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Old 10-09-2011, 08:55 AM   #1
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Default pci vs usb for wifi adapter

I'm switching over to wifi for my older laptop and have problems with dropped connections intermittently at one end of the house using a usb dongle. I suspect its also when the neighbours' are also on their wifi pc's. Another laptop with a built in antenna works just fine. I used netstumbler/netview to look at the surrounding wifi networks and the channel is set appropriately.

Some researching seems to suggest that pci-cards are better than usb adapters in terms of signal strength and having the advantage of "hardware connect" (whatever that means).

So are pci adapters still better than usb? Is that because of the bigger external antenna? There are usb adapters which also have antennas - eg.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16833704045 (4dBi gain). Or are the differences now moot because of advances in tech?
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Old 10-09-2011, 04:36 PM   #2
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Nothing will beat the interal antenna on a laptop. It goes all the way around the LCD sceen. USB adaptors can be just fine and some even have an antenna identical to those that come with PCI cards. That being said, if you are dropping connections, try a replacement internal card for your Laptop. They are dirt cheap on ebay.
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Old 10-09-2011, 06:43 PM   #3
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My experience has been exactly the opposite -- PCI wireless cards have always been more troublesome than USB adapters for me, which was counterintuitive to how I thought it would be. After starting off broadband access with a USB adapter, I struggled with two or three cards from different companies, until I went back to USB for good, and haven't had a problem since.

In addition to thinking a card would work better, I also wanted WPA2 support -- the adapter AT&T provided only did WEP, which was also why I tried switching to a card initially.

I had one, a D-Link, that would eat the whole PCI bus every few seconds and max out latency (you could see this with the DPC tool), to the point that audio and video would stutter. I had trouble getting drivers to work correctly and consistently with the others, if I remember correctly.

Anecdotal, and everyone else's experience will probably be different, but that's how it turned out for me.

Last edited by stahlhart; 10-09-2011 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 10-09-2011, 08:14 PM   #4
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I messed up the search earlier and redoing it revealed a whole bunch of threads going back 5yrs which were asking the same 'PCI vs USB' question and JackMDS gave the most definitive answers. It seems that USB is just fine (a little counterintuitive considering add-on cards are connected directly while USB got a little longer ways to go and what not).

Thanks for the info. I didn't realize laptops have good antenna. My older laptop is a pre-wifi model and I'm stuck with usb. I was also wondering in my OP whether I could use my usb dongle for my future desktop build.

I solved the problem with a DIY solution using aluminium foil on the usb side and upping the modem/router power up 1 notch (was prev set to 50%).
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Old 10-09-2011, 11:44 PM   #5
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USB wifi dongles are fine. Just get a USB extension cable, so you can get the device out from the back of the PC (which it is partially shielded by the rear metal case of the PC), and out into the open where you can pick up a better signal.

This is one of the primary disadvantages of a PCI/PCI-E wifi card, they are stuck to the rear of the PC, with the puny antennas sticking right out of a metal plate, that reflect (or block)1 signals every which way.
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Old 10-10-2011, 02:42 AM   #6
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If pci card antenna's are puny as you say then usb ones are surely worse.
My usb adapter comes with an extension cable but the built in antenna can't deal with the interference from neighbours (in the problem area upstairs) and other laptops which are sharing the internet connection at my house. My DIY reflector thing is working well enough to solve my problem.
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Old 10-10-2011, 09:14 AM   #7
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PCI all the way. Just get one that will allow you to add a aftermarket antenna like the one i use. My signal is always 100% through 3 walls and I can pick up on neighbors wifi signals up to 125 yards away. Just have to aim it at the long distance ones.

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