Updated: 09/12/2023 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. 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, used switches as 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 incapable of 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 added to the Internet was a switch called the "IMP" that helped send the first message on October 29, 1969.

3. A switch is 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 switch used with laptop computers. The picture shows a scissor switch and how the pressed key is compressed.

5. With 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.


To see all available switches for a command, search for the command. Each command page has a full listing of all available switches.


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

6. With programming, the switch statement is a conditional block that shortens a set of if else statements. See our switch statement page for further information.

7. With 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.

8. Switch is the name of a transition.

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