A Ethernet port is a jack or socket on a computer that allows the use of an Ethernet connector. These ports are essential in allowing the creation of local area networks (LANs). An Ethernet port is usually found on networking devices, including computers, routers, video game consoles, modems, and televisions.
Ethernet is a communication system that allows multiple local devices to share information and work together. For example, in an office, there may be six workers, each with their own computer, all of which need to access the same databases, programs, and external devices such as printers and scanners. By hooking each device up to a central server or hub using Ethernet technology, all devices will be able to access the same information and effectively “talk” to all other devices on the network.
An Ethernet port allows the creation of networks using wired connections. This socket, which looks much like a large phone jack, allows the insertion of an Ethernet cable. Ports and cables are typically used only to connect devices at a close range, such as in the same building, due the the impracticality of laying miles of cabling across town, or hundreds or thousands of miles of cabling across continents. Devices such as computers and printers typically have one port that allows them to join a network, while network devices such as modems may have several, to allow for the connection of multiple components.
Devices that do not have a physical port may still allow attachment to an Ethernet network in one of two ways. First, many newer computers have a built-in Ethernet card, which allows the creation of wireless Ethernet networks that do not require cabling, substituting wireless technology. Second, for devices without an Ethernet card or dedicated port, a port may sometimes be created by attaching an Ethernet adapter, or “dongle,” to a USB port.
One disadvantage to a physical Ethernet port is its susceptibility to damage and difficulty of repair. It is important to be very careful when inserting or removing a cable from the port, as physical elements of the port can be damaged. Repairing an Ethernet port usually requires that the device be sent back to the manufacturer or to an electronics repair service, which may be prohibitively expensive. Some people choose to simply ignore a broken Ethernet port, instead buying an Ethernet dongle and hooking into the network using a USB port instead. This quick fix may not always be possible, however, as not all USB ports on all devices are capable of using an Ethernet adapter.