What is a dongle and when should you avoid using one

You may have heard of an internet dongle before when looking for ways of getting access to the internet. While dongles can be helpful in certain situations, they should be only be reserved for temporary internet access when you need connectivity on the go.

We’ll explain what dongles are and how to use them, as well as their pros and cons. Most importantly we’ll breakdown the scenarios where dongles should and shouldn’t be used to access the internet.

What is a dongle

A dongle is a small, portable piece of hardware that plugs into the USB port on your computer. It provides extra ports, which you can then use to connect monitors and other devices. Dongles also have the ability to turn a computer into a WiFi hotspot, which can be extremely useful if you’re traveling and need to connect to the internet.

The dongle will allow you to connect your devices, such as an external hard drive or laptop to the internet. It connects to the internet in the same way your mobile phone does, via 3G, 4G, or 5G networks.

Dongles can also be referred to as a WiFi dongle, mobile dongle, USB modem, internet stick, USB network adapter or USB mobile broadband stick.

How to use a dongle

The plug and play nature of a dongle makes them extremely easy to use.

To use a dongle, first make sure that it is properly plugged into your laptop USB port. The majority of dongles connect via a USB port but there are some available which connect wirelessly.

Once connected, then open the program or application that requires access to the internet. Your dongle allows you to access the internet via it’s 4G connection. It’s just like a miniature modem.

In order to use a WiFi dongle, you’ll need to have an active monthly data plan with a mobile carrier. This could be an unlimited data plan or a pay as you go SIM. There are a wide variety of data plans available.

Now that you know a little bit more about dongles, let’s take a look at when you should and shouldn’t use them.

Pros and Cons of Dongles

Pros

  • Dongles are portable and easy to carry around.
  • Dongles are affordable and cost-effective, if you choose the right data plan.
  • Dongles are easy to set up and use.
  • Dongles provide a convenient way to get an internet connection.

Cons

  • Dongles can be lost or stolen easily.
  • Dongles may not work with all devices.
  • Dongles can be slow at times. They have speed restrictions.
  • Dongles can be unstable and may disconnect frequently.
  • If you have multiple devices, you can only connect one device at a time.

When to use a dongle

There are several scenarios where using a dongle can be helpful:

When you’re traveling and need an internet connection

If you’re going to be traveling and need to have access to the internet, a dongle can be a lifesaver. You can simply plug it into your computer and connect to a WiFi network, which will give you the ability to work, check your email, and do anything else you need to do online.

When you don’t have access to a WiFi network

If you’re in an area where there’s no WiFi network available, a dongle can again be very helpful. As long as you have a data plan with a mobile carrier, you’ll be able to connect to the internet and do everything you need to do.

When working in public spaces

A mobile internet dongle could save you time and effort if you like to work in public spaces but don’t want to rely on poor, restricted WiFi that is congested due to multiple devices.

When not to use a dongle

There are also several scenarios where you should avoid using a dongle:

When you are looking for permanent business or home broadband

Dongles are not ideal for permanent broadband. High-data activities, like 4K streaming or downloading large files, are difficult to do when using a dongle.

When you need reliable, fast broadband speeds

While dongles are a great way to get online temporarily, they do come with speed restrictions. This is why dongles are not ideal for permanent broadband connections. They simply can’t handle the high-data activities that most people need for things like streaming or downloading files.

When you’re in an area with a strong WiFi signal

If you’re in an area where there is a strong WiFi signal, you won’t need to use a dongle. You can simply connect to the WiFi network and have access to the internet.

When you don’t have a data plan

If you don’t have a data plan with a mobile carrier, you won’t be able to use a dongle to connect to the internet. In this case, you’ll either need to find a WiFi network or purchase a mobile data plan.

When you have an overcrowded computer port

Another time when you might want to avoid using a dongle is if your computer is already crowded and doesn’t have any open USB slots.

Alternatives to using a dongle

There are many alternatives to using a mobile dongle. Some people find that they do not need a dongle at all, while others find different workarounds. Here are some of the most popular alternatives.

WiFi

If you have access to WiFi, you can connect your devices wirelessly. This is often the most convenient option, as it does not require any extra hardware.

Bluetooth

Another wireless option is to use Bluetooth. This is a popular choice for those who want to avoid using a dongle and have a device with Bluetooth functionality.

External hard drive

If you need to access your files offline, you can store them on an external hard drive. This is a good option if you have a lot of data to store.

Ethernet cable

If you have access to an high speed connection, you can connect your devices directly to the internet via an ethernet cable if you have ethernet ports available. This is a good option if you have high-speed internet.

4G/5G Mobile Broadband

Get a mobile broadband router providing 4G or 5G connectivity via the 5G or 4G network, so you can use it to connect your devices to the internet. This is a good option if you are based in a rural area and don’t have access to fixed line broadband. It can be used for business or home broadband.

Fixed Broadband

Get a fixed broadband connection if you are located in an area with fibre availability. This is a good way of getting guaranteed speeds for a monthly price.

How do they compare to using a dongle?

WiFi

WiFi is often more convenient than using a dongle, as it does not require any extra hardware. However, it can be less reliable than a wired connection.

External hard drive

External hard drives are a good option if you need to access your files offline. However, they can be bulky and difficult to carry around, unlike a broadband dongle which is small and easily transportable.

Ethernet

An ethernet connection will be much faster than a broadband dongle, but it does require an existing router with ethernet ports and cable.

4G/5G Mobile Broadband

4G or 5G mobile broadband is a good option if you want permanent, reliable broadband. It is more expensive than dongle options but the purpose of the two connectivity methods is completely different. A dongle is cheaper because it’s only designed to allow you to temporarily access the internet via the 3G / 4G network.

Fixed Line Broadband

Fixed broadband is a good option if you have access to a fixed broadband connection. However, it can be less convenient than a wireless connection as it requires cabled infrastructure to be in place at your property. You can also not bring it with you when you move.

Final thoughts on dongles

Dongles can be a convenient way to connect devices to the internet, but they are not always the right choice to get online, especially if you are looking for permanent broadband. There are many different alternatives to using a dongle, including Bluetooth, fixed line, and 4G/5G mobile broadband. Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on your needs and preferences.