What's the HCL?
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The hardware compatibility list (or HCL) provides a representative list of hardware peripherals that are compatible with the Microsoft Windows operating systems (e.g. Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 2003). Microsoft has validated the compatibility of the hardware peripherals on an x86-based Windows hardware reference platform.
Microsoft Product Support Services uses the HCL to determine whether or not a computer is supported for use with the Windows operating system.
Before you install Windows on a computer, check the HCL to determine whether the computer is certified by Microsoft as Windows-compliant. The latest Windows HCL is available from the Microsoft Windows Drivers and Hardware Central web site
You can search for specific hardware items and see if they are listed as compatible with the Microsoft OS that you are running. I suggest you visit the site before buying any piece of hardware that does not have the Microsoft Windows Logo icon on it.
Note that MS has not tested every computer and/or device in all possible configurations, and that some computers may be sold with peripherals that are not yet supported by your version of Windows, or that require a device driver supplied by the manufacturer.
Note: Additional products that are not found on the latest HCL will probably (but not always) cause the Microsoft support staff to stop your support. Contact your hardware manufacturer for details on products not listed there.
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Download the HCL text files from Microsoft's ftp site)