USB wireless dongle
A faulty network card in the laptop can stop Wi-Fi browsing for good. This is where wireless USB adapters step in and connect to your router, instead. Image Credit: Shutterstock

A breadth of Wi-Fi accessories exists to solve internet issues. A range extender brings the entire house closer to the parent router, while the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard takes on multiple heavy users with ease. These intricate systems are of no use, if your computer fails to hold onto a wireless network.

USB Wi-Fi adapters or dongles behave like internal wireless cards by overcoming a built-in Wi-Fi defect in your laptop. The same goes for obsolete desktop models that don't have the latest wireless standards to talk to your router.

Muhammed Shameer, IT support and partner at Dubai-based repair store Techmate Computers, explained: "The Wi-Fi dongle is a small device for desktop computers that don't have built-in Wi-Fi or don't support the new Wi-Fi systems. You don't need to upgrade the entire machine. The dongle will allow your computer to [connect to the internet] normally, and help you avoid cables, too."

It's a simple plug-and-play solution to get Wi-Fi to any USB-enabled device. 

Is a Wi-Fi adapter better than an extender?

wifi dongle
Make sure your wireless dongle is compatible with the operating system (OS) of your machine. Image Credit: Shutterstock

In other cases, wireless adapters are sometimes used to boost range repeaters, given how compact and cost-effective they are. Say, you work from a distant corner of the house. A USB dongle, especially one with external antennae, can reach out to a nearby extender for better access.

However, an extender is futile if the laptop is unable to connect to a network in the first place. "If you're getting signals on your phone but not on the laptop, then it's clear that there's a compatibility issue. Buying an adapter here would be more helpful than a range extender," added Shameer, who has 16 years of experience in the industry.

Which Wi-Fi adapter is the best for me?

In your search for the best Wi-Fi dongle, you'll most likely find two types: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). Shameer recommends the latter for the basic home user, who might be sharing the network with around 10 to 15 devices.

"Someone who's a gamer or streamer, or a business with many employees will find Wi-Fi 6 a better option, since the new generation reduces congestion on a network," he said.

You may want to forgo a bulky form factor in favour of antenna-free USB dongles. These are inexpensive and portable, but they're also weaker without external antennae, so you'll have to be closer to the router. If your computer is going to be significantly far, then consider adapters with one or two antennae.

We've featured those with external antennae in our list below, based on our expert's recommendations. For some wireless dongles, the extensions snap back into the body, and the device can be tossed into a laptop bag or backpack for on-the-go.

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1. Best Overall: Netgear Nighthawk Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter (A8000)


  • Adds Wi-Fi 6E or 6Hz band to the connected device
  • Speeds of up to 3Gbps
  • Foldable antenna for storage
  • Backwards compatible with older Wi-Fi standards
  • Comes with a cradle and a USB extension


  • Needs Windows 11 to access the new 6Hz band

Equipped with the latest Wi-Fi speeds of up to 3Gbps (3,000Mbps), the Netgear Nighthawk USB adapter A8000 lets you access the exclusive Wi-Fi 6E (6Hz) band, besides the 2.4Hz and 5Hz bands. Plug the dongle into your desktop, and join HD video conferences, game and stream confidently. It even has a flat flippable antenna that snaps open and shut for better coverage, meaning the USB adapter easily slips into any pocket or tight storage. Netgear assures compatibility with any Wi-Fi 6 router or mesh system at home. More good news is that gamers have the option to connect the adapter via a cradle and an extended USB cable, so it's never at risk of accidental ejection. Remember, the faster 6Hz channel is only accessible if you have a Wi-Fi 6E router. Reviewers with an advanced new-gen setup love how seamlessly this dongle works, going as fast as a wired Ethernet connection. It's a great option for users with a gigabit internet service, who want to add Wi-Fi 6E to their laptop.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh23 and two-year extended warranty for Dh38.

2. Best Budget: TP-Link AC1300 High Gain USB 3.0 Wi-Fi Dongle (Archer T3U Plus)


  • Two high-gain antennae built in one
  • Dual-band speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps
  • Simple installation
  • Value for money


  • MacOS drivers are outdated and do not work

Retailing at a quarter the price of Netgear's A8000, the TP-Link Archer T3U Plus is an affordable option for Wi-Fi 5 users. You're not losing out on an antenna at this value, either. This adapter has two high-gain external antennae built in one for wider coverage, delivering dual-band speeds of up to 1.3Gbps. Much like our best overall, it carries a USB 3.0 interface for enhanced reading and writing speeds. You can use the Archer T3U Plus on both macOS and Windows 7 and up, however, Macintosh users in the reviews note that the macOS drivers needed for installation do not work. The long antenna might be susceptible to snapping, so reviewers caution buyers on that front. Otherwise, the adapter works for those accessing Wi-Fi from a router downstairs and through concrete walls. They add that the dongle pulls in enough throughput to stream movies from a dead zone in the house.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two-year extended warranty for Dh19.

3. Best Portable Dongle: ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi Adapter


  • Short, dual antennae with beamforming technology
  • Desktop cradle to move the adapter around
  • Up to total speeds of 1.9Gbps
  • Antennae fold down when not needed


  • Overheating issues, report reviews

Shell out a few more Dirhams, and you can get a faster adapter with shorter antennae. ASUS' 1.9Gbps wireless dongle adds Wi-Fi 5 capabilities to your computer instantly. It comes with a pair of three-position antennae, which support beamforming to deliver direct signals to and from your machine. Plug the USB 3.0 dongle in or click it into the cradle near the laptop so that you can catch better reception in problem areas. Several five-star reviewers have replaced their Ethernet cable with the USB-AC68, and others have solved their range issues when gaming online from the far side of the house. It does overheat when transferring heavier packets of data.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two-year extended warranty for Dh19.

4. Best for Linux Users: Alfa AC1900 WiFi Adapter


  • Compatible with Windows, macOS and Linux systems
  • Four antennae for wide coverage
  • Customisable antennae
  • Up to a total of 1.9Gbps speeds
  • Great for running security tools


  • Large and unwieldy for portability
  • MacOS drivers may be outdated

The Alfa AC1900 adapter resembles a router more than a USB flash drive. With a separate body and four screw-on antennae, Shameer says the device is great for those who'd want to customise their external antennae later on. Thanks to the many extensions, the Alfa AC1900 adapter has a long range of 152 metres with beamforming and connects to the laptop via a USB 3.0 cable. We love that it's compatible with not only Windows XP and up, and macOS, but Linux systems as well. It is a conspicuous presence on the desk; however, users are impressed with the range they get past concrete walls and other structures. Cybersecurity professionals and students who perform penetration testing love that it works flawlessly with Linux Kali.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh18 and two-year extended warranty for Dh29.

5. Best for Online Gaming: ASUS WiFi 6 AX1800 USB WiFi Adapter (USB-AX56)


  • Better USB 3.2 Gen 1 interface
  • Beamforming antennae
  • Up to 1.8Gbps speeds on the Wi-Fi 6 standard
  • Suitable for gaming
  • Comes with cradle and USB cable


  • May be only compatible with Windows 10 PCs

The only other option for a Wi-Fi 6 adapter in our list is the ASUS USB-AX56. It offers total speeds of up to 1.8Gbps, a significant reduction from the Nighthawk dongle, but is priced accordingly for it. An upgrade worth noting is the USB 3.2 Gen 1 interface, which is a welcome improvement from 3.0 speeds. You can fold down the dual antennae when not in use and take the USB adapter with you anywhere. It supports beamforming from the router, so the dongle receives stronger, direct signals to perform better. The cradle is also an option to manoeuvre the adapter around to solve a patchy connection. Users report a speed boost from 300 Mbps to 800 Mbps on their computer, and gamers who play online or on the cloud vouch for it. Some were unable to install the adapter on their machines that did not run Windows 10, so do tread with caution. There's heating as well, but onboard vents make this a nonissue.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two-year extended warranty for Dh19.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.