We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Different Types of Ethernet Adapters?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Ethernet adapters are a type of network interface controller that can allow computers and other devices to connect to a local area network (LAN). The main use of the term refers to a hardware component that allows a device to network using a category five (cat5) or six (cat6) twisted pair cable. These Ethernet adapters are typically based on either expansion cards or universal serial bus (USB). A wireless Ethernet adapter is a similar piece of hardware that can connect to the an existing Ethernet jack in order to provide a device with Wi-Fi™ connectivity.

Some motherboards come equipped with Ethernet hardware and do not require additional adapters, while others lack this functionality. If a motherboard does not have a built-in Ethernet jack, it is often possible to upgrade it. Many computers have a number of spare expansion slots into which Ethernet adapters can be installed. Some laptops have the same type of option in the form of ExpressCard® or similar expansion slots. If a laptop has one of these slots, it is often possible to plug in an Ethernet adapter.

USB Ethernet adapters can be used with either desktop or laptop computers, often regardless of the operating system (OS). In their simplest form, these Ethernet adapters look like a female Ethernet jack connected to a male USB plug. A more complicated type of USB Ethernet adapter is the hubs, which may provide a number of additional USB connections in addition to an Ethernet jack. These Ethernet adapters typically function in much the same way as those contained on expansion cards, and may be used to connect the computer to a LAN or various devices.

Wireless Ethernet adapters offer a slightly different functionality. Instead of adding an Ethernet jack to a computer, these devices use an existing connection to add wireless functionality. Many Wi-Fi® adapters and dongles plug into a USB port, which devices like video game consoles and printers may lack. Since these adapters can connect to a standard Ethernet port, they may allow these network ready devices to connect wirelessly instead of with a physical cable.

Each of these different kinds of Ethernet adapters have the same basic purpose of connecting computers or devices to a network. This can allow an Internet connection to be shared, files to be send or received, or devices like printers to be accessed. If a printer is connected to the network either physically or wirelessly, each other networked computer will usually be able to print to it. Other devices, such as remote hard drives and media center extenders, may also be shared in this manner.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.