Updated: 06/30/2020 by Computer Hope

A switch may refer to any of the following:

1. A switch is a piece of a physical circuitry component that governs the signal flow. Having a switch or toggle switch allows a connection to be opened or closed. When opened, the switch allows a signal or power to flow through the connection. When closed, the switch stops the flow and breaks the circuit connection. Early computers, like the Altair, use switches as a form of input for the computer.

NETGEAR network switch

2. On a network, a switch is a hardware device that filters and forwards network packets, but is often not capable of much more. A network switch is more advanced than a hub, but not as advanced as a router. The picture shows an example of a NETGEAR 5 port switch.

The first network device that was added to the Internet was a switch, called the IMP that helped send the first message on October 29, 1969.

3. A switch is also a button or lever that can be switched to turn a device on or off.

Illustration of how a scissor switch keyboard works.

4. With a computer keyboard, a switch is what is beneath each key, which gives the key a response when pressed. For example, a scissor-switch is a type of switch used with laptop computers. The picture is an example of a scissor switch and how the key is compressed when pressed.

5. When referring to a command, a command switch is an available option that can be used with the command. For example, the command "fdisk" can be used with the /MBR switch. Using "FDISK /MBR" would allow the user to recreate the master boot record.


If you want to see all available switches for a command, search for the command on our site. Each of our command pages have a full listing of all available switches, with an explanation of each switch.


A command switch should not be confused with a command parameter.

6. When referring to the switches command, this command is loaded through config.sys and lets you add and remove various functions of MS-DOS. See the switches command page for further information about this command.

5ESS switch, Argument, Bridge, Connection, Electronics terms, Hardware terms, Network terms, Parameter, Programmer's switch, Router, Toggle