Meaning of Network Card

Modern computers usually have a network card; another name for it is network adapter. If this hardware component is not included, it can be easily retrofitted. There are even several options for doing this. In addition, separate network cards are relatively cheap.

  • Technical devices such as computers and laptops are permanently connected to a network via a network card and they also exchange data via it.
  • The current generation of network adapters mostly use Ethernet connections.
  • Almost every computer is now equipped with one or two network adapters on the motherboard.

What is a network card?

Short for INC by abbreviationfinder, a network card (also network adapter, network controller or NIC for network interface card or network interface controller) is an electrical circuit in the form of a card or circuit board. It enables a computer to permanently connect to a network or the Internet and to exchange data with other Internet-enabled devices. The hardware is therefore also built into routers and other end devices. To ensure clear identification in the network, each component has a globally unique physical address .

There are several network types that differ in terms of their functionality. The most widespread are currently Ethernet network cards, which are characterized by their high speed and comparatively simple configuration. A network card usually only has one Ethernet connection, which makes it the physical interface between the computer and the cable. However, there are also models that have up to four connections. In addition, manufacturers are increasingly equipping network adapters with WLAN antennas. Wireless technology is being used increasingly in private households in particular.

Although more and more computers and laptops are using so-called WLAN cards without a cable connection, network cards remain indispensable for the time being, especially in data centers and for servers. With the help of the hardware components, speeds can be achieved many times higher than with WLAN.

The functions of a network card

A network adapter essentially establishes communication between the computer and other participants in the network. In this context, the component must

  • Receive data from the operating system, convert them into electrical signals and send them to the cable or network participants (via WLAN).
  • check whether the received signals are intended for the computer.
  • receive electronic signals and translate them into a compatible data format.
  • control the flow of data between the computer and the cable or the network participants (with WLAN).

In addition, computers can be started via the network card and operating systems can be reloaded via the network. Booting over the network enables local disks to be backed up. In addition, users have the option of checking the system for a possible virus attack without having to start the local operating system.

The different types of network cards

There are two types of network adapters: IT professionals distinguish between internal and external network adapters. In the first case, the network card is designed for installation in the device. It is either a network card installed on the motherboard, a PCI or PCIe network card or a PCMCIA network card. With the external versions, you usually connect the card to the computer via a USB port.

Integrated network adapter (onboard)

Most modern computers have one or two network cards that are soldered directly to the motherboard (motherboard or mainboard). There are also controllers integrated in the chipset, which treat the corresponding driver software like plug-in cards. This hardware is not always present, especially in very old computers.

PCI and PCIe network adapters

PCI and PCIe network adapters are intended for computers that do not have an integrated network card. They are plug-in cards that are simply inserted into the corresponding sockets (slots) – depending on the model in a PCI or PCIe slot.

PCMCIA network adapter

This network card is used in notebooks and laptops. They have a special card slot for the PCMCIA network adapter.

USB network adapter

This is an external network card that you connect to your PC or laptop via plug-and-play via a USB port. A USB network card is very useful if you have a mobile device without WiFi functionality.