Network Interface Cards (NIC)
Network Interface Cards
Network Interface Cards, commonly referred to as NICs, are used to connect a PC to a network. The NIC provides a physical connection between the networking cable and the computer’s internal bus. Different computers have different bus architectures. PCI bus slots are most commonly found on 486/Pentium PCs and ISA expansion slots are commonly found on 386 and older PCs. NICs come in three basic varieties: 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit. The larger the number of bits that can be transferred to the NIC, the faster the NIC can transfer data to the network cable. Most NICs are designed for a particular type of network, protocol, and medium, though some can serve multiple networks.
Many NIC adapters comply with plug-and-play specifications. On these systems, NICs are automatically configured without user intervention, while on non-plug-and-play systems, configuration is done manually through a set-up program and/or DIP switches.
Cards are available to support almost all networking standards. Fast Ethernet NICs are often 10/100 capable, and will automatically set to the appropriate speed. Gigabit Ethernet NICs are 10/100/1000 capable with auto negotiation depending on the user’s Ethernet speed. Full duplex networking is another option where a dedicated connection to a switch allows a NIC to operate at twice the speed.