Windows 7: Manage devices and drivers

Windows 7 allows for simplifief installation of external hardware devices and the drivers to support them.

Jorge Orchilles

Adapted from “Microsoft Windows 7 Administrator’s Reference” (Syngress, an imprint of Elsevier)

Windows 7 gives you several tools and utilities for configuring and managing hardware devices and printers. You have several options for configuring devices and installing the necessary drivers, which is important, because without the proper drivers and the proper configuration, your devices won’t function properly.

Installing hardware devices and drivers is much simpler in Windows 7 than in previous versions of Windows. You can install several different types of hardware devices on Windows 7 computers:

  • Internal drives: You can install hard drives, CD drives, DVD drives, Blu-ray drives, floppy drives, zip drives and any other internal drive. These devices generally include a data cable (Integrated Drive Electronics [IDE] or SATA) that attaches to the motherboard and a power cable that attaches to the power supply.
  • Internal cards: These include adapters or expansion cards plugged into the motherboard’s expansion slots (PCI Express [PCIe], PCI or Accelerated Graphics Port [AGP]), such as video cards, RAIDs and SATA controllers. Laptop expansion cards are also considered internal cards. Generally, you would use these cards to connect another device through a cable.
  • External devices: These include any external device that connects to the computer through available ports including USB, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), Line Printer Terminal (LPT), COM and so on. You can use these ports to connect printers, scanners, external hard drives, media devices and more through the appropriate cable.
  • Additional memory: You can add memory to the computer’s motherboard to expand the amount of memory to which the computer has access.

Windows 7 automatically detects any hardware recently installed and attempts to automatically install the driver. After Windows 7 setup is complete, if some drivers weren’t installed by default, Windows 7 will attempt to find the device and its respective driver. The OS does this through Windows Update.

Install drivers with Windows Update

Windows 7 detects hardware that wasn’t automatically installed with Windows 7 setup. Most of the time, this will happen if the Windows 7 media didn’t include the driver for that piece of hardware. The built-in hardware diagnostics generally detect whether hardware installed on the computer has the proper drivers installed. The OS will attempt to identify the hardware, then use Windows Update to search for the correct driver. Windows Update will automatically download the driver, but won’t install it automatically.

You can open Windows Update in any of the following ways to check for new drivers or updated drivers:

  • Click Start | Control Panel | System and Security | Windows Update
  • Click Start | Control Panel | Windows Update
  • Type “Windows Update” on Start menu Search
  • Right-click Action Center | Open Windows Update on the notification area
  • After opening Windows Update, click “Check for updates” on the left pane

Essential drivers for video, sound or hard disk controllers may appear as important updates. Other device drivers will appear in the optional updates section. Click the link on the main Windows Update console titled “[X] optional updates are available.”

By default, optional updates won’t be selected for installation. Check the box to the left of each driver you wish to install, then click OK to download and install the update. Once the driver is installed, Windows will automatically detect and install the hardware device.

Device Manager

Device Manager is the central location from which to view, configure and manage hardware devices. It’s critical to understand how Device Manager works before working on hardware devices. There are multiple ways to open Device Manager:

  • In the Start menu, right-click Computer | Manage, then expand Computer Management on the console tree and select System Tools | Device Manager
  • In the Start menu, right-click Computer Properties, then click Device Manager on the left pane
  • Control Panel | Device Manager
  • Control Panel | Hardware and Sound | Device Manager

Notice that Device Manager is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0 console. The process for expanding the device view is similar to any other MMC 3.0 console. Simply click the arrow to the left of the device to expand the node. Devices with issues are displayed with a small symbol next to the device icon. A red X indicates the device isn’t installed correctly or has been disabled. A yellow exclamation point indicates a problem with the device.

To change the view, select View on the Menu bar, then choose from the following options:

  • Devices by Type: This is the default view, which displays the devices by the type of hardware. Devices are under the name of the device type.
  • Devices by Connection: This displays devices by the type of connection for each device.
  • Resources by Type: This displays the devices by resource type. There are four resource types: direct memory access (DMA), input/output (IO), IRQ and memory.
  • Resources by Connection: This displays the devices by the type of resource to which they’re connected. The four resource types (DMA, IO, IRQ and memory) let you trace resources by connection.
  • Show Hidden Devices: This displays devices that have been removed, but whose drivers haven’t been uninstalled. It also shows non-plug-and-play devices. To view options or actions for each device, either right-click the device or click on the device, and then click Action on the Menu bar. The options for each device are as follows:
    • Update Driver Software: This initiates the Hardware Update wizard.
    • Disable: This disables the selected driver.
    • Enable: This enables the selected driver.
    • Uninstall: This uninstalls the device and respective driver.
    • Scan for Hardware Changes: This initiates a Windows 7 scan for new hardware devices or changes.
    • Properties: This initiates the Properties window for the selected device.

Devices and printers

The Devices and Printers applet lets you configure devices and printers attached to your system. You can configure device properties, your default printer and many other settings. The Devices and Printers applet lets you add a device or add a printer:

  • Add a device: Selecting this option will kick off the Add a Device wizard. Windows 7 will automatically attempt to detect devices added to the system. If the system can’t automatically detect a device, you’ll be given the option to add it manually.
  • Add a printer: Selecting this option will kick off the Add Printer wizard. You can use it to install a local printer, network printer, wireless printer or Bluetooth printer.

There are two sections in the applet: “Devices” and “Printers and Faxes.” You’ll use the Devices section to configure devices attached to the system. The system has a biometric coprocessor and an integrated camera. There’s also a device listed representing the system itself. If you select the device representing the system, you get two device options:

  • Browse files: You can use this option to view files on the disk drives attached to the system. These could be hard drives, disk drives or removable media.
  • Eject: You can use this object to remove hot-pluggable hardware and removable media.

The Printers and Faxes section contains all the printers connected to the system. You can configure printer properties and select your default printer. If you select one of the printers you’ve already configured, you get four options:

  • See what’s printing: This lets you view print jobs being serviced by the printer. You can view, cancel or restart print jobs.
  • Manage default printers: This brings up the Default Printers window, which lets you set an overall default printer. You can also set a different default printer for each network to which your system connects.
  • Print server properties: This application lets you configure system-wide print server properties. These print server properties are used by all printers configured on the system. You can configure available printer forms and configure printer ports to be used on the system. You can also add and remove printer drivers.
  • Remove device: This lets you remove a printer from the system.

Again, it’s a good idea to become thoroughly familiar with Device Manager. You’ll need to know how to use it to add, remove and configure devices and their drivers. This is an essential part of Windows 7 management.

Jorge Orchilles

Jorge Orchilles began his networking career as a network administrator for the small private school he attended. He’s currently a security operating center analyst, and recently completed his Master of Science degree in management information systems at Florida International University.

©2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Printed with permission from Syngress, an imprint of Elsevier. Copyright 2011. “Microsoft Windows 7 Administrator’s Reference” by Jorge Orchilles. For more information on this title and other similar books, please visit