With just a few clicks or taps, Device Manager lets you see and manage all the hardware installed on your Windows PC or device, view the devices for which you did not install appropriate drivers and also see and manage "hidden" devices. If you want to know everything you can do with the Device Manager from Windows, read this tutorial:
NOTE: This tutorial contains instructions that work in all the modern versions of Windows: Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The tool works the same and, for the most part, looks the same in all versions of Windows. For simplicity, we use screenshots mostly taken in Windows 10. If you do not know how to open Device Manager, read this tutorial: 8 ways to open the Device Manager in Windows (all versions).
1. View all the hardware components that make up your Windows computer or device
The Device Manager lists all your computer's hardware components: both real, physical components and hardware components that are emulated by the software you installed. The components are grouped by category. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see under Disk drives that there are three hard drives installed. You can also see their exact model and type.
2. View the properties of your devices
If you want to view more information about a particular device, right-click or tap and hold on it and then select Properties. Or, you can double click or tap on it. Inside the Properties window, you see listed detailed information about the device, including its status. However, it might not be as complete as the information shown by System Information.
3. Find missing drivers for your components
A great use for Device Manager is to see if there are any hardware components for which you missed installing their drivers. If there are any components without drivers, you will find a category named Other devices, as shown in the screenshot below. Expand it, and Device Manager displays all the devices that are not known by Windows.
Here you might find listed a series of devices with generic names. For instance, Device Manager can tell you that it found an Unknown device or a Network Controller.
4. Install drivers for your hardware components and peripherals
Let's see how to install drivers, both for components without appropriate drivers and with drivers installed. Right-click or tap and hold the device that you want to install drivers for and then click or tap on "Update Driver Software."
The Update Driver Software wizard starts, and you are given two options: let Windows "Search automatically for updated driver software" (it will search both your computer and Microsoft's servers with drivers) or you can browse your computer and select the driver yourself. We selected the first option to see how it works.
The Update Driver Software wizard searches for the driver on your Windows computer. If it doesn't find a good one, it searches online for it.
Wait for it to finish. If a driver is found, it is automatically installed. Wait for the process to end.
When the process is finished you are told whether the driver was successfully installed or not.
Then you can view the device shown under its appropriate devices category. It will no longer be part of the Other devices listing.
It can happen that Windows cannot find drivers for your hardware component. In this case, you need to install them manually yourself, by downloading them from the website of its manufacturer and running their setup program.
5. View hidden devices in Device Manager
Another less known use for Device Manager is that it can display "hidden devices." Most times, these are drivers installed by the software that you are using on your computer or devices which were connected at some point to your Windows PC but are not disconnected. To view them, click or tap the View menu and check "Show hidden devices."
If you do this in Windows 7, you now see a category of devices named "Non-Plug and Play Drivers," where you find a very long list of drivers for things such as the system beep, drivers for your sound card, "drivers" for the Windows Firewall, virtual machine drivers, etc.
In Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, the hidden devices are listed in their usual categories of devices but grayed out. Also, more groups of devices are displayed in Device Manager. For example, in the screenshot below, we can see a Miracast enabled Smart TV from Samsung, to which we connected our Windows 10 laptop, sometime in the past.
6. Disable or enable devices from Device Manager
Even though we do not recommend that you do this, you can disable devices from the Device Manager. By doing so, you forbid Windows to use them so be careful about what you disable. How do you disable a device? Right-click or tap and hold the device, and choose Disable.
Windows warns you that this device will stop functioning and it asks for your confirmation on whether to disable it or not. Choose Yes or No, depending on what you want.
If you choose Yes, Windows disables the device and stops using it. Depending on what kind of device you decided to disable, you might be asked to restart your computer. If you are, close any open apps and reboot your computer.
Re-enabling a device is just as easy: right-click or tap and hold on it, and choose Enable.
Windows now reuses the device that you enabled.
7. Force Windows to scan for new hardware
If for some reason, Windows doesn't detect a hardware component that you plugged into your computer, you can use the Device Manager to force it to scan for hardware changes. One way to do that is to click or tap the Action menu on the top and choose "Scan for hardware changes."
Another way to do the same thing is to right-click on top of your computer name, in the list of devices, and choose "Scan for hardware changes."
Windows now scans for any hardware change that may have been performed.
Having reached the end of this tutorial, we believe that you will agree with us when we say that the Device Manager is a useful tool for managing your system's hardware components and peripherals. Try it out and see how well it works. If you have questions or issues about the Device Manager, don't hesitate to comment below.