I bought this item with my previous PC when wireless networking was relatively new. I also knew very little about the technology at the time but as I was moving my PC into my newly built study, I had 2 choices, either go wireless or pay Virgin £75 to move my wired connection. As someone who doesn't like spending money at the best of times, I decided to take the plunge and go wireless.
This product cost me £25 when I bought it. I was interested in the Belkin wireless router, so I played safe and used the same manufacturer for both items that would allow the router and my PC talk to each other. I now know that this shouldn't make any difference as all wireless devices will talk to each other as long as they are using the same encryption protocols and keys.
In the box
On opening the box, there were no real surprises. There was the PCI card, the antenna, a quick installation guide and a CD which contained the drivers and a full manual.
On reading the quick installation guide, it was apparent that the software had to be installed before the card was plugged in. The reason for this was because, when the hardware was detected, the software would be available to complete a trouble free install. Installing the software was straightforward. There was a limited number of standard questions, such as install location and the wizard was happy to carry on unattended.
Once the software was installed, it was time to plug in the PCI wireless card. As a computer professional this bit did not phase me, though for the novice, opening up the PC and looking at an array of circuit boards and wires could be quite daunting, so depending on your level of competency and confidence, either proceed with caution or get somebody else more qualified to help. You will need to find a free PCI slot in your computer, remove the protective metal plate from the back of your PC and snap the card into place. Put the lid back on your PC and screw the antenna to the newly positioned card. That is the hardest step out of the way and you are almost ready to surf the net wirelessly.
When you turn your PC now, it will detect your new hardware and install the correct drivers that you just set up prior to inserting the card.
If you have no encryption on the router, you are ready to surf, though this is not recommended. If you have encryption on the router, open up the Wireless software on your PC and select the encryption mode you are using and enter the pass key. I must admit, this baffled me for a day or so as it wasnt apparent from the manual what I should have been entering here. As it was over Christmas, I wasnt able to contact technical support but eventually figured it out. As I had opted for the WEP encryption , I was required to enter a series of hexadecimal characters, I was entering something completely different hence the reason the network card was not talking to the router. I have since changed my encryption to WPA as it is a lot stronger and now only requires a simple text phrase to set up the encryption.
I have had no problems with this card in all the time I have been using it. Occasionally the signal will drop down to a low level but it has never cut out completely. If you are experiencing low signals, make sure the antenna on the card is pointing upward so it can receive the strongest signal. Once the initial setup has been done, there is no need to worry about the card, it will look after itself and connect to the router once it has been switched on.
This card is so easy to set up and use, you'll probably forget you have it installed. It looks after itself and has proved to be very reliable. Setting up the security key is straightforward providing you take your time (unlike me) and after that, there is really nothing else to do. This product complements the Belkin wireless router perfectly, although it can be used, just as easily with other routers.
I would highly recommend this wireless card to anyone, whether they are new to the wireless scene of just looking to upgrade their exisiting setup. This card is only for desktop PC's and is not available for laptops. This is no big issue as these days, all new laptops come with built in wireless cards in any case. This card has been superseded by the new Wireless 'n' draft cards but it is still sufficient for everyday browsing, as long as your internet speed is not higher than 50Mb which will be 99% of the population.