A hardware device is any physical device that you plug into and is controlled by your computer. This device can be, for example, a network or modem card that you install inside your computer. It can be a printer or a scanner that you plug into the outside of the computer. When you plug or insert a hardware device into the appropriate port or expansion slot, Windows attempts to recognize the device and configure it for you using plug-and-play technology. Plug-and-play automatically tells the device drivers (software that operates the hardware and comes with Windows XP) where to find the hardware device. After a hardware device is installed, you change settings and options to customize the way the device works. Plug-and-play technology will recognize most any kind of hardware device, such as a mouse, modem, keyboard, game controller, laptop battery, or secondary monitor to name a few.
All hardware devices can be managed or removed from the Control Panel. You can even specify which devices to start when you start your computer by creating a hardware profile . Most hardware devices are managed under the Device Manager, but some have their own program for managing them (for example, a Game Controller located in the Control Panel).