Device Manager, as the name suggests, is a control panel that manages your hardware devices. More precisely, it allows you to disable and enable hardware devices, install and update hardware device drivers and so on. To use the Device Manager control panel go to the Control Panel and then click on the DEVICE MANAGER link.
Clicking on the DEVICE MANAGER link might bring up a UAC (User Account Control) Security Requester (below), depending on your security settings and so on. If this is the case for you simply click on its CONTINUE button to continue.
User Account Control (UAC) is a feature of Windows 7 that helps to prevent unauthorized changes to the computer, such as deleting a system file or disabling a hardware device. When attempting to manage a hardware device the UAC security requester will automatically block you off, because it wants to know if you are the one attempting to manage that hardware device and not a piece of malicious software for example. So if a UAC Security Requester does appear simply click on its CONTINUE button to continue.
Regardless if any UAC security requester appears or not, either way the next window you will see is the Device Manager window. It can also brought up by first clicking on the SYSTEM link in the control panel and then clicking on the DEVICE MANAGER tasks link (not shown/exampled here).
When the Device Manager window appears what you are looking for is a perfect set of buttons. The are the same as those found in a file requester. They mean you can expand/open the folder-view to see what is inside the folder (i.e. sub-folders and files). In device manager's case clicking on a button means you want to see what hardware devices are associated with a certain hardware category. For example. If I click on the button next to the category Network Adapters the hardware-view will expand to show me what Network Adapters are inside my computer.
Fig 1.3 above shows that I have two Network Adapters inside my computer. One is a Wireless Adapter and the other is an Ethernet Adapter. From here I can Disable a network adapter, Uninstall its Driver software (the software that communicates between it and Windows 7) or I can Update its driver software. These actions are all possible by right-clicking on a network adapter's name, to bring up its Options menu, and then left-clicking on a menu-item to carry out its action.
When you disable a hardware device and then restart the computer, upon restarting the computer Windows 7 no longer loads that hardware device's driver software. Therefore Windows 7 will not be able to, and will not be allowed to, run that hardware device - At least not until you enable that hardware device again. The disabled hardware device will also have a White Circle/Down Arrow mark on its icon in Device Manager.
If you want to enable a hardware device you do the reverse action from above. You right-click on the hardware device's name, to bring up the Options window, and then left-click on the ENABLE menu-item.
One reason for disabling a hardware device could be because you do not use it. For example. I do not use my Ethernet Adapter to connect to another computer. So by having it disabled Windows 7 does not load its driver software at start-up time, which means some resource (memory and so on) usage is saved.
|UPDATING (INSTALLING) AUTOMATICALLY|
As said in the paragraph after Fig 1.2 above, you are looking for a straight set of buttons in the hardware-view when you first open device manager. This normally indicates all is well with your hardware devices. If you see a hardware device with a White Circle/Down Arrow mark on its icon it means that hardware device is disabled (as explained above) and if you see a hardware device with a Yellow ! (Exclamation) mark on its icon it means that hardware device's driver software is missing/not installed. In these two latter cases the hardware-view will more than likely be open in order to bring these problem hardware devices to your attention.
Fig 1.8 above shows a hardware device with its driver software missing/not installed. To find/reinstall its driver software I need to right-click on the hardware device's name, to bring up its Options menu, and then left-click on the UPDATE DRIVER SOFTWARE menu-item. This will launch the Hardware Update Wizard.
When the Hardware Update Wizard appears it asks me whether or not I want to SEARCH AUTOMATICALLY FOR UPDATED DRIVER SOFTWARE or manually BROWSE MY COMPUTER FOR DRIVER SOFTWARE for the missing driver software. SEARCH AUTOMATICALLY FOR UPDATED DRIVER SOFTWARE will search both my computer and the internet (if its available/connected of course) for the missing driver software, as this next example shows.
In the above example, and in general, Windows 7 tries to install an unknown hardware device by first checking if there is any suitable, pre-installed, driver software already available in its DRIVERS folder. And if so, it installs that driver software. Even if its old. It then checks online if any, more, up-to-date driver software is available (provided you have a live internet connection of course) and if so updates the currently installed driver software. However. If no suitable driver software could be found, regardless of search method, you will receive the following error message.
|UPDATING (INSTALLING) MANUALLY|
If driver software cannot be found automatically, using the SEARCH AUTOMATICALLY FOR UPDATED DRIVER SOFTWARE option, you then have to use the BROWSE MY COMPUTER FOR DRIVER SOFTWARE manual option which is split into two sub-options. The first sub-option allows you to pick from a list of already installed (Windows 7 installed) software drivers, so that you can try and install generic driver software or driver software that closely matches your own hardware device's driver software. And the second sub-option allows you to manually browse through your computer looking for driver software. This option is good if you know where the driver software is located (i.e. in a particular folder) or you would like to search an obvious place such as the DVD drive. In this next example I used the BROWSE button to select my DVD folder (E:\Drivers).
If all else fails (i.e. you cannot find software drivers for your hardware device) you may be forced to use a pre-installed (Windows 7) software driver that is generic and/or that closely matches your own hardware device's original driver software.
When using the LET ME PICK FROM A LIST OF DEVICE DRIVERS ON MY COMPUTER option be sure to untick the option called SHOW COMPATIBLE HARDWARE so that the
list of general Manufacturers and Model names becomes available. That way you may be able to find compatible driver software using a different
manufacturer. Having the SHOW COMPATIBLE HARDWARE option ticked makes Windows 7 play safe by only showing you truly compatible driver software, if any is
available. But if no compatible driver software is available with SHOW COMPATIBLE HARDWARE ticked you may think there are no other manufacturer's and
model names available.
If driver software cannot be found the only solution may be to download the driver software from the manufacturer's website.....if they have a website, with the driver software on it. But how would you know who the manufacturer is if the hardware device is listed as Unknown Device? with no manufacturer or model name mentioned. The answer would be to right-click on the hardware device's name, to bring up its Options menu, and then left-click on the PROPERTIES menu-item. This would allow you to find out more about the hardware device - possibly more about its manufacturer and/or driver software.
You could also search Windows for other clues to the hardware device's identity, as well as physically look at the hardware device itself, but these methods (not shown here) are normally used as a last resort. Modern hardware tends to have Windows 7 support and Manufacturer's support, meaning Windows 7 can normally identify the hardware device by name. And its manufacturer normally has a website where you can download the hardware device's driver software. This is one reason why you should pay for Quality, Brand Named, hardware.....because you get support for it.
Microsoft product screen shot(s) reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation. As stated here by the Microsoft Corporation.