What Is Device Manager?

Find all your hardware devices in one place

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.

Managing hardware devices installed in a computer, like hard disk drives, keyboards, sound cards, USB devices, and more, can be done through Device Manager.

You can use it to change hardware configuration options, manage drivers, disable and enable hardware, identify conflicts between hardware devices, and much more.

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

Windows 11 Device Manager

Device Manager Availability

Device Manager is available in nearly every Windows version including Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 98, Windows 95, and more.

Some small differences do exist from one Windows version to the next.

How to Access Device Manager

Device Manager can be accessed in several ways in all versions of Windows, most commonly from the Control Panel, the Command Prompt, or Computer Management. However, a few of the newer operating systems support some unique ways for opening it.

Windows 11 Power User Menu with Device Manager option

You can also open it through the command-line or Run dialog box with a special command.

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 utility in Windows that we're talking about here.

How to Use Device Manager

Like what's shown in the example image above, Device Manager lists devices in separate categories so that it's easier to find what you're looking for. You can expand each section to see which devices are listed inside. Once you find the right hardware device, double-click it to see more information like its current status, driver details, or in some cases its power management options.

Some of these categories include Audio inputs and outputs, Disk drives, Display adapters, DVD/CD-ROM drives, Printers, Sound, video and game controllers, and Universal Serial Bus controllers.

If you were having troubles with your network card, you might open the Network adapters area and see if there are any unusual icons or colors associated with the device in question. You can double-click it if you want more information about it or to perform one of the tasks listed below.

Code 22 error in Device Manager
A Disabled Device in Device Manager (Windows 10).

Each device listing contains a 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.

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 because it's where you go to troubleshoot a device that isn't working properly. You can go to Device Manager to update a driver, disable a device, etc.

Something you may see 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 another hardware issue. These are simply called Device Manager error codes or hardware error codes.

  • How do I run Device Manager from Command Prompt?

    Type cmd in the Windows search bar to open the Command Prompt, then enter devmgmt.msc.

  • How do I find my webcam in Device Manager?

    Look for your camera under Cameras or Sound, video, and game controllers. If you still can't find the webcam, go to Action > Scan for hardware changes and wait for Device Manager to scan and reinstall updated drivers. Restart your computer and look for your camera again.

  • How do I distinguish USB ports in Device Manager?

    Go to View > Devices by Connection to see what's connected to each USB port. If you're still uncertain, right-click a USB root hub and go to Properties > General to see what's connected to it.

Was this page helpful?