Drivers for unknown devices in Windows Device Manager

If you are a computer techie like me, you must at some point come across the dreaded yellow exclamation mark icon in Windows XP device manager, usually indicating that there is a device that isn't working properly. It can be worst if it says "UNKNOWN DEVICE". This article details some steps on how to hunt this device down.

If your machine is not a "clone" you go to your vendor's (IBM, DELL, HP etc) support website, punch in the "service tag" or "serial number" for the machine and look for a suitable driver, but with so many devices and software listed, its not always apparent.

You can try the following steps and see if you are able to get to know what the device is, and resolve the problem.

1. Windows Update - Easiet of all, just visit the Windows update site http://www.windowsupdate.com , do a scan and see if there is an update to driver showing under the "Hardware" section, if you are using old Windows95, 98 or ME driverit cn cause the problem, upgrading can often solve the problem.

2. Check for faulty hardware - Sometimes going through the installed hardware (such as video card, modem etc) and uninstalling it can give you an idea, sometimes a resource conflict in windows can be the culprit ot the hardware itself could be bad

3. Unrecognized USB or IEEE device - Usually USB and IEEE devices are just plug and play because they conform to Windows drivers, however seldom they are the problem, if you look into the properties of the "unknown device" in device manager and it shows an error code of 1 or 10, it usually points to an unrecognized IEEE or USB device.

4. Malfunctioning software - Certain software (such as some system tray utilites) launches automatically upon startup or log on, and this can be a problem, to check boot into safe mode and check the device manager, see if the problem is still there. If not, check and do a step-by-step elimination of your startup programs

5. Use the System information tool to get more data - Click on start -> run -> type msinfo32 and click ok. Click on Components and then problamatic devices, in here there are two important pieces of information, the "PNP Device ID" and the "Error Code"  You can then google these terms and see if they lead you to a device.

6. Check the Error codes: Once you have obtained the error code in the previous step, check Microsoft's website for the error code and for a possible resolution or a bug fix, details for error code are available at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/310123/