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In computer hardware, a port serves as an interface between the computer and other computers or peripheral devices. In computer terms, a port generally refers to the female part of connection. Computer ports have many uses, to connect a monitor, webcam, speakers, or other peripheral devices. On the physical layer, a computer port is a specialized outlet on a piece of equipment to which a plug or cable connects. Electronically, the several conductors where the port and cable contacts connect, provide a method to transfer signals between devices.

Electronically, hardware ports can almost always be divided into two groups based on the signal transfer:
Serial ports send and receive one bit at a time via a single wire pair (Ground and +/-).
Parallel ports send multiple bits at the same time over several sets of wires.

After ports are connected, they typically require handshaking, where transfer type, transfer rate, and other necessary information is shared before data are sent.

Hot-swappable ports can be connected while equipment is running. Almost all ports on personal computers are hot-swappable.

Plug-and-play ports are designed so that the connected devices automatically start handshaking as soon as the hot-swapping is done. USB ports and FireWire ports are plug-and-play.

Auto-detect or auto-detection ports are usually plug-and-play, but they offer another type of convenience. An auto-detect port may automatically determine what kind of device has been attached, but it also determines what purpose the port itself should have. For example, some sound cards allow plugging in several different types of audio speakers; then a dialogue box pops up on the computer screen asking whether the speaker is left, right, front, or rear for surround sound installations. The user's response determines the purpose of the port, which is physically a 1/8" tip-ring-sleeve minijack. Some auto-detect ports can even switch between input and output based on context.

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