The Device Manager in Windows allows you to update or get driver information about the hardware connected to your computer. We will show you how to open the Device Manager, use it, and learn about drivers.
- What is the Windows Device Manager?
- Steps to access or open the Device Manager
- What is a device driver?
- How to see if a driver is missing using Device Manager
- How to update a driver using Windows Device Manager
- How to identify the device without a driver
- Scan for new hardware using Device Manager
- Conclusion on how to access Device Manager
Knowing more about what a driver is and how it works seems like a complementary bit of knowledge to understand what the Device Manager is doing.
If you want to know more about drivers in-depth, I suggest you go and read further on Wikipedia.
What is the Windows Device Manager?
Device Manager is a small application known as an applet found in the Control Panel. It contains a list of all the drivers for all the devices connected to the computer.
As the name suggests, Device Manager allows you to manage all the drivers for every hardware device connected to your system that Windows can use.
You can use Device Manager to remove, install and update drivers for each hardware component detected and connected to your computer.
Steps to access or open the Device Manager
- Open the Start Menu (Press the ⊞ Windows Key on the keyboard).
- Type device manager.
- Left-click your mouse pointer on Device Manager inside the menu.
An alternative method to open Device Manager
This is my personal favorite way to open the Device Manager:
- Right-click on the This PC icon on the desktop and left-click on Properties.
- Left-click on Device Manager to open it.
If this shortcut isn’t on your desktop, you can add it using your theme settings.
If you still can’t get the shortcut on your desktop, press and hold the Windows key (⊞) on your keyboard, tap the Pause key, and release the Windows key.
This will open the System Properties window, and you can left-click on Device Manager to access it.
Once you open Windows Device Manager
You can open the category of the driver by clicking on the arrow on the left of the group name.
It will open a list of all the drivers under that group. Each driver will be assigned to a specific piece of hardware connected to your computer.
For most of us, the file menu on the top is rarely used. The most likely thing to use would be the View menu to view the driver list to your personal preference.
I have never found this necessary and have always left it as is.
What is a device driver?
Every device connected to your computer needs a bit of software to tell Windows how to make use of it correctly.
We call this piece of software a driver. It contains information about the hardware, sort of like a datasheet for windows to understand the hardware component’s commands and how to send it data.
This way, the operating system or installed software can use the hardware in a specific manner.
For example, when you plug your USB flash drive into a USB port on your computer, it gets detected, and a relevant driver is loaded for the drive’s communication controller.
This communication controller is simply a small IC that allows connection to the computer and can control all the functions of the drive. Now, the operating system can use generic commands from the user and translate them for the drive to understand.
Now the ability to see, write and read to the drive is known, and these features have become available to programs like Windows File Explorer. For example, the operating system will also know other information like the manufacturer, model, and maximum capacity.
How to see if a driver is missing using Device Manager
You can spot a missing driver by looking to see if there are any yellow circled exclamation marks next to a driver.
In this case, you want to try and update it first, then if that doesn’t work, identify the hardware for new drivers to be downloaded and installed.
How to update a driver using Windows Device Manager
If you wish to look for an update for a particular driver, simply right-click on the driver in question and left-click on ‘Update driver’.
Windows will search to try and match the most compatible drive it can find and install it automatically.
You also have the choice to do a manual update, where you select a specific driver file for the hardware component.
How to identify the device without a driver
If you right-click on a driver, you wish to find a driver for and left-click on Properties. You can click on the Details tab to learn more about the hardware component.
Left-click on the combo box under ‘Property’ and left-click on Hardware Ids. Some values will be listed under the Value box.
Take note of the DEV number and copy it (right-click & copy) to do the following search in Google:
Type driver, add a space, and paste the hardware DEV number. Complete the Google search.
You will notice that your DEV number will appear in some results. Click on the results, starting with the top one. Continue to do this until you find some information about the type of device associated with that DEV number.
Once you have identified what it is, do another search for the hardware description you found. You can first try the manufacturer’s website to find a driver. If you don’t have any luck, continue onto other websites to find a driver.
Be careful of websites that look spammy. They want you to install other programs to maintain or update your drivers. Stay away. They aren’t going to be of any help.
Scan for new hardware using Device Manager
After installing new drivers or wishing Windows to refresh your current drivers’ list, press the icon on the icon bar just under the main menu.
The icon will look like a screen with a magnifying glass over it.
Conclusion on how to access Device Manager
Access to the Device Manager allows you to improve communication between the operating system and your computer’s hardware.
So you can use every hardware component as you are meant to.
If you cannot get the drivers necessary for your hardware, it’s time to upgrade the component.
Unfortunately, this is the nature of computing, requiring spending some money to get it right.
I hope you never have to run into such an issue. Good luck getting your drivers working and up to date.