You’ve probably come across talks regarding network adapters if you’ve ever tried to resolve a networking problem. So, what are they, and why do you need them on your computer? Let’s look at it more closely.
What is A Network Adapter
One of the many components that connect us to the Internet is network adapters, and it’s commonly referred to as a “Network Interface Card” (NIC). The NIC not only allows you to access the Internet via a wired connection, but also via wireless, or Wi-Fi, as we commonly refer to it.
They’re normally incorporated into your device as a card, but they can also be USB dongles or antennas that allow strictly wired devices to receive data wirelessly.
Workings of A Network Adapter
The network adapter allows devices to connect to the Internet or other devices via a Local Area Network (LAN).
Wireless network adapters, commonly found on laptops and desktops, transform computer signals into radio signals transmitted through an antenna. The frequency ranges between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, with 14 channels accessible. The radio waves are initially received by the router, then by the broadband modem or internal network.
Desktop computer adapters are frequently preinstalled. However, if your desktop doesn’t have a built-in adaptor, a card can be plugged into a PCMCIA or mini PCI slot. Similarly, a modified Ethernet adapter that plugs into a PCI slot may be possible on older desktop PCs.
Some electronic cards are even compatible with memory card slots. A USB-type Ethernet adapter is another solution that works with both desktop and laptop or into an Ethernet port using an Ethernet network connection, as was once prevalent in colleges and universities.
Types of Network Adapters
There are mainly four different types of network adapters.
1] Network Interface Controller, NIC
The Network Interface Card (NIC), sometimes known as an Ethernet adapter, is one of today’s most prevalent network adapters. They’re commonly incorporated into the motherboards of today’s Internet-capable gadgets, enabling both wired and wireless Internet access.
For Wi-Fi connectivity, the Network Interface Controller, also known as the Network Interface Card, prefers to employ the 802.11 standards.
This type of adapter is found in most tablets and personal computers, and because it is supported by most routers, it can easily connect with them.
2] Peripheral Component Interconnect
Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) network adapters were rather ubiquitous.
Despite being external network adapters, Peripheral Component Interconnect devices are designed similarly to NIC adapters and may thus support both wired and wireless network connections.
In order for the PCI to communicate with the motherboard, it must be connected directly to the PCI card slot. According to what we’ve seen, these adapters usually include an antenna for receiving wireless signals and connecting the computer to the Internet.
It’s also worth noting that the PCI standard was eventually superseded by PCI Express or PCIe for short.
3] USB network adapters
A USB dongle that connects to a wired PC is usually used for this type of adaptor. It will have an antenna installed to receive wireless network signals and communicate the data it receives to the computer via a USB connection.
People usually use these adapters on older systems that don’t have an internal network adapter or whose Internet adapter’s Wi-Fi standard is outdated.
Since they don’t need you to physically open the computer’s case to install an internal network adapter, these adapters are an excellent option for providing older PCs with a wireless connection.
Certain USB network adapters can connect to both wired and wireless networks. However, these models are uncommon.
4] Virtual network adapters
These adapters are software-only and designed to replicate the functionalities of a network interface card (NIC).
This type of adapter is most commonly used in products like a virtual private network (VPN), which exploits another computer’s local network connection to make it appear as if your computer is connected to the same network.
Using A Network Adapter has its Advantages
A network interface card (NIC) can provide a quicker, more stable, and more secure connection than a wireless network card. On the other hand, they are less portable and often inconvenient compared to using a wireless radio to connect to the Internet.
That’s why many computers, especially laptops, include both NIC and a wireless radio, allowing you to choose how you connect to the Internet based on your needs. The following are some of the advantages:
One of the most significant advantages of network interface cards is their low cost. Quality network cards can be found for as low as $10 if you search around, making it easy to upgrade almost any computer without breaking the bank.
Furthermore, many current computers come equipped with a network card, making it much easier to connect them to the Internet.
A network interface card allows you to connect to the Internet quickly. In contrast to a wireless connection, the NIC’s speed should remain constant as the cables pass through rooms, floors, and other obstacles.
Having NICs from various companies on the same network should not impact transmission speed, unlike wireless devices. A NIC is often more practical for tasks like video calls, streaming high-definition videos, and online gaming.
If the network is functioning properly, NICs provide a stable Internet connection that should not change in functionality or availability. Wireless connections can disconnect and rejoin or become completely inaccessible due to device interference, which is not a concern with a NIC.
NICs also make connections more secure. Intercepting a wireless transmission in the same location is far more easier than tapping into a wired Internet connection within the same area.
Wireless cards are more portable than NICs. When relocating a PC with a network interface card (NIC), you must first detach the cable from the system and then rejoin it at the new location. It won’t be able to communicate over the network while it’s being transferred.
What to Look for in A Network Card
Type Of Card
When purchasing a network interface card, the first thing to examine is the type of card currently installed in your system, whether it is a laptop, a desktop, or a gaming console.
Networking cards are pre-installed in the great majority of modern technologies. So knowing what you have is essential for choosing a substitute that works and matches your previous capabilities.
A network interface card with rates of up to 10-1000 megabytes per second is recommended. Each NIC you buy comes with a speed rating value already specified.
Checking The Connector Types that are Supported
Most network interface cards have three different connector types due to diverse transmission mediums. Some network interface cards have two ports on the same card simultaneously, while some NICs have three. These ports are AUI, BNC, and RJ-45.
A tiny coaxial cable and a bus network with a BNC connection are used in many small local area networks. This connector is inexpensive but difficult to administer, especially in a big local area network.
As a result, you must select different types of network interface cards based on the supported connectors.
Choosing A Transmission Rate
Consider Ethernet network cards: 10 Mbps, 10/100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps, and even 10 Gbps network interface cards are available.
People are more inclined to believe that network interface cards with a higher transmission rate are generally better. However, this is not the case.
For example, if you plug a 1000 Mbps network card into your computer and connect it to a 100 Mbps twisted pair, the highest transmission rate is just 100 Mbps. Therefore, using this kind of network interface card is a waste of money.
You must be cautious while picking network interfaces with varying transmission rates in order to avoid wasting resources.
Taking Brands and Prices into Account
Network interface cards come in a variety of costs depending on the brand. However, certain well-known manufacturers, like Intel, Netgear, etc., are available.
Customers prefer such companies because their goods are of high quality and have excellent network performance, making them more likely to suit your network interface card needs.
Since many factors influence the pricing of different interface cards, such as transmission rate, ports, and so on, when evaluating various cards, you should consider the costs and each parameter of network cards from different brands before making a decision.
For most consumers, the connection speed is one of the most critical factors to consider. Since it enables speeds of up to 54 Mbps, an 802.11g card, which is typically considered the wireless standard, is often recommended.
Another form of wireless NIC, the 802.11b adapter, is becoming less popular as it is slower than the 802.11g counterpart.
It has a speed of roughly 11 Mbps and is hence less expensive; it may also operate better in older devices with slower operating systems. In addition, an 802.11n network is faster than a g network, with quicker download and upload rates.
Getting to Know The Interfaces
Another key factor to consider is the card’s fundamental interface. PCI, ISA, and PCMCIA cards are the most prevalent among them. The type you select is mostly determined by your computer’s interface.
A PCI card is inserted into your computer’s PCI slot and functions at high speed. This is usually the best option for the ordinary PC user, but it is more expensive than other solutions.
An ISA card connects to a computer’s motherboard and is less expensive than a PCI card, but it is also less dependable. In laptops, PCMCIA cards are used, and they are usually near your laptop’s power and utility docks, in a similar slot.
The card’s overall performance is also important, and in most situations, this may be determined at least in part by the manufacturing process.
Choosing a manufacturer that provides tech assistance with their product might be beneficial, especially for inexperienced computer users. For example, some manufacturers offer phone support when it comes to installing your card.
In the event of failure or damage, you might want to purchase a card that comes with a warranty.
Here are a few other common questions people ask about network adapters.
In Windows, Where do I Look for The Wireless Network Adapter?
It is effortless to locate the Wi-Fi adaptor from within Windows 11/10. Simply right-click the Start Menu button and pick Device Manager from the menu that appears.
Scroll down till you find Network Adapters after you’ve done that. You should find your wireless network adapter listed right immediately when you click this section.
Will A Wi-Fi Adapter Help Me Get A Better Signal?
No. That isn’t its objective, to be precise. You may already have a good network adapter with a good range, but you’ll need to acquire a separate booster/repeater/extender to improve your signal.
Can I Connect My TV to A USB Wi-Fi Adapter?
Yes. You can if your TV has built-in capabilities for it. You can connect your TV to the Internet in the same way you can connect your laptop using a USB network adapter.
Is A Network Adapter Required to Connect to The Internet?
Yes. It is impossible to connect to the Internet without a network adapter, regardless of whatever device you are using, whether it is a desktop or a smartphone.
To conclude, deciding on the best internal network card is entirely dependent on your budget, specialized needs, and network requirements. Take all of these factors into account, and you’ll be sure to find a perfect network card for you.
This article provides a quick overview of network interface cards and controllers. We looked at several sorts of network adapters, how they function, and their benefits in this article, so ideally, you now know everything there is to know about network adapters.