Introduction to Human Interface Devices (HID)

Human Interface Devices (HID) is a device class definition to replace PS/2-style connectors with a generic USB driver to support HID devices such as keyboards, mice, game controllers, and so on. Prior to HID, devices could only utilize strictly-defined protocols for mice and keyboards. Hardware innovation required either overloading data in an existing protocol or creating non-standard hardware with its own specialized driver. HID provided support for these "boot mode" devices while adding support for hardware innovation through extensible, standardized and easily-programmable interfaces.

HID devices today include a broad range of devices such as alphanumeric displays, bar code readers, volume controls on speakers/headsets, auxiliary displays, sensors and many others. Many hardware vendors also use HID for their proprietary devices.

HID began with USB but was designed to be bus-agnostic. It was designed for low latency, low bandwidth devices but with flexibility to specify the rate in the underlying transport. The specification for HID over USB was ratified by the USB-IF in 1996 and support over additional transports followed soon after. Details on currently supported transports can be found in HID Transports Supported in Windows. Third-party, vendor-specific transports are also allowed via custom transport drivers.

HID concepts

HID consists of two fundamental concepts, a report descriptor, and reports. Reports are the actual data that is exchanged between a device and a software client. The report descriptor describes the format and meaning the data that the device supports.


Applications and HID devices exchange data through reports. There are three report types:

Report type Description
Input report Data sent from the HID device to the application, typically when the state of a control changes.
Output report Data sent from the application to the HID device, for example to the LEDs on a keyboard.
Feature report Data that can be manually read and written, and are typically related to configuration information.

Each top level collection defined in a report descriptor can contain zero or more reports of each type.

Usage tables

The USB-IF working group publishes HID usage tables that are part of the report descriptors that describe what HID devices are allowed to do. These HID usage tables contain a list with descriptions of Usages, which describe the intended meaning and use of a particular item described in the report descriptor. For example, a usage is defined for the left button of a mouse. The report descriptor can define where in a report an application can find the current state of the mouse's left button. The usage tables are broken up into several name spaces, called usage pages. Each usage page describes a set of related usages to help organize the document. The combination of a usage page and usage define the usage ID that uniquely identifies a specific usage in the usage tables.

See also

USB-IF HID Specifications