Understanding Device Manager

Discussion in 'hardware' started by philby, Apr 15, 2010.

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  1. philby

    philby Registered Member

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    Hello

    In brief, my question is: does a device not being listed under DM mean that it is physically not there or merely lacking its driver?

    I ask this because of the following case I came across this week, doing voluntary PC 'help' (you'll see below why I'm not paid :oops:).

    There were 2 identical netbooks (XP Home SP3) and the owner had dropped one of them. She couldn't connect wirelessly. I noticed there was no NIC listed under DM on her machine (even under 'Show Hidden') whereas there was an Intel Pro NIC listed under DM on the other.

    I, perhaps incorrectly, jumped to the conclusion that the NIC had become physically disconnected, ie that she had a hardware problem, as I would have expected the device to have been listed with an exclamation mark or an 'x' if the device had been present but only lacking its driver.

    (Doing a clean XP Pro install on my own notebook, the NIC is present in DM with an exclamation mark and "The drivers for this device are not installed" until I add the driver.)

    Hope this question isn't too convoluted...

    Basically, was her NIC driver missing or was her NIC disconnected inside the machine??

    I didn't think at the time to try adding the driver (duh!) so unless someone can be definitive on this, I'll never know...

    Thanks in advance

    philby
     
  2. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    So is this about a netbook? Or did you mean notebook?

    In either case, unless this is a very old "note"book, I doubt the NIC is a discreet device, but rather a microchip integrated in (soldered to) the motherboard. The port (connector) is then hardwired to the board as well. It would not be possible for the "device" to become physically disconnected. Perhaps when dropped, the RJ-45 connector was jammed in to the case and caused some physical damage to the port, shorting out the device. I don't know. But if this is a "netbook", they are intended to be, pretty much disposable - it breaks, you get a new one, just as with your phone. I would look in the BIOS Setup Menu, just to make sure it was not some how reset, and the device disabled in there.

    NICs must support standard network protocols, so that's easily programed into the OS. You don't normally need specific drivers for NICs - it can't hurt to try as that will force a reinstall of all the driver files and settings. Did you try Add new hardware in Control Panel?

    If still no good and still under warranty, and if physical damage is not apparent, send it in. You might get a new motherboard. If talked into buying an extended warranty, this might be one of those times it actually pays off. Most cover lost, stolen or damaged.

    Buying a USB network adapter may be the easiest solution.

    Yes. No. Maybe.

    A device not listed means Windows does not see the hardware. That may, or may not indicate it is physically installed/attached. Most hardware is PnP so Windows normally does see the hardware if physically installed properly. And it should see, in general, what type device it is (LAN card, drive, graphics, Memory Card reader, DVD Drive, etc). But it may or may not be able to use it until the full drivers are installed.

    If a common device, it should be able to use generic drivers to access basic features until specific drivers are loaded enabling the full feature set. Graphics cards are a good example. All graphics cards right out of the box should be able to communicate with Windows, the motherboard, and virtually any monitor - at basic VGA resolutions. This allows you to see the boot process - which happens way before, and while Windows loads. It would be hard to install Windows (or any OS) if basic communications between the human (via I/O with standard mouse, standard keyboard, and monitor at standard resolutions) were not possible. And since Windows installs from a DVD, it would hard to install if (regardless the maker) the motherboard (via chipset, BIOS, and CMOS) did not know how to access the DVD drive as a basic DVD "player" - and the drive, regardless the maker, would know how to respond.

    If the hardware is faulty, not functioning properly, or perhaps not getting necessary power, you might not see it.

    If a very uncommon or proprietary device (or the OS is old - Win7 recognizes 1000s more than XP, for example), you may not see it until you install the driver.

    If the new hardware goes through a controller, and the controller is not enabled, you might not see it. For example, if the SATA controller on the motherboard is not enabled in the BIOS Setup Menu, you might not see a new SATA device.

    If the interface is faulty, a bad USB port for example, you may not see it.
     
  3. philby

    philby Registered Member

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    She had the two netbooks and I was testing on my own notebook (as in laptop).

    ..........................................................................................................................................................................

    Thanks for taking the time to give such a very clear answer - I'll have a much better approach now next time I see this issue: as you say, trying Add New Hardware would have been a good move.

    She did indeed return the machine in the end and got a replacement. I was just annoyed with myself that I wasn't able to solve the problem...

    philby
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  4. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Nah, you shouldn't be. As computers get smaller and smaller, especially when there is not a strict form factor standard like ATX for PCs, they get more and more proprietary and most makers don't make service manuals available. It becomes a trick just to open the case without breaking something. And if nothing obvious is noted, serious troubleshooting takes time, expensive test equipment, and the training and skills to use it. Labor costs just finding the problem quickly add up.

    Also, netbooks are made with fewer and fewer parts. It is almost down to 3 now - screen, case, and motherboard. ;) So unless you opened the case and saw two bare, bent, and touching wires on the back of the Ethernet port, a new motherboard is likely the replacement part. Even at the factory repair center, if the repair is not something simple they can do quickly with little training or material expenses, they won't waste the man-hours doing it, and just toss the board into recycling, and slap in a new one.
     
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