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Chapter 30. Using Windows XP to Set Up a... > Stuff You Need: Understanding Networ... - Pg. 362

Using Windows XP to Set Up a Small Network 362 The Connection Point: The Network Interface Card Networking begins and ends (literally) with a component called the network interface card , or NIC, for short. (Depending on the geek you're talking to, a NIC can also be called a network adapter or a network card .) The network cable (see the next section) that connects all the computers actually plugs into the back of a NIC that resides in each machine. Therefore, the NIC is each machine's connection point to the network. NICs come in three basic configurations: · Circuit board--This is the most common type of NIC, and it plugs into a slot inside the computer. Prices vary widely, but you can get good boards between US$80 and US$130. · PC Card (PCMCIA)--This type of NIC comes in the credit card-size PC Card format and it plugs into a PC Card socket on a notebook computer or a docking station. These are handy for note- book users, but they are slightly more expensive (US$100­US$150). · Universal Serial Bus (USB)--This is a relatively new type of NIC and it plugs into a USB con- nector in the back of the PC. (Most new PCs come with a couple of USB connectors.) These are, obviously, easier to install than the circuit board type, and they're reasonably priced (US $90­US$130). After you've decided on the basic type (or types) of NIC you want, here's a checklist to run through to help you narrow your search a bit further: · Be sure the NICs support something called Ethernet . (This is a type of network architecture, and it's the one used by the vast majority of networks.) There are two varieties: standard Ethernet (which has a network speed of 10 megabits per second [Mbps] and is less expensive) and Fast Ethernet (which features speeds of 100Mbps but is slightly more expensive). Note, too, that there are "10/100" NICs that support both types. Windows Wisdom There have been a number of exciting new developments in the home networking field, including the capability to create a network at home by using your existing phone wiring or your existing power lines. To keep up with the latest in this burgeon-ing area, watch the Home Networking News Web site: · Be sure the NICs have the appropriate cable ports. As you'll see in the next section, there are two basic types of cable, so you have to be sure that the NICs you choose have a port for the type of cable you decide to use. (Some NICs have ports for both types. Note, too, that a few NICs come with a third type of port--called an AUI port--that's rarely used.) · For easiest installation, get NICs that support Plug and Play. · For fastest performance in a circuit-board NIC, get the type that plugs into a PCI slot inside the computer.