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All about the Device Manager in Windows

In many of our Blue Screen articles and other tutorials, we refer to the Device Manager and give instructions on how to solve the problem specifically. But what does the Device Manager do exactly? Fortunately, Device Manager is pretty uniform across all Windows operating systems, but learning it and its functions can be difficult. We’re here to help.

All about the Device Manager in Windows
Device Manager can be found in your Control Panel.

Device Manager can be reached the following ways:

In Windows XP, Vista & 7:

  1. Click Start
  2. Click Control Panel
  3. Click Device Manager when sorting by small icons

In Windows 8 and 8.1:

  1. Press Windows Key + X
  2. Click Device Manager

The primary purpose of Device Manager is managing your devices — or, more specifically, their drivers.

A driver is a program that operates or controls a device. A driver acts as a translator between a device and both applications and Windows. Every device in your computer has a driver for proper interaction.

When you right-click a device in Device Manager, you’re presented with three options:

  • updating your driver software, to improve stability or performance.
  • scanning for hardware changes, to detect devices that have been plugged in or removed from your computer.
  • uninstalling that device, which removes the driver.

Keeping your drivers updated may be a tedious process, but it generally helps your system’s stability and performance. Gamers in particular should keep their graphics drivers updated to maximize framerate and graphical performance. You’ll be given the option to let Windows search online for your drivers — which works, usually — or to load them from your hard drive or disc, which you should do if you have a hardware installation disc or have downloaded the driver already.

If a device, despite being updated, still gives you trouble, it’s possible it may not be compatible with your version of Windows — the manufacturer may never have released a compatible driver. It helps to Google the device name and your Windows version to see if others are having the same problem.

To find a device, use Device Manager’s menu and our guide below.

  • ComputerName-PC is just your computer’s name at the top of Device Manager. If you don’t see the other options, just click the arrow beside it for a dropdown.
  • Battery (laptop exclusive) gives battery information.
  • Bluetooth Radios covers your bluetooth device drivers.
  • Computer says what kind of computer you’re using — x86-based PC (32-bit) or x64-based PC (64-bit).
  • Disk Drives shows any solid state drives, hard disk drives or SD card/memory stick slots on your computer.
  • Display Adapters shows your graphics card, which is either on your processor, motherboard or a proper, discrete graphics processor. Check these for updates at least once a month.
  • CD/DVD/BD-ROM Drives shows CD, DVD and Blu Ray players on your computer.
  • Human Interface Devices is a blanket term for keyboards, mice and other such peripherals. If you want to update drivers for these, go to the proper Keyboard/pointing devices lists.
  • IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers determines your hard drive’s behavior.
  • IEEE 1394 Bus Host Controllers is for your PCI slots.
  • Imaging Devices is for webcams, integrated or USB-connected.
  • Keyboards are for any keyboard devices connected to your PC.
  • Memory Technology Drivers are for whatever cards your computer supports, if it has an integrated SD card slot.
  • Mice and Other Pointing Devices is for your mouse, joystick or whatever else you happen to be using to navigate your computer.
  • Modems are for the modems built into your computer, not the ones you use to get online from your cable, dial-up, fiber optics or DSL company.
  • Monitors is for your monitor(s).
  • Portable Devices is for your phones, iPods, or other devices that get installed when you connect them to your computer.
  • Processors are for the processing cores in your processor.
  • Sound, Video and Game Controllers are for special audio/video suites that come with your computer or gamepads.
  • Storage Controllers are for your hard drives and other storage devices.
  • System Devices are for things like your power button and volume controls.
  • Universal Serial Bus Controllers are for your USB ports.

Your drivers can also be downloaded and updated automatically using our Driver Reviver software, which may find driver updates that Windows can’t.

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