What is an Ethernet Card?
How to Set Up a Home Network

You may wondering what is an Ethernet card exactly? Well, this article will explain what this useful card does and how you can use it. Most modern computers will already have an Ethernet card built into it, but if your computer doesn't have one you may want to consider buying one.

With Ethernet cards and cables you can setup a computer network which is used to communicate between multiple computers and also to share the same internet connection.

For businesses, Ethernet is a great choice for setting up a low-cost network with the use of Ethernet cards and cables. Ethernet is also great for home use, such as sharing a high-speed cable connection or setting up a Local Area Network(LAN) for gaming.

If you want to learn about setting up a wireless network instead then check out our wireless networking guide.

How Ethernet Networking Works

So what is an Ethernet card? The role of an Ethernet card is to create a network between more than one computer. This works by connecting each computer's Ethernet card via special cables called Ethernet cables.

Data is transferred through the Ethernet cables using connectors and reaches the Ethernet card inside the computer. The Ethernet card then communicates to the PC's internal system. This is how Ethernet technology works in a nutshell.

So you've decided you want to setup a network in either the home or office? Great, doing this with Ethernet is very easy to do. You don't need to be a computer expert at all.

All you need is two or more Ethernet cards (depending on how many computers you want to network) and some Ethernet cables.

Installing An Ethernet Card

So now you know what is an Ethernet card, how do you install it? Well, firstly I should point out there are other ways of connecting your Ethernet cables for the network.

An Ethernet card is only one type of Ethernet Network Adaptor, and is connected to your computer via a PCI slot. The other types are a USB-based adaptor, and a laptop version.

The USB network adaptor is easily installed by simply plugging it into an available USB port. But you must understand that the speed of the USB port will actually limit the speed of the USB Ethernet adaptor (usually at 12Mbps).

I would recommend you stick to a normal PCI Ethernet card for your network as it will give you the fasted networking speed possible, and it's also the cheapest option.

The only downside to doing this is that you have to physically open your PC to install the card, but it only takes a minute and is very, very simple.

Installing an Ethernet card: All you need to do is open your computer case, find an available PCI slot, and slot in the Ethernet card. That's it!

Selecting the Right Ethernet Cables

Now you've got your cards installed into your PC, you must get the correct cabling. You must get Ethernet cables that have what's called an RJ45 connection on the end.

If you have used Ethernet cables before you may have noticed something called the CAT rating. This rating determines the quality of the cable, with the most common CAT rating being CAT5.

If you are just networking two computers then you will need an Ethernet crossover cable. If would suggest a 10Base-T crossover Ethernet cable. Rather than using coaxial wiring, 10Base-T uses Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) wiring.

You don't really need to know all this though to set up your network. All you need to know is that 10Base-T is usually the better option for your network because it is cost-effective.

Ok, so you've got more than two computers to connect? Then you will need to buy either an Ethernet SWITCH or HUB as well as cable to go with it. Remember, only buy Ethernet cards if you need them because most modern computers have them built in already.