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Thread: Thoughts on USB Wireless Network Dongles...

  1. #1

    Default Thoughts on USB Wireless Network Dongles...

    I've got a couple of machines that I want to get on my network but they only have wired network adapters. I'm going to put them in a location where I don't want to run a cable so I'll need to get to them via WiFi. I'd like opinions on what success and issues you've had using these dongles. Are they on a par with other wireless WiFi hardware? If not, what should I look out for that might cause issues. Should I avoid them entirely and go the undesirable route of using PCI network cards? If you've had experience(s) with these dongles I'd like to know what you think.
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  2. #2

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    I've got a couple of "N" USB adapters from belkin that seem to work pretty well. I don't think the ones I have work on both frequencies, just the 2.4, I think. Another thing I use, for my old equipment is a pair of netgear powerline ethernet devices. They seem to work pretty well, but sometimes I can hear them working through powered speakers. Another option might be the "gaming" adapters that were popular during the original XBOX days. Basically an external wifi to ethernet device.

    Something like this for the belkin (I'm not 100% sure these are the ones I have, I'll have to check at home) https://www.walmart.com/ip/Belkin-N3...UaAifAEALw_wcB

    Something like this for the gaming adapters: https://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-Wire.../dp/B0024G48VA

    powerline adapter that I use: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/netgear...?skuId=6203586

    EDIT: Another thing I've done in the past, is I've take an old linksys router, installed aftermarket firmware like DD-WRT, and then configured it to use the wifi portion to connect to my current wifi router, and then I use the ethernet ports for the computers. A wifi bridge. Same concept as the gaming adapter, but free, and more ports for more devices. Also, the radios in the old linksys seem to be strong than what would be in a USB or PCI device, so I seemed to get better connections this way.
    Last edited by jafir; January 31st, 2020 at 05:27 AM.

  3. #3
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    What is the function of those machines and how old are they? How fast is your internet pipe?

    Are you talking PCI or PCIE for the network cards?
    What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Unknown_K View Post
    Are you talking PCI or PCIE for the network cards?
    As I stated, I want to avoid using (wireless) network cards.
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    I have used a few. Worked okay but range is a lot shorter than advertised and the adapters need to considerably larger than the port to have a signal that goes between rooms.

    A problem with using one on slower hardware is that CPU usage will be high. IIRC, when I had one attached to a Pentium III, the USB networking was using about 50% of the CPU.

  6. #6
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    USB WiFi suffer from needing drivers and all other sorts of things. If they already have wired cards I would get something like this..

    https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-Wi-Fi...496103&sr=8-16

    or this

    https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-Wirel...0496306&sr=8-2

    with a switch. I needed a port in an unusual location so I popped one in a wall socket close to the computers, plugged in a 100baseT swicth and everything is working.,
    Dave
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    The cheap little ones are just adequate if you're close to your access point--range isn't terribly good. I've used on in a pinch with an external antenna and got decent performance, considering that I paid something like $2 for it shipped.

    Does anyone use the so-called "AC1200" USB Wifi dongles? They look as if they might have a bit more range.

  8. #8
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    One thing I do *not* recommend is TP-Link brand powerline adapters. Perhaps they're okay if your house wiring postdates the 1960s, but I've had atrocious luck with a pair of them. Connection is lossy at best, and I invariably have to unplug one end and replug it at least once a day because it hangs entirely.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

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    Well I asked a few questions and you answered none of them sooo good luck.
    What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
    Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
    Boxed apps and games for the above systems
    Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

  10. #10
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    Seems the original question keeps getting lost on folks here, as he was asking for hardwired to wifi (or other) adapters, not USB or PCI wifi cards. I've used a few options.

    The first (and easiest) option (which eudimorphodon mentioned) is using a powerline adapter. However, as he's mentioned, your success will vary with those depending on your house wiring. I almost inevitably had issues with the old '200' models, but the 'AV600' models or better are much more successful and usually only a few bucks more. I wouldn't recommend them for for your main system that's watching youtube, but for a retro system they're just fine. You'll need to have at least two, one connected up to the router and the other connected to the machine (or hub, if you have multiple machines in the area).

    Second option, and this is if you have cable run throughout your house, is to use MOCA or DECA adapters. One end would plug into a router and your coax cable, and the other end just plugs into the coax somewhere else in the house. I actually use a number of DECA adapters around my house because I don't have any cable or dish tv at all, so the coax lines were unused. If you do have cable tv or dish, then you have to use one or the other depending. (moca interferes with directtv, deca interferes with cable tv... so you need moca with cable or deca with directv). I use the deca adapters, they sell them on amazon for about $15 / pair.. save yourself some grief and get the wired ones, not usb. I have a 100 Mbps connection and get about ~80 on these, which of course is more than enough.

    The third option (which you alluded to in the original post) is the RJ45 to wifi adapters. These are actually pretty handy because you can do multiple things with them. The one I have does at least 3 things. It'll convert a wired connection to wifi (good for hotels that either don't have wifi or have annoying requirements about max devices), wifi to RJ45 (which is what you want to do), or wifi to wifi (again, good for hotels to circumvent the 3 device limit or avoid reconfiguring your devices every time you travel to a new hotel). I can't specifically recommend one because the one i use is actually a portable unit that is also a battery (Ravpower RP-WD03), though you technically can leave it connected to power but it might be a bit much for what you need. All you do on these is connect to the device via a network cable or wifi, go to it like you would a router (usually 192.168.1.1) and configure the settings for the method you want, save the settings, and hook it up to whatever system you want.

    Finally, the forth option. This is basically what the 3rd option is as well, technically. But, if you have an old router that works in 'client bridge' mode, or supports something like DD-WRT, you can reuse that. You basically just set it up, have it connect to your existing wifi and 'bridge' the network ports on it to your wifi.. This works great, has great signal, and probably will be free because you might have old routers sitting around your house that can do this (or pick up one from the goodwill). As mentioned, one that supports DD-WRT would be the easiest, but some good routers will also have this mode as well (I think asus in particular). Google 'wifi client bridge'

    Let me know if you have more specific questions on one of these.
    -- Brian

    Systems: Amstad PCW 8256, Apple IIe/II+/GS/Mac+/Mac 512k, Atari 800/520STFM, Commodore 64/128/Amiga 3000/PET 4032/SX-64, IBM PS/1 2121-B82, Kaypro II, Osborne 1, Tandy 1000 SX, TI-99/4A, Timex Sinclair 1000, TRS-80 Color Computer 3/Model 4 GA

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