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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 may also refer 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, and plug-in cards (NICs) are generally only used in high-end machines when a faster Ethernet standard is new and not yet mainstream. See Ethernet adapter, Token Ring, LocalTalk, FDDI and OSI model.