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What Is Plug & Play

Installing new hardware can be a frustrating task. It can become a lot more time-consuming and problematic when you need to find up-to-date drivers in order for the hardware to run. This is often the case with important hardware components such as graphics, sound or TV cards or peripherals like printers and scanners. This kind of hardware will not simply start working as soon as you've connected it - you'll need to install drivers for it first and then restart your computer before you can start using the device. These are not plug & play (PnP) devices.

Plug & play devices, on the other hand, are items of hardware which don't require any drivers to be installed. When you connect a plug & play-compliant device, you'll be able to start using it right away instead of having to worry about finding and installing drivers which often present new problems. Many minor external hardware devices are plug & play and they can be connected and disconnected while you are logged in to Windows. USB flash drives are a good example of plug & play devices. All you have to do is plug a USB flash drive in and then start using it, although it's usually a good idea to use the "Safely remove hardware" feature in Windows before you physically disconnect the drive. Other common external plug and play devices include keyboards and mice. You can attach and detach them whenever you want. This is also the case with keyboard and mice which use the old PS/2 port. Other plug & play devices include monitors which are automatically installed when you start up your computer for the first time.

Plug & play does not necessarily just refer to external devices, however. Many internal devices are plug & play-compliant as well. For example, you'll never need to install a driver for a processor or memory stick. Providing the hardware is compatible with your computer, all you need to do is physically install the hardware and then start up the computer. Windows should recognize the new hardware immediately. The main difference between internal and external plug & play hardware is that, to install internal devices, the computer needs to be turned off.


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