A wireless chipset is a piece of internal hardware designed to allow a device to communicate with another wireless-enabled device. This type of chipset can be found inside computers as well as a number of other wireless products. Types of hardware that might contain a wireless chipset include wireless computer hardware like wireless local area network (WLAN) cards and external WLAN adapters. Other types of hardware that might include a wireless chipset include routers and any other wireless devices that transmit or receive a wireless signal.
Inside a computer, a wireless chipset allows the machine to communicate with other compatible wireless devices. Even if a computer has a networking card like an Ethernet card already installed, it cannot connect to a wireless network without a device specifically made for wireless networking. The most common type of wireless chipset used in a computer is a WLAN card with 802.11b or 802.11g wireless technology. This type of hardware can also be called a wireless Internet card or wireless adapter. The internal variety plugs into an available hardware slot inside the computer. Once it is installed, wireless hardware drivers tell the computer how to operate the wireless chipset.
Universal serial bus (USB) devices are commonly used to add functions to a computer using its USB ports. USB is a common type of plug used to connect devices to a computer. One such device is an external wireless network card that uses a wireless USB chipset to enable a computer to connect to the Internet. A USB wireless chipset can be connected to a computer using a USB cable or plugged in directly like a thumb drive.
When a WLAN chipset connects to a network, it connects through a wireless router, another device equipped with a wireless chipset. A wireless router acts as a bridge between the wireless-enabled computer and the modem, which is the device that connects to the Internet signal coming from the Internet service provider. Wireless chipsets are not confined to networking only. Some wireless chipsets enable a user to connect to a wireless video or audio signal.
The word chipset can be used differently by different types of computer users. When referring to hardware, chipset is usually used to describe an internal piece of hardware located inside a complete device. This hardware part is called a chipset because parts of its type are usually made of two or more connected chips, though some chipsets only have one. In popular speech, devices like wireless adapters and external video adapters are sometimes erroneously called chipsets as well.