A network interface card which we often call a NIC card is a physical component of the computer that acts as the interface between the computer and the network. It means whenever the computer has to send or receive any information on or from the network it is done via a network interface card.
Thus, the NIC card connects your computer to the network so that your computer can share data with the other connected devices on the network. The NIC card provides a dedicated network connection to your computer.
The hardware engineers have designed NIC cards to run at wired speed due to the card can process the data packet as soon as it arrives on the link. A NIC card helps in identifying your computer on the network as the physical address or MAC address of a device is usually imprinted on the NIC card.
Network Interface Card (NIC Card)
How Does Network Interface Card Work?
The NIC card is a hardware component that fits on the expansion slot of the motherboard. Most of the time it is built into the system, in this case, they are part of the motherboard. But you even have the facility to add your own NIC card to the system to enhance the functionality of your system.
NIC cards allow your device to connect with the other devices on the network. It simply acts as a mediator between your computer and the network. It collected the data from your computer and channelized it to the transmission link. Any information coming from the network medium is first received by the network interface card of your computer and is then displayed to you.
A network interface card provides the connection between the network cable and the data bus of your computer. The NIC card accepts the input stream of bits and outputs this stream of bits onto the data bus of the computer.
your computer wants to request a webpage. This request reaches the network card which converts it into the form of a stream of bits. It then converts the stream of bits into electrical impulses.
The web server receives this request and prepares a webpage and sends it back to your computer. Due to the physical address present on the network card, the router can uniquely identify your device on the network. As the network card receives the webpage in the form of electrical impulses. It converts the signal back to a stream of bits and forwards it to the data bus to display the webpage on the computer.
During the early days of the computer, the network cards were implemented as expansion cards that could be plugged into the computer card. But nowadays the network card is directly planted on the circuit board.
Types of NIC Card
We can classify NIC cards based on their characteristics.
1. Network Connection-Based Classification
Depending on how the NIC card accesses the network NIC card can either be wired or wireless.
- A wired NIC card connects the computer to the network with Ethernet or fiber optic cable.
- The wireless NIC card connects the computer to the network without the help of any cable. Instead, it comes with an antenna that catches the radio waves released from the access point which ultimately connects the computer to the network.
2. Bus Interface-Based Classification
- ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) bus interface has a low card speed of 9 Mbps. Thus, this interface is no longer used.
- PCI (Peripheral Connect Interconnect) bus interface was first introduced for servers and later was even used for PCs. It operates on 32 and 64 bits. They could be additionally planted on the computer circuit board. But nowadays computers have this interface card integrated into the circuit board.
- PCI-X (Peripheral Connect Interconnect extended) bus interface operates on 64 bits.
- USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an external bus interface. This type of interface provides a network connection by plugging the device into a USB port.
3. Port Type Based Classification
Depending on different types of NIC ports the NIC can be classified into:
- RJ45 port, which we use to connect the computer to the network using twisted pair cable.
- AUI port, to which thick coaxial cable connects. BNC port to which thin coaxial cable connects.
- Optical port, to which optical fiber connects.
4. Transmission Speed Based Classification
Depending on the speed, there are varieties of network cards.
- For small networks, there are 10Mbp/s, 100Mbp/s, and 10/100MB/s adaptive NIC cards.
- For large networks, there are 10Gb, 25Gb, or high-speed NIC cards.
5. Application Filed Based Classification
- A computer NIC card is used by a computer to communicate with another computer on the network.
- A server NIC card manages traffic on the network.
6. Smart NICs offload a growing array of tasks from server CPUs needed to manage modern distributed applications.
Components of NIC Card
Let’s discuss some of the important components of any network card.
- Controller: The controller present on the network card processes the received data. The performance of a network card totally depends on the functionality of its controller.
- Boot ROM Socket: The boot ROM socket allows the workstations without disk to boot up by connecting the devices to network
- NIC Port: The NIC port accepts the Ethernet cable. This port generates electrical impulses that must be put on the ethernet cable.
- BUS Interface: The bus interface lies on the circuit board side it serves as a connection between NIC ports and the computer.
- LED Indicators: The LED indicator let the user identify the working status of the NIC card.
- Profile Bracket: The profile bracket help users fix the NIC card in the expansion slot of the card.
Thus, the network interface is an essential component of a computer that connects it to the network.