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How do I add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to my desktop computer?

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Wireless wonder: add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to your PC

Here at Big Tech Question Towers we’re always happy to answer reader’s questions and, in this case, it’s a reader’s mother with a question about adding Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to her desktop PC. Zoe asks:

She owns a [desktop] computer. In her old house it was connected to the internet via cable. She’s moved and there’s no wall connection in this room. There’s also no Bluetooth on this computer, but strong Wi-Fi in the house. What are her options?

This is not an unusual situation – desktop computers often come without Wi-Fi and, particularly Bluetooth, whereas this is an expectation for any laptop on the market. If you need need to add them, what can you do?

How to wirelessly connect the internet to a desktop computer

The easiest solution here is to add Wi-Fi, which we’ll look into in a minute.

But, what if Wi-Fi isn’t an option? You had a cable connection before (aka “Ethernet”) but what if the computer isn’t in Wi-Fi range? In this situation I’d recommend Powerline sockets. These plug into your main socket and transmit data through your power supply from one location to another. So, you’d plug in a powerline unit close to your router and then another near to your desktop computer. Each is wired to the device with an Ethernet cable but your home’s mains power connects the two together.

Although I have good Wi-Fi in my house, I use this solution for my games console, as it provides a faster, more consistent connection.

A number of companies produce Powerline sockets, but something such as this TP-Link kit for around £32 will work just fine. You get a pack of two plugs, with pass-throughs (so you can still plug other things into it and you don’t lose the use of a mains socket!). At around £32, they’re great value for money.

Powerline sockets are a great way to extend the Wi-Fi in your house

If Wi-Fi is an option, though, then you can buy simple USB solutions. Plug one into a spare USB port and it will add Wi-Fi connectivity to your desktop computer.

You can find lots of cheap, no-name products but I’d stick with a known brand. For example, a TP-Link Wireless USB adapter (pictured to the right) will set you back a shade under £7.

How to add Bluetooth to a desktop computer

As with the Wi-Fi, the easiest solution is to add Bluetooth via a USB dongle.

As before, I’d recommend TP-Link (I honestly don’t have shares in this company, it just has good-quality, value-for-money products). TP-Link’s USB dongle, which gives you Bluetooth 5, is about £10.

I’ve, genuinely, seen Poundland sell these products too (and, yes, for £1) but it used a piece of cardboard to hold the metal connectors inside, so cheap solutions are probably best avoided.

How to add both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to your computer at the same time

If you want to add both it would be a pain to use up two of your precious USB ports, which is why you can buy USB devices that provide both. This unbranded product provides you with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 for around £15.

And, for those who want something more in keeping with the sleek lines of their existing computer, and are happy to play around inside the case, you can buy a card that can be installed inside. This TP-Link product adds the latest, super-fast Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 for around £40. You will need a spare PCI Express connection inside, so check before buying.

Zoe’s Mother: what’s the recommended solution?

If you have a couple of spare USB ports at the back of the computer then I’d recommend getting separate USB dongles. The TP-Link versions I mentioned above would cost around £17. Why separate versions? Simply because that way you can stick with the branded, quality versions, which are less likely to cause problems.

Otherwise, the all-on-one USB product would be the perfect answer.

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About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.

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