068 - What is Computer Network Card

A Network Interface Card (NIC) is used to connect a computer to a network. The NIC provides a physical connection between the networking cable and the computer's internal bus. Fast Ethernet NICs are often 10/100 capable, and will automatically set to the appropriate speed.

A network interface card (NIC) used by computer to connect to a network. A NIC controls the wired and wireless connections of a computer to exchange information with other computers and the Internet. A computer uses a network interface card (NIC) to become part of a network. 

The NIC contains the electronic circuitry required to communicate using a wired connection (Ethernet) or a wireless connection (WiFi). Early NICs typically consisted of an expansion card connected to the motherboard. This separate card contained the electronic circuitry and the physical connectors.


One of the most common languages or protocols used with a LAN is Ethernet. There are also other, lesser-used protocols such as Token Ring. When building a LAN, a network interface card is installed in each computer on the network and each one must use the same architecture. For example, all the cards must be Ethernet cards, Token Ring cards, or an alternate technology.

An Ethernet network interface card is installed in an available slot inside the computer, typically on the motherboard. The NIC assigns a unique Media Access Control (MAC) address to the machine, which is used to direct traffic between the computers on a network. Network cards also change data from a parallel format, used by computers, to a serial format necessary in data transfers; and then back again for received information.

Wired Networks

• A card's back plate features a port that fits a data cable, such as an Ethernet cable, which runs from each NIC to a central hub or switch. The hub acts like a relay, passing information between computers using their MAC addresses and allowing them to share resources like printers and scanners. In a wired network, a cable physically connects each computer to each other or to a hub. 

Wireless Networks

• A network interface card does not have to be hard-wired with physical cable. Wireless cards are installed like their wired counterparts, but rather than a port for a cable, the card features a small antenna. The NIC communicates with a central wireless switch or hub via radio waves. 

• Wireless LANs are often convenient, but may have some restrictions depending on the material a building is made from. For example, lead in walls can block wireless signals between the network interface card and a hub or switch.

Network card is also known as: network interface controller, network adapter or LAN adapter.

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