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2400 bps modem PC Card (lower right) with phone cable dongle (upper left) attached

A dongle is a small piece of hardware that attaches to computer, TV, or other electronic device, and that, when attached, enables additional functions such as copy protection, audio, video, games, data, or other services. These services are available only when the dongle is attached.

Although the term "dongle" was originally used to refer only to software protection dongles, it is now more commonly used to refer to very short cables that connect relatively large jacks to smaller plugs, allowing cables to be easily removed and replaced from computing devices with limited available surface space (see: adapter).

Examples of dongles[edit]

Copy protection and circumvention[edit]

  • Lots of unlicensed game cartridges have a "daisy chain" that allows licensed games to approve copy protection chips, take for instance the 10NES chip on the NES.


  • Cassette adapters enable cassette-radios to allow AUX in, like with iPod/MP3 player/smartphone (portable CD players before 2000)
  • Personal FM transmitters allow content from a portable media player, portable CD player, smartphone, portable cassette player, or other portable audio system to be heard on an FM radio. They are particularly useful when its an (AM)/FM-only radio, though one has to be careful about the frequencies used in the locales. Frequencies such as 87.7 MHz and 87.9 MHz are most useful for personal use in the United States. These devices are even capable of re-directing an FM radio station to another FM frequency if one was to have a transmitter between two different FM receivers.
  • IDE/PATA connectivity can be re-channeled with some dongles:
    • Floppy disk drives have been emulated on solid-state "dongles" to ensure legacy recognition, allowing SD cards to serve software to old Commodore 64 and Apple II era computers.
    • Allows SD cards to be recognized as "hard drives" on old DOS computers
  • Old school video game consoles:
    • The Everdrive series of game cartridges has enabled classic systems such as the Sega Megadrive and Nintendo 64 to allow one cartridge to have a number of games that were formerly on multiple cartridges of their own, by use of an SD card with ROMs on them; since it can allow a real game console to access ROMs, which an emulator would normally do.
  • The Sega 32X was an add-on for the Sega Megadrive which allowed a 32-bit library of games to play on a system that was normally just 16-bit, though it suffered from having its own video output, and its own AD adapter in order to work.
  • USB host connectivity grants more flexibility to computer-based devices
  • MHL. A dongle enables adaptation to legacy standards such as HDMI via conversion circuitry contained in the dongle itself. MHL dongles often allow USB connections and/or device charging as well.
  • Older cars that "externalized" their CD players and changers from the head unit, now have mechless "emulators" available that allow USB and SD cards with MP3s and other audio files to be recognized as "tracks" to the CD player circuitry.

See also[edit]