The Device Manager started in Windows 95 and has remained pretty much unchanged through the different versions of Windows - Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8 (the latest versions).
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The Device Manager, as in Windows 7, is in the Control Panel. If you are on the Start screen, just type the word device manager. A new screen presents itself showing no link to it because it is set to search Apps. What you typed appears in the Search box, so select Settings and a link to the Device Manager appears on the left-hand side.
You can find any application or tool by typing its name while on the Start screen, so a Start button is unnecessary. It will either be under Apps or, as with the Device Manager, be under Settings.
If you press the Windows key (the one with a flag on it) plus the X key while on the Start or Desktop screens, a menu comes up containing options that provide access to the Control Panel and the Device Manager, plus plenty of other useful options, shown in the image below.
The image below shows the Device Manager in Windows 8. Images of it in earlier versions of Windows are provided further down on this page.
Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 all have a Device Manager. There are several ways to open it. The quickest method in all of those versions of Windows is to enter devmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box (XP) and the Start => Search box (Vista/Windows 7).
When you open a device category by clicking the + sign beside it, and then open a device, under its Driver tab you'll see the Roll Back Driver option. If a device driver is the cause of a problem, you can use the Roll Back Driver feature to restore the system to the state it was in before you installed the driver.
The Device Manager now appears in the Control Panel as an item in Windows Vista and Windows 7. There are several ways to access it. For example, follow this click path: Start => Control Panel => System and Maintenance => System => Device Manager. The quickest method in Windows Vista/Windows 7 is to enter the devmgmt.msc in the Start => Search box.
In Windows 7 all you have to do is enter the word device in the Start => Search programs and files box and you are provided with a clickable link to it. The Search facility in Windows 7 is now beautifully configured and far more user-friendly than it is even in Windows Vista.
Read What's changed from Windows XP? for more information on using Search in Vista.
Windows Vista - Troubleshooting Hardware Issues with Device Manager -
The information on the webpage linked to above is also applicable to Windows 7, because the Device Manager is is the same in both versions of Windows. It is applicable to Windows 8. However, as has been described above, accessing the DM has changed in Win8 using its Start screen and Desktop screens.
The Windows Device Manager is the utility that (by default) displays all of the devices that are vital to the system configuration that were detected at system start-up and for which Windows has loaded the device drivers. It provides a very useful summary of these devices and indicates where there are problems. The information is dynamic and it is recreated every time the computer starts.
A yellow exclamation mark (!) beside the entry for a device indicates that although there is a problem with it, it might still be functional. A red cross beside a device's entry means that the device is set as disabled, or has been disabled by Windows. Right-click on its entry to reactivate it.
If a device or function that is needed isnít working properly, usually with the Device Manager showing a red-X error icon, it would, of course, be worth spending time fixing it. However, yellow exclamation marks usually involve non-critical, technical issues having no negative effects on how the computer is functioning. Therefore, it makes sense to ignore a yellow icon if uninstalling the device and allowing Windows to reinstall it during the next boot process doesn't remove it.
In Windows Me, now long gone but still in use on some computers, a white question mark in a green circle means that the device drivers are allowing partial instead of full functionality.
The images of the Device Managers shown below are (top) the System Properties window in a Windows 9x system with the Device Manager tab selected and below it the Device Managers from two different Windows XP systems.
The DevCon command-line utility functions as an alternative to Device Manager -
After you plug in a USB device that gets ignored, run this program. The 'rescan' option causes the system to rescan the USB ports, which usually results in a USB device being acknowledged and becoming usable. -
Device Manager - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Device_Manager
The Device Manager can produce coded error messages that can help diagnose problems with the devices that are listed in it. The following MS Knowledge Base article covers those error messages. -
Explanation of error codes generated by Device Manager in Windows XP Professional -
Device Manager Error Codes - A complete list of error codes reported in Device Manager -
The error codes probably stay the same from one version of Windows to the next. That said, I could not find an equivalent article covering the Device Manager error codes in Windows Vista and Windows 7, so, if you need to find out what a particular error code is all about, search for it on http://support.microsoft.com/search/.
[The information in this Q&A can be applied to Windows XP and Windows Vista.]
When I open the Device Manager in Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit version, it doesn't show any devices - it is empty. Here is what I have tried unsuccessfully, as recommended on the web: Plug and Play is set to automatic in the BIOS - ran the System File Checker (SFC) - at the top of the list in Device Manager, where the name you gave to your computer has a + sign the the left of it - clicked that to expand the tree. I don't want to use System Restore to restore a restore point made prior to the problem, because I don't know when the problem started because I don't go into the Device Manager very often. I only did so because of an error message on my desktop related to the computer's ATI graphics card so, went into Device Manager to see what was wrong with it.
I would try using System Restore first by choosing the oldest available restore point. According to reports on the web doing that doesn't usually work. The only other ways to get the Device Manager back is to restore a backup or system image or perform a clean installation of Windows - if you have a Windows 7 installation disc.
If you don't have a backup, image or installation disc, you might have a Recovery Disc that the computer manufacturer provided or that can be downloaded or purchased that sets the computer back to the state it was when it left the factory. If you have the original Win7 disc, you will have to install Service Pack 1 (SP1) and all of the subsequent updates which can be done by using http://update.microsoft.com/ or by waiting for Windows to install the updates automatically, which is its default setting in Windows Update in the Control Panel.
This problem shows how important it is to make regular backups, which in Windows 7, using its Backup and Restore, can be a regular backup, a regular backup plus a system image or just a system image. Click here! to go to the information on backups on this website. To restore a backup or system image requires booting the system with a Repair Disc that you create within Win7.
Occasionally, the Device Manager won't open with a message saying something like: "mmc.exe unable to locate component failed to start because apphelp.ddl not found. Try reinstalling." You can try using all of the several available ways of opening it, including entering devmgmt.msc in the Run box (XP) or Search box (Vista/Windows 7), which probably won't help, because it looks as if the problem has been caused by file corruption, so try taking the following actions in this order:
1. - Use System Restore, available in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, to restore a restore point with a date that precedes the problem.
2. - Use the System File Checker (SFC), available in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, from a Command Prompt (with Administrator privileges in Vista/Win7), entering the command sfc /scannow, which should repair any corrupt files . In Windows XP, to open a command prompt enter cmd in the Start => Run box. You might be required to load your Windows XP installation CD/DVD if the i386 folder is not present in your installation. In Windows Vista/Windows 7, you need to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges, which is done by clicking Start => All programs => Accessories => Command Prompt, right-clicking with the mouse on Command Prompt and then clicking on Run as Administrator.
3. - Use the other system recovery options available to your version of Windows, provided on this website from the following links:
Although the information on the following page is specific to Windows XP, much of the advice is relevant to the earlier versions of Windows and it is also relevant to Windows Vista and Windows 7. Click here! to read Troubleshoot Device Driver Problems on Microsoft's site. It contains information about the Roll Back Driver feature. In Windows Vista, if you need to find out how to access the feature, just enter roll back driver in the Start => Start Search box. In Windows 7 the box is Start => Search programs and files.
If you can't boot into Windows in normal mode because of a problem, which might be caused by the installation of a new driver file, press the F8 key after the BIOS information shows but before Windows starts up, and choose to start Windows in Safe Mode (this works in Windows 9x and Windows XP systems). You can then open the Device Manager as usual and remove the problematic device so that Windows reinstalls the software device drivers it has in its driver library.
Downloaded drivers are not added to the library of drivers that were copied from the Windows CD, and which Windows draws from when it installs drivers. You have to install downloaded drivers by executing their files, or by pointing Windows to their files instead if Windows asks for its CD to be loaded so that it can search its driver library.
There is also a (F8 key) boot option called Enable VGA Mode that can be used to load the standard Windows VGA video card driver should a new version of the video card manufacturer's drivers cause problems.
The Device Manager can show error states for hardware devices in all of the versions of Windows from Windows 95 up to Windows 7, which will be released officially in October 2009.
It is a common experience for one reason or another to open the Device Manager to find that there are one or more categories of device already expanded because the device is in an error state. An example is: under IDE/ATAPI controllers (for IDE hard-drive controllers) the device Primary IDE Channel (the description can vary) has a red X through it, which, when opened, says "This device is not working properly because a device it depends on - Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller - has been dynamically disabled and consequently the hard-disk-drive controller has a yellow exclamation mark (!) through it.
This kind of Device Manager error is most commonly caused by corrupt or incompatible software that has misused the hard-drive controller, which was then left in an error state.
Whenever errors such as those two involving a red X or a yellow exclamation mark against a device in Device Manager, the fix is most often easily achieved by uninstalling the hardware from within the Device Manager. Physical removal of the device is not required. By uninstalling a device, Windows is made to forget what it knows about the hardware in question and consequently it has to rediscover that information. Since Windows from Windows 95 to Windows 7 is a plug-and-play operating system, it detects any unknown hardware device automatically and attempts to install its device driver.
The process is relatively quick, involving just an uninstall and a reboot, but it can resolve many problems caused by corrupt device drivers and the use of incompatible software.
To open Device Manager in Windows XP just enter the devmgmt.msc command in the Start => Run box. In Windows Vista, enter it in the Start => Start Search box. That command also works in Windows 7. Next, right-click the item in Device Manager that is showing an error and select Uninstall from the menu that presents itself (see the first image of the Device Manager below to see an image of it in that state). Note that in older versions of Windows, such as Windows 98, there is a Remove button in the Device Manager's window. Now all you have to do is close the Device Manager and reboot/restart the system. Windows will redetect the unknown hardware that you uninstalled and reinstall a fresh copy of its drivers. If doing this doesn't work, there is something more serious wrong with the device, such as an irredeemable failure.
Installing a new driver file in Windows XP might make the unsigned driver warning pop up.
If its System Restore feature is enabled, Windows XP creates a restore point whenever you install an unsigned driver, which, if you don't already know, is a software program that controls a hardware device but which hasn't been certified by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) at Microsoft as being Windows-XP compliant, and is therefore not digitally signed as such. The restore point allows Windows to be restored to the state it was in at the moment when the restore point was created.
Most people pay no attention to this warning and make Windows install the driver. Nine times out of ten there won't be any problems with the driver, but it might not be your lucky day, so it's best to make sure that the System Restore feature is enabled so that Windows automatically creates a restore point before installing an unsigned driver. It is enabled by default, but here are several ways that the System Restore feature can be turned off without your knowledge, so don't take it for granted that a restore point will automatically be created.
Microsoft has provided several ways in which to verify if device drivers are signed or unsigned in Windows XP:
The first method is to go into the Device Manager. Click on the new device that has just been installed and check the driver details. Signed drivers will have a certificate icon with a green check mark. Unsigned drivers will not.
The second method is to go to the Start => Run box and enter sigverif. In the window that opens, click on Advanced to open the Advanced File Signature Verification Settings dialog box. Click on Look for other files that are not digitally signed.
The third method is to open the Start => Run box and enter C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS and then click on OK. [C:\ is the default drive where a Windows installation is located. Use the correct letter if Windows is installed on a different drive.] A window containing driver files opens. Look for the unsigned drivers that have the modified date when you first installed the new device. Once you have been able to identify the driver files, you can then take steps to resolve the driver-related problem by downloading the latest signed drivers from Microsoft or the device manufacturer's site, removing the device in Device Manager, and then installing the new driver file.
Click here! to go to information on this website on how to recover, restore, repair, or reinstall Windows.
The image below shows the Device Manager of a Windows XP system which has the Modems category opened. As you can see, XP has installed a Generic SoftK56 #2 driver. This is probably for the K56Flex modem standard that ran parallel to the V.90 standard, but which is not much used now. If the modem is a K56Flex modem and it is flash-upgradable to the V.90 standard, you should be able to update its firmware and the device driver, or, if not, just obtain the latest driver for it. The shown options that allow this are obtained just by selecting the modem's entry. You should use the Uninstall option before you install the new driver file, because XP can get confused if the old driver's files are left installed. The confusion could prevent XP from using the modem.
The image below shows the Device Manager of a Windows XP system with the device categories expanded to show what they contain.
The IEEE 1394 Bus host controllers item refers to the FireWire interface.
You can see from the IDE information that the motherboard has a SiS chipset. From looking at the Universal Serial Bus controllers category, you can see that that the motherboard has USB ports controlled by a SiS Host Controller. This means that motherboard only has USB 1.1 ports. The Via Host Controller (made by Via) has a Via USB 2.0 Enhanced Host Controller, so it looks as if a PCI adapter card with USB 2.0 ports has been installed. See the USB section of this website for more information on the subject.
In Windows XP, the Device Manager is set by default to hide devices that are not crucial to the configuration of the system, such as printers that are connected via the parallel port, and other non-plug-and-play devices. To see these, select the Show Hidden Devices option from the View menu that can be accessed from the Device Manager.
A situation, which seems to be related to the Windows XP Plug and Play service, can sometimes occur in which the Device Manager is completely devoid of information on the devices.
To check if the service is running, enter msconfig in the Start => Run box. Open the Services tab in the System Configuration utility's window. If the Plug and Play service isn't listed, uncheck the option in the box beside Hide All Microsoft Services.
The option for the Plug and Play service should be enabled and should be shown to be running. If it isn't running, right-click the My Computer entry on the Windows Start menu and choose Manage. On the Computer Management window, expand the entry for Services And Applications and click Services. Make the Standard tab display its contents and locate the entry for Plug and Play. Double-click this entry and set the Startup type to Manual. Next, click the Start button under the Service type in the same window. The service should start, and the window can be closed. Should any warnings appear during this process, just click OK. The Device Manager should now be displaying all of its information.
Note well that you might need the Windows CD to reinstall some device drivers if you take the following action, but most of the time Windows will restore them by using the driver files that it already has in its folder - which is usually but not always the C:\Windows folder. During the setup process, you're given the opportunity to install Windows wherever you want it to be installed. Leaving the default option always installs Windows in the C:\Windows folder.
It isn't necessary to enter Safe Mode in Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 in order to see any multiple instances of devices. The reason is provided in the next item below called: "Show Hidden Devices" under the "View" menu in Windows XP/Vista and Windows 7.
In a Windows 95/98/Me system, try booting in Safe mode by pressing the F8 or Ctrl key at start-up until the boot menu presents itself. Then open the Device Manager by using the right mouse button to click on My Computer, followed by Properties. Click the + signs beside each device category to expand it, and go through the devices and highlight and use the Remove button to *completely remove* any devices (except IRQ Holders for PCI Steering) that show more than one instance. Also remove any device that shows a yellow exclamation mark, or red cross against it, is installed in the Other devices category, or any device that is a relic from a previous installation, such as the standard Windows IDE hard disk drive references or drivers.
For example, there might be a SiS device driver installed for a previous motherboard when the current motherboard's chipset is made by VIA. Then you should download and install all of the latest device driver updates from the PC or motherboard manufacturer's website - especially the IDE busmaster driver, AGP driver, and USB Controller. You should also update the drivers for the video card and sound card - and update to the latest version of DirectX (search microsoft.com for directx).
If you aren't sure that your system supports DirectX, you can enter dxdiag in the Start => Run box to run the DirectX video and sound diagnostics programs. If you have installed a new motherboard, and you have entered Safe mode to remove the drivers used on the old board but not on the new one, you should enter Safe mode a few times to make sure all of the hardware is correctly listed. Any brand-name device that is loaded that is not used on the new motherboard should be removed.
For example, the old motherboard might have had a SiS chipset, and the new one has a VIA chipset, so you would remove anything with SiS in its name. If the new board has onboard video and sound chips, and you had separate cards installed on the old board, you would also remove the sound and video entries, etc., just as you would if you were adding new sound and graphics cards.
From initial installation problems to USB devices that suddenly don't work, cleaning up the Device Manager in Safe mode is the first step in Windows 9.x USB troubleshooting. Doing so can also be the remedy for many non-USB problems. Many hardware related problems in Windows can be traced to ghost and/or duplicate device entries. Obsolete and/or duplicate devices can only be seen and removed from the Device Manager while in Safe mode, which can be accessed by repeated pressing the F8 key (to bring up the boot menu) at start-up in both Windows 9x and XP systems.
You might still be able to find articles that deal with such a cleanup by using a search query in a search engine, such as: clean device manager in safe mode in Windows 98.
Note well that you don't need to go into Safe Mode in Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to clean the Device Manager out in the way that is detailed above, because there's an option under the Device Manager's View menu to Show Hidden Devices.
The quickest method to open the Device Manager in Windows XP and Windows Vista is to enter devmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box.
In Windows 7, just enter device in the Start => Search programs and files box to be provided with a clickable link to the Device Manager.
Not all of the devices that are installed are shown. When the Show Hidden Devices option is enabled, the Device Manager (in normal mode) in Windows XP shows all of the hidden devices. To see them, just click the + sign beside each category of device.
If you want to see the devices that are installed but not in use, open the command prompt window by entering cmd in the Start => Run box.
Now enter these each of these command lines exactly as they are, pressing the Enter key after each line is typed in:
The last command line opens the Device Manager.
You must still open View and make sure that there is a check mark placed beside Show Hidden Devices. If there is no check mark beside it, place one there by clicking on the term.
Now you can see the devices that have been installed previously but which are not currently connected or in use. Their icons are greyed out (faint images compared to the icons of the installed devices). Double-click the entries for Disk drives, Other devices, and Universal Serial Bus controllers. Whenever you see a greyed-out icon that is faint compared to the other icons, right-click on it with the mouse pointer and then click on Uninstall in the menu that presents itself.
After doing that you won't have any redundant entries in the Device Manager.
In Windows XP, there are several alternative options available for showing how the devices are listed in the Device Manager. These alternative lists are also set in the Device Manager's View menu, such a a list of assigned Interrupt Request lines (IRQs). The Direct Memory Access (DMA) list can also be shown by opening its option.