How Wi-Fi Works With a Desktop PC

By Mike Munson

Overview

Wi-Fi and Desktop PCs

Although wireless networking (Wi-Fi) is primarily used with mobile devices such as laptop computers and smartphones, a desktop PC can work with Wi-Fi as well. Not only can a stationary PC utilize Wi-Fi to connect to a wireless network, but in most cases a desktop PC is fundamental in the proper setup and configuration of a Wi-Fi network.

Desktop PC Networking Before Wireless

Before Wi-Fi was introduced, a desktop PC only had one option for connecting to a network of PCs or other network devices, namely a physical connection to a network router or hub in the form of an Ethernet Cat 5 cable. Due to this limitation, anyone that wanted to connect a desktop PC to a network had to run a Cat 5 networking cable to the PC, install an Ethernet jack or physically move the computer to a location where the network could be connected to.

Networking Desktop PCs with Wi-Fi

With the introduction of Wi-Fi, a PC user could replace the machine's standard network interface card with a wireless NIC. The wireless NIC card has an antenna that allows the desktop PC to detect a Wi-Fi network and connect with proper security credentials. Due to this, a desktop PC with a wireless NIC can be moved anywhere in the home or office where a strong enough signal can be located. By installing a wireless NIC, a desktop PC can work seamlessly with a Wi-Fi network. Modern-day PCs overwhelmingly come with wireless technology built into the computer.

Wi-Fi Administration

A desktop PC can play a major role in the actual setup of a Wi-Fi network. For a Wi-Fi network to be secured and optimized properly, a PC should be connected to the Wi-Fi router either wirelessly via entering the router's IP address into a Web browser or by connecting to the router via an Ethernet cable. To share an Internet connection or even to simply connect multiple computers, a network device such as a router or hub must be installed and then configured, preferably with a password to prevent outsiders from stealing bandwidth or snooping on your Wi-Fi traffic. A desktop PC can also act as a reliable troubleshooting device in the event of Wi-Fi errors or problems by directly connecting to the Wi-Fi router, which ensures access to the router’s administration options in the event that all wireless broadcasting capabilities of the router have failed.