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Fixing Your Computer Absolute Beginner's Guide: Troubleshooting Device Problems

📄 Contents

  1. Troubleshooting with Device Manager
  2. Troubleshooting Device Driver Problems
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Paul McFedries covers some of the built-in Windows tools that can help you troubleshoot problematic hardware.
This chapter is from the book

If you buy Windows-friendly devices, you should have a mostly trouble-free computing experience. Of course, mostly doesn’t mean completely because hardware is not foolproof—far from it. Things still can, and will, go wrong, and when they do, you’ll need to perform some kind of troubleshooting. (Assuming, of course, that the device doesn’t have a physical fault that requires a trip to the repair shop.) Fortunately, Windows also has some handy tools to help you both identify and rectify hardware ills.

Troubleshooting with Device Manager

Device Manager (press Windows Logo+X and then click Device Manager) not only provides you with a comprehensive summary of your system’s hardware data, but also doubles as a decent troubleshooting tool. To see what I mean, first start Device Manager:

  • Windows 8—Press Windows Logo+X and then click Device Manager.
  • Windows 7 and Vista—Select Start, type device, and then click Device Manager in the search results.
  • Windows XP—Select Start, right-click My Computer, click Properties, click the Hardware tab, and then click Device Manager.

Check out the Device Manager window shown in Figure 5.1. See how the Other Devices branch has an Unknown Device item that has an exclamation mark superimposed on its icon? This icon tells you that there’s a problem with the device.


Figure 5.1. The Device Manager uses icons to warn you there’s a problem with a device.

If you double-click the problem device to open its properties, as shown in Figure 5.2, the Device Status area tells you a bit more about what’s wrong. As you can see in Figure 5.2, the problem here is that the device drivers aren’t installed. Device Manager usually offers a suggested remedy (such as the Update Driver button shown in Figure 5.2).


Figure 5.2. The Device Status area tells you if the device isn’t working properly.

Device Manager uses three different icons to give you an indication of the device’s current status:

  • A black exclamation mark (!) on a yellow field tells you that there’s a problem with the device.
  • A red X tells you that the device is disabled or missing.
  • A blue i on a white field tells you that the device’s Use Automatic Settings check box (on the Resources tab) is deactivated and that at least one of the device’s resources was selected manually. Note that the device might be working just fine, so this icon doesn’t indicate a problem. If the device isn’t working properly, however, the manual setting might be the cause.

If your system flags a device, but you don’t notice any problems, you can usually get away with just ignoring the flag. I’ve seen lots of systems that run perfectly well with flagged devices, so this falls under the “If it ain’t broke...” school of troubleshooting. The danger here is that tweaking your system to try to get rid of the flag can cause other—usually more serious—problems.

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