Wireless Network AdaptersWireless network adapters (also known as wireless NICs or wireless network cards) are required for each device on a wireless network. All newer laptop computers incorporate wireless adapters as a built-in feature of the system. Separate add-on adapters must be purchased for older laptop PCs; these exist in either PCMCIA "credit card" or USB form factors.
No wireless hardware other than adapters is required to build a small local network. However, to increase the performance of network connections, accommodate more computers, and increase the network's range, additional types of hardware can be deployed.
Wireless RoutersWireless routers function comparably to traditional routers for wired Ethernet networks. One generally deploys wireless routers when building an all-wireless network from the ground up.
Similar to routers, access points allow wireless networks to join an existing wired network. One typically deploys access points when growing a network that already has routers installed. In home networking, a single access point (or router) possesses sufficient range to span most residential buildings. Businesses in office buildings often must deploy multiple access points and/or routers.