Home > Articles

This chapter is from the book

Network Interface Cards (NICs)

NICs—sometimes called network cards—are the mechanisms by which computers connect to a network. NICs come in all shapes and sizes, and they come in prices to suit all budgets. Consider the following when buying a NIC:

  • Network compatibility—Perhaps this is a little obvious, but sometimes people order the wrong type of NIC for the network. Given the prevalence of Ethernet networks, you are likely to have to specify network compatibility only when buying a NIC for another networking system.

  • Bus compatibility—Newly purchased NICs will almost certainly use the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus, although if you are replacing a card in an older system, you might have to specify an Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus card instead. If the card you are buying is PCI, check to see what kind of PCI interface is being used. Many high-end server systems now come with 64-bit PCI slots; if you have them, it is definitely worth taking advantage of the extra performance they offer. Such 64-bit PCI slots can be easily identified because they are the same color and width as 32-bit PCI slots but are longer. 64-bit slots are referred to as PCI-X and are backward compatible with 32-bit PCI. Figure 3.18 shows 32-bit PCI slots on a system board.

  • Figure 3.18

    Figure 3.18 32-bit PCI slots on a system board. (Photo copyright © Intel Corporation.)

  • Port compatibility—Generally a NIC has only one port, for twisted-pair cabling. If you want some other connectivity, you need to be sure to specify your card accordingly; for example, you might need a fiber-optic or coaxial cable port.

  • Hardware compatibility—Before installing a network card into a system, you must verify compatibility between the network card and the operating system on the PC in which you are installing the NIC. If you are using good-quality network cards from a recognized manufacturer, such verification should be little more than a formality.

Types of Network Interfaces

Network interfaces come as add-in expansion cards or as PCMCIA cards used in laptop systems. In some cases, rather than have an add-in NIC, the network interface is embedded into the motherboard. Figure 3.19 shows an example of an add-in NIC, Figure 3.20 shows a PCMCIA network card, and Figure 3.21 shows a built-in network interface in a laptop system.

Figure 3.19

Figure 3.19 An expansion NIC.

Figure 3.20

Figure 3.20 A PCMCIA NIC.

Figure 3.21

Figure 3.21 A built-in network interface on a laptop system.

A network interface typically has at least two LEDs that indicate certain conditions:

  • Link light—This LED indicates whether a network connection exists between the card and the network. An unlit link light is an indicator that something is awry with the network cable or connection.

  • Activity light—This LED indicates network activity. Under normal conditions, the light should flicker sporadically and often. Constant flickering may indicate a very busy network or a problem somewhere on the network that is worth investigating.

  • Speed light—This LED indicates that the interface is connected at a certain speed. This feature is normally found on Ethernet NICs that operate at 10Mbps/100Mbps—and then only on certain cards.

Some network cards combine the functions of certain lights by using dual-color LEDs. PCMCIA cards sometimes have no lights, or the lights are incorporated into the media adapter that comes with the card. You can see an example in Figure 3.22.

Figure 3.22

Figure 3.22 Indicator lights on a media adapter for a PCMCIA NIC.

Installing Network Cards

At some point in your networking career, it is likely that you will have to install a NIC into a system. For that reason, an understanding of the procedures and considerations related to NIC installations is useful. Here are some of the main things to consider:

  • Drivers—Almost every NIC is supplied with a driver disk, but the likelihood of the drivers on the disk being the latest drivers is slim. Always make sure that you have the latest drivers by visiting the website of the NIC manufacturer. The drivers play an important role in the correct functioning of the NIC, so spend a few extra minutes to make sure that the drivers are installed and configured correctly.

  • NIC configuration utilities—In days gone by, NICs were configured with small groups of pins known as jumpers, or with small plastic blocks of switches known as dip switches. Figure 3.23shows an example of jumpers. Unless you are working with very old equipment, you are unlikely to encounter dip switches.

  • Figure 3.23

    Figure 3.23 A block of jumpers.

    Although these methods were efficient and easy to use, they have now largely been abandoned in favor of software configuration utilities, which allow you to configure the settings for the card (if any) and to test whether the card is working properly. Other utilities can be used through the operating system to obtain statistical information, help, and a range of other features.

  • System resources—To function correctly, NICs must have certain system resources allocated to them: the interrupt request (IRQ) and memory addresses. In some cases, you might need to assign the values for these manually. In most cases, you can rely on plug-and-play, which assigns resources for devices automatically.

  • Physical slot availability—Most modern PCs have at least three or four usable expansion slots. Not only that, but the increasing trend toward component integration on the motherboard means that devices such as serial and parallel ports and sound cards are now built in to the system board and therefore don’t use up valuable slots. If you’re working on older systems or systems that have a lot of add-in hardware, you might be short of slots. Check to make sure that a slot is available before you begin.

  • Built-in network interfaces—A built-in network interface is a double-edged sword. The upsides are that it doesn’t occupy an expansion slot, and hardware compatibility with the rest of the system is almost guaranteed. The downside is that a built-in component is not upgradeable. For this reason, you might find yourself installing an add-in NIC and at the same time disabling the on-board network interface. Disabling the on-board interface is normally a straightforward process, achieved by going into the BIOS setup screen or, on some systems, a system configuration utility. In either case, consult the documentation that came with the system or look for information on the manufacturer’s website.

As time goes on, NIC and operating system manufacturers are making it increasingly easy to install NICs in systems of all sorts and sizes. By understanding the requirements of the card and the correct installation procedure, you should be able to install cards simply and efficiently.

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020