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Windows 7 : Configuring Hardware (part 1) - Device Stage & Using Device Manager

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Device Manager in Windows 7 works the same way it did in Windows Vista and XP. Device Manager is designed to display information about the hardware installed on your computer and as an interface to add and configure new hardware.

Hardware today follows a Plug and Play standard. So most of the time, simply connecting hardware will allow Device Manager (well, the OS processes controlling the device that is displayed to you) to automatically configure it. Devices that are not Plug and Play-compatible can be installed manually from Device Manager as well.

In Windows 7, a new functionality known as Device Stage has been added. It is a more enhanced graphic output giving better details and functionality to installed devices such as cameras.

You can use Device Manager to ensure that all devices are working properly and to troubleshoot misbehaving devices. For each device installed, you can view specific properties down to the resources being used, such as I/O port (input/output) and IRQ (interrupt request). Through Device Manager, you can take the following specific actions:

  • View a list of all hardware installed on your computer

  • Determine which device driver is installed for each device

  • Manage and update device drivers

  • Install new devices

  • Disable, enable, and uninstall devices

  • Use driver rollback to return to a previous version of a driver

  • Troubleshoot device problems

1. New/Updated Features—Device Stage

Throughout the evolution of technologies and PCs, one of the greatest features is how we can use such a wide array of devices on PCs. Device Manager has allowed us see all the hardware connected and make configuration changes, but utilizing the features of the devices themselves has been left up to alternate programs outside the Windows interface. Windows 7 introduces a new specification for hardware vendors (knowing that most hardware comes with software for the user to interface with), allowing them to provide user access within Windows. The new feature and specification is known as Device Stage. Windows 7 Devices And Printers is the interface for displaying and accessing hardware supporting Device Stage. The Windows 7 Devices And Printers screen is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Devices And Printers

Take, for example, a digital camera. When you connect the camera to the PC, the PC recognizes the device (Plug and Play) and typically displays the camera as a mass storage device. Users wanting advanced features like downloading and editing the photos use another program. When you plug in a device that supports Device Stage technology, Device Stage displays a single window that gives you easy access to common device tasks, such as, in the case of a camera, importing pictures, launching the vendor-supplied editing programs, and simply browsing, all from one interface.

With Windows 7, you'll be able to access all of your connected and wireless devices from the single Devices And Printers screen, and the device will be displayed in the Windows 7 enhanced Taskbar (Figure 2). From here, you can work with your devices, browse files they might contain, and manage device settings.

Figure 2. Device options display from the Windows 7 Taskbar

Wireless and Bluetooth devices are also supported by Device Stage, making managing these resources much more effortless for the end user. As portable devices are disconnected and reconnected, the Device Stage-driven Devices And Printers screen will update in real time. Exercise 1 will guide you through opening and viewing devices recognized on your Windows 7 machine.

Exercise 1: Opening Devices and Printers to View Device Stage-Supported Devices

  1. Choose Start => Control Panel => Hardware And Sound.

  2. Choose Devices And Printers from the main window.

  3. To see options specific to a device, right-click the device.

To make it easier for the end user, Devices And Printers is also available directly from the Stan menu:

  1. Choose Start => Control Panel => Devices And Printers.

  2. To see options specific to a device, right-click the device.

Even simpler yet, you can click the Start button and type device into the integrated search box to launch Devices And Printers, the first applet in the search list.


Next we'll take a look at using Device Manager to configure devices.

2. Using Device Manager

Device Manager is the component in Windows 7 you'll use first to see which devices are connected to your machine. More appropriately (and importantly), you can see which devices Windows 7 has recognized. That is, if you install or connect new piece of hardware and Windows 7 doesn't recognize it at all, it won't be seen in Device Manager.

This would be an unusual occurrence given the sophistication of today's hardware vendors and the standards like Plug and play which are implemented. However, this is an important step in seeing just which devices are known to Windows 7, Keep in mind that we've been using Device Manager for many versions of Windows, so what I'm discussing is applicable to legacy versions as well. As seen in Figure 3, Device Manager has a fairly simple opening screen, but it has a lot of functionality behind it.

Figure 3. Device Manager opening screen

From the opening screen, you get a good first feeling for the hardware that's installed and recognized and for any major issues, such as a device that's recognized but has no drivers installed or is not working correctly. You'll see a warning symbol displayed over the misbehaving device. For example, suppose you have just installed a new network adapter but the device does not seem to be working. You can open Device Manager and open the Network Adapter option to start the troubleshooting process. Figure 4 shows an issue with a network adapter.

To continue troubleshooting the network adapter within Device Manager, you would right-click the misbehaving adapter and choose Properties to see its Properties dialog box (Figure 5). This is just a small part of the functionality within Device Manager.

There ate many reasons to view the devices installed and configured on a machine. One reason is to verify the type and status of hardware. For example, if someone in your organization has given you documentation for a specific user machine with the machine's hardware specifications and you are concerned that the stated network adapter for the machine may not be the one actually installed, you can use Device Manager on the machine in question to see the network adapters Windows 7 recognizes in the machine.

Figure 4. Device Manager showing an issue with a network adapter

Figure 5. Device Manager network adapter properties

In Exercise 2, you will view devices using Device Manager.

Exercise 2: Using Device Manager

  1. Choose Start => Control Panel => Hardware And Sound => Device Manager (under Devices And Printers).

  2. Click the triangle next to Network Adapters (or double-click Network Adapters) to expand Network Adapters.


The steps in Exercise 2 show one way to launch Device Manager, through Control Panel. This is a valid method that shows you where the application resides, bur it is not how administrators usually do it.

You may want to try the following method because it puts Device Manager into a more functional MMC, allowing access to more administrative tools from one location:

  1. Choose Start and then right-click Computer.

  2. Select Manage.

  3. In the Navigation pane of the MMC, select Device Manager.

I also sometimes type Device Manager into the Windows integrated search box and press Enter. Or I right-click Computer and choose Properties. All of these are means to the same end.

2.1. Device Properties Available within Device Manager

Once you have opened Device Manager and have access to the installed devices on your machine, you can view their Properties dialog boxes. From there, you can view and change configuration parameters if necessary. You will find that the tabs available in the Properties dialog boxes will vary from device to device because the parameters that are available will vary with different hardware. Most devices will have at a minimum a General tab, a Driver tab, and a Detail tab, as seen in Figure 6.

The Properties dialog box for most devices will include more specific tabs for the hardware configuration, such as for a network adapter, which also has an Advanced tab for more specific configuration parameters. Figure 7 shows a network adapter's Advanced tab selected with Connection Type selected and the Value drop-down box active to show possible choices.

Figure 6. A Device Manager Properties dialog box

Figure 7. Advanced network interface properties

If you need to change the hardware configuration properties, Device Manager is the best way to access the parameters. Exercise 3 will show you how to view configurable properties for a network adapter through the Advanced tab.

Exercise 3: Configuring Network Adapter Advanced Properties

  1. Choose Start => Control Panel => Hardware And Sound => Device Manager (under Devices And Printers).

  2. Click the triangle next to Network Adapters (or double-click Network Adapters) to expand it.

  3. Right-click your network adapter and select Properties.

  4. Choose the Advanced tab.

  5. Select various properties and view the parameters.


In addition to setting up devices, you will need to install and configure device drivers, which I will cover in the next section.

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