What Is An Adapter Card For PCs? | GigMocha Defines

What Is An Adapter Card For PCs? | GigMocha Defines

A motherboard is a small city full of bridges, streets, and buildings. It also has many Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots. One of the things that you can put in those PCI slots is the adapter card. What’s an adapter card?

An adapter card is a piece of hardware that you install in the motherboard to increase its functionality. Adapter cards help you upgrade the components instead of changing the motherboard. Adapter cards also have their uses in building networks.

Different types of adapter cards have characteristic functionalities. To answer the “what is an adapter card” question, it’ll be beneficial to know the distinctive uses of adapter cards:

  • Video
  • Multimedia
  • Input/Output (I/O)
  • Networking

Let’s Look At Adapter Card Architectures First

A PCI bus allows you to attach your hardware to the motherboard and increase its capabilities.

For example:

You have an advanced video card that allows you to play your favorite video game. But when the new version of that video comes out, you need to upgrade your video card.

So, you remove the old video card from the PCI slot and plug in a new one with more capabilities.

If the new version of the game requires more RAMs to work well, you can insert a RAM stick in the RAM slot.

So, you can always upgrade your motherboard capabilities. Instead of having to buy a new computer every time you want to play the next version of your favorite video game!

A motherboard has many slots for different types of adapter cards.

You can plug in more than video cards and RAM sticks. You can insert modems, TV tuners, audio cards, and a host of other adapter cards.

How Does An Adapter Card Fit In Your Motherboard?

You can’t just insert any adapter card type into any slot. Each adapter card will only fit into the correct PCI.

It has something to do with electricity.

So, you can’t connect an adapter card that requires 3.3-volt electricity into a 5-volt PCI. And vice versa.

Some adapter cards will only work on 32-bit PCI slots. Others will only work on 64-bit PCI slots.

When you look at the PCI slots in your motherboard, you’ll notice they come in varying lengths. Some are long, some shore. Some of them have two or more connectors.

The adapter card also has matching pins that fit into the slot perfectly.

It’s not a coincidence. Engineers designed adapter cards pin connectors and PCI slots to fit together to meet specific standards.

When installing an adapter card, you got to look closely for which pins will fit into which slot.

If you look even closer, you might notice that “64-bit” and “32-bit” itched next to the slot.

An Example Of Adapter Card

A graphic adapter (aka video card) is the most common adapter card. Because video cards require more energy than other adapter cards, they have a distinct Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) or expansion slot.

Older motherboards used to have an AGP part specifically designed for the graphics adapter. However, the newest motherboards contain PCI express, which is more compatible with different adapter cards than the average PCI slot.

Since not all adapter cards are equal, PCI Express makes it possible to have small or big lanes as needed.

It’s a simple feature that creates more space on the motherboard for other components while providing the perfect charge of electricity to power the adapter card.

For example, modern video cards take a lot of space. So, PCI Express provides a suitable slot without taking so much room.

Types Of Adapter Cards

As adapter cards add more functionality to your motherboard, you can use them to do almost everything with your computer.

Here are some types of adapter cards and what they can do for you:

Wireless Network Adapter Card

A wireless network adapter will enhance your wireless connection. For example, if you’re streaming high-definition video, this type of adapter card will increase speed, reduce lag, and improve wireless connection.

When you insert this adapter card into the motherboard, it will allow you to attach antennas that strengthen the wireless intake.

Ethernet Network Adapter

An ethernet network adapter is a hardware you need to connect your router to your PC directly. You can also use it to link with another computer through cables.

Ethernet network adapters are also an essential part of building Local Area Networks (LAN).

Some ethernet adapters connect the USB, so you don’t even need to insert the adapter card into the motherboard.

Furthermore, USB adapter cards can add more USB ports to your PC.

Memory Card Adapter

It’s a type of adapter card that you use to connect a micro memory card to your laptop. While not made for PC, this adapter card work with laptops with limited ability for upgrades.


Of course, it’s a classic example of adapter cards. Modems are more of a legacy adapter card, but they’re a popular upgrade to PCs in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, most computers depend on wireless technology. Only when you’re building large networks, you’ll need modems for internal connections.

TV Tuners

A TV tuner is another “legacy” adapter card. People used it to connect their TV to their computers. That way, they could record TV shows to watch them later.

Smart TVs ended the need for TV-tuners since you can watch, record, and replay your favorite TV shows on-demand.


An adapter card (aka expansion card) is a piece of hardware that you add to your motherboard to enhance, modify, and increase efficiency.

It can be a video, audio, or communication card. You can use adapter cards to upgrade your computer.

Adapter cards connect to the motherboard through PCI slots. PCI slots have 32-bit and 64-bit architecture.

The latest generation of PCI is PCI Express, which is the bridge between AGP and PCI. It has so much more capability than both of them.

So, that was the answer to the “what is an adapter card for PCs” question!

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