Learning Resources

Hardware & Software (install and troubleshoot)

A computer consists of many components working together. Device Manager lets you view them all in a list so you can see if they are working correctly and fix any problems. To begin using this tool, click Start, right-click Computer and select Manage. This opens the Computer Management tool. Expand System Tools in the left pane and select Device Manager. It can also be accessed through the Control Panel by opening Administrative Tools, then Computer Management. In Windows XP, you can also click Start, enter ‘device’ (without quotes) and click Device.

Select the view
The default view is the most useful one, but there are others available. If you can’t find something, go to the View menu and select one of the alternatives. There is an option on the View menu to ‘Show hidden devices’, which can also be useful.

Identify any problems
Symbols next to items in Device Manager indicate that there is a hardware problem. If there are no symbols, there are no hardware problems. This is the ideal state, of course, but even if you do have one or more symbols, the problems aren’t always serious. The symbols you might see are:

  • A black exclamation mark on yellow indicating a problem. The device may or may not work.
  • A problem code explaining the problem with the device.
  • A red ‘X’ indicating a disabled device. This is often a problem with the device’s driver.
  • A blue ‘i’ on white indicating a manually configured device, which seems to be working, but has not been set up by Windows. This is not necessarily a problem.
  • Problems on Windows are indicated by exclamation marks.

Uninstall devices that are causing problems
The solution to a problem varies depending on its nature, but one option is to uninstall the device. You don’t need to unplug or remove it, just right-click a problem item in the list and select Uninstall from the menu. Next, close Device Manager and restart Windows. The uninstalled device will now be detected as if you had just plugged it in. Windows will either install a driver automatically or will prompt you to install the software supplied with the device.

Scan for new hardware
If a new hardware isn’t detected automatically, you can force Windows to scan for it. Right-click the computer at the top of the Device Manager list and select ‘Scan for hardware changes’. You can choose to search for and install hardware automatically, which is the best option, but if that fails then choose to install it manually. However, you should only do that as a last resort.

Try a new driver
Each device has a driver, which is a program that is used to access its features and functions. A fault with a device could be caused by the driver, so double-click the device and select the Driver tab. Click Update Driver and select the option to search automatically for an update. If this fails, it is usually best to reinstall the software that came with the device, or download an updated version from the manufacturer’s website. However, if new software has been installed is causing problems with a device, click Roll Back Driver to restore the previous version. The latest driver is usually the best one to use, but if it won’t work then an older one may be the only option.
A problem can sometimes be resolved by updating or rolling back the driver.

Automatic resource settings
Some devices need to use particular resources from your computer (a specific location in the computer’s memory, in most cases), which can’t be shared with other devices. Windows is good at automatically configuring your hardware so your computer’s resources can be shared without conflict, but if you run into problems, particularly with older hardware, you can fix the settings manually.

Double-click a device that’s causing a problem and select the Resources tab. Different devices use different resource settings, so you’ll need the exact details from the manufacturer, either via its manual or website. If you can’t find the exact information, it’s best not to tinker with these settings.