Managing Hardware Devices and Using Device Manager

By right clicking on a device and choosing its properties, we can configure additional setting for that particular device (though what settings can be changed depends on the device) such as driver or resource settings.

You should be aware of the purpose of each tab. The General tab provides device status information, access to the associated troubleshooter, and whether the device is enabled or disabled. The Advanced tab allows you to configure any advanced properties for a device, and will vary based on the type of device (for example, enabling Duplex Mode on a NIC). The driver tab provides driver details, as well as the ability to uninstall or update a driver (choosing upgrade driver will launch the driver update wizard). The Resources tab is where settings such as IRQ and DMA settings are maintained. Finally, the Power Management tab controls whether the device can bring the computer out of standby, as well as whether the device can be power managed by the OS.

There are a few icons that you may see in Device Manager, as outlined below:

  • Black Exclamation Point on yellow background: Device is in a problem state (may still be functioning – see error code)
  • Red ‘X’ over device: Device is disabled
  • Blue ‘i’ on white background: Means that ‘Use automatic settings’ is not selected for a device, and that resources were manually selected
  • Question Mark: Resources for the device are not assigned

Additional details you should know about Device Manager:

  • There now exists an option called Scan for Hardware Changes, which allows you to scan for changes in the state of a device. For example, if you had an external modem that was powered off when booting, you could turn it on and then choose this option.
  • There is also an option in Device Manager called Show Hidden Devices. This will show legacy devices and devices no longer installed.
  • Buried in the LPT properties Port Settings tab in Device Manager is a check box called Enable legacy plug and play detection. This allows older parallel port plug and play devices (such as zip drives or scanners) to be detected.
  • Do not confuse Device Manager (a tool with which you can make changes) with the System Information Tool. The System Information tool is simply the replacement for NT Diagnostics, and is strictly read-only in terms of functionality. In NT, Winmsd.exe opened NT Diagnostics, now it opens the System Information Tool.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.