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Polling, or polled operation, in computer science, refers to actively sampling the status of an external device by a client program as a synchronous activity. Polling is most often used in terms of input/output (I/O), and is also referred to as polled I/O or software-driven I/O.

Polling is sometimes used synonymously with busy-wait polling (busy waiting). In this situation, when an I/O operation is required, the computer does nothing other than check the status of the I/O device until it is ready, at which point the device is accessed. In other words, the computer waits until the device is ready. Polling also refers to the situation where a device is repeatedly checked for readiness, and if it is not, the computer returns to a different task. Although not as wasteful of CPU cycles as busy waiting, this is generally not as efficient as the alternative to polling, interrupt-driven I/O.

From Wikipedia on Polling

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