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Installing new hardware? Leave Windows 98 to its own devices

By Michael Raymond

Hardware devices The Plug and Play support in Windows 98 is a lot like the simple things in life we take for granted. You turn on a faucet and expect a gush of water. Plug in your guitar and prepare for sonic joy—and noise complaints from the neighbors. Plug in a toaster and—well, you get the idea.

Windows 98 supports the latest hardware standards, and provides device support for both existing and new generation computers. More importantly, it eliminates guesswork by automatically configuring installed hardware and loading the appropriate drivers.

Here are a few of the Plug and Play features you can take for granted in Windows 98.

Universal Serial Bus (USB)
USB provides a single port that lets you connect and disconnect a wide array of external peripheral device—such as scanners and camcorders—without configuring or rebooting your desktop or laptop. USB also supports interactive devices such as joysticks and isochronous devices such as telephony, audio, and imaging devices.
What this means to you: Plug and play is a real concept. Devices are good-to-go. Simple pleasures.

Read more about USB support in Windows 98 here.

IEEE 1394
IEEE 1394 is a high-speed serial bus standard that complements USB and provides a higher-bandwidth connection for devices that require faster data transfer. It can support data transfer rates of up to 400 million bits per second. IEEE 1394 also delivers data at a guaranteed rate, making it ideal for a wide range of devices that need to transfer high levels of data in real-time, including digital video cameras, printers, scanners, computers, and hand-held devices.
What this means to you: More digital devices. More work gets done—with less hassle. More time to play—and more to play with.

Infrared Data Association (IrDA) support
IrDA is an infrared protocol that provides secure, wireless communications between two Windows 98-based computers or devices that are using it. If your laptop computer and printer have IrDA ports, you can place them opposite one another, then print a document from the laptop without any cable connections. IrDA hardware is deployed in a large number of new notebook computers, but until recently, the hardware has not been available for applications programmers to use because of a lack of suitable protocol drivers. Windows98 supports IrDA, including IrDA programming APIs that enable file sharing applications and games.
What this means to you: No more mismatched connectors and wiring. Speed and configuration parameters are transparent. Better application programming.

Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP)
Windows 98 lets you work with high-quality graphics by supporting new display devices such as Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), multiple video cards and monitors, OpenGL 1.2, DirectX® 7.0 API, and Video Port Extensions. Rather than using the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus for graphics data, AGP provides a dedicated, high-speed port through which large blocks of 3D data can be transferred between the computer's graphics controller and system memory.
What this means to you: Frees up memory on your computer. Twice as fast as a normal PCI card. Every picture tells a story.

So, if you splurged for a new scanner in your office, or a digital camera or video recorder in your home, just plug it in and let it rock. Simple pleasures, indeed. If only programming the VCR were so easy.

Michael Raymond
Michael Raymond is still trying to plug his toaster into his computer.

To Install a Plug and Play Device:
1. Turn off your computer.
2. Connect the device to your computer according to the manufacturer's instructions.
3. Turn on your computer and start Windows. Windows will automatically detect the new Plug and Play device and install the necessary software.

Having installation problems?
Try Microsoft Support's Windows 98 Hardware Troubleshooting Page, which links to various hardware troubleshooting resources.

For a broad range of support information, visit: FAQs & Highlights for Windows 98.

Too much technospeak?
The Microsoft Developer Network’s hardware glossary can help with the terminology.