NIC is an acronym for Network Interface Card or Network Interface Controller. However, a NIC is actually referred to as a network adapter by most of the population. A NIC is an expansion card, a hardware device attached to a non-portable computer (like a desktop) allowing that computer some new ability. As an expansion card, the NIC specifically allows a computer the ability to connect to a network (such as Ethernet or Wi-FI).
NIC cards serve as conduits between a computer and a network (like Internet). They translate the data on the computer into a form that is transferrable via a network cable and control the data as it is sent to other devices on the network.
There are three different types of NIC arrangements, or configurations: jumper, software and the newest technology, Plug-and-Play (PnP).
Jumper Configurable NIC Cards
Jumper configurable NIC cards are efficient and easy to use for older equipment. They have physical jumpers (small devices that control computer hardware without the need for software) that determine settings for the interrupt request line, input/output address, upper memory block and type of transceiver.
Software Configurable NIC Cards
Software configurable NIC must be manually configured when installed, but contain a proprietary software program that allows the operator to configure the NIC via a menu, or choose the auto configuration mode that determines what configuration is most suitable.
Plug-and-Play Configurable NIC Cards
Most NICs today use the PnP technology as it does not have to be manually configured, though it can be. PnP NICs will auto-configure upon installation during the system boot-up sequence, but can cause conflicts with the hard drive.