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Definition: network adapter

Also called a "network interface card" (NIC), a network adapter is a plug-in card that enables a computer to transmit and receive data on a local network. Today, the term refers to an Ethernet adapter, although in the past, Token Ring, LocalTalk and FDDI networks were used. A network adapter sometimes refers to a Wi-Fi adapter (see wireless adapter).

Mostly Built In
Ethernet circuitry is built onto the motherboard of every new desktop and laptop computer. Plug-in cards (NICs) may be used in desktop computers when a faster Ethernet standard debuted that is not built in. See Ethernet adapter, Token Ring, LocalTalk, FDDI and OSI model.

The SmartNIC
The SmartNIC is the evolution of the network adapter with more features (see SmartNIC).