiver or Bluetooth if your desktop comes with Bluetooth connectivity. 

Below are steps to follow when looking to connect your desktop PC to a wireless mouse. 

How to connect a wireless mouse to a desktop using a receiver

A wireless mouse with a USB receiver beside it.

Plug the mouse’s receiver into the USB port

The mouse’s receiver has a similar appearance to most receivers and will easily fit into one of the USB ports on your desktop’s CPU box.

Ensure you plug in the receiver first before turning the mouse on to allow the desktop to install any software or drivers required for wireless mouse functionality. 

Ensure the mouse is already well-charged

Some mice come with batteries, while others require regular charging.

Either way, you’ll need to ensure the mouse has enough power, as it won’t function on empty batteries or on low charge.

For a new mouse, you might need to buy a battery if it doesn’t come as part of the package. 

Turn on the mouse with the on/off switch

Once you’ve ensured the mouse is well-powered, the next is to turn it on.

The on/off button switch is either at the bottom or on the sides of the mouse. But you might need to consult your owner’s manual if you have a hard time locating the on/off switch.

Some mice come as plug-and-play, meaning they’ll be ready for use once turned on.

However, others usually feature a connect button that completes the link between the receiver and the mouse. 

How to connect a wireless mouse to a desktop using Bluetooth

A wireless Bluetooth mouse with the case lid open and showing the batteries.

Check the batteries and turn on the mouse 

Most mice have the on/off switch located at the back. But because of different manufacturers, some mice might have the buttons located elsewhere.

Whatever the location, press the switch so that it slides to the on position.

Again, check whether the batteries are functional before proceeding to the next step. 

Turn Bluetooth on and search for it on your device

The next step is turning Bluetooth on. However, you can only connect a mouse wirelessly via Bluetooth if your desktop PC has Bluetooth functionality (we’ll discuss adding Bluetooth to a desktop in the next section). 

  1. Open the start menu on your desktop and click the settings icon. 
  2. Once you’re on the settings page, click on the icon titled ‘Devices’ (usually the second item in the settings menu). 
  3. After clicking on the devices icon, you’ll spot a button titled ‘Bluetooth & other devices’ (located at the top of the left sidebar). 
  4. Click on the Bluetooth button to allow your desktop to start searching for a Bluetooth signal from the mouse. 

Alternatively, you can open the start menu and type Bluetooth on the search box (for automatic searching).

If your desktop has Bluetooth connectivity, then it’ll take you to the Bluetooth settings page.

Ensure you turn on the Bluetooth button to allow your desktop to search for nearby Bluetooth signals. 

Press the pairing button on the mouse

Bluetooth mice usually come with a centrally placed pairing button that you’ll press to activate Bluetooth.

Press and hold the Bluetooth pairing button for a second or two to make the device discoverable through Bluetooth.

On most occasions, a blue light will flash when Bluetooth is successfully activated on the mouse. 

Finish pairing the two devices

Once Windows detects your Bluetooth mouse, it’ll appear among the list of discoverable devices.

Click on your mouse’s name to complete the pairing. It’ll prompt you to confirm the pairing, which is usually a reasonably straightforward process. 

Once connected, you won’t need to repair the devices again in the future.

Turning on the mouse and clicking on the pairing button will be enough to establish a Bluetooth connection with your desktop, provided the computer’s Bluetooth is turned on.

How to add Bluetooth to a desktop computer

If you’re using a modern desktop, then chances are your PC already has Bluetooth connectivity, and this section won’t apply to you.

But if your device is incapable of making wireless connections, the steps below will help you add Bluetooth and make the most of your desktop. 

Buy a USB expansion card and a USB Bluetooth adapter

A PCIe USB expansion card provides four extra USB ports.

Once you’ve counter-checked and confirmed that your desktop doesn’t have a Bluetooth radio, your next step is to examine your USB ports to ensure you have free slots.

You might need a USB expansion card or a USB hub if all your desktop’s USB ports are in use.

These handy appliances give you additional USB ports, ensuring you can connect several devices that require USB port connectivity.

The most important item to purchase when looking to add Bluetooth to a desktop device is a USB Bluetooth adapter.

Luckily, you can get a high-quality adapter at an affordable price.

A Bluetooth adapter can connect to both old and new Bluetooth equipment, allowing you to connect Bluetooth-enabled devices like game controllers, stereo headphones, and mobile phones to your desktop PC. 

Install the USB Bluetooth adapter

A USB Bluetooth dongle.

Installing a USB Bluetooth Adapter is as simple as installing receivers for wireless keyboards and mice.

You’ll only need to plug in your Bluetooth dongle on the free or working USB port and wait for your desktop to recognize the new device automatically. 

In a lot of cases, Windows will install the necessary drivers once it recognizes the dongle.

However, you might need to manually install the Bluetooth drivers if you’re using an earlier Windows version.

Again, downloading the drivers shouldn’t be too hard, even for first-timers, as you can get them from the dongle manufacturer’s website. 

Pair the USB Bluetooth adapter with your desktop PC

Now that you’ve successfully installed the Bluetooth adapter (and the necessary drivers), the two devices are ready for pairing.

You’ll notice a Bluetooth icon in the system tray once the Bluetooth dongle is installed. 

Right-click on the Bluetooth icon and select the Add a Bluetooth Device option.

Then, choose Pair to connect to your preferred Bluetooth device. Don’t forget to turn the other devices, say your phone or speaker’s Bluetooth, on.

This will allow your desktop’s newly installed Bluetooth connection to pair with your other device. 

One challenge you’re likely to encounter when using a USB Bluetooth adapter is inconsistent connectivity, especially when your device goes to sleep mode after being idle.

Another disadvantage associated with Bluetooth dangles is the limited range.

However, the Bluetooth connection will still work well if you have your devices close or not too far apart.

How to connect a desktop PC to a wireless monitor

Connecting your desktop PC to a wireless monitor across the room is possible through wireless USB technology.

The technology allows you to send video signals to a wireless monitor up to 30 feet away.

All you’ll need is to buy a wireless HDMI transmitter and receiver kit and observe the following steps: 

Install the USB drivers (automatic or manual)

Some adapter kits come with CDs that allow for USB driver installation. While some adapter kits might install the drivers automatically, others will require manual installation.

Just insert the CD into your desktop’s CD drive and observe the instructions to install the USB drivers successfully.  

Insert the USB transmitter into the USB port

Connecting your desktop to a wireless monitor will only be possible if you have a free USB port.

Consider getting a USB hub if you don’t have free ports. Insert the adapter kit’s USB transmitter on the functional USB port to kickstart the connection.

The transmitter should easily fit on the USB port. 

Plug the VGA cable into the VGA receiver

Remove the VGA cable from the monitor and insert it into the VGA receiver that came with the adapter kit.

Next, once the cable is in place, plug the adapter’s power cable into a power outlet. 

You can now run the software installed on your desktop. However, if the software is already up and running, then you’ll spot an icon on the taskbar towards the left of the clock.

Click on the software and activate the connection with the receiver by clicking on Extend, after which you’ll be able to view it on the wireless monitor. 

Wrapping up

Although not a walk in the park, converting your desktop computer to wireless isn’t rocket science.

You’ll need to determine the type of wireless connection you’re after and purchase the necessary devices. 

And since there are many ways to make your desktop PC wireless, settle for the methods that best suit your budget and wireless needs.

For instance, when it comes to WiFi connectivity, using a PCIe WiFi adapter is highly recommended as it provides a consistent, hassle-free connection.