Help me buy an ethernet card for my PC

As determined in a previous thread, my ethernet port (soldered to the motherboard) is shot. I plan to buy an ethernet card to regain internet connectivity.

I opened the computer and I see what I presume is a PCI slot. What else could it possibly be? Are there other standards out there?

The PC is one of those compact form factors. The metal plate on the back is 2.5" tall. Is this standard or is this something I need to specify when buying the card?

What else do I need to know? Some quick googling tells me this is gonna cost me $10-20. Is that about right? (I will be buying retail in a nearby box-store for the sake of convenience)

Thanks again.

Presuming you only need ethernet to for a home wireless network / internet connectivity, yeah, a bog-standard ethernet card should suffice, and should be cheap.

If it’s an old board, it will have exclusively PCI rather than PCIe, and they’ll look like this:

Even modern boards may have a mix of PCI and PCIe slots. My 4 year old board does. If you’ve got a little short dinky one available, it might be a PCIe x1, and you can buy a network card to go in that if you like.

Yeah, the little 2.5 " metal bracket is a standard size.


I’m presuming that you don’t have a REALLY ancient board with a bus standard predating PCI. Those went extinct about mid 1990s.

If the PC is a small form factor chances are you are going to need a half-height card. 2.5 inches is half height.

PCI slots look like the white slots here:

You might as well spring for a gigabit speed card instead of another 100mbps card.

2.5 " is a standard size, but it’s not the most common one. What you’ve got is a low profile slot. You’ll have to take that into account when buying a card, but they’re not rare, and IME many network cards actually have removable brackets for both normal and low-profile slots.

Does the PCI slot have a corresponding covered hole in the case parallel to the connector, or are there slot covers perpendicular to it? You may need a riser card to connect a PCI card.

Why not just get a USB ethernet adaptor? I’ve used them on things like TiVos, they work great.

If it’s a white slot, it’s PCI. Go get yourself a 3Com card.

The computer is very new (Dec 08)

The slot is black, not white.

Would that USB Ethernet adaptor work at the same speed or come at a speed cost?

Would a gigabit card do me any good if my ISP tops at 1MB?

There is a very short slot right next to the only available slot. It currently has a modem card, but I do not use it. What is that and cold I use that instead? Why would I?

Does it look like this? That would be a PCI-Express x16 slot, generally used for graphics cards.

How short is it? Does it look like this? (Note that it could be a different color.) If so, that’s a PCI-Express 1x slot, which can indeed be used for an ethernet adapter.

I’d recommend against a USB network adapter, simply because a “real” adapter is going to be 10x more standard and reliable. (As well as faster should you connect to a LAN or something).

The shorter slot (especially with modem hardware) is likely to be a proprietary connector that won’t help you.

Gigabit is only going to be a concern if you ever plan to connect this PC to a LAN, in which case you’d probably regret not spending the extra $10. (My home PC, switch, and server are all gigabit capable, as is all the hardware at my office, which means I can transfer gigabytes around in seconds instead of minutes, something I concede not everyone cares about).

What you want is a low-profile capable card. They come with a shorter bracket in the box, which you just screw on instead of the regular one. If you’re going to a box store as you say, just ask them and they should be able to point one out.
(Although actually, apparently now quite a few are sold that way by default, such as this one. Perhaps they’ll have something like that in stock.)

Yes to both. Those are what I have. It does seem that cards for the short one won’t be cheaper, so there is no point in finding those if the long ones are more easily available and cheaper.

Thanks to all for the answers. It is off to the store now. Will report with results.

I disagree: you should leave the x16 slot for a graphics card.

I don’t think you’re going to find an ethernet adapter with a PCI-Express x16 interface… there’s just no way it could ever use that much bandwidth! If it has a longer connector, it’s almost certainly a PCI card, which won’t even fit in a PCI-Express slot.

You could, however, stick a PCIe X1 card in the X16 slot if you wanted too, which would be a waste. You can use an XN PCIe card in any PCIe slot with lanes >= N. In practice, X1 and X16 slots are by far the most common, and the X16 is really intended for a graphics card, as noted. The spec allows for several other numbers of lanes as well.

(PCIe is shorthand for PCI Express, which is what I was referring to in my earlier post.)

To recap - if you have a PCI (not PCIe x16) slot, you can use a PCI card in it. If you have identified a PCIe X1, you can use one of those. You should also note that in the provided photographs, the example circuit boards are labeled “PCI” or “PCIE” next to the slot. It’s quite possible that your motherboard is as well, which will help with the ID.

I thought of that. The reality, though, is that computers are appliances to me. Every 1-2 years, I buy the cheapest computer out there (this one cost $200, the previous $350). It is not likely that I will want a video card (I am a console kinda guy), although it might make sense keeping the slot available for a future emergency such as this one.

The slots are not labeled in my motherboard. :mad: That was the first thing I checked.

Will a PCI card fit on my PCIe slot?

The trip to the box store (Office Max, btw, couldn’t remember before) was a total waste as were Sam’s and Walmart. Will make a last try with a small shop from a client of my wife. If that also fails, I will have to order it. Suggestions are always welcome (brand, site, etc).

I had a similar issue recently. I did not have your form-factor issue as I have a full size case.
My advice: stay away from a USB device.

Trying to go the easy retail route I bought a NetGear USB adapter from Radio Shack. I wanted PCI but they didn’t stock any, and neither did the Office* stores.

Nothing but trouble. It’d stay live for several hours then go dead and only disabling and re-enabling the device in Device Manager would wake it up. And after about 5 cycles of that only a reboot would work.

Mail-ordered the corresponding NetGear PCI card from I picked them more or less at random from a search. Shipped on time, cost as advertised and worked fine. There might have been a cheaper outlet someplace, but I find the places with the absolute lowest prices (or the extra-low sticker price with the extra-high S&H charges ) are often flaky. I’ll spend the extra $5 to keep somebody else in business and avoid the hassle.

My bottom line anecdotal advice: avoid trying USB & seems like a decent supplier.

I was thinking more along the lines of running two monitors. Once you’ve tried having two monitors, you’ll never go back, but that’s something for another thread.


There are three basic PCIe slot lengths: 1x (really small), 4x (small), and 16x (graphics card length). 8x slots tend to use the 16x slot connector.

Can you tell us which exact PC you have?

I have an e-Machines EL1210-01e

I have had 2 monitors and loved it. Right now I have zero monitors. The PC is hooked to the TV.

Ha! With equipment like that, I’d put the TV in the middle, and flank them with monitors on both sides.

According to this page, your box has a PCIe 1x slot as well as the 16x slot. You should buy a NIC to fit that. On checking 3com’s website, I’m gobsmacked to see that they’ve stopped making NICs. Top of Google’s list was this one.