When you’re troubleshooting a hardware problem in Windows, one of the best places to begin your expedition is with Device Manager. This is so for two reasons: First, Device Manager allows you to obtain all kinds of detailed information about every piece of hardware installed in a system. Second, Device Manager is designed to help you zero in on a problem device by tagging it with a special symbol. It then provides you with a special error code to help you track down the cause of the problem and ultimately, the solution.

While on a recent troubleshooting expedition, I discovered that while Device Manager’s default tree view provides a nice way to investigate the hardware in a system, it isn’t the best view to use for all troubleshooting operations. Device Manager’s other view settings offer unique advantages depending on the type of problem you’re troubleshooting. In this article, I’ll examine those view settings and explain how you can use them to effectively troubleshoot different types of hardware problems in Windows 10.

Launching Device Manager

There are a couple of ways to launch Device Manager:

  • Click the Start button and type Device. When Device Manager appears in the Results pane, just click it.
  • Alternatively, from within File Explorer, right-click on This PC and select the Manage command from the context menu. Once the Computer Management console appears, locate and click Device Manager.

Once Device Manager is up and running, pull down the View menu and you’ll see the available views.

SEE: 12 tips to get more out of Windows 10 (free PDF)

Using the different views

If you’re like most folks, when you run Device Manager during a troubleshooting expedition, chances are that you immediately begin looking for the source of the problem using the default view. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Device Manager has three other view settings that allow you to display the same hardware information in different arrangements–and that each arrangement offers unique advantages depending on the type of problem you’re troubleshooting.

The point here is that the while the default view provides you with a handy way to investigate the hardware in a system, it isn’t always the best way to approach your troubleshooting operation. Let’s take a closer look.

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Devices By Type

Device Manager’s default view is Devices By Type, which displays a tree of general device categories, such as Disk Drives and Network Adapters, as shown in Figure A. When you open a category branch, you’ll find the devices of that type. In many troubleshooting operations, or when you simply want to learn more about the hardware installed on a particular system, the default Devices By Type view is just right.

Figure A

Device Manager’s default view is Devices By Type and is great for most, but not all, troubleshooting expeditions.

For example, if you’re tracking down a problem related to a network card, using the Devices By Type view makes sense because you can quickly locate and drill down to the specific network card by opening the Network Adapters category.

Devices By Connection

Device Manager’s second view setting is Devices By Connection. It displays devices by how they are connected in the system. In this view, each device is listed under the hardware it’s connected to.

For instance, suppose you’re troubleshooting an issue that could be related to hardware connect to the PCI bBus. You could simplify your search by switching to Device Manager’s Devices By Connection view to track down the connections, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Using the Devices By Connection view will show you exactly how devices are connected to the system.

Resources By Type

Device Manager’s third view setting is Resources By Type, which displays the status of all allocated resources by the type of device using them. The four default resource types are Direct Memory Access (DMA) channels, Input/Output Ports (I/O), Interrupt Request (IRQ), and Memory.

This view can come in handy if you’re troubleshooting a problem you suspect is related to a specific resource, such as an IRQ. You can track down the IRQ setting that a particular device is using by accessing that device’s properties dialog box and selecting the Resources tab. But what if you need a broader view of the current IRQ usage?

For example, suppose you need to track down the PCI devices that are currently sharing IRQ19. Using the Resources By Type view setting is the way to go about this, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Using the Resources By Type view setting allows you to display a list of devices using a specific resource.

Resources By Connection

Device Manager’s fourth view setting is Resources By Connection. It displays the status of all allocated resources by connection type. This view not only allows you to track down what devices are using a specific resource, but also to see how they’re connected.

Let’s say you received an error message that listed a certain memory address. You could use the Resources By Connection view setting to track down exactly what device is using memory in that range, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The Resources By Connection view setting is useful when tracking down an error messages containing memory addresses.

Show Hidden Devices

By default, Device Manager hides some types of devices that aren’t considered important when it comes to configuring or troubleshooting hardware problems. However, there may be situations where you’ll need this information, so you will enable the Show Hidden Devices setting.

To begin with, Device Manager hides any currently attached non-Plug and Play drivers, printers, and other nonessential classes of devices. It also hides any devices that were previously attached but are not currently connected to the computer. These are also known as non-present devices.

To view these types of devices, just pull down the View menu and select Show Hidden Devices. When you do, you’ll see those devices displayed using light gray icons, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Use the Show Hidden Devices option to see devices that are connected but not present.

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What’s your take?

Have you used Device Manager’s different views to assist in a troubleshooting expedition? If so, how did it help you? Share your thoughts and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.