Choosing an internal or external network adapter

When you are choosing the hardware you need to buy for your home or small office network, you need to decide whether to install network adapters inside your computer or simply plug them into the USB port on your computer.

External network adapters

The simplest, easiest way to set up your home or small office network is to buy external USB network adapters. These adapters plug into a USB port on your computer, eliminating the need to open up your computer to install a network adapter. External network adapters are available for Ethernet, home phoneline network adapter (HPNA), and wireless.

Once you connect the network adapter to the USB port and the corresponding hub (Ethernet network hub or phone jack for HPNA), your network is up and running. If you are choosing wireless for your network solution, all you need to do is connect the wireless network adapter to the USB port.

Internal network adapters

These types of network adapters are installed inside your computer into a PCI slot. Installing an internal network adapter requires you to open up your computer to install it. In addition, you might have other devices, such as modems or network adapters, already installed in your computer.

If you already have an internal network adapter installed, and are installing a second network adapter, it is recommended you have qualified technician install the new network adapter. The technician can troubleshoot and resolve any problems that might occur when the network adapter is installed.


For a comprehensive list of hardware supported by Windows operating systems, see Compatible Hardware and Software in Help and Support Center. 

Buying the right hardware

Modems overview

Network adapters overview

Home and small office networking overview

Start the Network Setup Wizard

Steps for creating a home or small office network

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