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

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

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 enabling a device vary depending on which Windows operating system you're using; the small differences are called out below.

See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure which of those several versions of Windows is installed on your computer. 

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

How to Enable a Device in Windows

  1. There are several ways of opening the Windows Device Manager but it's usually quickest through the Power User Menu in newer versions of Windows, or Control Panel in older versions.

  2. Within Device Manager, locate the hardware device you want to enable. Specific hardware devices are listed under the major hardware categories.

    Navigate through the categories of hardware devices 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
  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 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.