What is NIC? Network Interface Controller

Rashmi Bhardwaj | Blog,Hardware, Infrastructure & Design

NIC stands for Network Interface Controller. It is is also known as network interface card or we may call it network adapter, Physical network interface, and some times LAN adapter.

Basically, it is computer hardware using which the computer is connected to the other computer networks. We can say that the NIC is a type of a middle man that will connect your computer to the other networks.

There are many kinds of network interface controller. Some of them connect using the USB whereas some of them can be connected in the PCI. It depends on the NIC card you are using.


The speed might also vary as per the NIC. The speed that is used can be as low as 10 Mbit/s or it can also go as high as 160 Gbit/s. Moreover, the network can be chosen from Ethernet, Wi-fi, FDDI, etc.

There are many kinds of NIC manufacturers such as Intel, Realtek, etc.

Why choose NIC?

There is always a query why we need the NIC card or the controller connected on the system. The network controller basically connects the physical layer of the OSI model to the data link layer using Wifi or the Ethernet. This means via the support of NIC card, we can connect your computer to another computer or the cloud storage using the Local Area Network. Moreover, if we want to access the cloud services and the data out there, we can also use the Internet Protocol (IP). Using IP, we access the internet.

The NIC comes as integrated part of computer system nowadays. However, many people also choose to purchase the NIC which is connected using the USB for more other interfaces. At times, USB network adapter is used by either networking employees or security professionals.

NIC physical access is done using the IEEE 802 or any other similar network. In the same way, the data is stored using the addressing system such as MAC. MAC addresses are the unique code or we can say address which you can find in the NIC. This address is used just in case something goes wrong and it is also used to identify the network and the computer from which the data is coming.


The performance of NIC card depends on type of NIC card we choose. Basically, 3 things will determine the overall performance of the NIC controller. These are –

  • Integration type: Whether the NIC you are using in integrated directly in the PCI or you have inserted it using the USB port.
  • Network type: Whether we are using the Wi-fi for the connection or Ethernet to connect. However, here the performance is not due to the NIC but due to the network type.
  • Manufacturer: Although, it is not an important part still the manufacturer matters when we are checking out the performance. We might see a slight performance change if we purchase the NIC of the non reputed company.

Advance features

Gone are the days when the NIC were just used to provide a low-cost affordable solution to connect to the network. Nowadays, modern NIC also offers ability to easily transmit and also receive more data simultaneously. Moreover, the on-controller network also processes a TCP offload engine. The modern connection also includes the ATM and fiber channel as their supported network.

There are numerous connectivity options available for the modern network adapter. However, most of the people prefer the one that is integrated directly in the chipset or SoC and the other people who want more portable solution will choose to go with the USB. However, there are different other connectivity options also available.

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