How Do I Enable a Device in Device Manager in Windows?

Enable a disabled device in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP

What to Know

  • Open Device Manager and expand the hardware category the device is listed in.
  • Then, right-click the device you want to enable, and select Properties.
  • From the Driver tab, select Enable Device or Enable, followed by OK.

Each hardware device listed in Device Manager must be enabled before Windows can use it. Once enabled, Windows can assign system resources to the device.

By default, Windows enables all hardware that it recognizes. A device that isn't enabled will be marked by a black arrow in Device Manager, or a red x in Windows XP.  Disabled devices also generate a Code 22 error in Device Manager.

You can enable a device from the device's Properties in Device Manager. However, the detailed steps involved in doing this vary depending on which Windows OS you're using; the small differences are called out below.

How to Enable a Device in Windows

These steps work in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

  1. Open Device Manager.

    There are several ways to do this, but the quickest is usually through the Power User Menu in newer versions of Windows (WIN+X keyboard shortcut), or Control Panel in older versions.

    If you've opened Device Manager from the Command Prompt and you need to remain using the command line, you can enable a device there using DevCon. Microsoft explains where to download DevCon.

  2. Within Device Manager, locate the hardware device you want to enable. Specific devices are listed under the major hardware categories, such as Display adapters, Keyboards, etc.

    Navigate through the categories by choosing the > icon, or [+] if you're using Windows Vista or Windows XP.

  3. After finding the hardware you're looking for, right-click the device's name or icon and select Properties.

    Device Manager context menu options

    Make sure to right-click the device, not the device's category. You'll know during the next step if you've selected the wrong one (you won't see the correct tab).

  4. Choose the Driver tab.

    If you don't see this tab, select Enable Device from the General tab, follow the on-screen instructions, and then choose the Close button. You're done!

    Windows XP Users Only: Stay in the General tab and choose the Device usage: drop-down box at the very bottom. Change it to Use this device (enable) and then skip down to Step 6.

  5. Select Enable Device or Enable, depending on your version of Windows.

    Enable Device button in Device Manager

    You'll know the device is enabled if the button immediately changes to read Disable Device or Disable.

  6. Choose OK. This device should now be enabled, and you should be returned to the main Device Manager window and the black arrow should be gone.

If a yellow exclamation point appears in Device Manager after the black arrow or red x disappears, you should troubleshoot that issue separately. The yellow exclamation point is a different kind of warning concerning your hardware's configuration.

You can verify that the hardware should be working properly by checking the device status in Device Manager. See How to Disable a Device in Device Manager if you need to do that.

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