A reader wanted to know if there was any way to speed up a hotspot that she purchased at Wal-Mart. She wondered if a USB  WiFi adapter could help.

First, let’s understand what a hotspot is. This device works like a router in many ways. It allows you to connect wireless devices to a signal provided by an Internet service provider. Instead of plugging into a modem, it connects via  3G or 4G  signal provided by a wireless carrier just like a smartphone. (in fact, some smartphones can be turned into hotspots.)  You can either purchase the data for the hotspot as part of a data plan with a company like Verizon or Sprint or you can buy pre-paid minutes.


Since a USB WiFi adapter connects to your PC, it can’t speed up the connection from your hotspot. What a WiFi adapter can do is improve your PCs ability to receive a signal.

If you think there’s a problem with the  hotspot’s speed, you should first check out what the maximum speed available in your area is and what speed you’re paying for.  Some areas don’t receive a very fast connection due to the geography or the distance from cell towers.  Customer support for your plan or device should be able to help you out with that information.

The next thing you need to find out is if your PC is receiving the full strength of the signal available to it.

You can check out a site like Speedtest to see what your PC is receiving.


If your PC is not receiving the full speed offered by your plan, it’s possible that a WiFi adapter plugged into your computer’s USB port could help boost the signal.


But only if that adapter offers faster speeds than your PC is currently receiving. And nothing can make the signal faster than what’s being provided by your ISP.

~ Cynthia