10.1 Hardware Troubleshooting
Half the fun of having a computer comes from the gadgets you get to plug into it: digital cameras and MP3 players and printers. But these devices don't always get along with each other. Conflicts include intermittently working mice, printers that don't print, and extremely unhappy computer owners . This section explains how to peer deep into your hardware to see what's gone wrong, and how to fix problems once you find 'em.
Tip: One of the most persistent hardware problems is cable clutter. You can tame it with a cable organizer (also sometimes called a cable tunnel ) which gathers together all your cables and hides them inside a plastic housing. There are several types, including boxes you can tuck cables into, or slotted guides specifically designed to keep cables from intertwining. They usually cost about $10 at office supply stores and sites like http://www.cableorganizer.com.
10.1.1 Getting Help from the Device Manager
If you've got a stubborn hardware problem ‚ such as a mouse that's not responding, or a CD drive that doesn't seem to be reading CDs ‚ XP's Device Manager can help. The Device Manager (Figure 10-1) not only supplies information about devices installed on your system, it can also troubleshoot hardware problems itself. This hint tells you how to turn the Device Manager into your peripherals' own Mr. Fixit.
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Figure 10-1. The Device Manager is command central for troubleshooting and installing hardware. It displays every piece of hardware you've installed on your system, and gives you detailed information about each device.
Start the Device Manger by right-clicking My Computer, and then choosing Manage. From the new window that opens, select Device Manager, which displays a list of all the hardware on your system, organized into categories. (Different versions of XP display this information in slightly different ways.)
Tip: For quicker access to the Device Manager, at a command prompt or in the Run box, type devmgmt.msc . (To get to the Run box, choose Start Run. To get to the command prompt, choose Start Run, type command , and press Enter.) You can also select Control Panel Performance and Maintenance System Hardware Device Manager.
means the device's configuration has been altered using the Device Manager.
To see more details about a problem, double-click any device with a colored icon next to it. An error message and error code appear in the Device status section of the General tab. Unfortunately, these error messages tend to be vague and unhelpful (sample: "Your registry may be bad"). But Microsoft does offer more elaborate explanations , and even includes suggested remedies, on its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site ( http://msdn.microsoft.com ).
Finding the right page on the MSDN site actually takes a bit of work since ‚ surprise, surprise ‚ Microsoft has lots of pages with error messages on them. Here's what to do: In the search box on the upper-right corner of the MSDN home page, select the MSDN Library button. Then, using quotation marks, enter this search: "Device Manager error messages." You'll see a link to a page with each error code listed and from there you can usually find straightforward remedies, like when to reinstall a driver or when to unplug a device and plug it back in. Obviously, if your PC is really on the fritz, you'll need to access this page from someone else's computer.
Tip: The Device Manager's General tab also includes a Troubleshoot button that launches a wizard to try and help you solve problems related to the device.
10.1.2 Resolving Conflicts
Even if you've removed a piece of hardware from your computer ‚ an old printer or a network card, for example ‚ XP may think it still exists, which can cause clashes with hardware that really exists. You can get these phantom devices to show up in the Device Manager so you can either eliminate them or use the tips explained in the previous hint to quash any conflicts.
There are two types of phantom devices:
Hidden devices are attached to your computer, but XP can't see them. They're usually older model printers, scanners , and other peripherals that aren't Plug-and-Play (devices that XP automatically recognizes once you attach them).
Ghosted devices are devices that were once attached to your PC, but aren't anymore (like an MP3 player), or that have been moved from one slot to another inside your computer's case (like a network card).
Displaying hidden hardware is a simple matter. Run the Device Manager (by right-clicking My Computer and choosing Properties Hardware Device Manager) and choose View Display Hidden Devices; the devices appear immediately.
Displaying ghosted devices, on the other hand, takes a bit more work:
At the command prompt or Run box (choose Start Run and type in cmd ), type set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1 and press Enter .
It may seem like nothing has happened (the command prompt appears blank), but XP is actually working behind the scenes.
At the same command prompt or within the same Run box, type start devmgmt.msc and press Enter .
The Device Manager launches in a separate window. (Don't launch the Device Manager by any other method or this step won't work.)
Choose View Display Hidden Devices .
The Device Manager displays a list of devices attached to your PC. Ghosted devices appear gray; active devices appear in black, as shown in Figure 10-2.
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Figure 10-2. In the Device Manager, ghosted devices ‚ those are the ones that aren't currently on your PC ‚ appear gray. In this figure there's a ghosted floppy drive and a ghosted processor.
Once you've revealed all of your computer's hidden or ghosted devices, examine the Device Manager to see if any of them conflict with your other hardware (see Section 10.1.1). If you do find conflicts, double-click the problematic device, and from the General tab, click Troubleshoot. You can also uninstall the device by right-clicking it and choosing Uninstall.
Tip: Use the Device Manager to print a comprehensive system summary that includes everything there is to know about your hardware. Just run the Device Manager and choose Action Print.
Note: Before updating, rolling back, or uninstalling drivers, it's a smart idea to set a System Restore Point , which lets you return to your PC's configuration at the moment you set it ‚ just in case your driver work leads to serious trouble. (See Section 13.1 for information on how to use System Restore.)
To access the Device Manager, in the Run box or command prompt type devmgmt.msc , and then press Enter. Now right-click the device that's causing the dustup and choose Properties Driver. The screen shown in Figure 10-3 appears.
Here's what you can do from this dialog box:
10.1.3.1 Update a driver
Before you can update a driver, you first need to obtain it (usually from the manufacturer's Web site; look in the Support or Downloads section).
| UP TO SPEED |
Hardware Installation Problems
XP is usually good about automatically recognizing and installing hardware. But there are times when its stubborn side emerges and the system simply doesn't recognize that you've installed a new piece of hardware on your PC. If that happens, try these troubleshooting hints:
Check the manufacturer's Web site for new installation software or drivers . The software that came on your installation disk could be outdated , so you may need a newer version to properly install the device. (For information on how to install and uninstall drivers, see Section 10.1.3.)
Use the Device Manager to check for conflicts . Check whether any other devices are causing problems with the installation.
Check the connections, cables, and contacts. If you're installing an internal device that attaches to your computer via the slots inside its case, make sure the device is properly seated in the expansion slot. For all devices, check that the cables are connected properly, and all contacts are clean.
Check your ports. If you're installing a device to a particular port (the USB port, for example), use the Device Manager to check that the port is working properly (the Device Manager lists ports as well as hardware devices).
Sometimes, the driver includes a setup program that you need to run before you update the driver itself. You should also double-check that the driver you've downloaded is newer than the one you currently have. Here's how: using the Device Manager, look at the version number of your existing driver, and see if the README file of the new driver lists its version number. If no documentation is available, right-click the new driver file (it ends in a .sys or .dll extension) and choose Properties Version. The version number of the new driver should be listed there.
Once you're ready to update your driver, click the Update Driver button. The Hardware Update Wizard appears. Follow its directions to update the driver.
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Figure 10-3. This dialog box is command central for working with a device's drivers. Using this screen, you can uninstall, update, or return to a previous driver.
10.1.3.2 Roll back a driver
If you've recently updated a driver and suspect it may be butting heads with a device, try going back to the previous driver you were using. To roll back the driver, open the Device Manager, right-click the device that's acting cranky, and choose Properties Driver. Click Roll Back Driver and follow the instructions in the wizard that appears.
10.1.3.3 Uninstall a driver
When you remove a piece of hardware (an old printer, for instance), the drivers don't simply vanish . Even after the hardware has been sent out to pasture, these old drivers may continue to load, occupying valuable system resources and potentially causing conflicts.
To get rid of a driver, open the Device Manager, right-click the device you're troubleshooting, and choose Properties Driver. Click the Uninstall button and follow the directions in the wizard that appears.
Note: If you're uninstalling a driver for a Plug-and-Play device, the device must be connected to your computer before you can begin the process.
| ADD-IN ALERT |
Analyzing Your Hardware
If you yearn to understand your hardware at the deepest level and even anticipate potential problems, the Internet is teeming with software that just might satisfy you. Here are some of the top options:
Sandra (System Analyzer Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) . This program is the best system information tool and system benchmarker you can find. It has dozens of modules ‚ 50 in the trial version, 75 in the paid version ‚ that report on every aspect of your system you can imagine and many you can't. Sandra also benchmarks your system performance, so you can see how well it performs (a benchmark is a measurement of performance that becomes a point of reference for future measurements). ($29 shareware; http://www.3bsoftware.com.)
Fresh Diagnose. This diagnostics tool scans your system and gives a comprehensive report about its motherboard, peripherals, video system, bus, and more, telling you exactly what hardware you have installed, and how well that hardware works. It also benchmarks system performance for your CPU, hard disk, and CD and DVD drives . Best of all--it's free. Download it at http://www.freshdevices.com/freshdiag.html.
Belarc Advisor . Like Fresh Diagnose, this free program scans your system and creates a detailed report about your hardware and software, including what's installed, what versions are available, and so on. (Freeware; http://www.belarc.com.