Some motherboards come with built-in WiFi, while others do not. Most budget desktop motherboards do not have WiFi built-in, but there are a few exceptions; on the other hand, most high-end gaming motherboards and laptop motherboards include WiFi. But if your motherboard does not have WiFi, you can always purchase a dedicated WiFi card. There are many different types of WiFi cards, so you should be able to find one that fits your needs and budget.
Not all motherboards come with WiFi, but all of them have Ethernet ports. So even if you don’t have WiFi built-in, you can still use a wired connection.
What Does It Mean to Have Wi-Fi Pre-Installed on the motherboard?
When we are talking about pre-installed wifi, we are referring to the WiFi adapter there is already on the motherboard (hardwired). This way, you can connect to wireless networks without having to purchase anything extra, just like you do with your phone.
Related Article: Does My Motherboard Have Bluetooth?
So, DO motherboards come with wifi pre-installed?
No, not all motherboards come with wifi pre-installed; it depends on the model and the features that are included. However, most motherboards do come with at least one built-in Ethernet port, so you can always use a wired connection if you don’t have WiFi.
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How do I know if my motherboard has Built-in WiFi?
Finding out if your motherboard has WiFi is easy, and there are two ways to do it.
- The first way is to look at the motherboard itself. On the back of the motherboard, near the I/O ports, you should see an antenna like in the picture above. If there is an antenna, then it means that the motherboard has WiFi built-in.
- Another way to check is to read your motherboard’s specifications on the manufacturer’s website. The specifications will list all of the features included on the motherboard, and if WiFi is one of them, it will be listed there.
Do I need WiFi on the motherboard?
If you want to connect to a wireless network, then yes, you will need WiFi on your motherboard. However, if you are only going to be using a wired connection, then you don’t need WiFi on your motherboard cause you can use the Ethernet port. Even if you don’t have a WiFi card hardwired on your motherboard, you can still use a USB WiFi adapter which in most cases will be better than the built-in adapter.
Onboard Wifi and Form Factor
There are 3 main form factors for motherboards. ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX. The main difference between the form factors is the size, with ATX being the largest and Mini-ITX being the smallest.
But what does the form factor has to do with onboard Wifi?
Mini-Itx and onboard wifi
The form factor of the motherboard determines the size of the motherboard and, in turn, the number of ports and slots that are available. So motherboards that come in the Mini-ITX form factor typically don’t have as many ports and slots as the larger ATX form factor. They usually have only 1 PCIex16 slot, which is where you will install your graphics card and a few USB ports.
For this reason, Mini-ITX motherboards almost always come with onboard WiFi. There just isn’t enough connectivity available on the board to install a separate WiFi adapter, and the manufacturers know that.
ATX and Micro ATX onboard wifi
Larger ATX and Micro ATX motherboards typically have more ports and slots, allowing you to install a separate WiFi adapter.
For this reason, only higher-end ATX and Micro ATX motherboards come with a built-in WiFi card. You don’t see it on low or mid-range motherboards because it will add to the cost, and most people don’t really need it.
But they always provide Ethernet ports, so you can use a wired connection if you want. They also come with USB ports and PCIex1 slots for connecting peripherals.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Build in Wifi Motherboards
There are certain advantages and disadvantages of having a motherboard with onboard WiFi and this is what we are going to talk about in this section.
Advantages of onboard Wifi
The most obvious advantage of having a motherboard with onboard WiFi is portability. Even with a desktop, you can move it around your house without having to unplug any LAN cables. All you need is a WiFi network, and you’re good to go. If you rely on the Ethernet port for your internet connection, then you will have to unplug the cable every time you move your desktop.
2) The speed is good
Most onboard WiFi adapters are pretty good in terms of speed. They may not be as fast as Ethernet, but the speed should be fine if you are using your desktop for light browsing or streaming. Ethernet speeds become important if you transfer large files or play games, but for most people, the onboard WiFi adapter is more than adequate.
3) No extra cables to deal with
Another advantage of an onboard WiFi adapter is that you don’t have to worry about extra cables. Cables can be a pain, especially if you are trying to move your desktop around. With onboard WiFi, you don’t have to worry about any cables getting in the way.
4) Good for small office use
The routers in small offices have a certain number of ethernet ports, and if the number of computers exceeds the ports available on the router, then an additional ethernet hub or switch is needed. With onboard WiFi, you won’t need to use an ethernet hub or switch, saving you some money.
Disadvantages of onboard WiFi
1) Not upgradable
This is the biggest disadvantage of having a motherboard with onboard WiFi. Because the adapter is hardwired to the motherboard, it can’t be upgraded. If your motherboard supports Wifi 5 and you want to upgrade to Wifi 6, you can’t do it.
2) It is pricier
Motherboards with onboard WiFi are usually a bit pricier than those without. This is because the manufacturers have to include the adapter in the price of the motherboard. Adding a $10 WiFi adapter to a motherboard that doesn’t have onboard WiFi will be way cheaper than buying a motherboard with onboard WiFi.
3) It occupies PCIe lanes
PCIe lanes are the way that your motherboard communicates with your graphics card and other devices.
Motherboards have a certain number of PCIe lanes, and if the onboard Wi-Fi adapter uses some of them, then you will have fewer lanes available for other purposes. This is not a big deal for most people, but it can be a problem if you need all the PCIe lanes for multiple high-end graphics cards.
4) They are not as fast as Ethernet
While wireless connections are fast enough for most people, it is not as fast as Ethernet. So why pay the extra money for a motherboard with onboard WiFi when you already have a fast Ethernet connection?
Why do only high-end motherboards come with build in Wi fi while low or mid-range motherboards don’t?
High-end motherboards come with built-in wifi because they offer the user as many features as possible. So offering Wifi and Bluetooth is a standard these days.
On the other hand, mid and low-end motherboards don’t come with wifi because those motherboards are trying to offer more features for a lower price.
In simple words, onboard Wifi is not as important as other features like more PCIe slots, more M.2 ports, etc. Motherboard manufacturers have you covered when it comes to connectivity with the Ethernet port and choose to invest their money on other features and leave out the wifi as it will only increase the cost.
What do I do if my motherboard doesn’t have WiFi?
If your motherboard doesn’t have WiFi, you don’t need to panic; there are many different types of Wi-Fi adapters you can purchase.
WiFi adapters are cheap, and you can usually find them from $10 up to $100. But with $30 you can buy a decent adapter that will do the job.
Just make sure you buy the right type of adapter. There are two main types of WiFi adapters, PCI and USB.
PCIe WiFi Adapters vs USB Wifi Adapters
PCI adapters plug into the PCI slot on your motherboard, while USB adapters plug into a USB port. So depending on what type of ports your motherboard has, you will need to buy the appropriate type of adapter.
The PCIe WiFi adapters are usually a bit faster and more stable than the USB adapters, and it is a better choice if your motherboard has a free PCIe slot.
On the other hand, they are more expensive, take up a PCIex1 slot, and need some technical know-how to install.
USB WiFi adapters are less expensive, easier to install, and don’t take up any of your precious PCIe slots, but they are not as fast or stable as a PCIe WiFi card.
Depending on your needs, you will need to decide which type of adapter is best for you. But either way, you will be able to find an adapter to do your job.
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I have talked in-depth about if all motherboards nowadays come with an integrated WiFi adapter, the pros and cons of having one, and what to do if your motherboard doesn’t have WiFi.
High-end desktop, laptop, and Mini-ATX boards come fitted with a WiFi adapter. Mid and low-priced boards usually do not have WiFi adapters since their manufacturers prefer to add other features for the same or a lesser value.
If your motherboard doesn’t have WiFi, don’t worry because there are many different types of WiFi adapters that you can purchase.
At the end of the day, it is up to you whether or not you want a motherboard with onboard WiFi. But I hope this article has helped you make a more informed decision.
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building