Your Computer’s Network Interface Card

Your PC requires Ethernet networking hardware to connect to the network, specifically a network information card, or NIC. Your NIC may also be called an Ethernet card or a network adapter. The NIC circuitry is most often part of the chipset on the motherboard.

There are two types of NICs:

  • A traditional NIC: Uses the RJ-45 adapter (the standard network jack, shown in this figure).

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    The standard wired NIC is measured by its speed in Mbps, or megabits per second: 10 Mbps is too slow, 100 Mbps is faster, and 1000 Mbps (1 gigabit) is the fastest and bestest.

  • A wireless NIC: May or may not be visible as a tiny antenna sticking out the back of your PC. A wireless NIC can also be added by using a special USB adapter.

    A laptop equipped with built-in wireless networking rarely has an external antenna; the antenna is there — it’s just inside the laptop’s case.

If your PC doesn't have a NIC, adding one is easy. You can find a variety at any computer or office supply store.

You can have both wireless and standard NICs inside your PC.

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