Network Card: What is it? What is it for? Types

Today being connected to the Internet is essential for practically anything we want to do, both related to computing and other areas of our daily life. Everything takes place in the so-called Cloud, and there we spend much of our time working or having fun.

However, this would not be possible without a small piece of hardware called “Network card”, a device that through cables or radio waves allows us to connect with other remote computers. Without the network card, we could not connect to the Internet or have access to other computers on the network in the office or at home.

Except in exceptional cases, the fact is that the things, there should not be a single computer in the world that does not have a network card installed, such is the importance of this little chip. That is why in this article we will explain everything you need to know about network cards so that we can better understand it and take full advantage of all its advantages, and learn in passing how to install and configure them on our computers as experts.

What is the network card? What is it for?

The network card is one of the most important hardware devices in a computer, even more so than video cards or audio cards. Although we do not pay enough attention to it, mainly because its operation is completely transparent to the user, that is to say that to use it we do not have to do anything except connect the relevant cables, the truth is that without network cards we could not connect to the Internet or remote computers and in addition it would be practically impossible to download drivers or solve problems; we all know how problematic it is to access external storage drives when we have Windows malfunctioning.

Instead if we have the services of a network card that can connect us to the Internet quickly, all our difficulties can be solved much faster and much more effectively.

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The network card, too Known as “Network Interface Card”, “LAN Adapter”, “Network Adapter” and other more Saxon names such as “Network Interface Card” or “Network interface controller”, it is basically a hardware device that provides a device with the power capacity connect to a computer network. In the market there are many devices that incorporate a network card to be able to interconnect with other equipment, the best known being the network cards that we usually see in desktop computers or laptops.

The function The basic requirement of a network card is to prepare, send and control the data packets that it transmits to other computers that are on the same network or on remote networks. Such equipment can be of virtually any type, including external storage units, printers, and more. Even the computers that connect to each other on these networks don’t even have to have the same operating system.

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The goal The main feature of this intercom is the possibility of sharing resources such as the Internet, its own hardware and using external hardware and remote documents, that is, that different computers or devices can use a single hardware system located elsewhere, with the Consequently improvement in the organization and in the budget.

We can say that then that the fundamental function of the network card is to provide a simple link to implement, at least for the user, among the multiple computers that can make up a network. That is to say that the network card is the physical link between computers and the network that connects it to other computers, connection that can be carried out through cables or wirelessly, as we will see a little later in this same post.

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How does the network card work?

Taking into account the above that the network card is a link between the different computers on a network, which is carried out by cable or wireless, the procedure how a network card works can be explained in a simple way without going into too technical data that would escape the objective of this article: To make it simple.

Basically, the network card works as an intermediary between the computer and a data network. For example, when the user wants to access a computer on the home network, remote network, or a web page or service on the Internet, the network card will convert the request received from the PC processor of digital data to electrical impulses that can travel without difficulties on a cable.

The electrical impulses that travel on these cables are received by the computer on the network or by the web server on the Internet and are converted again into Digital data on the network card, which is processed by the computer’s CPU, performs the entrusted task and is returned to the network card, which begins to do the procedure in reverse to send it to the requesting computers in response. This cycle is fulfilled each time a request is made.

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However, for all this to work, in addition to the network card, we will need other devices to to be able to interact with the other components of the network. A simple example of this is when we have a network made up of multiple computers and devices. If we want the entire network to have Internet access, then we will need to interpose between the network cards and the Internet output a router, also known as a router.

Finally, it should be noted that Each network card has a unique serial number, stored in the device itself, which is called “MAC Address” or “MAC Address”, of English “Media Access Control Address ”. In this sense, all computers and devices that wish to connect to a network or the Internet must have a unique MAC address, which will reliably identify it.

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Types of network cards (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Token Ring, Arcnet)

Until not many years ago, network cards were hardware that had to be mounted as an expansion of the system, that is to say inside the computer strongly anchored to a bus slot, for which they also presented other problems such as the need for a technician to be able to install and configure them, in addition to they were much more expensive.

However, with the passage of time, this situation changed, and thanks to the lower cost of the chips that are the basis of network cards, today it is practically impossible to find a computer do not count among your har dware with a integrated network card on its motherboard directly on its circuitry.

This allows the user to save money on an external network card, since the low cost of these Ethernet chips Networking just adds little money to the final cost of the PC, plus the convenience of simply connecting the motherboard without having to worry about also running a network card to get a connection to the network or the Internet.

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However, if we have the need to install an external network card to any of the PCI buses our PC to extend the functionality of the system or to satisfy specific technical needs, we can always do it without any problems or obstacles.

It should be noted that the types of network cards that we can find m s frequently are wireless network cards, called Wi-Fi, and wired network cards, known as Ethernet, which we will talk about in more detail below these lines.

Ethernet network cards

At present, Ethernet network cards are the most used for the implementation of networks and Internet access, mainly due to the fact that they can travel hundreds of meters without the data traveling on the cables used in this standard being altered or corrupted by external factors such as electromagnetic waves.

Easily distinguishable from other network cards due to To its square connector, called RJ45, network cards did not always incorporate this type of connector. Over time, this hardware used various types of connection, such as BNC (Bayonet Neill-Concelman) AUI (Attachment Unit Interface) MII (Media Independent Interface) and GMII (Gigabit Media Independent Interface) until reaching the final standard, at least until today, which is the aforementioned RJ-45.

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This type of interface offers the possibility of working with different transmission speeds, such as 10 Mbit / s or 10/100 Mbit / s that is, within the range of what is known as Fast Gigabit, but they can also reach a transmission rate of up to 1 Gigabit per second for the standard Gigabit Ethernet and up to 10 Gigabits for the standard 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

It should be noted that q The transmission speeds of these devices are always theoretical and are taken under optimal operating conditions. In practice, these values ​​can be reduced by a wide range of problems such as the example electromagnetic interference, the state of the cables and the quality of the network implementation, among many other factors.

Wi-Fi network cards

The second most popular type of network card today is the wireless network card, whose main transmission system it’s Wi-Fi. This type of card can be basically of two types, just like the Ethernet type: External wireless network card, that is, it connects to an empty bus on the computer’s base card, and the of the integrated wireless type, which are common in phones, tablets, laptops and many other types of devices.

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Wireless network cards for computers are easily distinguishable from Ethernet because of the antennas that have this type of device to emit and receive data. At this point it should be noted that most of the laptops on the market have both types of network cards, Ethernet and Wireless, except that in this type of PC the antennas are hidden inside the cabinet of the same.

Wi-Fi wireless network cards differ from each other due to the speed of data transmission at which they can operate. This is given by the type of standard for which they were designed: IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g and IEEE 802.11n. In this sense, there are many other Wi-FI standards, but these are the most used in almost all implementations. It is for this reason that the devices have inscriptions such as “Compatible with B, G, N” and other texts that refer to these standards.

The first of these standards, IEEE 802.11b, is capable of working with a speed of up to 11 Mbit / s, with a range, in theory, of more than 400 meters. The second of these standards is IEEE 802.11g, which allows transmission speeds of up to 54 Mbit / s to be reached with the same range as the previous one. Regarding the standard IEEE 802.11n, is the one that offers the best performance of the three, since it can reach operating speeds of up to 300 Mbit / s with a range of up to 800 meters.

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These standards for Wi-Fi wireless network cards are universal, that is, they are used in all corners of the world. This is mainly due to the fact that they operate in a radio frequency band that is in the 2.4 Ghz. Although this is, on the one hand, an advantage, since it allows global standardization, the truth is that it has some very specific problems with the reception and sending of data.

This problem is none other than The same radio operations band, at 2.4 GHz, is also used by other data transmission systems such as Bluetooth, that operate on the aforementioned radio frequency, and that can and do interfere with the signal. Wifi. Although this was partially corrected from version 1.2 of the Bluetooth standard, implementing some changes and modifications to prevent data that is transmitted on the same frequency from colliding the truth is that there are still scenarios in where the latter happens, resulting in data loss and poor connection quality.

However, this is not the only problem that the Wi-Fi standard often faces when used at home, office or industry. Wi-Fi technology, being simple and cheap to connect and use, is used simultaneously by millions of users for all kinds of implementations, such as IOT (Internet of Things), smart televisions and others devices, resulting in rapid saturation of the radio spectrum.

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This results in long distance connections, that is, connections over 100 meters, are affected and offer little stability and security, and if we add to this fact that Wi-Fi is a standard designed to make short-range connections, its use in Deployments that exceed a few meters will already be too affected by radio and other interference.

Best known WiFi standards

Standard Theoretical speed Practical speed
] Bandwidth Scope


2 Mbit / s1 Mbit / s2.4 Ghz22 MHz330 meters Standard Theoretical speed Practical speed Operating frequency


Bandwidth Reach



54 Mbit / s22 Mbit / s5.4 Ghz20 MHz390 meters Standard Theoretical speed Practical speed ] Operating frequency Bandwidth


Reach 802.11b11 Mbit / s6 Mbit / s2.4 Ghz22 MHz460 meters Standard Theoretical speed Practical speed ] Operating frequency Bandwidth

Reach 802.11g54 Mbit / s22 Mbit / s2.4 Ghz20 MHz460 meters Standard Theoretical speed Practical speed Operating frequency


Bandwidth Reach 802.11n600 Mbit / s100 Mbit / a2.4 Ghz and 5.4 Ghz20/40 MHz820 meters Standard Theoretical speed Practical speed


Bandwidth Reach 802.11ac6.93 Gbps100 Mbit / s5.4 Ghz80 or up to 160 MHz
Standard Theoretical speed



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