I want to know how linux kernel know which module must load on startup ?

i know some modules must defined in /etc/modules . but what happened if i change physical hardware ?
for example currently a network device with module r8169 connected to my system . now i change this device and kernel load another module like e1000 , but i don't any change on /etc/modules.

which feature of kernel must enabled to active autoload module based on hardware ?

NOTE : I test this feature on initramfs with busybox /bin/sh console . there is not any dependency on udev .

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