A switch initializes when it is powered on. Like all computers, it performs some basic checks to discover what kind of hardware is installed, what is working, and what is not, and then it proceeds to load the operating system if enough of the hardware is in working order.
You should be aware of a couple of different things that can happen at switch initialization. First, you should at least know the basics of how a 2950 switch tells you its status during initialization by lighting the LEDs on the front panel of the switch. This process differs from what a router does at initialization. Second, you should be aware of the initial configuration dialogue, which works very similarly to the router initial configuration dialogue, with some minor differences.
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