Tip & How-To about Computers & Internet
The simplest place to find out about the devices that are inside or attached to your computer is in the control panel. In the system folder, under device manager, you can do a quick check of how system components are working. From here, you can often isolate a problem, troubleshoot and take steps that will help you solve issues.
To access the control panel, go to start and then click control panel. (You have to be an administrator to do some of what is listed below.)
Depending on how you have Windows set, when you open your control panel, you see either the "classic or category view." Don't be concerned if your icons and screen look different. The display has different themes that change the appearance. (See #1 in pic below.) Choose classic view that appears on left upper side of the screen.
The folders are listed alphabetically, so look for the system folder #2.
Double click on the system folder or (right click on it and choose open). The new menu has tabs across the top. Choose the Hardware tab by clicking on it. Now, go to the Device Manager button (# 3) and click on it.
As you can see, the list of what is connected to or inside your computer is pretty complete. Instead of going to different categories to troubleshoot devices, all of them can be accessed here.
The + sign next to devices opens the list under that category. If you see an exclamation point, that means that the device has a problem. If you see a red X, that means it is disabled (X is pictured under number 4).
One of the most common computer complaints at Fixya is that the sound doesn't work right, so we will use that for our tutorial. If you are have a problem with no sound coming from your computer, this tutorial goes through another method of sound troubleshooting.
Before troubleshooting and making changes in the device manager, the safest and easiest way to address sudden system changes is through the System Restore function in Windows. (Refer to picture #2, you will see the the unselected System Restore tab.)
To find out about sound and video controllers, go down the list alphabetically. Click on the + sign and the device list drops down (#4).
The thing to remember here is that what we are checking out is the sound card and the software that runs it. A sound card is plugged into the inside of your computer and is critical to what you hear from your computer. Without it, the best speakers in the world are useless.
When you double click on the sound card, it will tell you if it is working properly. It should give you something specific, in this case the sound card is SoundMax digital audio. There should not be a red X or an exclamation point next to the name. (The better controllers, monitors, and even mice have specific drivers that go with them. If you see generic names with no drivers, that usually means they are not installed properly.)
Highlight the sound card and double click, and a new menu specific to that device opens.
On the general tab, there is a text box that tells you if the device is working properly (see arrow). Often, this is a very basic idea of "working." There is also a Microsoft troubleshooter that provides step-by-step instructions to help identify problems. For our purposes, we will concentrate on the driver, because software is often the culprit behind devices not working properly.
Go to the driver tab and check out when the driver was last updated. (See arrow.) If the driver date was around when the sound stopped working, choose the "rollback" driver option.
The driver can also become corrupted. Click update driver and allow internet search to find a better one. If that capability is not allowed under your set up, you can always go to Microsoft's update website and choose the custom download option. That way, you can choose hardware and software updates not always provided with critical updates.
If you know the name of your device, many manufacturers also provide free drivers. However, choosing it yourself can be a real issue if you are not sure of which driver you need, so always allow automatic searches.
Since this is an introductory tutorial, we have not covered half of what can be accomplished by using the device manager. The device type, location, resources, and a host of other information is provided here.
For diagnostic purposes, it is kind of one-stop shopping and it is really worth becoming familiar with as you become more acquainted with troubleshooting your computer. After you digest this chunk, move on to tutorials that will cover more about the device manager and the system folder.
Thanks for stopping by Fixya, see you again for more tips.
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