Why Your Wifi Adapter is Slow and How to Fix it

Using a Wi-Fi dongle or adapter can be a great option when you are using a device that doesn’t have Wi-Fi compatibility. This is usually common if you have a desktop PC or a laptop that doesn’t have a built-in Wi-Fi card.

Showing what a wifi dongle looks like

A Wi-Fi adapter usually comes in the form of a USB that can be plugged into the USB port of any device you need a Wi-Fi connection to.

This makes these Wi-fi dongles/adapters very useful because they are quick and easy to use, portable, and will allow you to switch between devices easily if you need to.

One downside, however, is that Wi-Fi dongles tend to have a poor connection that doesn’t meet the speeds that the other devices in your house are used to, which can be very frustrating.

This can be a bit frustrating especially if the connection speed is very low or unstable, but that’s why you clicked on this article; to find out why your Wi-Fi adapter is so slow and how to fix it.

Make sure to read this article carefully as it provides a few tips and tricks that you can use to speed up the connection of your Wi-Fi dongle/adapter.

To learn more about different types of Wi-Fi adapters and Wi-Fi cards click here.

1. Bandwidth Limitations

The first and most common issue you might come across is having a bandwidth limitation. Where most routers and Wi-Fi dongles now come with both 5GHz and 2.4Ghz bandwidth (band). You should check to see which bandwidth both your router and Wi-Fi dongle support.

If your dongle or adapter supports the 5GHz band then it is most likely that it supports the 2.4GHz band as well.

The same goes for your router, if it supports the 5GHz band, then it will support the 2.4GHz band.

The difference between the 5GHz band and the 2.4GHz band is that the 2.4GHz band is older and is slower than the 5GHz band.

Although this is the case there is still a good reason for having a 2.4GHz band on your Wi-Fi dongle. The advantage to using a 2.4Ghz band is that it has a longer range so you will be able to extend your connection a greater distance.

The reason for this is that the lower the bandwidth uses slower and longer radio waves which allows the waves to travel a further distance just at a slower pace.

On the other hand, the 5GHz Band omits faster and shorter radio waves, which will allow for a stronger connection but it won’t be able to travel as far.

You should also know that the faster and shorter radio waves can easily get disrupted if it has to travel through hard surfaces so if you are in an enclosed room, then you could have a worse connection than being in an open space.

Another reason that your bandwidth could be limited is due to activity. It is not only your household that is using the same Wi-Fi as you, but it is also your neighbors and everyone else on your street.

So, if you’re living in a highly-populated area dealing with a poor connection, especially around the evenings can be very common.

This can also be worse if you’re using a Wi-Fi dongle because the dongle has to connect to your Wi-Fi router, which is being interrupted by other users around your area. Then, once your dongle connects to your router, your router has to connect to everywhere else which is also being interrupted by the traffic of other people’s Wi-Fi signals.

A way to get around a high-traffic connection is by switching the Wi-Fi channel you are in. Most Wi-Fi dongles/adapters come with software that allows you to connect the dongle to your computer and to your router.

You can go on that program and from there you will be able to change the channel and view what channel other Wi-Fi networks are using around you.

Showing how I check and change the wi-fi channel I am in to get better connection from my wi-fi dongle
How you check what Wi-Fi channel you’re in

Here is a screenshot of the program I use with my Wi-Fi dongle. As you can see under the channel you can see what Band you are in as well as what Wi-FI channel you are in.

From this photo, you can see that I am connected to the 1 Wi-Fi channel, but you can also see that someone in my area is connected to that channel as well.

If I am experiencing connection issues, I would go and change my channel to 6, or 11 depending on who is connected to those channels.

Make sure to choose a channel that no one or very few households are using in order to get the best connection without your signal being interrupted by other people’s signals.

There are up to 14 different Wi-Fi channels you can connect to, with 1, 6, and 11 being the most important ones. If you can try connecting to one of those channels because those three channels are the only channels that don’t overlap each other this will help with connectivity especially if you are using a Wi-Fi dongle or adapter.

2. The location of Your Wi-Fi Dongle

Next, is the location of your Wi-Fi dongle or adapter could be in an area that is harming the connection to your router.

In an ideal world, you want to have your Wi-Fi dongle as close as you can to your router as the closer your dongle is to your router the better the connection will be.

Of course, this isn’t always possible, but if you have your computer desktop or laptop located in your basement and your router is on the top floor in the opposite end of your house, then this is probably causing the issue.

Wi-Fi Dongle location in a bedroom

You should also take note that certain surfaces such as walls made up of metal, or thick materials will make your connection worse, so you want to have your Wi-Fi dongle and router located in a more open area where walls won’t interrupt the connection.

Another thing to keep in mind with your dongle and adapter placement is that the way you position it when you plug it in matters too.

If you’re looking to buy a Wi-Fi dongle I would highly recommend buying one that has at least 1 or two antennas on it, as it will let you direct the signal in the direction of your choosing.

Using the antenna on your adapter you will be able to aim the connection directly at your router for a faster smoother connection.

I would also recommend plugging in your Wi-Fi dongle to the front port of your computer if you are using a desktop because it will be out of the way of all the other wires and things plugged in at the back, as well as being in a more open area.

3. Problem With Wi-Fi Adapters Antenna

Another reason for your poor connection could be the antenna on top or inside of your Wi-Fi adapter.

There are two different types of Wi-Fi dongles; ones that come with internal antennas (compact) or ones that come with external antennas (non-compact).

At first, buying a compact Wi-Fi dongle might seem like the better choice because it is small, compact, and isn’t an eyesore, but I would recommend staying away from these and opting for a non-compact dongle instead.

I get it… Nobody wants to have a giant antenna sticking out of their computer but hear me out.

A compact Wi-Fi dongle has a really small antenna that won’t be able to get the range and connectivity that a non-compact Wi-Fi dongle does.

With external antennas, you have the ability to move them around and direct the signal towards your router, which you can’t do with a compact adapter or dongle.

Although compact dongles have gotten better over the years they still aren’t as good as a non-compact dongle with an external antenna.

The only reason why you would choose a compact Wi-Fi dongle over a non-compact one is that they are cheaper and more affordable, but are they really worth it if you aren’t able to get a stable connection with one.

In my opinion, I think it’s a better idea to spend a little extra money on a non-compact Wi-Fi dongle so you can get the best connectivity possible with a dongle or adapter.

Single vs Multiple Antennas

Another problem you can come across with your Wi-Fi adapters antennas is if your dongle comes with a single antenna or multiple antennas.

You want to try to buy a Wi-Fi dongle with at least two antennas or more. The reason for this is that a single antenna can only do one task at a time, so it has to switch from inputting and outputting the Wi-FI signal.

When you have two antennas your Wi-Fi dongle will be able to use one antenna for input/receiving, and the other antenna for output/sending data across the Wi-Fi network.

As for more than two antennas, you will be able to have multiple inputs and outputs going clearing up any traffic getting in the way of your Wi-Fi speed.

5. Problem With the USB Port on your Laptop or Pc

Showing what a USB 3.0 port looks like and where you can Plug in your Wi-Fi adapter

Maybe the problem isn’t your dongle or your Wi-Fi; it could be because your USB port in your laptop or PC isn’t working properly.

Funny enough I actually came across this issue the first time I used a Wi-Fi dongle for my PC. I had one USB port available, so that’s where I plugged it in, and to my surprise, it didn’t work.

I still couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi, and I couldn’t figure out why until I decided to unplug my Wi-Fi dongle and plug it into one of the front USB ports that weren’t being used.

Instantly, I connected to the internet and my Wi-Fi dongle has been working great since then.

If for some reason your dongle isn’t connecting or the connection is unstable, try plugging it into a different USB port of your PC, and hopefully, that will fix your problem.

Another thing that you should keep in mind when plugging your Wi-Fi adapter or dongle into your PC is whether you’re plugging it into a USB 2.0 or a USB 3.0.

I won’t get too in-depth on this because this should be discussed on a different topic, but essentially USB 2.0 is slower than USB 3.0, so if at all possible you want to try to plug your Wi-Fi dongle into a USB 3.0 port.

You should also note that if the USB in your Wi-Fi dongle is a USB 2.0 then it won’t have any benefit plugging into a USB 3.0 port.

6. Switch Your Computer Settings and Run a Diagnostic

Another reason for your Wi-Fi dongle not working as well or not connecting to your PC at all could be because something was changed in your computer settings.

Consider running a diagnostic to see if it’s a problem within your computer.

Here is a short video that goes through a quick diagnostic where he shows how he fixed the dongle not working, which improved his connections speed with his Wi-Fi dongle.

7. Bad Connection is Coming From Your Service Provider

If you have gone through all of these tips and are still struggling with poor connection from your Wi-Fi adapter or dongle then the issue might not have anything to do with the dongle.

Your poor connection could be due to the Wi-Fi plan you have with your service provider. You might have a plan that can support 4 devices, but you’re using 6, or maybe you are only able to stream 4k video on one TV.

If you are still experiencing connection issues I would first check to see if other devices around your household are also dealing with connection issues as well and if they are I would try to talk to your service provider to look at a potential upgrade in your Wi-Fi speed and bandwidth.

Conclusion

Hopefully, after going through and troubleshooting your Wi-fi dongle using these tips you will have a better Wi-Fi connection.

It might also be that you need to upgrade your dongle to one that’s faster and better; remember what I talked about earlier.

To look for a Wi-Fi dongle/adapter that is non-compact with at least two or more antennas and supports a 5GHz network.

Even after all this work trying to fix the poor performance from your Wi-Fi dongle still doesn’t improve. Then I would suggest going out and using an ethernet cable as these tend to be very reliable, and they also provide the fastest connection possible.

Lucas Coulson

I first got into building my own computer when I was around 12 or 13. The first computer I had ever built didn't work. So I kept researching to figure what I did wrong. I really enjoyed researching, learning, and building computers, so I decided to turn it into an online business, and here I am.

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