On-Board LAN

Sometimes you will need to know the real manufacturer of your network card, especially if your need some kind of support or its drivers. The problem is that the usually the manufacturer of the big chip found on your network card isn’t who manufactured the card. In this short tutorial we will teach you how to do that.

If your network card (also called LAN card, Ethernet card or NIC, Network Interface Card) is embedded on your motherboard – i.e., “on-board” – this procedure is quite easy and you have several options (if this is not your case, you can skip directly to the next page). Before talking about these options, there is something you need to know first. There are two options to create the on-board network card.

The first option is to use a separated network controller chip, like shown in Figure 1. In this case, you can use the drivers written for this chip, and get updated drivers on the chip manufacturer’s website.

Network ControllerFigure 1: Network controller chip on a motherboard (in this example, a Realtek RTL8100C).

The second option is using a chipset that has already networking functions. In this case the chipset needs a small external chip to make the interface between the chipset and the network connectors (which includes coding data), also known as “physical layer”. This small chip is also known as “PHY” and it is usually smaller than a network controller chip (on Figure 2 you can see some unused solder markings around the PHY chip, where the manufacturer could use a full network controller instead of a PHY chip; compare the size of these markings to the actual chip used). Usually when your motherboard uses this approach, the drivers for the on-board network card are provided by the chipset manufacturer and not by the manufacturer of the PHY chip (there are some exceptions to this rule, though).

Network PHY ChipFigure 2: PHY chip on a motherboard (in this example, a Broadcom AC131 chip).

In summary, here is what you can do if your motherboard has on-board LAN:

  • You can go to the motherboard manufacturer website and get support and drivers there. This is the easiest way. You will need to know first who manufactured your motherboard and your motherboard model number. If you don’t know that, read our “How to Find Out Your Motherboard’s Manufacturer and Model” tutorial.
  • You can read on the motherboard manual which network controller chip your motherboard uses and go to the chip manufacturer website to get support and updated drivers. If your motherboard uses only a PHY chip (usually this is described on the manual) you will probably need to go to the chipset manufacturer website (and not to the PHY chip manufacturer’s) to get the latest chipset driver. If you don’t know which chipset your motherboard uses, check this info on the manual or use a hardware identification utility such as SandraHwinfo or CPU-Z. If you don’t have the motherboard manual, you can download on the motherboard manufacturer’s website (read the previous bullet).
  • You can simply take a look at your motherboard to see which network chip it uses and follow the procedure described on the previous bullet.
  • You can also use the MAC OUI trick we will explain in the next page.

On the next page we will explain what you can do if you have a “real” network card (i.e., an add-on card) and you need to find its manufacturer.