Hardware Compatibility List (HCL)

HCL, or Hardware Compatibility List, is a list of hardware that is compatible with a Microsoft Windows operating system product.

What is HCL (Hardware Compatibility List)?

A list of hardware that is compatible with a Microsoft Windows operating system product. The list includes computer systems as well as individual hardware components such as video cards, motherboards, and sound cards.

When in doubt, you should consult the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) before installing an operating system on a nonstandard or customized machine. Using components not included on the HCL can lead to installation failures or system instabilities. Microsoft has determined that drivers for hardware devices listed on the HCL are compatible with that version of Windows; Microsoft supports only these drivers.

If you use drivers for devices that are not on the HCL, you might not be entitled to Microsoft product support for your system configuration.

If you must use non-HCL devices, contact the manufacturer of the device to see whether a supported driver exists for the particular Windows operating system you are using. If you contact Microsoft Product Support about a problem and the support engineer determines that a hardware device in your system is not on the HCL, you likely will incur a charge for the call even if the problem cannot be resolved.

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You can usually find the HCL for a particular Windows operating system on its distribution CD. (The file might be called hcl.txt.) A more up-to-date version of the HCL for all Windows operating system platforms is available on the Web at the HCL site listed in the On the Web section of this entry.