What Are PC Cards Used for?

Updated March 23, 2017

PC cards, also known as expansion cards or add-on cards, are designed to allow new interface options or functionality to existing computers. Two drastically different types of PC cards exist. PCMIA cards are add-on cards contained within a sturdy shell and designed for use with the expansion ports of laptop computers in order to add additional interface options. Expansion cards are exposed circuit boards designed to be installed inside of a desktop computer's case by connecting them directly to the motherboard. PCMIA cards and expansion cards can be used to add new graphics, audio and other options to an existing computer or to improve its existing features.

Video and Graphics Options

One of the most common types of PC card is the video or graphics card. These cards add a graphics-specific processor and dedicated graphics memory to the computer that they are connected to, allowing the graphics card to process some or all of the graphics and video data created by software instead of forcing the computer's CPU and RAM to process all of it. Most video cards also have advanced graphics technology included with them to aid in the rendering of more elaborate effects and the utilisation of specialised graphics software by the computer. Different monitor interfaces can be added to a computer via the addition of a graphics card that supports that interface as well.

Audio Options

Another common type of PC card is the audio card, allowing for the same sort of dedicated audio processing that graphics cards lend for video processing. Audio cards can be used to add surround sound, enhanced musical clarity, specialised effects, and they can also be used to allow multiple inputs for the recording and mixing of audio samples and tracks. Some audio cards have an external component packaged with them as well, which allows for even more options than the audio card alone.

Connectivity Options

Bluetooth, USB, FireWire and other interface devices can be easily utilised by a computer that doesn't have native support for them with the addition of expansion cards or PC cards that are designed to add their specific connectivity. This can be useful when new versions of existing interface ports are released since the new and faster version can be added to the computer through an add-on card. The addition of connection interface cards can also allow new types of peripherals to be used, or it can allow for the use of existing peripherals at faster speeds.

Networking Options

Dial-up modems, Ethernet ports, fibre optic networking ports and wireless network receivers can all be added easily through the use of PC cards. This can be via the addition of a new type of network connection, the replacement of a slower type of connection with a faster one or the upgrading of an existing port with a new version that is capable of transferring more data at the same speed.

Other PC Card Options

Other types of expansion cards can be used to allow television input and decoding from a cable or satellite line, interface with video cameras or other devices, improved game physics for supported computer games and even the addition of security features to prevent unauthorised access to the computer.

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About the Author

Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.