How-To Geek

Geek School: Learning Windows 7 – Configuring Devices

In this edition of Geek School we are going to cover the configuration of hardware in Windows 7. Come join us.

Be sure to check out the other articles in the series (so far)

The Hardware and Application Configuration objective accounts for 14 percent of the exam. While there is not a lot of theory to learn in these sections, they are the sections that often come up in the simulation questions. For this reason we decided to split up hardware configuration from application configuration and show you exactly what you will need to know in the classic How-To Geek style.

Device Manager

Device Manager allows you to graphically view the hardware that is connected to your computer. It also gives you the facility to:

  • Manage the drivers that your hardware is using.
  • Show hidden devices.
  • Troubleshoot broken drivers.

There are a few ways of getting to Device Manager, and the exam requires you to know them all.

Through the Windows Interface

Click on the Start Orb and open Control Panel.


Then navigate into the Hardware and Sound category.


Here you will see a Device Manager hyperlink.


Using Computer Management

A more common method is to use the Computer Management Console which can be opened by clicking on the Start Orb, then right clicking on Computer and selecting Manage from the context menu.


When the console opens you will have to select Device Manager in the left hand panel.


Using the Command Line to Launch Computer Management

You can also launch Computer Management from a command prompt, run box or from the Start Menu’s search bar by typing the following:

mmc compmgmt.msc


Maintaining and Troubleshooting Drivers

Often, when you have a driver issue it results in a serious problem, most commonly a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death). In order to prevent this, you will want to keep your drivers updated.

Note: I don’t agree with this rule and live by the “if its not broken, don’t fix it” rule, and The Geek agrees with me. However, as far as the exam goes, you will have to tell them what they want to hear.

Updating Device Drivers

The first thing you want to do is see exactly which driver the device is using. You can do that by right clicking on it and viewing its properties.


Then switch over to the driver tab and click on the driver details button.


Here you will be able to see exactly which files the driver is using. It is recommended that you keep this in mind should you have to dig through any kernel dumps after the update.


Once you have made a note of that you can go ahead and update the driver by click on the Update Driver button.


Disabling Drivers

If your PC does ever crash, or keeps crashing continually, the first thing you want to do is remove any newly installed hardware. On one hand this is a simple solution, but what if you recently built your first computer or installed more than one new component? In cases like this it is better to disable one component at a time through device manager. To do so right click on a device and choose disable from the context menu.


The device’s icon will be overlaid with a downwards pointing arrow, which signifies it has been disabled.


Identifying Resource Conflicts

The final exam objective regarding hardware requires you to identify if a driver is having resource conflicts. To do so again head into the devices properties.


Then switch over to the resources tab.


Near the bottom of the Window you will see the conflicting device list box. Fortunately for us, in recent Windows versions this is very rare.



You only have one homework item for today:

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Geek School article, where we cover how to manage your hard drives.

If you have any questions you can tweet me @taybgibb, or just leave a comment.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 03/6/13

Comments (10)

  1. indianacarnie

    Loving this series, thank you!

  2. Sujan

    May I also request you to start Powershell lessons side by side. I’m dieing to learn it. For me HTG is the best place to learn all the I.T related tips and tips and now I can’t wait to learn Powershell.

  3. spiderlucci

    Thanks so much once again. HTG ROCKS!!! :)

  4. Ryan

    One thing to note: you don’t have to type “mmc” when in the Run line. You can just type in the .msc name itself. This works for all the msc plugins that I’ve come across.

  5. Taylor Gibb

    @Ryan yeah, you’re right.. unfortunately old habits die hard :P

  6. Ian

    I am always amazed at how in every article I read, even from Microsoft themselves, fail to mention the easiest way to find programs or files. When you hit the orb a curser is flashing. Start typing damn-it! you’ll get as far as dev….before the device manager appears.

  7. spiderlucci

    Taylor is there any devices that we should disaple in device manager?

  8. spiderlucci

    I mean “shouldn’t disable”

  9. Taylor Gibb

    @spiderlucci yeah you dont really want to disable any of them :) unless you have to for troubleshooting purposes of course.

  10. mike

    I would just say that I have had a large amount of trouble trying to work with computers from places like Dell. I have had to figure out how to circumvent the disk setup they put on the system, which prevents a user from adding another partition to add say Linux.

    What I did was image the standing system, then customize it and again image the system.

    Then I did all the shuffling and changing to get the system to allow me to add another partion to install linux on, which was a real pain. My goal over and above adding linux was to save the recovery partition. Why you might ask? It is infinitely easier to install a bloatware recovery image in a pinch to get up and running.

    When I am in a hurry I add a portable drive and install linux to it and using the BIOS to boot the the portable disk. I would like to see an article that steps people through changing the drives so you can add another partition and thus add Linux. There must be an easier way.

    Also I have been seeing articles on a new technology that somehow signs and locks a drive so you can’t modify it. So we need to be looking at how we can side step these “helpful” additions.

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