While many PCs do have Bluetooth already built in, many don’t, especially older PCs. Plus, an older PC might not have the correct Bluetooth version necessary for the device you’re using. Either way, buying a Bluetooth adapter is an easy and affordable way to make your PC Bluetooth-ready without having to resort to upgrading to a brand new PC.
Your Main Options
There are two main options to make your PC Bluetooth-ready. The easiest is a Bluetooth dongle or adapter. These are small USB adapters that usually install automatically when inserted. Some are roughly the size of the average USB flash drive, while others are barely larger than the USB portion itself.
These work well as long as you have an available USB port. While USB-A is the most common type, there are some USB-C varieties available if your PC only has USB-C ports. Most of the time, you do need to insert these directly into your PC versus using a hub, but there are some exceptions to this rule.
Your other option is a Bluetooth PCIe card. Most of the time, these are actually wireless cards that also support Bluetooth, so you may end up replacing your existing wireless card. However, in an older PC, upgrading to a better wireless card doesn’t hurt. These cards slide inside an available slot in your computer.
If you’re trying to add Bluetooth to a laptop, definitely go with the dongle, as it’s more compact and easier to install.
Consider the Features
The single most important feature is choosing the Bluetooth version. It sounds simple enough to make your PC Bluetooth-ready, but different adapters and cards support different Bluetooth standards or versions.
The current version at the time of writing is Bluetooth 5.2. The original 5.0 was released back in 2016. Each version adds new features. For instance, 5.2 improves upon low-energy audio, low-energy isochronous channel, and more.
The good news is Bluetooth is backward compatible, so even if your device works with Bluetooth 3.0, a card or adapter with Bluetooth 5.2 would support it. For best results, opt for the highest version you can find. At the very least, opt for Bluetooth 5, as most newer devices use this version.
A few other things to consider include:
- The purpose – You’ll want a Bluetooth adapter or card that works with most any Bluetooth device. Some are designed only to work with specific devices, such as the adapter that comes with many wireless keyboards. Some adapters only work with audio devices, such as headphones and speakers.
- NFC compatibility – This isn’t a must, but it’s a nice feature to have if you’re syncing your smartphone and PC often.
- Check the range – Bluetooth has a much shorter range than Wi-Fi. The average range is around 30 feet. However, you can find some with ranges twice as much or more.
- Data transfer rates – Higher data transfer rates mean less latency when using multiple devices at once. Plus, if you’re using Bluetooth for audio, this helps reduce annoying latency that ruins your music.
Best Bluetooth Dongles and Cards
In most cases, making your PC Bluetooth-ready is as simple as inserting the PCIe card or USB dongle. Windows typically recognizes and installs the necessary drivers automatically. However, always read the instructions that come with the Bluetooth device to ensure you’re installing it correctly. Some cards require you to connect a wire to the motherboard for Bluetooth functionality.
With so many options available, picking the right one can be daunting. To help you get started, try one of the following.
Bluetooth USB adapters
- Avantree DG45 Bluetooth 5.0 USB Dongle – Multi-purpose and up to a 33-foot range
- Avantree DG80 Bluetooth 5.0 USB Dongle Audio Only – Supports low-latency for a better audio experience, along with a 60-foot range indoors and 100-foot range with line of sight outdoors
- Mpow USB Bluetooth 5.0 Adapter – Multi-purpose and supports a range of up to 66 feet
- Techkey USB Mini Bluetooth 5.0 EDR Dongle – Multi-purpose and up to a 33-foot range
Bluetooth PCIe cards
- EDUP PCIe WiFi 6 Card Bluetooth 5.1 – Supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5.1
- TP-Link WiFi 6 AX3000 PCIe WiFi Card – Supports Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5.0
- Ubit AX WiFi 6 PCIE Wireless Card – Supports Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5.2
Once you make your PC Bluetooth-ready, you’re ready to start connecting devices. You can even make non-Bluetooth devices, such as older headphones, Bluetooth-compatible to use with your new Bluetooth dongle or card.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Zephyris