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(computer science)
A hardware device that plugs into a computer or printer port and serves as a copy-protection device for certain software, which must verify its presence in order to run properly. Also known as hardware key.


/dong'gl/ (From "dangle" - because it dangles off the computer?)

1. <security> A security or copy protection device for commercial microcomputer programs that must be connected to an I/O port of the computer while the program is run. Programs that use a dongle query the port at start-up and at programmed intervals thereafter, and terminate if it does not respond with the expected validation code.

One common form consisted of a serialised EPROM and some drivers in a D-25 connector shell.

Dongles attempt to combat software theft by ensuring that, while users can still make copies of the program (e.g. for backup), they must buy one dongle for each simultaneous use of the program.

The idea was clever, but initially unpopular with users who disliked tying up a port this way. By 1993 almost all dongles passed data through transparently while monitoring for their particular magic codes (and combinations of status lines) with minimal if any interference with devices further down the line. This innovation was necessary to allow daisy-chained dongles for multiple pieces of software.

In 1998, dongles and other copy protection systems are fairly uncommon for Microsoft Windows software but one engineer in a print and CADD bureau reports that their Macintosh computers typically run seven dongles: After Effects, Electric Image, two for Media 100, Ultimatte, Elastic Reality and CADD. These dongles are made for the Mac's daisy-chainable ADB port.

The term is used, by extension, for any physical electronic key or transferable ID required for a program to function. Common variations on this theme have used the parallel port or even the joystick port or a dongle-disk.

An early 1992 advertisment from Rainbow Technologies (a manufacturer of dongles) claimed that the word derived from "Don Gall", the alleged inventor of the device. The company's receptionist however said that the story was a myth invented for the ad.


Originally slang for a plug-in module to copy protect software (see hardware key), the term is used for any small module that plugs in and sticks out of a socket; for example, USB flash memory drives and other USB devices such as a wireless mouse receiver or cellular air card. If it uses a very short cable, it may still be called a dongle. See HDMI dongle, cellular dongle, PC Card dongle and USB drive.
References in periodicals archive ?
This protection can be combined with a USB dongle that determines what computer can run the application.
Sat-nav is threatened by the arrival of mapping applications for modern mobile phones, while the dongle is likely to be replaced by netbooks with built-in SIMS.
End-user equipment suppliers including Asustek Computer, D-Link, Zyxel Communications, and Accton Wireless Broadband are supplying USB dongles and other consumer premise equipment.
This new MB86K23 LSI is the successor to Fujitsu Microelectronics' previously-released mobile WiMAX baseband LSI, the MB86K21, which targeted PC peripherals such as WiMAX USB dongles and PC cards, and which has been certified by the WiMAX Forum(4).
Agilent IrDA smart dongles are microcontroller-based standalone systems, complete with an embedded IrDA protocol stack.
Another feature is its interoperability with legacy Parallel ATA drives, achieved either by the use of integrated chipsets with co-existing parallel and serial ATA channels or the use of dongles.
In the short-term, most of that will reflect customers purchasing USB dongles for legacy laptops and netbooks, followed by customer premise equipment, or home modem, purchases.
Airtel 4G is accessible to users on a range of smart devices comprising mobile phones, dongles and 4G hotpspots.
NASDAQ: CY) today announced a complete silicon and software solution for USB Type-C to HDMI/DVI/VGA adapter dongles.
Both dongles and Mi-Fi clouds have the ability to fall back to the Rev A or Rev B network in case the customer uses the Charji EVO device in cities other than the current launch cities.
Customers can use the service with compatible smartphones, tablets, routers, hotspots and dongles, the telco said.
3G Wi-Fi dongles like the 3 MiFi provide mobile broadband access on the move but unlike USB dongles allow the connection to be shared with multiple devices over a short range wireless network, making them useful for families and those using tablets and iPads without built-in 3G support.