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Windows Vista

Managing Your Hardware with Device Manager

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Windows Vista stores all its hardware data in the Registry, but it provides Device Manager to give you a graphical view of the devices on your system. To display Device Manager, first use any of the following techniques:
  • Select Start, Control Panel, Hardware and Sound, Device Manager.

  • Select Start, Control Panel, System and Maintenance, System (or click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties), and then click Device Manager.

  • Select Start, right-click Computer, and click Manage. In the Computer Management window, click the Device Manager branch.

  • Select Start, Control Panel, System and Maintenance, System (or click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties), and then click Advanced System Settings. In the System Properties dialog box that appears, display the Hardware tab and then click Device Manager.

Note that in all cases Vista at some point prompts you to enter your UAC credentials.

Tip

A quick way to go directly to the Device Manager snap-in is to press Windows Logo+R (or select Start, All Programs, Accessories, Run) to open the Run dialog box, type devmgmt.msc, and click OK. Note, too, that you can display the System window quickly by pressing Windows Logo+Pause/Break.


Device Manager’s default display is a tree-like outline that lists various hardware types. To see the specific devices, click the plus sign (+) to the left of a device type. For example, opening the DVD/CD-ROM Drives branch displays all the DVD and CD-ROM drives attached to your computer, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Device Manager organizes your computer’s hardware in a tree-like hierarchy organized by hardware type.

Controlling the Device Display

Device Manager’s default view is by hardware type, but it also offers several other views, all of which are available on the snap-in’s View menu:

Devices by ConnectionThis view displays devices according to what they are connected to within your computer. For example, to see which devices connect to the PCI bus, on most systems you’d open the ACPI branch, and then the Microsoft ACPI-Compliant System branch, and finally the PCI Bus branch.
Resources by TypeThis view displays devices according to the hardware resources they require. Your computer’s resources are the communications channels by which devices communicate back and forth with software. There are four types: Interrupt Request (IRQ), Input/Output (IO), Direct memory access (DMA), and Memory (a portion of the computer’s memory that’s allocated to the device and is used to store device data).
Resources by ConnectionThis view displays the computer’s allocated resources according to how they’re connected within the computer.
Show Hidden DevicesWhen you activate this command, Device Manager displays those non–Plug and Play devices that you normally don’t need to adjust or troubleshoot. It also displays nonpresent devices, which are those that have been installed but aren’t currently attached to the computer.

Viewing Device Properties

Each device listed in Device Manager has its own properties sheet. You can use these properties not only to learn more about the device (such as the resources it’s currently using), but also to make adjustments to the device’s resources, change the device driver, alter the device’s settings (if it has any), and make other changes.

To display the properties sheet for a device, double-click the device or click the device and then select Action, Properties. The number of tabs you see depends on the hardware, but most devices have at least the following:



GeneralThis tab gives you general information such as the name of the device, its hardware type, and the manufacturer’s name. The Device Status group tells you whether the device is working properly, and gives you status information if it’s not .
DriverThis tab gives you information about the device driver and offers several buttons to managing the driver. See “Working with Device Drivers,” next.
ResourcesThis tab tells you the hardware resources used by the device.

Working with Device Drivers

For most users, device drivers exist in the nether regions of the PC world, shrouded in obscurity and the mysteries of assembly language programming. As the middlemen brokering the dialogue between Windows Vista and our hardware, however, these complex chunks of code perform a crucial task. After all, it’s just not possible to unleash the full potential of your system unless the hardware and the operating system coexist harmoniously and optimally. To that end, you need to ensure that Windows Vista is using appropriate drivers for all your hardware. You do that by updating to the latest drivers and by rolling back drivers that aren’t working properly.

Checking Windows Update for Drivers

Before getting to the driver tasks that Vista offers, if Vista can’t find drivers when you initially attach a device, it automatically checks Windows Update to see whether any drivers are available. If Vista finds a driver, it installs the software automatically. In most cases, this is desirable behavior because it requires almost no input from you. However, lots of people don’t like to use Windows on automatic pilot all the time because doing so can lead to problems. In this case, it could be that you’ve downloaded the driver you actually want to use from the manufacturer’s website, so you don’t want whatever is on Windows Update to be installed.

To gain control over Windows Update driver downloads, follow these steps:

1.
Select Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties to open the System window.

2.
Click Advanced System Settings and then enter your UAC credentials to display the System Properties dialog box.

3.
Display the Hardware tab.

4.
Click Windows Update Driver Settings. Vista displays the Windows Update Driver Settings dialog box, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Use the Windows Update Driver Settings dialog box to control how Vista uses Windows Update to locate and install device drivers.


5.
You have three choices:

Check for Drivers Automatically—This is the default setting and it tells Vista to go ahead and locate and install Windows Update drivers each time you attach a new device.

Ask Me Each Time I Connect a New Device Before Checking for Drivers— Activate this option to tell Vista to prompt you before it connects to Windows Update for drivers. If you want to control Windows Update driver installation, this is the ideal setting because it enables you to prevent those installs when you don’t need them, and to approve those installs when you do.

Never Check for Drivers When I Connect a Device— Activate this option to tell Vista to bypass Windows Update for all new devices. Use this option if you always use the manufacturer’s device driver, whether it’s on a disc that comes with the device or via the manufacturer’s website.

6.
Click OK.

If you activated the Ask Me Each Time I Connect a New Device Before Checking for Drivers option, the next time you attach a device for which Vista can’t install drivers automatically, you see a Found New Hardware dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure 3. You have three choices:

Yes, Always Search Online— Click this option to restore the automatic Windows Update driver installation. (This is the same as choosing the Check for Drivers Automatically option in the Windows Update Driver Settings dialog box.)

Yes, Search Online This Time Only— Click this option to have Vista search Windows Update for drivers only for the current device. (This is the same as choosing the Ask Me Each Time I Connect a New Device Before Checking for Drivers option in the Windows Update Driver Settings dialog box.)

Don’t Search Online— Click this option to bypass Windows Update for this device.

Figure 3. You see this dialog box if you opted to have Vista prompt you to check for drivers on Windows Update.

Updating a Device Driver

Follow these steps to update a device driver:

1.
If you have a disc with the updated driver, insert it. If you downloaded the driver from the Internet, decompress the driver file, if necessary.

2.
In Device Manager, click the device with which you want to work.

3.
Select Action, Update Driver Software. (You can also click the Update Driver Software button in the toolbar or open the device’s properties sheet, display the Driver tab, and click Update Driver.) The Update Driver Software wizard appears.

4.
This wizard works the same way as the Found New Hardware Wizard.

Rolling Back a Device Driver

If an updated device driver is giving you problems, you have two ways to fix things:

  • If updating the driver was the last action you performed on the system, restore the system to most recent restore point.

  • If you’ve updated other things on the system in the meantime, a restore point might restore more than you need. In that case, you need to roll back just the device driver that’s causing problems.

Follow these steps to roll back a device driver:

1.
In Device Manager, open the device’s properties sheet.

2.
Display the Driver tab.

3.
Click Roll Back Driver.

Uninstalling a Device

When you remove a Plug and Play device, the BIOS informs Windows Vista that the device is no longer present. Windows Vista, in turn, updates its device list in the Registry, and the peripheral no longer appears in the Device Manager display.

If you’re removing a legacy device, however, you need to tell Device Manager that the device no longer exists. To do that, follow these steps:

1.
Click the device in the Device Manager tree.

2.
Select Action, Uninstall. (Alternatively, click Uninstall in the toolbar or open the device’s properties sheet, display the Driver tab, and click Uninstall.)

3.
When Windows Vista warns you that you’re about to remove the device, click OK.
Other -----------------
- Getting the Most Out of Device Manager : Tips and Techniques for Installing Devices
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Reviewing Event Viewer Logs
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Checking for Updates and Security Patches
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Backing Up Your Files
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Setting System Restore Points
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Defragmenting Your Hard Disk
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Deleting Unnecessary Files
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Checking Free Disk Space
- Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Checking Your Hard Disk for Errors
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