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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Motherboard and System Devices | System Resources ]

Plug and Play

The large variety of different cards that can be added to PCs to expand their capabilities is both a blessing and a curse. As you can see from the other sections that have discussed system resources, configuring the system and dealing with resource conflicts is part of the curse of having so many different non-standard devices on the market. Dealing with these issues can be a tremendously confusing, difficult and time-consuming task. In fact, many users have stated that this is the single most frustrating part of owning and maintaining a PC, or of upgrading the PC's hardware.

In an attempt to resolve this ongoing problem, the Plug and Play (also called PnP) specification was developed by Microsoft with cooperation from Intel and many other hardware manufacturers. The goal of Plug and Play is to create a computer whose hardware and software work together to automatically configure devices and assign resources, to allow for hardware changes and additions without the need for large-scale resource assignment tweaking. As the name suggests, the goal is to be able to just plug in a new device and immediately be able to use it, without complicated setup maneuvers.

A form of Plug and Play was actually first made available on the EISA and MCA buses many years ago. For several reasons, however, neither of these buses caught on and became popular. PnP hit the mainstream in 1995 with the release of Windows 95 and PC hardware designed to work with it.

Next: Requirements for Plug and Play


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