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Device Manager \windows\system32\devmgmt.msc

Configure all hardware installed in or attached to a computer.

To Open

Start Programs Administrative Tools Computer Management Device Manager

Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System Hardware tab Device Manager

Command Prompt devmgmt.msc

Keyboard shortcut: Windows logo key + Pause/Break


Device Manager is the central interface for gathering information about and making changes to all the hardware installed in a system. Device Manager has an Explorer-style tree listing all of the various hardware categories, as shown in Figure 4-21; expand any category branch to display all installed devices that fit in that category. For example, expand the Network adapters branch to list all installed network cards in the system. Right-click any device and choose one of the following actions:

Update Driver

If you have a newer driver than what is currently installed (find out by using Properties), select Update Driver to locate and install the new driver. This is the preferred way to update drivers in Windows XP, though some devices may have proprietary installation programs and don’t support their drivers being updated in this way.

Note that if you’ve got a driver disk or have downloaded updated drivers for a device, choose the second option, “Install from a list or specific location” on the first page of the Hardware Update Wizard (see Figure 4-22). If you choose the first option, “Install the software automatically,” you won’t be able to specify the location of the newer driver files.

Figure 4-21. Device Manager lets you view and change the settings for nearly any hardware device attached to your system


Select Disable to effectively turn off this device, usually releasing hardware resources it normally consumes. This can be very handy when attempting to resolve hardware conflicts; if you removed the device using Uninstall, discussed below, Windows XP would simply reinstall the device the next time Windows starts.

Disable plays an important role in the use of Hardware Profiles (Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System Hardware tab Hardware Profiles), with which you can set up multiple hardware configurations, each with its own set of enabled devices. For example, say you’re using a laptop with a built-in touchpad; when you’re on the go, the touchpad is your primary pointing device. However, in your office, your docking station has a mouse attached to it. You could set up two hardware profiles—one that loads the driver for the touchpad and disables the one for the mouse and one that enables the mouse (and other devices attached to the docking station) and disables the touchpad. You may not need to go through all this trouble for situations like this, but in the case of the touchpad, you may prefer to have it turned off when you don’t need it, as touchpads can sometimes interfere with frequent typing.

Figure 4-22. The Hardware Update Wizard walks you through the process of choosing a new driver for an already-attached device


Uninstall is more useful than it might seem on the surface. When you uninstall a device from Device Manager, it completely removes the driver from the system and erases all the corresponding configuration settings for that device. In addition to using Uninstall when you’re physically removing a device from your system, it’s also very handy when you’re experiencing a problem with the device. When you remove a device from Device Manager and restart your computer, Windows will redetect the device and install it as though it were plugged in for the first time; this can be a very useful tool for repairing corrupt installations and fixing all sorts of problems with devices and their drivers.

Note that Uninstall is not the way to force Windows to stop recognizing the uninstalled device, since Windows will just reload the driver the next time it starts. Instead, use Disable for this purpose.

Scan for hardware changes

Highlight a device and select " Scan for hardware changes” to force Windows to rescan the device, checking to see it has been removed, turned on, turned off, or reconfigured in some way.

Highlight a category and select “Scan for hardware changes” to not only scan for changes in the installed hardware, but to force Windows to look for new devices in this category as well. Typically, you’d use Add Hardware Wizard to install new devices. However, this procedure is useful for reattaching devices that have already been installed, such as USB devices or removable hard disks that are attached and reattached repeatedly. Likewise, highlight the root (the entry at the top of the tree, named for your computer) and select “Scan for hardware changes” to scan all categories for newly attached, recently changed, or recently disconnected devices.


The Properties sheet for any device contains lots of information about the device’s driver, the status of the device, and several troubleshooting features (including those mentioned previously). Information and settings are divided into the following tabbed pages, some of which may or may not be present, depending on the device (see Figure 4-23).

Figure 4-23. The Properties sheet for a device on your system also shows whether Windows thinks the device is working

The General tab shows the name, type, and physical location of the device (if applicable). Selecting “Do not use this device” from the Device usage list is the same as selecting Disable, as described previously. The Device status box shows relevant messages stating whether or not the driver is installed properly or whether the device is functioning. The Troubleshoot button only displays on interactive help documents (see “Help and Support Center”, later in this chapter) relevant to the category in which the device appears, but does not have any specific troubleshooting information for your particular device. Instead, you should check the manufacturer’s web site for an updated driver, updated firmware, or more specific troubleshooting information.

The Advanced tab contains settings specific to the device. For example, the Advanced tab for network adapters contains several settings that select which connector type to use (and some other options).

The Driver tab displays several pieces information about the currently installed driver, such as the provider (which corresponds to the distributor, not the manufacturer, of the software), the driver date and version, and whether or not the driver has a digital signature (used to verify the integrity of the driver, available only on drivers designed especially for Windows XP). Click Driver Details to see the individual files that make up the driver, or click Roll Back Driver to uninstall the current driver and replace it with the previously used driver (available only if the driver has been updated since Windows was installed). The Update Driver and Uninstall buttons have the same effect as the actions of the same name, described above.

Finally, the Resources tab lists all the hardware resources consumed by the selected device. Most devices use one or more of the following: a range of memory (expressed as a hexadecimal address), an I/O range (again, expressed as a hexadecimal address), a direct memory access line (DMA), or an interrupt request line (IRQ). Use information on this page to help diagnose hardware conflicts, where two or more devices try to use the same address or IRQ.


  • Open the View menu to rearrange the devices by type (the default) or connection. (Group all PCI devices together and all USB devices together, for example.) You can also arrange devices by the resources they consume. This is useful for resolving conflicts. See the discussion of the Resources tab, under “Properties,” above, for more information.

  • The Show hidden devices entry in the View menu is used to display all currently installed drivers, including those for some of the more obscure “Non-Plug and Play Drivers.”

    When you remove a drive, card, or other piece of hardware from your computer, Windows does not automatically remove the corresponding drivers, but deactivates them. To remove the drivers for a device you don’t plan on reinstalling later on, you should locate the device in Device Manager, right-click, and select Uninstall before you physically disconnect the device.

  • Device Manager is a Snap-in, used with the Microsoft Management Console, discussed later in this chapter.

  • While Device Manager can be used to configure and remove installed devices, and even add devices by using “Scan for hardware changes,” the preferred way to add new hardware is to use the Add Hardware Wizard.

  • All branches in Device Manager are collapsed by default; to expand the branches, highlight the root entry and press the asterisk (*) key.

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