Network cards are a quiet workhorse of the Computer world enabling Computers, and network equipment to talk to each other everywhere. Many years ago they were bulky ISA cards with 10MB transfer rates, and then the standard increased to the 100MB standard with backwards compatibility and of course used the newer PCI standard.
Now most PCs come complete with a network card connector built-in and the latest standard is Gigabit Ethernet, however it is still often required to add an extra network card to allow Computers to use dual networks and to add more devices.
Wearing an anti-static wristband is preferable whenever working with sensitive electrical equipment. Keeping one hand on a metal part of the case will have the same effect, though you may need both hands when installing certain items of hardware.
Locate an empty PCI slot and remove the metal backing plate by removing the screw holding it in place and carefully sliding it up and out. In some cases, there are no backing plates and you will need to remove a length of metal instead. Do this using a flat-blade screwdriver and/or pliers, taking care to avoid any sharp edges left behind.
Next, remove your network card from its anti-static bag and line it up with the vacant PCI slot as shown below. Push down gently at first, ensuring you have the pins lined up correctly with the slot, and then apply more force to slot the card home.
Replace the screw holding the backing plate in place and check that the card sits securely.
Finally, replace the sides of your case and plug your machine back in. If you have just installed a wireless network card, you may have an aerial which also needs to be plugged in to the back of the card at this point. If this is a wired network, you will need to plug in the Ethernet cable.
Boot your machine up and install the drivers from the accompanying CD when prompted. You may also be led through a network set up wizard, which you may wish to follow if you already have a home network set up.
If this is a new network and you run Windows XP, you will want to follow the wizard located in Start - Settings - Control Panel. This wizard will save you a lot of time and effort by setting up your network and configuring it for you.
If you have any problems with a wired network, check the physical connections and that your machine is recognised by the hub, switch or router, then check the network configuration. If you are using a wireless network, check the aerial and the security settings, as these will often not be set up automatically and you may need to enter a WEP key in order to log on to the network. More about this will be documented in the manual that came with your network card.