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What is a Network Adapter Card?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A network adapter card is a type of computer networking hardware that facilitates the connection of a network. It is a piece of hardware used to modify a computer to connect to a network. Specifically, a network adapter card refers to a device that is either connected to or installed inside an existing machine to give it the capability to connect to a router with a network connection. A network adapter card can be either an internal or external device, an it can be designed for wireless or wire-based network connections.

Types of computers that may use network adapters include gaming consoles like Playstation 3 (PS3) as well as laptop and desktop computers. Because a PS3 comes pre-equipped with both wireless and wired network connectivity features, a PS3 should not require a separate network adapter to connect to the Internet. Network connections on gaming consoles can enhance play by allowing the player to interact with other players who may not be in the same location. Players can connect to PS3 users on the same local area network or on an Internet game server.

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The best network adapter for each computer depends on the state of the computer and whether the user is handy with hardware installation. Inexperienced computer users might do best to opt for an external plug-in network adapter card to simplify the installation process. For portable computers like laptops and notebooks, users may find an external device unwieldy and may choose to install an internal card. Above all, the most important thing to look for in a network adapter is its compatibility with the type of network data signal in the user's main networks.

An internal device needs to be installed in an open hardware slot on the inside of a computer, while external devices plug into the computer from the outside, usually into a universal serial bus (USB) port or external card slot. Normally, a network adapter card is used to give network connection capabilities to a computer with either no network connection or add wireless capabilities to a wired-only network connection. A computer user can install a wired network adapter to connect to an Ethernet connection, or a wireless adapter to connect to a network through a wireless router. A router is a wired or wireless device that connects multiple computers in one network; it is usually connected to a modem with an Internet connection.

Sometimes, a virtual network adapter is needed to connect a computer to a virtual network. Generally, a virtual network adapter is designed to give a user access to a private network that conducts its data exchange over a local area network or the Internet. A virtual network is a sub-network that is usually used to improve security on important communications. Business executives may use virtual networks to conduct secure conferences with employees. This type of network software is a good idea for network users who want to more securely transmit information through a shared network.

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