What do you mean by Network Interface Card | Network Hardware

On computers that have support for networking, a list of utilities is available to configure and troubleshoot network related issues. Often referred to as TCP/IP utilities, these utilities are bundled along with the operating system. Though the names of the utilities could vary in spelling, the underlying function is almost the same across operating systems. Given below is a list of utilities (with simple description) You will learn more about them in later articles found links at the end of post.

UtilityDescription
IPCONFIGInternet Protocol Configuration Utility
GETMACView MAC or Physical Address of an NIC
PINGTest network connectivity
TRACERTTrace Route from source to destination.
ARPResolve IP address to MAC address
HostnameView computer name or hostname
NETSTATView TCP/IP statistics
NbtstatView NetBIOS over TCP/IP statistics
NslookupView DNS related information
RouteView or modify routing table
PATHPINGTrace packets and view detailed packet information

Network devices such as NIC, hub, bridge, switch & routers are devices that help computers to network and communicate. There are a variety of network devices equipped with a wide range of functions.

Network Interface Card (NIC)

Network cards are devices that connect computers to the network. Network cards are both Layer 1 (Physical) & 2 (Data Link) devices as they provide physical access to the medium and also provide physical addressing through the MAC Address.

Network Interface Cards are available for desktop, laptop and server computers. A variety of interface such as PCI, CardBus, USB are available today. Most desktops, laptops, servers and motherboards have built-in NIC.

Device Manager is a utility used for configuring & troubleshooting hardware. devices such as Network Interface card, sound card, video card, etc. Device manager display the status of devices along with error codes if any. It is commonly used for updating device drivers, disabling/re-installing devices, etc.

Reference: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/310123

NIC’s mostly work out of the box, but there might be instances where administrators need to configure or modify NIC settings to match their network environment. Common settings found in most NIC include settings for controlling speed & duplex modes, WOL settings, Power Management, VLAN settings, etc.

Network Interface cards have one or more LED (Light Emitting Diodes) to indicate network conditions like Link status, Network Speed, etc. Usually there are Light Emitting Diodes to indicate Link/Speed (labeled as LINK) and activity (labeled as ACT). For example solid green could mean the device is properly connected to a switch auto negotiated at 100 Mbps / full duplex, blinking orange could mean

Changing duplex setting requires compatibility settings on the switch or hub as well: If the settings don’t match, connection will never be made

Auto-negotiation

Auto negotiation is an Ethernet procedure by which two connected devices choose common transmission parameters, such as speed, duplex mode, and flow control. In this process, the connected devices first share their capabilities regarding these parameters and then choose the highest performance transmission mode they both support. Priority modes as per 802.3 standards are:

  1. 1000BASE-T full duplex
  2. 1000BASE-T half duplex
  3. 100BASE-T2 full duplex
  4. 100BASE-TX full duplex
  5. 100BASE-T2 half duplex
  6. 100BASE-T4
  7. 100BASE-TX half duplex
  8. 10BASE-T full duplex
  9. 10BASE-T half duplex

Devices choose the top most in the list if supported at both ends and if not, moves down the priority for other settings in the above mentioned list. Due to affordability of high speed devices (NIC & Switch), 100 or 1000 Mbps speed and full duplex settings are used usually through auto-negotiation, eliminating the need to configure this setting.

MAC Address

Also known as physical address, MAC Addresses are unique to each network interface card. MAC addresses are integrated with the NIC and usually not possible to change. On a network, each station is identified by the MAC Address.

MAC Addresses are governed by IEEE and use 48-bit (2) addressing scheme providing a total of 281,474,976,710,656 MAC addresses.

MAC Addresses are displayed in hexadecimal format, separated by hyphens. First three octets represent the organization that has been assigned an identifier cased as the Organizationally Unique Identifier) and the last three octets are aligned by the organization itself.

GETMAC is a command line utility used for viewing the MAC address of an NIC.

Power Management

You may have noticed that the monitor turns off when inactive to save power. This is automatically done by the Operating system for all devices that support Power Management capability. Power Management is a feature that helps in conserving power by turning off devices when not in use. Most NIC’s have support for power management so that it can be turned off when not in use to save power.

Standby Mode refers to a low power mode to reduce power consumption; computers cut power to unneeded devices and remain in a low power state just enough to wake up when required.

Boot ROM

Normally operating systems are installed on the computer. However, if the computer does not have an operating system installed, you can configure the computer to load an operating system from another computer on its network. To load an operating system from another computer on the network, these computers require a special chip called the BOOT ROM. Boot ROM can be added to the NIC through a special socket or in most cases today, it is often integrated within the NIC.

Computers that are not equipped with floppy disk drives or hard disk drives (diskless workstations) to save cost and to keep the network secure, can be used. by loading necessary files from a remote computer on a network. Some computers such as public terminals used in libraries, schools, etc. rely on a centralized computer for processing and storing capabilities; referred to as Thin Clients these computers load their operating system and applications from a much powerful computer.

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