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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Network Interface Card and Ethernet port on a Dell Computer

Summary: This article covers the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Network Interface Card (network adapter, also known as Network Interface Controller, Network Adapter, LAN Adapter, or Physical Network Interface) port on a Dell computer. ...

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This article provides a reference on Network Interface Card (network adapter, also known as Network Interface Controller, Network Adapter, LAN Adapter, or Physical Network Interface) ports on a Dell personal computer, by going over the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) by our end users and providing clear answers to each.

The questions vary from what the ports look like to how to troubleshoot them when something goes wrong.

I hope you find what you need below. If not, contact your local support.

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Frequently Asked Questions


NOTE: Click the title of the section that you want to open below, in order to see the contents.


What is a network adapter port and What does it do?

A Port or Connector:

A Port or Connector on a Dell personal computer has either holes or a slot that matches the plug or device that you are connecting to the Port.

Network Interface Card (network adapter, also known as Network Interface Controller, Network Adapter, LAN Adapter, or Physical Network Interface.) :

Has been around for a while and a network interface card provides the computer with a dedicated, full-time connection to an Ethernet network. Personal computers and workstations on a local area network (LAN) typically contain a network interface card that is designed for the LAN transmission technology.

How does it work?

A computer uses a network interface card (network adapter) to become part of a network. The network adapter has the hardware that is required to communicate using a wired Ethernet connection. Early NICs typically consisted of an expansion card that is connected to a computer's motherboard through the PCI Bus. This separate card contained the electronic circuitry and physical connectors.

Ethernet connections are the most widely used network connections for personal and workstation computers. Ethernet is really a standard for computer network technologies that describes both the hardware and communication protocols. Ethernet has largely replaced other wired network technologies.

Ethernet is that widely used now that most modern computers have a network adapter that is built directly onto the motherboard. A separate network card is not required unless you are connecting to a different kind of network (Most unlikely in the normal run of life.). The Ethernet connection that is integrated into a motherboard is commonly known as the Integrated network adapter.

An Ethernet connection uses a standard plug that is known as an RJ45 connector. The RJ stands for registered jack and the 45 means the number of the interface standard.

There are various types of Ethernet cables available (from CAT3 to CAT7) and most connect using an RJ45 connector. Small green and amber LED lights built into the top of the network adapter port connection show that a connection is active and whether data is being transmitted. However, the performance you get depends in part on the version of the cable used.

Ethernet cables are Hot-Swappable, which means you can pull them out and plug them in, while the personal computer is still powered up and working.

What types of network adapter port are in common use?

There is only one type of network adapter port in use as of this date; however, the transfer speeds possible across the port have increased over time:

While the connector and plug have remained the same over time, the hardware, the cables, and the software Protocols involved have increased transfer rates from 2.94 Mb/s to the latest 100 Gb/s (Gigabit). However, there is further change expected with increases to 400 Gb/s expected by 2020 (Figure 1).

It is not a powered socket and any device plugged to it, will need its own power source.

Port Network Port Plug Network RJ45 Connector
Figure 1: Network Port and Network RJ45 Connector

What are the Ethernet versions and what do they mean?

The Ethernet revisions chart the changes in the technology that made the transfer speeds improve over time:


The Ethernet IEEE 802.3 packet was finalized in 1980.

10BaseX - 10 Mb/s with its media types, check the Cable Category Types Table for its compatible Cable Types.

The Ether part of Ethernet is supposed to show that it embraces all media types from copper, fiber, and even radio waves.

Ethernet uses Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD), Logical Link Control (LLC), Service Access Point (SAP), Source Service Access Point (SSAP), Destination Service Access Point (DSAP), Individual/Group (I/G) bit and the Universally/Locally Administered (U/LA) bit within the MAC address and Subnetwork Access Protocol (SNAP).

Fast Ethernet

The Ethernet IEEE 802.3u packet settled the Fast Ethernet framework.

100BaseX - 100 Mb/s with its media types, check the Cable Category Types Table for its compatible Cable Types.

While Fast Ethernet uses the same CSMA/CD and Frame Format Technology as Ethernet does, the main difference is in the drop from 51.2 to 5.12 microseconds for the maximum delay for the signal across the segment.

Gigabit Ethernet

The Ethernet IEEE 802.3z packet settled the Gigabit Ethernet framework.

1000BaseX - 1 Gb/s with its media types, check the Cable Category Types Table for its compatible Cable Types.

Although the principles of Gigabit Ethernet are the same as Ethernet and Fast Ethernet, the physical outworking is different.

The standard Ethernet slot time that is required in CSMA/CD half-duplex mode is not long enough for running over 100m of copper, so Carrier Extension is used to guarantee a 512-bit slot time.

Future Ethernet

The future looks bright for Ethernet. With speeds of 400-gig expected by 2020.

10GBaseX and 40GBaseX - Check the Cable Category Types Table for its compatible Cable Types.

What are the Different categories of cable and what do the different categories mean?

Cable Types

There are three basic types of Ethernet cable:

  1. Co-Axial - Co-Axial came in Thinnet and Thicknet, both standards are now defunct and no longer in use.

  2. Twisted Pair - Twisted Pair came in several combinations and categories (CAT3, 4, 5, so forth).

    1. Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) is the most basic type of cable and consists of 4 conductor wires, each with a pair, within a single sheath. An improvement to the cable was the Screened Unshielded Twisted Pair (S/UTP) which adds a shield between the internal conductors and the sheath. Which means the cable is screened from crosstalk with other cables but not from internal crosstalk between the conductor pairs.

    2. Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) consists of 4 conductor wires, each with a pair, each pair was within a shield, with a single sheath. This protects from internal crosstalk, but not from interference from other cables. An improvement to the cable was the Screened Shielded Twisted Pair (S/STP) which adds external shielding to the cable to protect against both internal and external crosstalk or interference.

    3. Solid refers to the single piece of copper wire used for each of the conductor pairs within the cable. Solid is preferred for permanent installation in walls, floors and outdoors as it is more durable.

    4. Stranded refers to the series of copper wires that are twisted together to create the conductor pairs within the cable. Stranded is preferred for internal connections between devices. It is more flexible and it is better used in conditions where the cable is moved around often.

  3. Fiber Optic - Fiber Optic comes in Singlemode and Multimode and is best used for long connections. (500m and above)

Category Types

Cable Name Cable Type Speed Max Seg Length
10Base2 Coaxial RG-58 Thinnet 10 Mb/s 185 m
10Base5 Coaxial RG-8 Thicknet 10 Mb/s 500 m
10BaseT UTP (CAT3) 10 Mb/s 100 m
10BaseT UTP (CAT5) 100 Mb/s 100 m
10BaseF Fiber Optic 10 Mb/s 2 km
100BaseT4 UTP 4pair (CAT3, 4 & 5) 100 Mb/s 100 m
100BaseTX UTP / STP 2pair (CAT5) 100 Mb/s 100 m
100BaseFX Fiber Optic 2strand 100 Mb/s 2 km
1000BaseSX Fiber Multimode 1000 Mb/s 550 m
1000BaseLX Fiber Multimode 1000 Mb/s 550 m
1000BaseLX Fiber Singlemode 1000 Mb/s 5 km
1000BaseCX UTP 1000 Mb/s 25 m
1000BaseT UTP (CAT5e) 1000 Mb/s 100 m
1000BaseTX UTP (CAT6) 1000 Mb/s 100 m
10GBaseT UTP (CAT6a, 7) 10 Gb/s 10 m
10GBaseLX Fiber Multimode 10 Gb/s 100 m
10GBaseLX Fiber Singlemode 10 Gb/s 10 km
10GBaseSR Fiber Multimode 10 Gb/s 300 m
10GBaseLR Fiber Singlemode 10 Gb/s 10 / 25 km
10GBaseER Fiber Singlemode 10 Gb/s 40 km
10GBaseSW Fiber Multimode 10 Gb/s 300 m
10GBaseLW Fiber Singlemode 10 Gb/s 10 / 25 km
10GBaseEW Fiber Singlemode 10 Gb/s 40 km

How do I select the best cable for the job?

While Network Cables do look alike from the outside and they all have the same connectors, they can have significant differences on the inside. You can find out the type of cable you have by looking at the text that is printed on the side of the cable.

The chances are that your cables are made from copper Twisted-Pair cable and fall somewhere between CAT5 and CAT6. There are other cables possible but these are the most common now.


Category 5 cabling is an older type of network cabling. They support transfer speeds of between 10 and 100 Mb/s. You do not really see these cables to buy in the store anymore, and they tend to be used in older devices such as an older router or switch.


Category 5 enhanced cabling supports 1000 Mb/s and cust down on external and internal crosstalk. Most cables available now are CAT5e.


Category 6 cabling supports 10 Gb/s speeds with additional crosstalk improvements. If you are purchasing a new cable - it should really be CAT6 or above.

See the cable category type table in the section above for a breakdown of cable types and purposes.

NOTE: Your Network drops to the slowest part of your setup. If you have Gb ports, Gb routers, switches, and such - then ensure that your cabling also supports those speeds.

How do I resolve an issue with a Device not detected or faulty on a network adapter port?

Hardware Troubleshooting

Common wired network faults break down into three different categories:

  • No connection.
  • Intermittent connection.
  • Slow connection.

However, some troubleshooting steps are common to every fault:

  1. Confirm that there is no damage to the Network Internet Connection (network adapter) port or to the cable.

    1. If there is damage, then you want to check your warranty status. If it does not include complete care, then any repair is chargeable.

    2. If there is no damage, then you should proceed with the guide.

  2. Ensure that the Network cable is firmly connected at both the back of the personal computer and the Router or network connection point. Does this resolve your problem?

    1. Yes, then your issue is resolved and it was a physical connection issue.

    2. No, then proceed with the guide.

  3. If possible, dock the computer and use the network adapter port on the docking station. Does this affect the issue?

    1. Yes, then contact your support to troubleshoot and report an issue with the network adapter port on the computer.

    2. No, then proceed with the guide.

    3. No dock is available, then proceed with the guide.

  4. Boot the computer into the BIOS and look at the network adapter port on your computer, are the link LEDs' on, off, or flashing? You can boot to the BIOS by tapping rapidly on the F2 key as the computer starts up.

    1. If the LED's are on, then your computer is picking up your network and a connection is in place. Go to step 6.

    2. If the LED's are off, then it does not detect the network and no connection is set. This means that there is a connection issue.

      1. Confirm that the network adapter is enabled in the BIOS and if it is, go to step 5.

      2. Confirm that the network adapter is enabled in the BIOS and if it is not - try enabling it. This either resolves your issue, or you must contact your technical support to take this further.

    3. If the LED's are flashing, then the network adapter is communicating on the network. Go to step 6.

Ethernet Port
Figure 2: Network Port

  1. Two-way swap the network cable. This means try a known good working cable on your personal computer and take the cable from your personal computer and plug it to another device. Does the fault stay with your personal computer or follow the cable?

    1. If it follows the cable, then you are looking at troubleshooting the cable and the router or network connection point.

    2. If it stays with the computer and the other personal computer connects fine, then you would be looking at getting in touch with support to report a hardware fault.

  2. Rule out a loose network adapter port by shaking the network adapter cable while it is still plugged at both ends. Does the network adapter LED's status change with moving the cable?

    1. If they do and the cable has been ruled out, then you must contact your support to report a hardware issue.

    2. If it does not, then proceed with the next step under the Software Troubleshooting tab.

Software Troubleshooting

  1. The next step is to rule the Operating System out of the issue. You can do this by two ways, swapping the Hard Drive in the same way we did the cable earlier and seeing if the fault follows the drive or stays with the unit? Alternatively, you can boot from an Ubuntu Live CD and see if the same issue is seen?

    1. If the fault is seen when booting from the live CD or from a known good working Hard Drive, then contact your support to take this further.

    2. The fault is not seen on the live CD or works fine with a known good working Hard Drive installed. Proceed with the guide.

NOTE: I would advise checking the user manual for your computer type, for instructions on removing and fitting parts. If you do not have an Ubuntu Live CD, you can download an ISO from the link below. To boot from a CD, tap rapidly on the <F12> key as it starts up and select the correct option from the Boot once menu.

Dell boot once menu
Figure 3: Dell Boot Once Menu

  1. If the fault has been narrowed down to a software/configuration issue, then the first question to ask is whether it would be quicker to reinstall or reimage the personal computer than troubleshoot further. You know from the previous troubleshooting that a reinstall resolves the problem, but can be a lot of work depending on what software and data are on the personal computer and how you have gone about backups.

    1. If it is quicker for you, then reinstall or reimage the machine to resolve your issue.

    2. If not, then proceed with the guide.

  2. The easiest first troubleshooting step is to reset your personal computer to the settings it had when the network adapter last worked. See Microsoft Knowledge Base article Recovery options in Windows. This hyperlink is taking you to a website outside of Dell Technologies

  1. Uninstall the network adapter drive from Device Manager and install the latest driver from the support site for your computer type. This will either resolve the issue, or you must go to the next step. Go to the run box and type 'mmc devmgmt.msc'. Open up the network Controllers on the box that appears and right-click the integrated network adapter and select uninstall.

  2. Compare your Configuration to a working personal computer and see if there are any differences if so change the settings to reflect those on the working computer. You can bring up a command prompt and there are several commands that you can check. Go to the Run box and type cmd. A black window opens with a command prompt.

    ipconfig /all

    This command lists all the connections on your personal computer.

    ipconfig /release

    This command drops your IP address with your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

    ipconfig /renew

    This command picks up a new IP address.

    tracert *ip or web URL*

    This command shows you how many jumps and how long it takes for the DNS to resolve an address and get you to a particular page or site. The more jumps and the longer it takes, the more likely there is a DNS issue. Reset your DNS to resolve.

    ping *ip or web URL*

    This checks your connection to a site without bringing the site up or using anything that might be corrupted or disabled in your operating system. It is a basic check.

  3. If that did not work, you can reset the TCP/IP Stack, using the following instructions from Microsoft. If this does not resolve the issue, go to the next step.

  1. The last suggestion that I can give is that you may have been infected with Malware that is stopping your network adapter from connecting to prevent you from diagnosing and downloading removal software. I would advise running a scan with a third-party application. There are various freeware programs available. If one of these programs does not pick up any issues, then I am afraid you are left with reinstalling the Operating System to resolve this.

HIPS blocks connecting to the Domain

Are you unable to connect to your domain? This may be caused by the Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) that is part of some anti-virus and Internet Security software. Some companies such as McAfee, have incorporated it into their software. Here are some steps to take to rule out the software.

NOTE: Dell Pro Support does not support domain networks or connecting to them, the following guide has common sense steps to identify if you must troubleshoot your anti-virus rather than your network adapter.
  1. First of all, do you even have Internet Security software installed? McAfee, Norton, so on If so then attempt to connect after booting to safe mode with networking.

    See the below guides for how to accomplish this:

  1. Run the IPCONFIG /all command from a command prompt.

    1. If you can see a valid Domain Name System (DNS) entry, then go ahead and troubleshoot your network adapter as normal.

    2. If the DNS entry is not there, go to the next step.

  2. You must add the DNS suffix of your Domain to the DNS entry in the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties. Go to the Control Panel, then Network Connections, and right-click the Local Area Network (LAN), then Properties.

  3. Reboot your computer and run IPCONFIG /all again. Look for a valid DNS entry. If it is still not there, uninstall the security software and check again.

  4. If the issue continues, you want to contact your own Domain network administrator to take this further.


If this issue does not match the problem that you are experiencing, then check out the article below.

See the Dell Knowledge Base article Troubleshooting Internet Connectivity Issues on Your Dell Computer to help resolve the most common networking issues.

If you must log a call or go through further troubleshooting, you can contact us Online through Chat, Twitter, and Email or you can call into your local support line. If you go to the support site and ensure it is set to your country or region, then clicking the contact us link at the bottom of the article gives you the latest information about how to get in touch.

What is the future of the network adapter port?

There does not appear to be any doubt that the network adapter standard has a clear cut advantage in transfer speeds and in how widely spread it is.

However, there has been a trend in moving laptop devices away from Ethernet ports to Wi-Fi connections. Ultrabooks and Tablets where thin casings have made Ethernet ports not feasible have seen this change more than most.

There is further work being done to increase transfer rates to 400-gig from the current Gigabit connection by 2020.

There is no sign of this technology being replaced in either the short or long term. We see this continuing for a long time to come.

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Additional Information

Article Properties

Affected Product

Inspiron, Latitude, Vostro, XPS, Fixed Workstations

Last Published Date

22 Dec 2023



Article Type

How To