What is an External Network Adapter?

G. Wiesen

An external network adapter is a device used to connect a computer to a network, usually a local area network (LAN) or Internet connection. These devices typically connect to a computer using a universal serial bus (USB) port and can either allow a wired or wireless connection. This is in contrast to an internal network adapter that connects directly to the motherboard of the computer and typically needs to be installed inside the computer by opening the computer case. An external network adapter can be more quickly connected to a computer and is typically quite portable.

An external network adapter.
An external network adapter.

Most computers connect to the Internet or a network through some type of network adapter. This adapter allows the computer to either connect through a wire, often a data transmission cord such as an Ethernet cable, or wirelessly. Many computers have an internal adapter built onto the motherboard of the computer or as a separate card installed inside the computer and connected directly to the motherboard. For computers that do not have this type of adapter, however, an external network adapter is often a perfect solution for a computer user’s networking needs.

In a wired network, the adapter typically connects to the router or hub by Ethernet cable.
In a wired network, the adapter typically connects to the router or hub by Ethernet cable.

An external network adapter will usually connect to a computer through a USB port on the computer and is typically fairly small. The size usually depends on what type of adapter is used and whether the adapter is intended for a wired or wireless network. For a wired network, the network adapter will often simply have a female port for a connection such as an Ethernet cable that is run between the adapter and the router or hub for the network. This allows the computer to connect directly to the network and usually only takes a few moments to set up.

Wireless networks can also connect to an external network adapter, and these devices will often be slightly larger than wired adapters. This type of adapter may look like a card and will also usually connect to a USB port on the computer. It may also have a small antenna to improve the performance of the card and receive a stronger signal from a wireless router or hub. Setting up an external network adapter for a wireless network may require a bit more effort, however, and a user may also need to know the name and password for a wireless network to which he or she is trying to connect.

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Discussion Comments


The simple answer is that 127 devices can run from a single port. However, this number can be reduced by the stacking or cascading of the number of USB hubs. USB hubs can be stacked up to seven levels deep, daisy-chaining the signal from one hub to the next. But the hubs themselves constitute a "device" on the network. So the number of supported devices will decrease as hubs are added. With 25 USB hubs on a network, only 102 devices can be run at a time. (127-25+102)


What is the maximum number of USB devices that can be run from one port?

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