Short for network interface card, the NIC is also referred to as an Ethernet card and network adapter. A NIC is a computer expansion card for connecting to a network (e.g., home network or Internet) using an Ethernet cable with an RJ-45 connector.
Due to the popularity and low cost of the Ethernet standard, nearly all new computers have a network interface build directly into the motherboard. The top image shows the SMC EZ Card 10/100 PCI network card, one of the more common examples.
A network card is sometimes improperly referred to as a broadband card or Internet card. The network card is what allows your computer to connect to the Internet (a network) using a cable (Cat 5). That cable is connected to a router that allows your computer to use a broadband connection.
How does a computer with a network card connect to a network?
Network cards can communicate with each other over the same network using a network switch, or if two computers are directly connected. When computers need to connect to a different network (e.g., the Internet), they must be use a router to route the network packets to the correct network.
Where is a network card located in a computer?
In a desktop computer, the network card is most often located near the USB ports on the back if it's an onboard version. If it's a separate network card expansion card (not onboard), it usually is on the back of the computer, near the bottom, taking up a PCI slot.
In a laptop, the network card is integrated into the motherboard. The network port is usually on the side on the laptop, or it may be on the back. If you cannot find a network port on your laptop, it may only have a wireless network connection. You can purchase a network card for laptops, which is installed into a PC card slot on the side of the laptop, if available.