Purpose of a network interface card

Updated July 19, 2017

Network Interface Cards (NICs) are used by computers to communicate over a network. There are different types of NICs that use different technologies to connect to networks, such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

Ethernet NICs

Ethernet NICs are used for wired Ethernet connections. In a common network, one end of the Ethernet cable is plugged into the Ethernet NIC, and the other is plugged into a router or networking hub.


Another common type of NIC is the wireless NIC. Wireless NICs connect to the network using a radio signal. Creating a wireless network requires a compatible wireless router or other wireless device.

MAC Addresses

NICs identify themselves on the network using their Media Access Control (MAC) address, a 6-byte hexadecimal number. Every NIC is assigned a unique MAC address, allowing the network to assign resources such as IP addresses or bandwidth to specific NICs.

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About the Author

Darren Johannsen has been writing computer-related articles since 2006. He has contributed to various websites, including the Slashdot blog. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Idaho.