1.3 System Resources

PCs have four types of system resources?Interrupt Request (IRQ) lines, DMA channels, I/O ports, and memory ranges. Many system components and peripherals require one or more of these resources, which raises the twin problems of resource availability and resource conflicts. Resource availability is particularly important with regard to IRQs, which are in high demand, and of which only 16 exist. Resource conflicts can occur when two devices are assigned the same resource, in which case one or both devices may not function, or may function unpredictably. Resource conflicts may occur even with plentiful resources, such as I/O ports, where many are available and only a few are in use.

A frequent cause of problems when building or upgrading PCs is a shortage of required resources or unintentional resource conflicts that occur when a new component is installed that was inadvertently configured to use a resource that is already in use. Two technologies, PCI and Plug and Play, used in conjunction with recent versions of Microsoft operating systems (Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98, and Windows 2000) and Linux go a long way toward extending the availability of resources and preventing conflicts. Even in such an ideal environment, however, resource conflicts sometimes occur, particularly if you are using older "legacy" hardware. The following sections describe what you need to know about PC resources and how to manage them.

1.3.1 Interrupt Request Line (IRQ)

When a component or peripheral, such as a network adapter or sound card, needs to get the CPU's attention, it does so by generating a signal on an Interrupt Request Line (IRQ). Table 1-2 lists IRQs and the devices that typically use them.

Table 1-2. /16/32-bit ISA/PCI standard IRQ assignments


Bus type

Typically used by



Non-maskable Interrupt (NMI); system timer



Keyboard port



Programmable Interrupt Controller (PIC); cascade to IRQ 09



Communications Port 2 (COM2:)



Communications Port 1 (COM1:)



Sound card; printer port (LPT2:)



Floppy disk controller



Printer port (LPT1:)



System CMOS/real-time clock



Redirected from IRQ 02; network interface



Network interface; USB host controller



Video adapter; SCSI host adapter



PS/2 mouse port



Numeric data processor (math coprocessor)



Primary IDE interface



Secondary IDE interface

An 8-bit ISA slot contains physical IRQ lines only for IRQ 02 through IRQ 07 because IRQ 00 and IRQ 01 are reserved for system functions. A 16-bit ISA slot contains physical IRQ lines for IRQs 03 through 07, 09 through 12, 14, and 15. IRQ 09 is mapped to IRQ 02, allowing 8-bit ISA cards to recognize IRQ 09 as IRQ 02. IRQs 00, 01, 02, 08, and 13 are not present in any slot, and so cannot be assigned to devices.

If the processor receives two or more interrupts simultaneously, it processes them in order of priority. On 8-bit systems (PCs and XTs), the lower-numbered IRQ always takes priority. That is, IRQ 00 is the highest priority, and IRQ 07 is the lowest. 286 and higher systems use a second PIC to add a second set of eight IRQs, cascaded from IRQ02. That changes IRQ priority from the simple numerical order used by 8-bit systems. On 16-bit and higher systems, IRQ 00 is still the highest priority, followed by IRQ 01 and 02. But because IRQ 02 is the cascade IRQ, the IRQs that it supports?IRQ 08 through IRQ 15?are next in priority. IRQ 03 follows IRQ 15 in priority, and then in numerical order through IRQ 07, the lowest priority. Whenever possible, assign "important" devices to higher-priority IRQs. For example, if you have a serial mouse and a modem, assign the modem to COM2: (IRQ03) and the mouse to COM1: (IRQ04). Because the modem is on the higher-priority IRQ, it is serviced first if the modem and the mouse generate interrupts simultaneously.

Juggling ISA IRQs

ISA systems are obsolescent, to be charitable, but millions are still in use. If you have to work with an ISA system, remember that only IRQs 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 09, 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15 are available. Six of those?03, 04, 06, 12, 14, and 15?are occupied by the serial ports, the floppy controller, the mouse, and the IDE interfaces on most ISA systems, leaving only 05, 07, 09, 10, and 11 available. If you require interrupt-based printing, you must allocate IRQ 07 to LPT1. If you have a sound card, it'll want IRQ 05. And so on. It's not surprising that many ISA systems have no free IRQs, and that allocating IRQs and resolving IRQ conflicts is a major issue for ISA systems.

If you find yourself out of IRQs on an ISA system, you may be able to reclaim one or more IRQs. Some cards and some systems allow using IRQ02 successfully, and some do not. If one or both of the serial ports is unused, disable it in BIOS to reclaim IRQ03 and/or IRQ04. If you have two serial devices that are never used at the same time (e.g., your modem and your Palm Pilot sync cradle), you can use a switch box to connect both to the same serial port and disable the other serial port. If there is no printer connected to the system, disable the printer port in BIOS (or configure it to a mode that does not use an IRQ) to free up IRQ 07. If you have only one IDE drive in the system, disable the secondary IDE interface in BIOS to reclaim IRQ 15. If you have two IDE drives, one on each interface, consider putting both drives on the primary IDE interface and disabling the secondary IDE interface to reclaim IRQ 15. Note, however, that putting some very old CD-ROM drives on the same IDE channel as the hard disk can seriously degrade hard disk performance. ISA interrupts versus PCI interrupts

ISA and PCI handle interrupts very differently. ISA expansion cards are configured manually for IRQ, usually by setting a jumper, but sometimes by running a setup program. All ISA slots have all IRQ lines present, so it doesn't matter which card is placed in which slot. ISA cards use edge-sensitive interrupts, which means that an ISA device asserts a voltage on one of the interrupt lines to generate an interrupt. That in turn means that ISA devices cannot share interrupts because when the processor senses voltage on a particular interrupt line, it has no way to determine which of multiple devices might be asserting that interrupt. For ISA slots and devices, the rule is simple: two devices cannot share an IRQ if there is any possibility that those two devices may be used simultaneously. In practice that means that you cannot assign the same IRQ to more than one ISA device.

PCI cards use level-sensitive interrupts, which means that different PCI devices can assert different voltages on the same physical interrupt line, allowing the processor to determine which device generated the interrupt. PCI cards and slots manage interrupts internally. A PCI bus normally supports a maximum of four PCI slots, numbered 1 through 4. Each PCI slot can access four interrupts, labeled INT#1 through INT#4 (or INT#A through INT#D). Ordinarily, INT#1/A is used by PCI Slot 1, INT#2/B by Slot 2, and so on.

AGP cards support only INT#1/A and INT#2/B, and share with PCI Slot 1. If a PCI Slot 5 exists, it shares with Slot 4. In either case, with slots that share resources, avoid installing cards in both slots if both cards require the same shared resource. If you must use both slots, install only cards that can share an IRQ. If you encounter a conflict on a PCI system, simply moving cards to different slots often solves the problem.

Bridging circuitry within the chipset allows additional PCI or other busses to be cascaded from the primary PCI bus. For example, the PCI-to-ISA bridge present in most current chipsets allows cascading an ISA bus from the primary PCI bus. One function of the bridging circuitry is to convert PCI interrupts to ISA interrupts when a PCI device needs to get the processor's attention. PCI interrupts do not correspond directly to ISA IRQs, although an INT# can be mapped to an IRQ via the PC's interrupt handler if the card using that INT# requires an IRQ. Some configuration firmware restricts mapping PCI interrupts to IRQ 09, 10, or 11 or to Auto, while others allow mapping any INT# to any available IRQ.

In general, leave INT-IRQ mapping for all PCI slots set to Auto unless you have good reason to assign a specific IRQ. Sometimes a card with a dynamically mapped IRQ may work fine with some programs and not others. For example, many older games expect to find a sound card at IRQ 05. If you have a PCI/Plug and Play sound card installed in PCI Slot 3, you can use INT-IRQ mapping to assign IRQ 05 to that slot and card, keeping the old games happy.

PCI expansion cards are normally assigned an IRQ dynamically, either by the BIOS or by the operating system, depending on the version of Windows (or Linux) being used and the PCI/Plug and Play configuration options in effect. On bridged PCI-ISA systems, ISA IRQs 00, 01, 02, 08, and 13 are reserved for critical system functions. IRQs 03 through 07, 09 through 12, 14, and 15 can each be programmed using the CMOS Setup PCI/Plug and Play configuration utility as being owned by either the PCI bus or the ISA bus, but not both. The terminology for this varies. Some utilities allow you to specify each IRQ as PCI/ISA Plug and Play or Legacy ISA (or similar words). Others allow you to specify each IRQ as Level-Sensitive or Edge-Sensitive (or similar words). In either case, the effect is the same.

If you are installing a "legacy" card (i.e., a non-Plug and Play ISA card), you can use static IRQ mappings to assign a specific IRQ to that card. For example, if you install an old ISA sound card that requires IRQ 05, use the PCI/Plug and Play configuration utility to set IRQ 05 for Legacy ISA or Edge-Sensitive, thereby reserving that IRQ for that card.

Do not confuse mapping PCI INT# interrupts to ISA IRQs with allocating IRQs to the ISA or PCI bus. The two are entirely unrelated. Use the former to "lock down" a PCI slot/card to a specific IRQ?for example, to allocate IRQ 05 to a PCI sound card. Use the latter to reserve IRQs for ISA devices?for example, to reserve IRQ 05 for an ISA sound card. Confusing these functions may cause lockups or other strange behavior. In general, the best way to prevent conflicts is to avoid installing ISA cards in PCI systems. PCI Bus IRQ Steering

PCI Bus IRQ Steering is a function built into Windows 95 OSR2 or higher and Windows 98 (but not NT4 or Windows 2000/XP). IRQ Steering allows Windows itself to assign IRQs to PCI devices. With earlier versions of Windows 95, the BIOS assigns IRQs to PCI devices, and Windows must accept the decisions made by the BIOS IRQ Steering. If Windows IRQ Steering is enabled, Windows can override those BIOS decisions, although it seldom does so. OSR2 disables IRQ Steering by default; Windows 98 enables it by default.

Windows IRQ Steering allows Windows to reassign PCI interrupts automatically to accommodate the inflexible requirements of ISA devices. For example, assume that a PC with a BIOS that does not recognize non-Plug and Play ISA cards (that is, IRQ Steering is not implemented in BIOS) is running Windows 98 with IRQ Steering disabled. The PC is properly configured with all PCI devices, and the BIOS has assigned IRQ 11 to a Creative SoundBlaster AudioPCI 128 sound card. You then open the case and install a 3Com 3C509 network adapter (a non-Plug and Play ISA card), which is also configured for IRQ 11. When you restart the system, a conflict exists between the sound card on IRQ 11 and the network card, also on IRQ 11. If you enable Windows 98 IRQ Steering and restart the system, IRQ Steering takes the following actions during boot:

  1. Detects that IRQ 11 is in use by both the PCI sound card and the ISA network card.

  2. Disables the PCI sound card.

  3. Maps a free IRQ?one that is not being used by an ISA device?to a PCI interrupt and assigns an IRQ holder to it. If IRQ 10 is available, for example, PCI Steering may assign it to a PCI interrupt.

  4. Reprograms the sound card to use IRQ 10.

  5. Resets the IRQ mapping table to specify that IRQ 11 is now assigned to ISA and removes the PCI IRQ holder for IRQ 11.

When the system restarts, the sound card is now assigned to IRQ 10, the network card is still IRQ 11, and both devices work. Note that IRQ Steering does nothing that you cannot do for yourself. It simply automates the process of resolving IRQ conflicts when ISA devices are present in a PCI system.

To view the IRQ assignments made by IRQ Steering, right-click the My Computer icon, choose Properties, click the Device Manager tab, and double-click the Computer icon at the top of the tree to display the View Resources page of the Computer Properties dialog, shown in Figure 1-3. IRQs which IRQ Steering has assigned to PCI are flagged with an entry labeled IRQ Holder for PCI Steering. This flag does not indicate that another device is assigned to the IRQ, but simply that IRQ Steering has reserved that IRQ for PCI, making it unavailable to ISA devices even if no PCI devices are currently using that IRQ.

Figure 1-3. The View Resources page of the Computer Properties dialog displaying global resource allocations for IRQ, DMA, I/O ports, and memory ranges

IRQs which both the BIOS and Windows 98 have assigned to PCI are flagged twice. In Figure 1-3 IRQ Steering has assigned IRQ 10 as a PCI interrupt, which is being shared by a SCSI host adapter, a network adapter, and the USB host controller. Both BIOS IRQ Steering and Windows 98 IRQ Steering have assigned IRQ 10 to PCI. The Matrox video card on IRQ 11 is the only device assigned to that IRQ, and only BIOS IRQ Steering has assigned an IRQ Holder.

To view or change settings for IRQ Bus Steering itself, right-click the My Computer icon, choose Properties, and click the Device Manager tab. Double- click System Devices to expand the tree, and then double-click PCI Bus to display the PCI bus Properties dialog. Click the IRQ Steering tab to display the IRQ Steering page of the PCI bus Properties dialog, shown in Figure 1-4.

Figure 1-4. The IRQ Steering page of the PCI bus Properties dialog, which allows you to enable or disable Windows 98 IRQ Steering, configure it, and view its current status

The IRQ Routing Status pane at the bottom of the dialog displays the current status of IRQ Steering. Windows 98 enables IRQ Steering using the defaults shown. Leaving this checkbox marked means that Windows 98 manages IRQ Steering. To disable Windows 98 IRQ Steering and allow the BIOS to manage IRQ Steering, clear the Use IRQ Steering checkbox and restart the PC. If you do that, the Windows Find New Hardware Wizard runs after the restart, locates the "new" devices, and installs drivers for them.

The Get IRQ table ... checkboxes are a ranked priority list of the methods Windows can use to obtain the data it needs to manage IRQ Steering. Clearing one of these checkboxes causes Windows not to attempt that method. In Figure 1-4 Windows first attempts to obtain this data using the ACPI BIOS. That fails, so it next attempts to get the data using the MS Specification table, which also fails. The Protected Mode PCIBIOS 2.1 method is not checked, so Windows does not attempt to use that method. Finally, Windows attempts to get the data using a Real Mode PCIBIOS 2.1 call, which succeeds.

In general, leave IRQ Steering enabled. If problems occur with a PCI device being recognized or configured properly, take the following steps in order until the problem is resolved:

  1. Clear the Get IRQ table using ACPI BIOS checkbox and restart the system.

  2. Clear the Get IRQ table using MS Specification table checkbox and restart the system.

  3. Clear the Get IRQ table using Real Mode PCIBIOS 2.1 call checkbox, mark the Get IRQ table using Protected Mode PCIBIOS 2.1 call and restart the system.

  4. Clear the Use IRQ Steering checkbox and restart the system to allow the BIOS to manage IRQ steering.

If IRQ Steering cannot be enabled, the system BIOS may not support IRQ Steering (which is to say it will not allow Windows 98 IRQ Steering to change assignments), or the BIOS IRQ routing table may be missing or corrupt. In either case, contact the system or motherboard maker for an updated BIOS or additional assistance.

1.3.2 Direct Memory Access (DMA)

Direct Memory Access (DMA) is a means by which devices can exchange data with memory or with each other without requiring intervention by the processor. Standard DMA allows a device to exchange data with memory, but not with another device. Bus Mastering DMA allows two devices to communicate directly with each other. The advantage of using DMA is that it reduces the load on the processor, allowing it to perform other tasks. There are even fewer DMA channels than IRQs?eight versus 16?but DMA channels are much less in demand than IRQs, so DMA channel availability is almost never an issue. Table 1-3 lists DMA channels and the uses to which they are typically put.

Table 1-3. Standard 16-bit ISA DMA channel assignments


Bus type


Typically used by








Some sound cards




Floppy disk controller




LPT1: in ECP mode




DMA controller cascade




Some sound cards; ISA SCSI host adapter




ISA SCSI host adapter




Some sound cards; ISA SCSI host adapter

DMA 2 is used by nearly all systems for the floppy disk drive controller. Excluding DMA 4, which is a dedicated cascade channel (used to access the secondary DMA controller), the other DMA channels are available for use with expansion cards. DMA 0 is almost never used because, although it appears only in 16-bit slots, it supports only 8-bit transfers. Most ISA sound cards require two DMA channels, with 8-bit sound using DMA 1 and 16-bit sound using DMA 5. Note that these DMA channels pertain only to ISA cards. PCI devices do not require one of these DMA channels to use DMA. For example, if you enable DMA transfer mode on one or both of the embedded PCI IDE controllers, you will find that they operate in DMA mode without occupying ISA DMA channels.

The only time DMA conflicts are likely to arise is if you install an ISA sound card and an ISA SCSI host adapter. Nearly all ISA sound cards use both DMA 1 and DMA 5, and some ISA SCSI cards are configured by default to use DMA 5, which causes a conflict. The easy answer is to configure the SCSI host adapter to use DMA 6 or DMA 7. The better answer, as usual, is to avoid ISA cards whenever possible.

1.3.3 I/O Ports

Input/Output ports (I/O ports) are ranges of addresses that function like mailboxes, allowing programs and components to exchange messages and data. An I/O port has a base address, which is the hexadecimal address of the first byte allocated to that I/O port, and a length, which is also expressed in hexadecimal. For example, many network adapters default to base address 300h and are 20h bytes (32 decimal bytes) long, and so occupy the range 300-31Fh.

There's no shortage of I/O ports, because thousands exist. We have never seen I/O port conflicts with PCI devices operating in a Plug and Play environment, but I/O port conflicts commonly occur when two ISA devices are unintentionally assigned overlapping ranges. For example, another common base address for network adapters is 360h (range 360-37Fh). Unfortunately, that range overlaps the range of LPT1: (base address 378h), so setting a network card to 360h results in conflicts with the parallel port.

1.3.4 Memory Ranges

The original IBM PC used an 8088 processor, which supported up to 1 MB of physical memory, addressed as sixteen 64 KB segments. Memory locations are enumerated in hexadecimal, so the first segment includes the addresses 00000h through 0FFFFh (0 through 65,535 decimal) and the 16th includes the addresses F0000h through FFFFFh (983,040 through 1,048,575 decimal). The first 10 of those segments?00000h through 9FFFFh?comprise the base 640 KB of memory addresses that are accessible by the operating system and programs. The last six segments?A0000h through FFFFF?comprise the 384 KB of upper memory addresses (the Upper Memory Area or UMA) reserved for system use. The first two UMA segments (A0000h through BFFFFh) are reserved for video memory. The second two UMA segments (C0000h through DFFFFh) are reserved address space for ROM BIOSs that reside on some adapters, such as video cards, SCSI host adapters, and network adapters. The final two UMA segments (E0000h through FFFFF) are reserved for the motherboard BIOS.

Modern processors use a flat (unsegmented) 32-bit address space, which allows them to access up to 4 GB (4096 MB, or 4,294,967,296 bytes) of distinct memory addresses. That additional address space means that memory addresses are expressed as eight rather than five hexadecimal characters (e.g., addresses for the first MB are expressed as 00000000h through 000FFFFFh). Because few systems have anywhere near 4 GB of physical memory installed, huge ranges of unused memory addresses are available for assignment to devices that require memory ranges. Which of those ranges are used depends on how much physical memory is installed and which operating system you run.

Windows NT/2000/XP uses address ranges from the UMA of the first megabyte (000A0000h through 000FFFFFh) for the original purposes of addressing video memory, adapter ROMs, and so on. It uses address ranges at the top of its address space, F0000000h and above (up near 4 GB), to provide additional memory ranges for which there is inadequate room in UMA. Windows 98 does the same, but also uses memory ranges immediately above the end of the range occupied by physical RAM.

Memory range conflicts are seldom a problem on modern computers running recent versions of Windows.

1.3.5 Viewing and Reserving System Resources

Windows 9X/2000/XP and Linux all provide convenient means to view the resources that are in use. Windows 98 also allows you to reserve resources manually for non-Plug and Play ISA devices on systems with a BIOS that does not support IRQ Steering. Viewing resources with Windows 2000 or Windows XP

To view system resources with Windows 2000 or Windows XP, use the Control Panel to display System Properties, click the Hardware tab, and then click the Device Manager button to display the dialog shown in Figure 1-5, which lists all installed devices. Clicking the + icon (or double-clicking a branch name) expands the list to show individual devices within that branch. If a problem exists with a device (a resource conflict, missing driver, etc.), Windows 2000/XP automatically expands the branch that contains that device and flags the device with an alert icon.

Figure 1-5. The Windows XP Device Manager displaying all installed devices

To view a global list of resources, click the View menu and select the Resources by Type option to display the Device Manager window shown in Figure 1-6. Expand the listing for the type of resource you want to view. Figure 1-6 shows that ISA IRQs 02, 05, 06, 07, 10, and 11 are available for use by new devices.

Figure 1-6. The Windows XP Device Manager displaying used and available IRQs

To view all resources being used by a particular device, expand the Device Manager tree (see Figure 1-5), double-click the device name to display the Properties sheet for that device, and display the Resources tab. Figure 1-7 shows the Properties sheet for an ATI RAGE 128 PRO AGP video card. The Resource type pane displays all resources assigned to that device, although you may have to scroll the list to see all items. If a resource conflict exists, Windows 2000/XP displays a list of other devices using the same resource(s) in the Conflicting device list pane.

Figure 1-7. The Properties sheet
figs/pcn3_0107.gif Viewing resources with Windows 9X

To view system resources with Windows 98, right-click My Computer, choose Properties, and click the Device Manager tab to display the System Properties dialog shown in Figure 1-8, which lists all installed devices. Clicking the + icon (or double-clicking a branch name) expands the list to show individual devices within that branch. If a problem exists with a device (a resource conflict, missing driver, etc.), Windows 98 automatically expands the branch that contains that device and flags the device with an alert icon.

Figure 1-8. Windows 98 Device Manager displaying all installed devices

To view a global list of resources, double-click the Computer branch to display the View Resources page of the Computer Properties dialog, shown in Figure 1-9. Choosing any of the four option buttons immediately displays a global list of assignments for that resource, allowing you to determine easily which resources are unassigned. Figure 1-9 shows that IRQ 03, normally assigned to Communications Port (COM2), is available for use by a new device.

Figure 1-9. The View Resources page of the Computer Resources dialog lists resources in use

To view all resources being used by a particular device, expand the Device Manager tree (see Figure 1-8) and double-click the device name to display the Properties sheet for that device. Figure 1-10 shows the Properties sheet for a Matrox Millenium II PowerDesk video card. The Resource type pane displays all resources assigned to that device. If a resource conflict exists, Windows 98 displays a list of other devices using the same resource(s) in the Conflicting device list pane.

Figure 1-10. The Properties sheet listing all the resources allocated to the Matrox MGA Millenium II PowerDesk
figs/pcn3_0110.gif Reserving resources with Windows 9X

If the system BIOS is up to date and all expansion cards are Plug and Play-compliant, Windows 98 and Plug and Play normally configure the system properly without further ado. However, if the system has an older BIOS and/or you need to install one or more cards that are not Plug and Play-compliant, conflicts may occur because the BIOS and Windows cannot determine which resources those older cards need. For such situations, Windows allows you to specify manually which resources these older cards require, removing them from the pool of resources that Windows manages automatically.

To reserve resources, first examine the documentation and settings for the card to determine which resources (IRQ, DMA, I/O ports, and memory ranges) it requires. Display the Device Manager and click the Reserve Resources tab to display the dialog shown in Figure 1-11. This dialog lists any resource reservations already in effect, and allows you to modify existing reservations and add new reservations. Mark one of the four option buttons to select the type of resource for which you want to add a reservation or view existing reservations.

Figure 1-11. The Reserve Resources dialog, which allows you to remove resources from the pool available to Windows and assign those resources manually to legacy devices

To add a resource reservation, click Add to display the Edit Resource Setting dialog, whose appearance varies depending on the type of resource for which you are adding a reservation. Figure 1-12 shows the dialog for reserving an IRQ. Use the up and down arrows to specify a value for the resource to be reserved and click OK. You can reserve multiple resources in a single session by repeatedly selecting the resource type and adding reservations. When you finish reserving resources, click OK to store the resource reservations and then restart the system to put the changes into effect.

Figure 1-12. The Edit Resource Setting dialog, where you can specify the resource to be reserved

Device Manager initially displays reserved resources as System Reserved, as shown for IRQ03 in Figure 1-13. However, once you restart the computer, that resource will no longer be displayed in the Device Manager.

Figure 1-13. Device Manager listing reserved resources as System Reserved, as for IRQ 03

Be very careful when reserving resources. Windows 98 allows you to reserve any resource, including ones that are already in use. Reserving an in-use resource may disable the device that is currently using that resource. If that occurs, use the Device Manager to remove the device, and then run the Add New Hardware Wizard from the Control Panel to reinstall the device. Viewing resources with Linux

Viewing resources with Linux is straightforward. If you use KDE, simply open the KDE Control Center, expand the Information branch in the left panel, and double-click an item to view the details. (If you use Gnome, simply open a terminal window and type kcontrol to start the KDE Control Center. Figure 1-14 shows the KDE Control Center displaying the I/O ports in use on this system.

Figure 1-14. Using the KDE Control Center to list I/O ports in use

If you run Linux without a GUI, do not have KDE installed, or simply prefer using a command line, change to the /proc directory, which contains numerous descriptively named hardware configuration files. Use the cat command to display the appropriate file. For example, the command cat interrupts lists the interrupts in use. For larger files, use the more or less command to prevent data from scrolling off the screen.