Hardware types overview

Windows classifies devices by hardware type. Hardware types include such things as video adapter cards, keyboards, CD-ROM drives, ports, and printers. When you use Device Manager or the Add Hardware Wizard, you will see a list of the hardware types that are installed on your computer.

Hardware types are further categorized according to individual devices. For example, the modem hardware type represents hundreds of different modems that you can install and use with Windows.

Devices can also be classified according to the way they are connected to your computer. Most devices are permanently connected to your computer and are typically installed only once. They are available every time you turn on your computer unless you disable or uninstall them. Sound cards, video display cards, modems, and hard disks are examples of this type of device.

Other devices are designed to be connected and disconnected from your computer as you need them. You can plug or insert this type of device into the appropriate port or expansion slot, and Windows will recognize the device and configure it without restarting your computer. Likewise, when you disconnect this type of device, you only need to inform Windows that you are ejecting, removing, or unplugging it. You do not need to shut down or restart your computer. Examples of this type of device include:

PC Cards that connect to portable computers.

Hardware that connects to a universal serial bus (USB) or an IEEE 1394 bus 

Docking stations that support hot docking and undocking of portable computers.

Hardware that connects to serial or parallel ports 

For a comprehensive list of hardware supported by Windows operating systems, see Compatible Hardware and Software in Help and Support Center.

Hardware overview

Installing devices overview

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