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Network Interface Card (NIC): An Overview

  • Ayush Singh Rawat
  • Dec 27, 2021
Network Interface Card (NIC): An Overview title banner

Your computer's network interface card connects to a local data network or the Internet. The card converts computer data into electrical signals that are sent over the network; the signals are network-compatible, allowing computers to consistently exchange data. 


Because of the widespread usage of the Internet and networks in general, almost every desktop and laptop PC now has an interface card. A network card can be added to bare-bones computers that do not have one.



Definition of NIC


A network interface card (NIC) is a piece of hardware that allows a computer to connect to a network. It is a circuit board that is inserted into a computer and provides the machine with a dedicated network connection. It's also known as a network adapter, network interface controller, or LAN adapter.


A network interface card (NIC) provides a computer with a dedicated, full-time network connection. It includes the physical layer circuitry required to communicate with a data connection layer standard like Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Each card is a device that can prepare, transmit, and regulate data flow on the network.


To deliver signals at the physical layer, transfer data packets at the network layer, and act as an interface at the TCP/IP layer, the NIC employs the OSI model.


A network card connects a computer to a data network by acting as a go-between. When a user requests a web page, for example, the computer sends the request to the network card, which turns it into electrical signals.


The impulses are received by a web server on the internet, which reacts by delivering the webpage back to the network card as electrical signals. These signals are received by the card, which then converts them into data for the computer to display.


(Must read: WiFi 6E Technology)


Features of Network Interface Card:


  • The network interface card supports almost all conventional transports for data transfer between PCs or devices.

  • The connectors or transporters act as a middleman for changing the correspondence between various devices from sequential to resemble or equal correspondence to sequential communication.

  • It also creates information that is based on the Network's engineering.

  • A network interface controller (NIC) is a component that incorporates network regulators onto a circuit load up that uses a standard OSI model of seven levels to communicate and functions as a trans-collector, allowing it to transmit and receive data concurrently while communicating with other devices.


Assume we need to communicate with another device. Consider the case of a client and a worker, who communicate by first sending signals to the physical layer and then sending data packets to the Network layer, which is a TCP/IP interface. 


Any of the accompanying components can be used to connect to the motherboard using the following components.


  • PCI connector

  • ISA connector

  • PCI-E

  • FireWire

  • USB

  • Thunderclap.


(Also read: Network Graph and Network Topology)


Benefits of Network Interface Card:


The upsides of the Network Interface Card are as per the following.


  • The information flow between the hubs is quite reliable.

  • Gigabytes of data can be exchanged or transferred between several customers.

  • The online speed required to send and receive messages is often measured in gigabytes.

  • A few peripherals can be halted by employing several ports of NIC cards that are provided.

  • The Internet's communication speed is often measured in Gigabytes.

  • Several ports on NIC cards may be used to connect a variety of peripheral devices.

  • Multiple clients can share a large amount of data. (Here)


Types of NIC Cards


Ethernet and wireless are the two primary types of NIC cards, each with its own set of setup options. To transport network data and connect to the internet, Ethernet NIC cards require an ethernet cable to be plugged into the card. This cable's opposite end is either connected to your modem or a router. 


In terms of Techwala, Wireless NIC cards include a tiny antenna built into the card. The antenna takes up your router's wireless signal and converts it into a viable internet connection for your PC.


It's worth noting that the wireless NIC card necessitates additional configuration on your computer since you'll need to connect to the network by entering in your wireless network's WiFi password.


  1. Jumper Configurable NIC Cards


Most computers produced after 2003 do not employ jumper adjustable NIC cards, which are popular with earlier systems. Physical jumpers are included on this sort of NIC card. 


Physical jumpers are tiny devices that regulate computer hardware without the need of software. They control the interrupt request line, input/output address, upper memory block, and transceiver type. Because these physical jumpers are more prone to fail, jumper adjustable NIC cards may need to be replaced more frequently than other types.


  1. Software Configurable NIC Cards


Software configurable NIC cards were the next innovation in cards after jumper configurable cards. These require manual setup using the NIC card manufacturer's software. 


Following the manufacturer's instructions, you may set up this sort of NIC through software. If you want total control over how the program controls your NIC card, this is the way to go. If you are less computer aware, you may also use the auto-configuration mode, which will identify which settings work best.


  1. Plug-and-Play Configurable NIC Cards


You'll very certainly be dealing with a plug-and-play NIC card unless your machine is quite ancient. The NIC card is plugged into your computer's PCI port, and it automatically configures itself without the need for extra software, as the name implies. 


You may still manually modify the settings on your NIC card by following the manufacturer's instructions. Normally, you won't need to change the settings because the ones that are preloaded are generally perfect.


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Different Components of Network Interface Card


A network adapter is often made up of a controller, a boot ROM socket, one or more NIC ports, a motherboard connection interface, LED indications, a profile bracket, and other technical components. Every component of a LAN card has a specific purpose:


  1. Controller: The controller acts as a mini-processor for the data it receives. The controller, being a key component of a network adapter, has a direct influence over the adapter's performance.

  2. The boot ROM socket: The card allows boot ROM functionality. Boot ROM connects diskless workstations to the network, boosting security and saving hardware costs.

  3. Cable/transceiver NIC port: This port is usually directly connected to an Ethernet cable or transceiver, which may create and receive electronic signals sent through a network connection or fiber cable.

  4. Bus Interface: The bus interface is located on the circuit board's side and is used to connect the NIC to the computer or server when it is inserted into an expansion slot.

  5. LED indicators: Indicators are used to assist users to determine if a network card is connected to the network and transmitting data.

  6. Profile Bracket: There are two types of profile brackets available on the market. The full-height bracket, with a length of 12 cm, and the low-profile bracket, with a length of 8 cm, are the two options. This bracket may be used to secure the NIC in a computer or server expansion slot.


The blog ends here, the data transmission rate of the total network is directly affected by the performance of the NIC card. 


Whether you're searching for network adapters for personal use or a server network card for SMBs or data centres, knowing what a network interface card is, the components and functions of NICs, and the many types of NICs is essential before choosing one.


(Must read: Serverless Computing)