What is Network Interface Card? Types, Function & More

What is Network Interface Card (NIC)?

A Network Interface Card, which is also known by different names such as Ethernet card, Network Adaptor, or simply by its acronym NIC, is a hardware component that usually comes installed on the motherboard of a computer. However, it may also come as a chip. These cards connect a lot of things and come in different types.


  • The Network Interface Card connected to the computer is the hardware that helps it to be connected to a network.
  • There are different types of network cards available such as wired cards, port type cards, application based type, bus interface type, and those categorized on the basis of their transfer speed.
  • These cards are reliable and offer faster access to the network though the need for hardwired connection which may affect the portability and security are some significant issues in it.

Understanding Network Interface Card (NIC)

What is network interface card

The network interface card is a hardware that is connected to the computer.

Without which the network will not be connected to the computer. They sometimes come in a chip or a socket board.

These are then installed on the computer for the user to get access to the network. Check out pros and cons of network interface card.

It has many names like LAN adaptor, NIC or network interface controller, and even network adaptor.

It can be either wired or wireless. It is always joined on the circuit board; it is also known as the Ethernet board. It is an expansion card.

The network interface card consists of the 48-bit serial number which is unique and is also called the Mac Address. This serial number is stored in the ROM of the computer.

If once the computer is a part of a bigger network. Then one has to connect the router which will connect to the computer for the network.

The network interface card is first connected to the router then the router has to be connected to the Internet. Now the speed of the internet provider depends on the amount one is paying for the internet.

The speed rating comes in many options like 100 Mbps, 150  Mbps, and sometimes 80 Mbps or even less. Depending on the user paying the internet provider.

They are usually found dedicated or even inbuilt on the computer. Also, a full-time connection can be put. One can do it by putting a “physical layer” circuit to communicate with the Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Then they both are data link layers which can be connected. The physical layers get signal by the OSI model of the network interface card.

The interface is transmitted and operated to the TCP or IP layer by the physical layer. The OSI model consists of at least seven layers where transmitting and receiving takes place.

To understand how the NIC works is really very confusing. It is found connected differently on the motherboard of the laptop computer.

They are connected in the USB port; this only happens if it is an onboard version. But if in case it is an inboard version then the network interface card is found at the back of the computer.

The PCI Slot is used and is found at the bottom of the computer. But for laptop computers, all the components are integrated with the motherboard.

Therefore, even the network card is obviously integrated. It is usually found at the back or the side of the laptop computer. Many users cannot find where the NIC is present.

Which means that many network interface cards are even wireless connections. Leading to the user not being able to find.

They are even available in the market exclusively for laptop computers. This part of the computer is used for connecting to the network of the internet.

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It allows the connection to be large-scale between the computer with the help of the LAN or the local internet network.

The land communicates at a large scale at work with the help of the IP on the Internet Portal. This part of the computer can be communicated with the help of the same network it is communicated with.

And it consists of a lot of components in the computer. The first one is the speed where one can understand the speed rating of the NIC is in Mbps.

The bandwidth slows down and becomes slow. And it happens only when many computers are connected with the same controller.

It also depends on how the speed is provided. Therefore, the more computers connected, the slower the connection. Then comes the controller is known as a mini-processor of the CPU.

It is also known as the heart with the data. Which is received and processed. It is the core component and it even decides the performance of the network adaptor.

The next is the driver where the data is transferred from the operating system of the computer to the Network interface card. When one installs it on the computer for further use.

Then it automatically downloads the software which can be updated for better performance and proper functioning of the NIC. The ROM socket or the Boom ROM socket.

The ROM socket is enabled by the socket which is placed on the NIC. To work or for connecting the network. It lowers the demand for the hardware and carries security.

Where the Boom ROM allows that diskless workstation to connect. It is used to connect the network without the help of the disk. The next comes the Mac Address.

These addresses cannot be changed or rewritten because they are unique. They are dedicated to the Network interface card that is used to deliver computer Ethernet packets.

The Mac address is also known as the physical network address. The Network interface card port which transmitters and receiver cables are another component.

Which is to connect the port with the ethernet cable or sometimes the transmitters and receiver directly. Electronic signals which are used to put on the fiber cable and network cables are generated and received by the port.

The LED indicators are common in the NIC of the computer. It is joined to the connector. It is used to let the user know about the connectivity of the computer.

The bus interface is placed on the side of the circuit board. It becomes a connection or rather connects the NIC and the computer’s effectiveness. It is also plugged into the expansion slot.

The router is very common when it comes to connectivity and network. The connection between the computer and the other devices are allowed by the router.

The router also allows this component (NIC) to be connected. The internet is always connected to the router. The last component is the profile bracket which is of two types.

The first one is the low profile bracket. The length of the low profile bracket is 8cm. The other one is a bit longer than the low profile bracket. Its length is 12cm and it’s called the full-length bracket.

Both profile brackets are used to fix the network interface card in servers and computers expansion slots. It even connects the motherboard of the computer with the help of the discrete onboard, USB, Firewire, PCI,

Thunderbolt, and many more. The modern NIC can offer many features to the computer. That is quite advanced like the Interrupt and DMA. Which interfaces to the host processor and many more functions.

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It is very complicated and confusing to understand the network interface card. Which is used by the computer. It is very easy to use but very confusing to understand.

One should know what kind of NIC they are looking for to suit their needs. It depends on the place they are going to use it. For instance, home or the office.

Before everything, one needs to understand what the networks and NIC are, properly. And even about its functions and types. The purpose of the NIC to the computer should also be known by the user very well.

The user has to choose the type of network interface card according to the user’s preference and budget.

Types of Network Interface Card

There are many types of network interface cards. They are based on different features that are provided like the host interface application speed and many more. There are five categories found or five types of NIC in the computer.

  • Network Connection Type

The network interface card is based on how the network connection is accessed. It comes in three and sometimes four types. The first connection type is wired NIC.

The input jacks in the wire and network interface cards are made of cables. These are used for network cards. That is inserted in the motherboard which has slots for it.

The next is the wireless network card which is inserted in the motherboard. But do not have any network cables. Which are connected to the internet and the computer.

They are not visible and are usually used for Wi-Fi connections. The next is the USB connection. The USB network connection provides the network to the computer through a device that is plugged in the USB port of the computer.

For example, the USB Ethernet adaptor is used for proper network connection on the computer. These are all connected with the help of the network card.

  • Port Type

The second type is based on Port Type. The port type cable has four types of network interface card ports. Which are connected and are usually found in the market.

Like the RJ-45 port, BNC port, Optical port, USB port, and AUI port. The RJ-45 port is connected with cables which have twisted pairs.

The BNC port is a thin cable that is coaxial. The Optical port is used for transmission. And lastly, the AUI port is used for transmitter and receiver cable which is a thick coaxial cable.

  • Bus Interface Type

The Bus Interface Type is a type where there are subcomponents. Like the network card, the PCI network card which has two variants and the USB network card.

The ISA or the Industry Standard Architecture network card was one of the first network cars which were manufactured. It contained a very low speed.

And because of the lower speed provided it has become obsolete in today’s world. The next is the PCI of the Peripheral Component Interconnect network card.

It was the successor of the ISA network card in the year 1990. These network cards were used in personal computers later before they were used in servers.

Many laptops these days do not have that many expansion cards. Because of the small size and the integrated motherboard has.

It’s successors to them comes the PCI-x or the Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended network card. It is a more advanced PCI network card.

Previously the PCI network card had operated 23 bit and 64 bit data. But the PCI-x has 64 bit and is also capable of 1064mb/s.

The PCI-x is sometimes compatible with the PCI network internet card also. Another type of the PC network card is the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express or the PCI-e network card.

Which is the latest and the most popular among servers, motherboards, and computers. The PCI-e network interface card is available in at least five versions now.

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Having different speeds starting from 250 MB/s to 63.02 MB/s. The last network card is a USB Universal serial bus network card which is an external network card that has at least three versions and also works efficiently.

  • Application Based Type

Then comes the network interface card which is based on the Application Based. The first one is the NIC found on the computer.

Most of the new computers which have a dedicated or inbuilt NIC to the motherboard. Therefore, a separate LAN is not needed which can reach up to 1 Gbps speed.

And allows one’s personal computer to communicate with other personal computer networks. And the next one is the server network card, it is used to manage or handle the network traffic. It requires a faster data transmission speed like 20G, 40G, and many more.

  • Transmission Speed Type

And the last type is based on the transmission speed. The Transmission Speed has different types of speed that are provided starting from 100 Mbps, 225 G, or even higher than that.

These are available in the market and online. The network interface cards are adapted to 200 Mbps for small LAN. These are used at home and offices which are for regular use.

The NIC which is more than 1000 Mbps and higher provides a proper bandwidth used in large enterprises and data centers. Which also uses more than 1000 Mbps like 10 GB 25 GB and much more.

Network Interface Card Functions

  • The network interface card is used to provide a network to the computer without which the computer will not be able to have any access to the internet.
  • It is used as a middleman, it is because the network interface card passes the information to the server for the network.
  • The network interface card can transmit and send signals to the different physical layers.
  • The NIC even delivers data packets to all the physical layers.
  • When a user opens a web page for a purpose like during browsing the web. Then the LAN helps to take the data given by the computer or the user to the internet server which is then displayed on the screen.
  • The network interface card helps in the fast access of the internet used in many places like schools, houses, offices, and many more. The NIC is even used for enterprises that are used for in-depth tasks.
  • Computers are connected to the network interface card over the internet. The data is traveled which is given to the network interface card. Then these are used in offices where individual login credentials are used.
  • The network interface card lets the bulk data to be shared by many users.


After one has studied or understood the purpose, function, and have known almost everything about the network interface card.

Then, one should always keep in mind that many desktop computers use a wired connection. The NIC along with many laptop computers are integrated.

Therefore, it even comes with an integrated NIC which is wireless. Therefore, one should always be well versed with the understanding and type of the network interface card one is purchasing. It is done to avoid problems in the future.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.

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