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Hot plugging

Hot plugging

(also hot swapping)

Hot plugging definition

Hot plugging is the act of adding hardware components to or removing them from a computer system while it is still running. Hot plugging is primarily used for peripherals and external devices like USB drives, hard disks, graphics cards, and network adapters.

See also: peripheral device

How hot plugging works

Hot pluggable components are designed for “plug and play” — the operating system can automatically detect and configure the newly connected hardware without user intervention. The ability to hot plug depends on both the hardware (for the required connectors) and the operating system (for software compatibility) of the host device.

Because making hardware changes to a computer system while it is still active (with an electrical current running through it) can damage it or cause data loss, hot pluggable components usually come with a number of safety mechanisms. For example, devices often may have connectors with pins to ensure that the connection is made in a way that avoids any electrical damage.

Examples of hot plugging

  • Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices such as keyboards, mice, printers, cameras, and flash drives are among the most common hot pluggable devices.
  • External hard drives and solid-state drives are often hot pluggable to allow for quick data transfers.
  • Some high-end graphics cards and GPU enclosures support hot plugging.
  • In enterprise environments, network adapters (including Ethernet and fiber optic cards) may support hot plugging.
  • Docking stations for laptops often support hot plugging, letting you connect or disconnect your computer while it’s running.

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