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Definition: Ethernet adapter

Also called a "network interface card" (NIC), an Ethernet adapter is a card that plugs into a slot on the motherboard and enables a computer to access an Ethernet network (LAN). In the past, desktop computers always used cards. Today, Ethernet is built into the chipsets on the motherboards of desktop and laptop computers. See teaming NICs.

Adding Ethernet to Old Machines
Old desktop computers can be retrofitted with an adapter that plugs into an available PCI slot. A USB-based Ethernet adapter can also retrofit both laptop and desktop machines. In years past, non-USB laptops were updated with PC Cards and ExpressCards (see PC Card). See Ethernet, LAN, Wi-Fi and auto negotiate.

  Type of         Supported Speeds
  Adapter     10 Mbps  100 Mbps  1 Gbps

  10/100        *        *

  10/100/1000   *        *         *

Ethernet Connections
The computer's Ethernet port (on the left) is wired to a switch or router. If there is no network, it can connect directly to a modem for Internet access. See Ethernet cable, RJ-45, Ethernet switch, wireless router, cable modem and DSL modem.