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

"Plug and Pray" :^)

This amusing sarcastic name for Plug and Play has become all too commonly heard these days. It refers to the large number of problems associated with getting Plug and Play to work on many systems. It's odd to consider--wasn't the whole point of Plug and Play to make it easier to configure systems? It is, but unfortunately PnP falls short of its lofty goal in many cases.

When you use PnP, you are essentially turning over control of system configuration to the PC. The problem is a common one in computers: the computer isn't as smart as the human, or more specifically, the computer isn't as "resourceful" (no pun intended. :^) ). Computers are not nearly as good as humans at realizing things like this: "Well, if I put the modem at that value and the printer there, I will have a conflict. But I can fix that by changing the assignment for the sound card, moving the modem over here, and putting the printer there". The system can take care of the simple situations, but can become confused by more complicated ones. The use of multiple "legacy" ISA devices can exacerbate this. Generally, the more complex your setup, the more likely you will need to manual "tweak" whatever PnP comes up with by default.

The biggest problems with Plug and Play revolve around its apparent "stubbornness". At times, the BIOS and operating system seem determined to put a device at a location where you do not want it. For example, you may have a modem that you want at COM3 and IRQ5, but the BIOS may decide to put it at COM4 and IRQ3, conflicting with the COM2 serial port. This can get quite aggravating to deal with. Also, some people just prefer the feeling of being "in control" that they lose when PnP is used. (I must admit to being one of these people, oftentimes.)

The problems with PnP are less common now than they were in the first year that it was announced. As with any new technology--especially one that is as complex as PnP and that involves so many parts of the system--it takes time to iron the bugs out. Most systems today work quite well with PnP. In most cases problems with PnP are due to incorrect system configuration, manual overrides of PnP devices through the Windows 95 Device Manager, or incorrect BIOS settings.

Next: The Processor (Reference Guide)

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