Device Manager - What It Is and How to Use It

What is Device Manager & What is it Used For?

Screenshot of Device Manager in Windows 10
Device Manager (Windows 10).

Device Manager is an extension of the Microsoft Management Console that provides a central and organized view of all the Microsoft Windows recognized hardware installed in a computer.

Device Manager is used to manage the hardware devices installed in a computer like hard disk drives, keyboards, sound cards, USB devices, and more.

Device Manager can be used for changing hardware configuration options, managing drivers, disabling and enabling hardware, identifying conflicts between hardware devices, and much more.

Think of Device Manager as the master list of hardware that Windows understands. All the hardware on your computer can be configured from this centralized utility.

How To Access Device Manager

Device Manager can be accessed several different ways, most commonly from the Control Panel, the Command Prompt, or Computer Management.

See How To Open Device Manager in Windows for all the details on all of those methods, in all versions of Windows.

Device Manager can also be opened through the command-line or Run dialog box with a special command. See How To Access Device Manager From the Command Prompt for those instructions.

Note: Just to be clear, Device Manager is included in Windows - there's no need to download and install anything extra. There are a number of downloadable programs called Device Manager that do this or that, but they are not the Device Manager in Windows that we're talking about here.

How To Use Device Manager

Each device listing in Device Manager contains detailed driver, system resource, and other configuration information and settings. When you change a setting for a piece of hardware, it changes the way Windows works with that hardware.

Here are some tutorials on my site on some of the common things that you can do in Device Manager:

Device Manager Availability

Device Manager is available in nearly every Microsoft Windows version including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 98, Windows 95, and more.

Note: Even though Device Manager is available in almost every Windows operating system version, some small differences do exist from one Windows version to the next.

More Information on Device Manager

Different things happen in Device Manager to indicate an error or the state of a device that isn't "normal." In other words, if a device isn't in complete working order, you can tell by looking closely at the list of devices.

It's good to know what to look for in Device Manager because it's where you go to troubleshoot a device that isn't working properly. Just like you see in the links above, you can go to Device Manager to update a driver, disable a device, etc.

Something you may see in Device Manager is a yellow exclamation point. This is given to a device when Windows finds a problem with it.

The issue may be extreme or as simple as a device driver problem.

If a device is disabled, whether by your own doing or because of a deeper problem, you'll see a black arrow by the device in Device Manager. Older versions of Windows (XP and prior) give a red x for the same reason.

To further convey what the problem is, Device Manager gives error codes when a device is having a system resource conflict, driver problem, or other hardware issue. These are simply called Device Manager error codes, or hardware error codes. You can find a list of the codes and explanations for what they mean, in this list of Device Manager error codes.