Wireless adapters come in various shapes and sizes. Some are internal to a computer, some have antennas that stick out the back, and some are nothing more than antennas that plug into the USB port on a computer. Wireless adapters can often be added to computers that need connections to local networks.
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Wireless adapters are most commonly used to send a wireless signal to a wireless access point (WAP) to gain access to a network.
Most laptop computers have wireless adapters already installed inside the computer, so they are not visible. Many desktop computers have a wireless card that is inserted inside that has a short antenna sticking out the back side of the computer.
Wireless adapters can communicate only with the network at the speed of radio signals. This will provide convenience, but using a wire will allow for a higher network throughput speed.
One of the primary arguments against using wireless adapters is that the radio signal is sent in all directions, allowing any radio receiver to pick up and receive the signals. With computer communications, this allows another device to receive all the information broadcast without the sender knowing it has been intercepted.
In addition to network connections, other types of wireless adapters have been tested and used for other types of computer communications, such as the wireless mouse and the infrared wireless keyboard.