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Decide on Brand of Network card

As long as a network card supports the type of Ethernet, which you have decided to use
(10base2, 10baseT, 100baseT)
, different brands (cards from different vendors/manufactures) will
communicate with each other.

I get a lot of questions from users of my website: "Which network card should I purchase ?"
Before I give a recommendation, let me first explain my reason for it.

Have a look in your Control-Panel to
the applet : "System", on the tab:
"Device Manager"

It contains a list of all components of
your PC. Since you can see and touch
these parts, they are also called:
"Hardware".

But hardware on its own is useless,
unless your system knows how to
"talk" / "use" the hardware:
the computer requires some software,
a program, which allow the computer
to use the hardware.
Such software handling a piece of
hardware is called a "Device Driver",
often just called with its short-name:
"Driver".

Select a piece of hardware, then click
on the button "Properties" to display
more details on this specific component.
Select the tab: "Driver" and view the
"Driver File Details":
Like regular software, drivers have a version
number:



Most of the components in the above list are integrated parts of your PC.
But there are a few components, which often get added later or get swapped out with a more
powerful version:
- the network card
- the graphic display adapter
- the sound-card

Now we need to have a quick look at the market of PC components: when you walk through
a computer-store, you see dozens of different vendors / manufactures offering similar products,
competing with each other to offer the best and the fastest (and sometimes the cheapest).
A component is often replaced already after a few months with a new, more powerful version.

But this fast product cycle can have an impact on the drivers for a component:
A "driver" is software, and like other software can contain "bugs": that it is not working
properly. And with this pressure to deliver a new product every few months, sometimes
manufactures do not have the time to completely test and debug a driver.
(this is NOT a joke: I once purchased a networking card, where the README.TXT-file on the driver floppy
stated : "This is beta-test software" ) .


When somebody asked me some
years ago : "which network card ? ",
I used to suggested to use an
NE2000-compatible network card.
(In the very early days of networking,
network cards were very expensive,
limiting the market potential of the first
PC-Fileserver NOVELL.
So, they designed and offer some affordable
network-cards, from which the most
successful model was the "NE2000".
Other manufactures started to copy this
card as "NE2000 Compatible" )

Because the "NE2000-compatible" network-card were used so much, any operating system with
network-support
( Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, Windows NT, Windows95/98, OS/2, Linux,..but NOT XP ! )
include already a fully tested and very reliable driver for the "NE-2000 compatible" network card.

But that was a few years ago (up to 1998), because the NE2000-compatible cards are based on
the
ISA-slots ( ISA-slots: "Industry Standard Architecture" slots, as designed by IBM for the
IBM-AT computer, which have been the standard to install PC cards into a computer for 20 years).

Moderns PC's (as delivered in the last few years) have either only 1 or no ISA-slots anymore,
they have the more modern and more powerful PCI-slots to install additional cards.
Therefore, network cards for ISA-slots have disappeared from the market , replaced now by
PCI-slot networking cards.


I will not make a recommendation for a specific brand/model of PCI-networking card.

However, I like to suggest that due to the
possibility of driver problems :
make sure, that you have a source to get updated drivers !
An updated driver can be a newer version, fixing some problems, but it could also be
a driver for a new operating system : maybe you like to update your system in future to
Windows 2000.....

Today, the main-source for new / updated drivers is the Internet.

I strongly suggest, that before purchasing a network card you first verify that there is an Internet
website offering driver support :
Look in the shop at the box of the network-card and find a reference to a website, or at least
find the name of the manufacturer and then use an Internet search-engine to locate the website
of the manufacturer ! Have a look to that website to check, whether it is only a promotional
website offering products or whether it includes a support-section with driver-downloads.

Note:
Although I will not make a recommendation for a specific network card, I would not mind to post on this page
some advertising of network card manufactures/suppliers with links to their website / driver page.
If you are interested, please contact me at j_helmig@compuserve.com to discuss the (low) advertising rates.

Next Step: Decide on names and protocol

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