In information technology, telecommunications, and related fields, handshaking is an automated process of negotiation that dynamically sets parameters of a communications channel established between two entities before normal communication over the channel begins. It follows the physical establishment of the channel and precedes normal information transfer.

It is usually a process that takes place when a computer is about to communicate with a foreign device to establish rules for communication.

When a computer communicates with another device like a modem or a printer it needs to handshake with it to establish a connection.

Handshaking may be used to negotiate parameters that are acceptable to equipment and systems at both ends of the communication channel, including, but not limited to, information transfer rate, coding alphabet, parity, interrupt procedure, and other protocol or hardware features.

Handshaking makes it possible to connect relatively heterogeneous systems or equipment over a communication channel without the need for human intervention to set parameters. One classic example of handshaking is that of modems, which typically negotiate communication parameters for a brief period when a connection is first established, and thereafter use those parameters to provide optimal information transfer over the channel as a function of its quality and capacity. The "squealing" (which is actually a sound that changes in pitch 100 times every second) noises made by some modems with speaker output immediately after a connection is established are in fact the sounds of modems at both ends engaging in a handshaking procedure; once the procedure is completed, the speaker might be silenced, depending on the settings of operating system or the application controlling the modem.

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