Don't Waste Your Money is supported by our readers. When you purchase an item through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best USB WiFi Adapter

Last updated on October 19, 2020

We looked at the top 7 USB WiFi Adapters and dug through the reviews from 10 of the most popular review sites including The New York Times, Gadgets Reviews, xGamerss, WirelesSHack, Madson Photo, BestReviews and more. The result is a ranking of the best USB WiFi Adapters.

Best USB WiFi Adapter

Why Trust The DWYM Score?

DWYM is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to.Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in a category.

Our Picks For The Top USB WiFi Adapters

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall

TP-Link USB Wifi Adapter For PC & Desktop

USB Wifi Adapter For PC & Desktop

Overall Take

Compatible With Windows, Mac or LinuxYou can use this adapter with Mac, Windows or Linux machines to make it work with any of your current or future devices.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus The New York Times. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Still very good and was the only sub-$25 adapter to complete all of our tests. It has an identical two-year warranty and is just as compatible with Macs and Windows or Linux PCs."
  The Best Value

UPTOU 600Mbps Mini USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

UPTOU

600Mbps Mini USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

Overall Take

Creates HotspotIf you have a wired internet connection on one of your devices, you can use this adapter to turn it into a hotspot or just use it as a WiFi adapter.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus Best Reviews Guide. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" The wifi dongle can upgrade your laptop/desktop/pc to the latest network standard 802.11ac,three-times faster than wireless."

Techkey 1750Mbps Dual Band USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

Techkey

Dual Band USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

Overall Take

360-Degree RotationThe dual 5 dBi antennas rotate 360 degrees to help you find the perfect signal for your environment.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus BestReviews, Best Selected Products, Technize. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" The USB 3.0 socket offers faster connectivity and also enhances the signal. Furthermore, this has reduced interference that eliminates any kind of lagging. This also rotates in 360 degrees to provide you with a better experience. This will improve the..."
Cons
"A little more expensive than competitors. Setup instructions can be a bit confusing."

Cudy AC 650Mbps Nano USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

Cudy

AC 650Mbps Nano USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

Overall Take

Compact DesignThis USB adapter's compact design ensures that it stays out of your way while you use your device.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus Madson Photo. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Compact Design. WiFi USB adapter WU650's compact design is convenient to carry for mobile users, you can just plug it into the port, and take it everywhere, no need to worry about blocking adjacent USB interfaces or that the adapter..."
Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, DWYM analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.
14

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the usb wifi adapters available to purchase.
7

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products for our team to review.

View All Product Rankings

10

Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: The New York Times, Gadgets Reviews, xGamerss, WirelesSHack, Madson Photo.

139,193

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target.

Our experts reviewed the top 7 USB WiFi Adapters and also dug through the reviews from 10 of the most popular review sites including The New York Times, Gadgets Reviews, xGamerss, WirelesSHack, Madson Photo, BestReviews and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best USB WiFi Adapters.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

Our Expert Score
9.0
1 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.8
5,034 user reviews
Our Take

This adapter offers compatibility with all the devices in your home, including Macs, Windows PCs and Linux machines. It uses a 5dBi high-gain antenna to improve both the reception and signal strength of any connected device. Although it should install automatically, you may have to download a driver specific to your device type from the TP-Link website.

What other experts liked
Still very good and was the only sub-$25 adapter to complete all of our tests. It has an identical two-year warranty and is just as compatible with Macs and Windows or Linux PCs.
- The New York Times
What other experts didn't like
The TP-Link Archer T2U Plus is a little bulkier than the Archer T4U because of its six-inch external antenna and it didn’t perform as well at long range.
- The New York Times

The Best Bang For Your Buck

UPTOU 600Mbps Mini USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

Our Expert Score
7.9
1 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.0
229 user reviews
Our Take

With this adapter, you get 600Mbps and a maximum transfer rate of 433Mbps for 5Ghz and 150Mbps for 2.4Ghz. This will give you the faster speeds you need if you're gaming or streaming video, or if you simply like sites to load as quickly as possible. It has something called station mode to help you if you want to connect your computer to the wireless router and SoftAP mode for turning a wired internet connection from a device into a WiFi hotspot.

What other experts liked
The wifi dongle can upgrade your laptop/desktop/pc to the latest network standard 802.11ac,three-times faster than wireless.
- Best Reviews Guide

Overall Product Rankings

TP-Link USB Wifi Adapter For PC & Desktop
Overall Score: 8.9
Reviews Included: 3

UPTOU 600Mbps Mini USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

2. UPTOU 600Mbps Mini USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

Overall Score: 8.6
Reviews Included: 2

Techkey 1750Mbps Dual Band USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

3. Techkey 1750Mbps Dual Band USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

Overall Score: 8.5
Reviews Included: 4

Cudy AC 650Mbps Nano USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

4. Cudy AC 650Mbps Nano USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

Overall Score: 8.4
Reviews Included: 2

Nineplus Wireless USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

5. Nineplus Wireless USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

Overall Score: 8.1
Reviews Included: 2

NETGEAR AC1200 Wi-Fi USB Adapter

6. NETGEAR AC1200 Wi-Fi USB Adapter

Overall Score: 8.1
Reviews Included: 5

TP-Link Nano USB Wifi Adapter Dongle
Overall Score: 6.9
Reviews Included: 5

Our USB WiFi Adapter Findings

TP-Link USB Wifi Adapter For PC & Desktop

What We Liked: This adapter offers compatibility with all the devices in your home, including Macs, Windows PCs and Linux machines. It uses a 5dBi high-gain antenna to improve both the reception and signal strength of any connected device. Although it should install automatically, you may have to download a driver specific to your device type from the TP-Link website.

UPTOU 600Mbps Mini USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

What We Liked: With this adapter, you get 600Mbps and a maximum transfer rate of 433Mbps for 5Ghz and 150Mbps for 2.4Ghz. This will give you the faster speeds you need if you’re gaming or streaming video, or if you simply like sites to load as quickly as possible. It has something called station mode to help you if you want to connect your computer to the wireless router and SoftAP mode for turning a wired internet connection from a device into a WiFi hotspot.

Techkey 1750Mbps Dual Band USB WiFi Adapter Antenna

What We Liked: This adapter provides up to 1300Mbps wireless speed on a 5.8GHz WiFi band or 450Mbps speed on 2.42GHz WiFi band. Simply plug it into a device and direct the two antennas in the direction that gives you the fastest, strongest connection. The socket is USB 3.0 to ensure you’ll get no performance degradation through the USB connection.

Cudy AC 650Mbps Nano USB WiFi Adapter Dongle

What We Liked: This small USB adapter will provide a maximum speed of 433Mbps on 5GHz and 200Mbps on 2.4GHz to give you top performance. It works with Windows, Mac and Linux laptops and desktops to let you use it on any of the devices in your household. Best of all, it’s so small, you’ll barely notice it as it’s plugged into your laptop or desktop.

NETGEAR AC1200 Wi-Fi USB Adapter

What We Liked: High-gain antennas built into this adapter give you excellent range and performance. The adapter works only with Windows 7, 8, 10, XP or Vista, so that is a downside if you have a Mac or Linux machine. It uses beam-forming+ technology to keep your connection reliable and strong.

Our USB WiFi Adapter Buying Guide

Every laptop and desktop computer is built with wireless functionality, which is how you connect up to the WiFi in your home, office or other location. Sometimes that connection can be spotty, though, especially if you’re taking your laptop on the road with you. For that unreliability, a WiFi adapter can come in handy.

A WiFi adapter overrides that built-in function, giving your computer a direct connection from your device’s USB port to the surrounding WiFi signal. In order to use one of these connectors, you’ll need a USB port on the device you plan to use with it, and not all adapters are compatible with all operating systems. If you use Mac or Linux, specifically, you’ll need to double-check to ensure that your chosen adapter isn’t compatible only with Windows machines.

If you’re buying a WiFi adapter, make sure you’re getting the latest technology. Today’s standard of IEEE 802.11ac is three times faster than Wireless N speeds. However, the next standard, IEEE 802.11ax, is already being built into devices so you may find your technology is bested by devices widely available next year. Still, you’ll find 802.11ac is plenty fast to give your connection a big boost.

One thing to consider as you’re picking out a WiFi adapter is the design of the device itself. They come in a variety of form factors, some more intrusive than others. You can find adapters so small that you’ll barely even notice them as they’re plugged in. However, if you’re buying an adapter for a desktop computer, it will likely be out of sight, out of mind, which frees you up to choose the adapter that perfectly fits your needs — regardless of the build.

Keep in mind that a USB adapter will take up one of your ports. If you only have one or two, as some modern laptops do, you may find you’re seriously missing the extra port. You can buy a USB port expander that will give you those extra ports you need. However, this also will take up space around your laptop, potentially getting in the way of the work you’re trying to do.

DWYM Fun Fact

WiFi is so prevalent today, it’s easy to take it for granted, but it hasn’t been around forever. It has, however, been around long before most consumers began using it, as it began in Hawaii in 1979.

Early WiFi was called ALOHAnet and introduced multiple technologies, including the use of packets, random access and wireless computer communications. It was a full 20 years before AT&T and NCR came up with WaveLAN, which is now considered to be the real WiFi predecessor.

Contrary to popular perception, WiFi is not short for “wireless fidelity.” The abbreviation was conceived in 1999 by the WiFi Alliance without additional meaning.

The USB WiFi Adapter Tips and Advice

  • If you have a Mac machine, keep in mind USB ports have been replaced with lightning ports. That means you’ll need to buy an adapter to connect your USB adapter to, which won’t make it quite as compact and space-saving as advertised.
  • In most cases, your WiFi adapter should be “plug and play,” but in some instances, you could have to download drivers. Even if your computer immediately recognizes it, it can’t hurt to check for updates from the manufacturer’s website, especially if you experience problems or disappointing performance.
  • One of the biggest benefits of a USB adapter is that it lets you upgrade your WiFi performance without buying a new computer or router.
  • For intense activities like gaming and streaming, make sure you choose an adapter with a data transfer rate of at least 500 Mbps.
  • Routers operate on different protocols. For best results, look for an adapter that is on the same protocol as your router. This will be either WEP, WPA or WPA2.
  • For best results, look for a dual-band adapter, which works on either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band. That will give you a better connection while also keeping interference at a minimum.
  • If your adapter has antennas that can be adjusted, look for one with a wide range of motion. This will help you find the perfect direction.
  • Some WiFi adapters serve a dual purpose. They can help strengthen a WiFi signal on a device, but they can also turn a computer into a hotspot. That means you can set up one desktop or laptop to send a signal to multiple approved devices in your area.
  • The USB connector itself can slow things down. Look for the newer USB 3.0, which will keep things much speedier than USB 2.0.

About The Author

Avatar
Stephanie Faris 

Stephanie Faris is a former information technology professional who spent most of her career working with computers and printers. Now a novelist and professional writer, her writings on electronics have been published on top tech sites. When she isn't writing about technology, she's often checking out the latest news on the upcoming iPhone release.