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Troubleshoot Peripherals Using Windows Device Manager

Windows features a central location for all the hardware in your PC. It’s the Device Manager and it can be used as a troubleshooting tool. The Device Manager provides a central location for accessing the various device Properties dialog boxes.

Though the Device Manager lists every iota of hardware inside your PC, Windows 7 also has the Devices and Printers window, which lists the major hardware goodies in your computer system. As with the Device Manager, malfunctioning devices are flagged for troubleshooting in the Devices and Printers window.

Start the Device Manager

To summon the Device Manager window in Windows 7 or Windows Vista, heed these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. Choose Hardware and Sound.

    • In Windows 7, beneath the header Devices and Printers, choose Device Manager.

    • In Windows Vista, choose View Hardware and Devices; click the Continue button or type the administrator’s password to continue.

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In Windows XP, the steps to summon the Device Manager window are subtly different:

  1. Open the Control Panel’s System icon.

    The keyboard shortcut for the System Properties dialog box is the Win+Break key combination, which is also a punch line somewhere.

  2. Click the Hardware tab in the System Properties dialog box.

  3. Click the Device Manager button.

    The Device Manager window lists all the hardware available to your PC by category. Opening a category lists specific devices, such as the PC’s display adapter, shown in the Display Adapters category.

    To open a category, click the + (plus) button next to the category name. The + button turns into a – (minus) button, which you can then click to close the category.

    Double-click a device name to display the device’s hardware Properties dialog box.

Find problem hardware

Compared with other operating systems, Windows is rather forgiving. For the sake of compatibility, Windows tolerates hardware that may not be working properly — hardware that would choke the Linux operating system into apoplexy. But rather than be ignorant of the damage, Windows alerts you to the troublesome hardware in the Device Manager.

Open the Device Manager. Peruse the list. When you see either a small icon flagging a device or a category that’s “open” (displaying its devices), you may have trouble.

In Windows 7 and in Windows Vista, errant devices are flagged with a yellow-triangle warning icon.

In Windows XP, wayward devices are flagged with a yellow-circle warning icon.

The naughty device is shown open beneath its category heading. To see what’s wrong (or what Windows believes to be wrong), double-click the device to display its Properties dialog box. In the Device Status area of the dialog box, you read a description of what the problem might be and potentially discover a solution.

Troubleshoot devices in Windows XP

Windows XP features a special Troubleshoot button for devices in the Device Manager window. To access the button, double-click to open a device in the Device Manager window. Click the Troubleshooting button in the dialog box’s General tab.

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The Troubleshooting button opens a special troubleshooter window for the device, part of the Windows Help system. Follow the directions on the screen to answer questions about problems you’re having and to view potential solutions.

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