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Computer Ports for Communication and Networking

A typical computer has a plethora of input/output ports on the back, and the average computer user may be unaware of the fact that nearly every computer has multiple ports that can be used for networking and sending data from one computer to another. This article explains the most common communication ports on a computer and their uses.
Any time a computer user downloads a file, sends an email or browses the Web, they use their computer to communicate with another computer over a network. If you use your computer to communicate over a wired connection, you utilize one of your computer's input/output ports to transfer data. Many computers have multiple ports that users can make use of to send data over the Internet, or to another computer nearby.

A computer with an internal dial-up modem has at least one port for a telephone cable. Many desktop computers have two modem ports: one to connect the modem to a telephone line, and another to connect a telephone to the computer, enabling the telephone and modem to share a single line.

Ethernet is the standard for high-speed wired connections between computers, supporting speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second. Typically, Ethernet is not used to create a direct connection between two computers. Rather, Ethernet cables connect all of the computers on a network through a device called a switch or hub, which directs data between the computers as needed. An Ethernet cable often connects a computer to a cable modem or DSL modem for Internet access.

Serial/Null Modem
The serial port on a computer is typically used for peripherals such as pointing devices. However, it is also possible to create a direct computer-to-computer connection over a serial port using a modified serial cable called a null modem. Null modems are less common today than they once were, as the Universal Serial Bus port has replaced the nine-pin serial port on most computers.

FireWire (IEEE 1394)
IEEE 1394, more commonly known by the trade name FireWire, is a high-speed data connection commonly used to connect computers to external hard drives or cameras. The Windows XP operating system includes FireWire networking as a built-in feature. However, more recent versions of Windows do not include FireWire.

Universal Serial Bus
Most modern computers have multiple Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports, as USB is one of the most common connection types for computer peripherals. Some of the peripherals that often use USB ports include external storage devices, mice, keyboards and webcams. While it is not possible to create a direct computer-to-computer connection with a standard USB cable, two computers may share data via their USB ports using a modified USB cable. This type of cable is typically called an "easy transfer cable" or "USB bridge."


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