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Hardware handshaking is a communication process in which two devices or systems are connected. Two corresponding data signals are sent over different wires, cables or hardware elements to set up communication protocols.
Different kinds of handshaking protocols can facilitate agreements for information and data transfer rates, troubleshooting, syntax and many others. A general way to think about hardware handshaking and other kinds of handshaking is as a set of signals that enable different types of communication or messaging. For example, handshaking can involve specific signals to either welcome or decline an additional message between devices or systems.
IT professionals contrast hardware handshaking with software handshaking, which uses specific sets of extra data in a data transmission stream. Basically, hardware handshaking is a more mechanical form of the handshaking protocol, where signals typically travel over different physical channels, unlike many kinds of software handshaking.