Hardware Configuration

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What Does Hardware Configuration Mean?

Hardware configuration references the details and system resource settings allotted for a specific device. Many computer specialists improve hardware performance by adjusting configurations, which may also include settings for the motherboard and the BIOS, as well as the bus speeds.


With newer technology, most computers have plug-and-play (PnP) allowing the OS to detect and configure external and internal peripherals, as well as most adaptors. PnP has the ability to locate and configure hardware components without needing to reset jumpers and dual in-line package (DIP) switches.

Techopedia Explains Hardware Configuration

Each device has a hardware configuration setting, which may include the following:

  • Interrupt Request (IRQ) Lines: These are hardware interrupt lines, which signal the CPU when a peripheral event has stopped or started.
  • Direct Memory Access (DMA) Channels: This is a method for transferring data from the main memory to a device without going through the CPU.
  • Input/Output Port: This connects the input and output devices to the computer. There is a memory address for each port.
  • Memory Address: There is a unique identifier used for each memory location. The memory address is typically a binary number, which is numbered sequentially.

All hardware devices have configuration settings that can affect performance and system function. Hardware configuration information may include:

  • Available memory
  • Power management features
  • Devices that are connected such as modems, disc drives and serial ports

During power-on-self-test (POST), basic input/output system (BIOS) searches system configurations to determine what devices are present and how they interface with the CPU. After POST, when the computer and system configurations are found, the CPU uses the information to process instructions and data. Configuration information is stored in several ways using DIP switches, jumpers and complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS).

Today most peripheral devices use PnP, which will auto-configure the DMA, IRQ and I/O address. Older systems that do not have PnP require a new device to be set by using jumpers or DIP switches.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.