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Unplugged: Plug and Play

Friday, January 11th, 2008 by | Filed Under: Multimedia, System Tune-Up Help

Unplugged: Plug and Play

Plug and play: I’m sure most of you have heard that term before, right? But, for those of you who don’t know exactly what it means, plug and play is a feature that allows a user to add a device to their computer, without having to reconfigure anything or install any manual drivers. A couple examples of plug and play devices are flash drives and MP3 players.

Okay, let’s say someone gave you a new MP3 player for Christmas and the box says its “plug and play!” So, you expect to plug it into the back of your computer and start transferring songs right away. Now, let’s say your computer does not recognize it. What do you do then? Well, let’s defer throwing it against the wall for now and try some basic troubleshooting steps! The three most common ways to troubleshoot for devices like this are:

  • Unplug the device and plug it back in.

  • Restart your computer (with and without the device).

  • See if an older device works. (For example, if you’re trying to plug in a new MP3 player, try an old MP3 player. If you’re using a new flash drive, try an old flash drive and so on).

I don’t know about you, but these steps seem fairly easy to me. Of course, you can always call the technical support hotline, but who wants to do that if you can fix it yourself?! So, let’s get started. If an old plug and play device still works, it’s likely that your computer has mistaken the new device for the old one (a more formal term is device driver conflict).

To fix that, you need to uninstall the old device driver and any other drivers that could possibly cause conflict with your new MP3 player. For that, you need your device manager. Now, configuring the device manager requires Administrator rights, so if you don’t have those enabled, this will not work. When you’re ready, continue on!

1.) Click on the Start menu and choose Run.

2.) Type in “cmd” (without the quotes) and click OK. A new window will then show up, which is the good ol’ DOS command prompt window. It looks like this:

3.) Next, type in “set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1” (without the quotes) and press the Enter key on your keyboard.

Note: Nothing will really happen, but you will see the command prompt again. That’s okay!

4.) Now, type in “devmgmt.msc” (without the quotes) and press the Enter key. Nothing will happen in the command prompt window, but the device manager window will appear. Click the X button to close the command prompt window.

5.) Next, click on View and choose Show Hidden Devices. This will display previously installed devices that are not connected to your computer, otherwise known as “ghost” devices.

Now, I want you to pause, smile and congratulate yourself, because we are about to get a little more serious!

Caution: Be careful with this next section. You should note that non-loaded devices, drivers and services are “grayed” out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should delete all of them. Only remove the items you know you don’t need. Also, be careful that you don’t change too many devices or you might need to reactivate your Windows installation. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, please find some help!

When you’re ready, click on the plus (+) signs to expand the device list. Staying with our example, we can safely uninstall the old MP3 device driver and the other ghost USB devices since we don’t need them.

We can also safely uninstall the ghost unknown devices listed under the Universal Serial Bus Controllers section, because they are not connected and their drivers have not been loaded properly.

When you’re done, just click on the X button to close the device manager. Then restart your computer and voila! Your computer should now recognize your new MP3 device. In the event that it still doesn’t, there are many other factors to consider, which I may just cover in future articles. Until then, you can refer to your user manual for some additional help. I hope this tip has helped a lot of you get your new devices up and running. Have fun!

~ Cory Buford

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