Network interface card
(also NIC, network adapter, network interface controller, LAN adapter, physical network interface)
Network interface card definition
A network interface card is a hardware component that connects a computer to a network. The network interface card may be an accessory connected to or an integral component of the computer’s motherboard. Network interface cards are used for both wired and wireless communications.
See also: network port
Main categories of network interface cards
- Wired: Wired network interface cards use Ethernet cables to connect to a network. They typically provide a faster and more stable connection, but require the host device to be physically connected to the network and thus limit the user’s mobility.
- Wireless: Wireless network interface cards connect to a network via wireless signals. Wireless communication speed varies based on the technology used, the device’s distance from the wireless access point, and background interference, but they allow users to easily relocate the host device within the network’s coverage area.
Network interface card types
- Integrated: Network interface cards that are built into the computer’s motherboard, frequently found in laptops and other devices with limited customizability.
- PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect): Network interface cards that use the computer’s PCI expansion slot. These cards may be freely replaced without affecting the computer’s motherboard. Network interface cards typically use the PCIe (PCI Express) slot, which offers faster data transfer rates than traditional PCI slots.
- USB (Universal Serial Bus): Network interface cards that use one of the computer’s USB ports. USB network interface cards are easy to install, portable, and cheaper than integrated or PCI cards, but they are also slower. As a result, USB cards are typically only used for temporary or mobile connections.