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Ethernet Controller Drivers

download drivers A network interface of some type is necessary in order to connect a PC (or any other computer) to a high speed network. Ethernet controllers are the most common interface available today, having supplanted older technologies such as Token Ring and Appletalk. An Ethernet interface is generally needed in order to take advantage of high speed networks at home or in the office. Today, many PCs come pre-configured with an Ethernet interface.

A number of companies sell add-in Ethernet controllers for PCs, including 3Com, Linksys, and D-Link. Additionally, many motherboard companies embed controllers in their products so no add-in card is necessary. PCs can support more than one Ethernet controller, and can be used as routers or gateways if configured correctly.

Each Ethernet controller has a unique address consisting of 6 octets (full bytes), i.e. "00-08-74-4C-7F-1D.” The first three constitute the manufacturer ID (00-08-74 is Dell Computer, for example).

The rise of networked PCs in the early 1990s brought high speed Ethernet controllers to the masses. Prior to this, only midrange computers such as those from Sun, IBM, and Digital featured built in Ethernet. Indeed, prior to Windows 95 support for TCP/IP was only barely available for the PC and required extra drivers or other tweaks.

Basic Ethernet devices ran at a 10Mbit speed using the 10BASE-T specification. This has largely been replaced with much faster interconnect speeds. Today's controllers easily achieve 100Mbit or faster (Gigabit Ethernet) data rates. However the slowest connection determines the actual effective speed. This means your whole home network may achieve 100MBit data rates, but throughput to the outside world is limited to the speed of your DSL, cable, or other connection.

While TCP/IP is the standard protocol suite for Internet communications, Ethernet controllers can run multiple protocols simultaneously. For instance a card might be configured to use the Microsoft Networking protocol (formerly known as NETBEUI, which grew out of an earlier protocol known as NetBIOS), TCP/IP, Ethertalk, and Novell's Netware IPX/SPX client at the same time. Activity on the configured protocols is multiplexed through the device, so no user intervention is required to manage connections.

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