Solve Windows problems with Device Manager

Everything you need to know about Device Manager in Windows

Problems can be tough to solve and when the computer is not working properly, what can you do? Use Device Manager to solve problems, such as those related to the hardware and drivers.

Help!

If you have upgraded Windows and now the sound does not work, Device Manager can help. If the touchpad on your laptop computer does not work properly, Device Manager can help. If applications freeze for no apparent reason, once again, Device Manager can help.

It will not solve every problem, but it is one of the best tools to use when there is no obvious cause.

Device Manager keeps track of the hardware components in the computer and the drivers that control them. Obscure bugs and crashes can be caused by drivers, and Device Manger can show you problems and fix them.

Run Device Manager

There are several ways to open Device Manager and it is possible to get to it through Windows search. Press Windows+S to open search in Windows 10 and 8, or just click Start in Windows 7 and type in Device Manager. Click it in the results.

A quicker and easier method that works in any version of Windows is to press Windows+R and enter devmgmt.msc

Microsoft says you should enter mmc devmgmt.msc but I find devmgmt.msc on its own works fine.

 Start device Manager command

Look for Device Manager symbols

Device Manager shows a list of component categories and clicking the > at the left expands the section.

Sometimes symbols are displayed next to devices to indicate a problem of some sort, such as an exclamation symbol on a yellow icon, but sometimes there is a problem even though there is no warning symbol.

Update a driver

Suppose you have a problem with Bluetooth and you cannot connect Bluetooth devices, such as a mouse. You would expand the Bluetooth section and then right click the Bluetooth device to display a menu.

 Update a device driver

The first thing to try is Update Driver Software. This uses the internet to see if there is a newer hardware driver for the device. If there is, it is automatically downloaded and installed. Old drivers sometimes have bugs or incompatibilities and newer drivers fix them.

Uninstall a device

The other useful menu option is Uninstall and this removes the driver software associated with a device. This means that the device will no longer function. However, if the computer is shut down and restarted, Windows will scan for new hardware devices as it loads. It will detect the device as if it was new hardware and will automatically install the software for it.

Uninstalling a device can fix various faults. If a device was not working before, there is a good chance that is will work after being uninstalled because fresh driver software is installed.

Restore a previous driver

Windows should automatically update drivers as part of Windows Update, but it doesn’t always happen, so it is worth manually checking for updates.

Windows might automatically update a driver to a version that is incompatible with your computer. If the computer used to work fine, but now it doesn’t, perhaps the current version of the driver software is buggy, or clashes with your PC.

It is possible to go back to the previous driver software using Device Manager. Suppose you are having problems with the touchpad on a laptop. Expand the Mice and other pointing devices section and then double click Synaptics SMBus ClickPad.

 Device Manager roll back driver

The Properties window opens and on the Driver tab is a Roll Back Driver button. If it is disabled then there isn’t a previous driver and the computer has the one and only driver. Sometimes though, the Roll Back Driver button can be clicked to restore the last driver. It is worth trying.

Scan for new hardware

One last function to try: If you have added a new hardware device and the computer does not recognise it, or if you have removed a device in Device Manager, right click the computer name at the top of the device list and click Scan for hardware changes. It might detect the new hardware and install the driver, in which case the device will start working.

 Scan for hardware changes in Device Manager

Driver update tools

There are utilities available that will scan the system for drivers and then update them by downloading new versions from the internet.

They can sometimes cause problems. One is that they encourage you to update all drivers with one click. If one of the drivers being updated is incompatible, it can cause problems. If you have updated a dozen drivers in one go, you might not know which one is causing the problem.

Updating one driver at a time in Device Manager is safer. Device Manager also uses safer, more conservative drivers. You might be able to get bleeding edge beta drivers elsewhere on the internet, but they may be incompatible with your PC or buggy. Device Manager drivers are less likely to cause problems.


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