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What is a Virtual Network Adapter?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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A virtual network adapter is a technological system that helps connect computers or other electronic devices together. Once connected, the devices may share stored information. This type of adapter works through the use of software. It is often useful for employees of large organizations or for government agencies that place a high value on secure communications.

The basic function of an adapter is to connect an electronic system to a network, which is a complex interaction of several different electronic systems. Many adapter types exist, with a large percentage consisting of a physical object. For example, a Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) adapter is a small device that attaches to a personal computer. Wireless adapters allow the transmission of information and connections over long distances. Such adapters may function as an external network adapter and thus remain outside the primary electronic device or they may be installed into the device’s main physical body.

The virtual network adapter differs from the traditional adapter due to its non-physicality. While the traditional adapter type is an actual object, a virtual network adapter operates through the exclusive use of electronic programs, or software. These adapters are typically utilized for virtual private networks (VPNs). A VPN is an interconnected group of technological systems that emphasize private and secure communication.

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These VPNs are often found in large organizations so that remote employees may gain private access to the organization’s main computer systems. Government organizations may also use VPNs to transmit and share classified or exclusive information. In addition to linking private electronic information and systems, a VPN also usually links users to a large-scale public communication system like the Internet.

Installation of a virtual network adapter is dependent on the nature of the system that will serve as its primary attachment. Many computer operating systems will contain a section that allows users to configure or install new system components. By entering this section, users will often be able to add a network adapter by selecting the adapter option from a menu. The user may then be prompted to add information relevant to the particular brand and type of adapter. Relevant software must also be installed onto the electronic system.

Once the virtual network adapter is installed, it needs to be connected to the network, and this step can also be implemented through the user's computer system. Most such systems have a section specifically devoted to setting up network connections. In a personal computer system like Microsoft Windows®, this section may be found under a heading called Control Panel. Once a user has accessed this section, connection to the network is often simply a matter of following instructions and knowing the target network's Internet protocol address. This string of numbers is a unique identifying marker assigned to almost all electronic devices that may be part of a network.

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