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Struggling With Poor Wireless Speeds On Older or Non-Integrated Card Devices?

We have a number of all-in-one computers on our campus, many of which are in our library.  These Dell devices did not come with internal wireless cards so we had added USB wireless devices to them a few years ago.  While these machines are in a common space within the library, we often had faculty using them when their classrooms were otherwise engaged with some other activity.

Over the  last several weeks, we received a number of complaints about slow webpage loading and the like.  My tech support folks and I would check the machines following each ticket and would often find the speed tests to be "reasonable".  Yet a short time later, we would again hear rumblings that the device performance was far less than optimal making the computers difficult to us.  Again, we would follow-up with speed tests.  And then, over time, we began to notice the speed tests became more and more inconsistent.

One day when one of our faculty was using one of the computers while I was nearby, I began to watch as he was attempting to work and complaining along the way.  He was in-fact waiting almost minutes for webpages to refresh or load.  We had been making changes within our network infrastructure recently, adding a new primary router and new switches as well.  The access points were relatively new and were functioning within specs based upon other performance testing so my efforts focused on the computers themselves.  In a troubleshooting effort, I brought out my phone and ran a speed test while connected to our wireless network and was seeing quite good speeds there.  So next I retrieved a long ethernet cable and ran it from the computer he was using across the room to a network jack and voila, performance improved dramatically.

I let him finish the work he was in the midst of doing but once he finished, I sat down and began to run a few more diagnosis.  With the wired network connection performing both consistently and far more reliably, I determined it must be the aftermarket wireless adapter...even though we had a couple different adaptors among this group of machines, it simply had to be the adapter.

The search was on for a new wireless adapter.  We only ordered one for testing purposes just to prove to ourselves that this was in-fact the issue.  We first tested the NetGear Wireless-N 300Mbps USB Adapter.

This adapter performed very well.  Speeds increased dramatically and were consistent over time.  Teachers and students were happy and the complaints and tickets subsided.  However, we did begin to see issues again fairly quickly with this adapter.  It turned out, students were confusing this adapter with their flash drives and were pulling them out.  They weren't taking them, just pulling them out and, when realizing it wasn't their flash drive, just laying it on the table and going on about their business.  

What to do now?  Well we found that Netgear had an alternative, the Netgear N300 Mini USB Adapter.  

This is the next wireless adapter we purchased.  This adapter provided the same network performance and did not come with the added benefit of resembling a student's flash drive!!  

All is well once again with our computers in our library common space.  If you have a scenario similar to ours, I would highly recommend the Netgear N300 Mini USB Adapter or the NetGear Wireless-N 300Mbps USB Adapter.  These devices should work well as replacement network adapters for older computers, either desktops or laptops that are still performing reasonable well internally but could take advantage of improved network connectivity speeds with the installation of a new adapter.  All in all, a great price vs performance purchase for us.


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