The Microsoft Windows Catalog (also known as the hardware compatibility list or as the HCL) is a compilation of computers and computer hardware that have been extensively tested with Windows for stability and compatibility. Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) uses the catalog to determine whether particular hardware is supported for use with the Windows operating system.
Before you install Windows on a computer, check the Windows Catalog to determine whether the computer is certified by Microsoft as Windows-compliant.
To see the Windows Catalog, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
For more information about hardware that is supported in Windows, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
Latest Windows 2000 and Windows NT Hardware Compatibility List (HCL)
Small Business Server uses the same HCL.
The latest Windows XP Hardware Compatibility List
A hardware device is unsupported if it is not listed on the HCL. In order for
a computer to be considered an HCL-compliant system, the computer must be listed
on the HCL. If a computer is not listed on the HCL, but is made up of hardware
from the HCL (for example: motherboard from a reference system, SCSI controller,
video adapter, and network card) it is not considered an HCL computer. Any computer
that contains a device that is not on the HCL is not considered compliant. If a
particular computer is on the HCL, it can contain any combination of devices
listed on the HCL and still qualify for support even though the system as a whole was not tested.
Microsoft follows the guidelines and troubleshooting steps listed below on non-HCL equipment support issues.
Step 1: Hardware Configuration Inquiry
- The Microsoft Support Professional asks about the hardware configuration.
Hardware not found on the Windows HCL is unsupported. However, Microsoft will aid in troubleshooting these issues, if the customer requests it. Microsoft does not guarantee that a resolution will be found for non-HCL equipment. Applicable Professional support rates will apply for Microsoft's troubleshooting assistance.
- Upon agreement, the support professional proceeds to Step 2 below. Microsoft does
not guarantee a solution in cases with non-HCL devices.
- If there is no agreement, where the customer feels that an incident
should not be charged, the support professional proceeds to Step 3 below.
Step 2: Troubleshooting
A standard troubleshooting process is used to isolate the cause of the
problem. The following lists some of the resources and steps that the
Microsoft Support Professionals uses, which is also available to you:
- To view the Microsoft Knowledge Base, visit the following Microsoft Web site:http://support.microsoft.com/support
- Determine if the problem occurs on supported hardware device.
- Check hardware configuration, driver configuration, or both, by removing unsupported (or
suspected) components (for example: adapter cards and video cards).
Issues that relate to unsupported systems and motherboards cannot be
approached in this fashion.
During the course of troubleshooting, if the problem is isolated to a
non-HCL device, the support professional proceeds to Step 3 below and closes the call
If there is no solution to the problem, the support professional explains the reason
and recommends constructive alternatives, such as one or all of the
- The engineer offers the phone and Bulletin Board Service (BBS) number or Web site
for the motherboard, adapter card or other device manufacturer, if
available, so that the customer can ask for troubleshooting suggestions
and possible updated third-party drivers.
- The support professional may recommend that the customer request the hardware
vendor to try the installation of Windows on the system or
configure it in such a way that Windows becomes stable and
- The support professional informs the customer of BIOS or firmware updates. Some
information about the update is available in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.
Step 3: Alternative Resources
Enterprise Customer Unit (ECU) policy, in regard to a Windows failure
related to Non-HCL hardware, is for the support professional to fax the appropriate
Knowledge Base Troubleshooting Guide article to the customer:
Windows NT 4.0 Setup Troubleshooting Guide
Windows NT 3.5x Setup Troubleshooting Guide
Alternatively, the support professional can provide information about the location of the
same file(s) and where they can be downloaded (Microsoft WWW server, FTP
server, and Microsoft Download Library). If the customer elects to bypass
Step 2 (does not want to be charged for 1 incident), then the customer may
try to resolve the issue without charge using the troubleshooting
documents that are in the Knowledge Base. If the customer wants to continue with an
incident charge even after completing Step 2, the support professional can inform the
customer of the Microsoft Consulting Line at (800) 936-1565.
Server Down or Data Loss Issues
There is a risk that an installation or upgrade of the Windows
operating system on unsupported hardware results in loss of some operating
system functionality or data. In cases where the previous operating system
has been a Microsoft operating system (such as MS-DOS,
Windows 3.1x, Windows 95, and OS/2 1.3), the support professional determines if the issue is a problem with the operating system or non-HCL hardware related. If the problem is the operating system, the support professional will file a report and evaluate the problem to provide a fix. The support professional will also try to recover the system.
If the problem is related to hardware incompatibility, the customer must restore the previous operating system and data from backup. If the
customer does not have a backup of the previous operating system, the
support professional will help the customer in installing only the previous,
working operating system. This does not include other drive file
structures, data or security, or any other previous operating system
settings. The support professional will then refer the customer to the Microsoft
Consulting Line for any additional file structure (not data) recovery, domain
configuration (user accounts, trust, shares, printers, replication)
recovery, as applicable.
In cases where the previous operating system is not a Microsoft operating
system (for example: Power PC system with AIX, OS/2 or Macintosh operating
system), Microsoft cannot help customers in the recovery of their
system. Requisite knowledge and experience to perform recovery on non-
Microsoft operating systems do not exist in Microsoft Product Support