To connect and transmit data or information locally or globally, we use various computer networks such as LAN, MAN, or WAN. However, if I ask you which hardware component is required for your computer to connect to these networks? The majority of us will be unable to answer this question. So, the required hardware is known as a Network Interface Card (NIC).
So, what exactly are a network interface card and its types? Before answering this question, let’s quickly go over the topics that we will be covering in this article:
- What is a network interface card?
- Types of NIC
- How does the NIC work?
- Components of NIC
- Network interface card function
- Advantages of network interface card
- Disadvantages of network interface card
What is a network interface card?
Network interface card definition: Network interface card or NIC is a piece of hardware, usually a circuit board or chip, that is inserted into a computer (motherboard) to let it connect to a network.
A NIC connects various networking devices, such as computers and servers, to communicate data over a network. However, there are ways to link computers without a NIC (for example, through a modem over phone lines or a serial “null modem” connection). But, in most circumstances, each participating computer has a NIC when there is a network.
The NIC uses the OSI model to convey signals at the physical layer, data packets at the network layer, and acts as an interface at the TCP/IP layer. NIC is also known as LAN Adapter, Network Interface Controller, Ethernet or Connection card, or Network Interface Device.
Types of network interface card
Network interface cards can be classified into a lot of different categories. But, here in this article, to simplify things, we will divide the NIC into two main categories, such as Internal and External.
- Internal NIC: For an internal network interface card, the motherboard has a slot for the network card where it can be inserted.
- External NIC: The motherboard does not have a slot where NIC can be inserted. Hence, these network interface cards use an antenna to offer wireless reception via radio frequency waves.
There are two types of external NICs: Wireless and USB based. Wireless NICs have an antenna to provide wireless reception, and USB-based NICs provide network connections through a device plugged into the USB port.
You can also explore: What are the Different Types of Network Topology?
How does the network interface card work?
For communication, network interface cards use the OSI model. The NIC connects the physical and data connectivity layers. It supplies the essential circuits to allow the device to process and deliver data over a network as part of the physical layer. When a client initiates communication, the NIC builds and executes the processes required for data transfer at the data link layer.
You can also explore – What is the Difference Between LAN and WAN?
Network interface cards also generate the data packets required to deliver data to a server. In this respect, the NIC serves as an interface for the TCP/IP protocol by generating data packets that conform to its standards. These data packets are then sent to the physical layer. The NIC converts the data packets into a digital signal, which it then transmits through a connector, such as a PCI connector.
In a nutshell, “A NIC converts data from your computer into data packets that another NIC can understand for another computer. The NIC also transforms received data packets so your computer can use them.”
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Components of network interface card
There are various components of a NIC, and some of those components are:
- Router: Allows communication between a computer and other devices
- Driver: Transfers data between the computer’s operating system (OS) and the NIC
- Connectors: Creates a physical connection between cables and plugins and the board
- Buses: Connects the NIC to the computer or server by plugging it into an expansion slot
- Memory: Stores the data temporarily and uses it as needed while processing the message
- Processor: Converts a data message into a signal format that allows for accessible communication
- Jumpers/Dual in package switches: Controls the communication action, which is either turning the switch on or off
- MAC address: Consists of a unique identifying address assigned to the network interface card through which ethernet packets communicate with the computer
- LED indicators: Assist users in determining the operational condition of a network card, such as if the network is linked and data is being transferred or not
You can also explore: OSI vs TCP/IP Model: What’s the Difference?
Network interface card function
There are various functions of a NIC, and some of those functions are:
- Converts data into a digital signal
- Supports both conventional and wireless connections
- Serves as a bridge between a computer and a data network
- Allows communication between LAN and Internet Protocol-connected machines (IP)
- Provides the essential hardware circuits for the physical layer and some data link layer activities to run on
Advantages of NIC
There are various advantages of a NIC, and some of the network interface card advantages are listed below:
- Inexpensive to buy and install.
- A secure connection between the gadget and the cable.
- Multiple users can share or transfer large amounts of data.
- The connectivity between the nodes is highly dependable.
- Newer Network Interface Cards can achieve data rates of up to 2000 Mbps.
- The internet speed for transmission is very high and commonly measured in gigabytes.
- Several peripherals can be plugged in by leveraging the multiple ports of NIC cards.
Disadvantages of NIC
As there are various advantages of NICs, there are a few disadvantages of a NIC, and some of those are:
- Security is a little lacking.
- The information is volatile.
- Replacement is required in order to handle higher speeds.
- To have good communication, the setting must be precise.
- Inconvenient for wired cable NICs because they are not portable like wireless routers.
In this post, we discussed network interface cards and related subjects such as what they are, their different types, how they function, their benefits and drawbacks, and so on. With all this information, you should be able to determine the type of NIC you want or desire.
What is a network interface card?
A network interface card is a piece of hardware, usually a circuit board or chip, inserted into a computer (motherboard) to let it connect to a network.
What is the function of a network interface card?
A network interface card gives a computer a dedicated, full-time connection to a network. It provides the physical layer circuitry required to communicate with a data link layer standard like Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
What are some of the advantages of a network interface card?
Some of the advantages of a network interface card are: Inexpensive to buy and install. A secure connection between the gadget and the cable. Multiple users can share or transfer large amounts of data. The connectivity between the nodes is highly dependable. Newer Network Interface Cards can achieve data rates of up to 2000 Mbps. The internet speed for transmission is very high and commonly measured in gigabytes. Several peripherals can be plugged in by leveraging the multiple ports of NIC cards.
What are some of the disadvantages of a network interface card?
Some of the disadvantages of a network interface card are: Security is a little lacking. The information is volatile. Replacement is required in order to handle higher speeds. To have good communication, the setting must be precise. Inconvenient for wired cable NICs because they are not portable like wireless routers.
Where is the network interface card used?
Most computers and specific network servers include network interface cards.
Is there a network interface card in smartphones?
Yes, most gadgets, such as computer motherboards, cellphones, IoT devices, and intelligent appliances, feature an inbuilt network interface card.
What is the significance of a network interface card?
A network interface card is necessary since it enables both wired and wireless connections.
What are some other names for network interface cards?
A network interface card is also known as a network adapter, LAN adapter, Ethernet card, Connection card, or physical network interface.
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