Network & Wireless Cards

A network interface controller (also known as a network interface card, network adapter, LAN adapter and by similar terms) is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network.

Early network interface controllers were commonly implemented on expansion cards that plugged into a computer bus; the low cost and ubiquity of the Ethernet standard means that most newer computers have a network interface built into the motherboard.

The network controller implements the electronic circuitry required to communicate using a specific physical layer and data link layer standard such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Token Ring. This provides a base for a full network protocol stack, allowing communication among small groups of computers on the same LAN and large-scale network communications through routable protocols, such as IP.

Whereas network controllers used to operate on expansion cards that plugged into a computer bus, the low cost and ubiquity of the Ethernet standard means that most newer computers have a network interface built into the motherboard. Newer server motherboards may even have dual network interfaces built-in. The Ethernet capabilities are either integrated into the motherboard chipset or implemented via a low-cost dedicated Ethernet chip, connected through the PCI (or the newer PCI express) bus. A separate network card is not required unless additional interfaces are needed or some other type of network is used.

The NIC may use one or more of four techniques to transfer data:

  • Polling is where the CPU examines the status of the peripheral under program control.
  • Programmed I/O is where the microprocessor alerts the designated peripheral by applying its address to the system's address bus.
  • Interrupt-driven I/O is where the peripheral alerts the microprocessor that it is ready to transfer data.
  • Direct memory access is where an intelligent peripheral assumes control of the system bus to access memory directly. This removes load from the CPU but requires a separate processor on the card.

An Ethernet network controller typically has an 8P8C socket where the network cable is connected. Older NICs also supplied BNC, or AUI connections. A few LEDs inform the user of whether the network is active, and whether or not data transmission occurs. Ethernet network controllers typically support 10 Mbit/s Ethernet, 100 Mbit/s Ethernet, and 1000 Mbit/s Ethernet varieties. Such controllers are designated 10/100/1000 - this means they can support a notional maximum transfer rate of 10, 100 or 1000 Megabits per second.

Some products feature NIC partitioning (NPAR).

Atheros AR9271 Wireless Network Adapter Drivers

The Atheros AR9271 is used on a vast amount of laptop/notebook computers today, the advantage of such a device is the external antenna that allow much greater distance when communicating compared to that of a PCB antenna made to fit in a laptop. The AR9271 is also sold on Ebay and other sites under many different generic names, and they are very cheap to purchase sometime even delivered for under $10.

Atheros AR5007EG Wireless Network Adapter Drivers

The Atheros AR5007EG is used on a vast amount of laptop/notebook computers. This device may appear in the Windows device manager as an communication device with an exclamation point next to it, hence the drivers will need to be installed.

RALINK/MediaTek 802.11ac WLAN Adapter Driver

There are a lot of these devices getting around most will work on Windows 10 without any driver installation, but for older operating system there may be a need to install drivers. There drivers address the RAlink/MediaTek devices but may work with other generically branded devices.

Linksys Wireless-G PCI Adapter WMP54G

The Linksys Wireless-G PCI Adapter installs in most desktops and lets you put
your computer almost anywhere in the building, without the cost and hassle of
running network cables. Now you don't have to drill holes in your walls and
climb through the attic or cellar to get connected to the network. Once you're
connected, you can keep in touch with your e-mail, access the Internet, use
instant messaging to chat with friends, and share files and other resources such
as printers and network storage with other computers on the network.