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Hardware Troubleshooting: Identify Your Hardware and Drivers Friday, June 19, 2009 11:17 PM

Things are not working quite like they should, are they? If not, you wouldn't be reading this! There are many things that could cause hardware to malfunction; being anything from physical issues, thermodynamics, or even software conflicts.

Before you do anything to attempt to fix the problems, you should begin by indentifying your hardware. Don’t worry, you won't be taking apart your computer entirely! Your computer knows what pieces of hardware it is using, so you are only going to have to look at a list. Are you ready? The first thing to do would be to open the start menu and right click on "my computer" (in XP) or just "computer" (in Vista ). Select the properties tab from the menu. Please note, in my example I am using Vista, if there are any changes in XP please notify m e. I can make changes as necessary!

This one

Now that the properties menu is open you can see some rather basic information about your computer. None of this is really of importance to the issue at hand, however feel free to read over what your computer is capable of. It's always good to know! *****For Vista Users****** This is were Vista and XP make getting to the same place different. On the left hand side you should see a menu with links. C lick on "Device Manager" Yes, it will ask you if you REALLY want to go to the link you just clicked on‌ As if you changed your mind...

Right There

*****For XP Users***** You are lucky that my netbook uses XP! Your set of instructions will look a little different than Vista's. Besides looking a little more like they [rightfully] came from the 90's your set of menus will be clearly labeled by exactly what you are looking for, in this case hardware.

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The Hardware Tab I hope these arrows are helping...

Go ahead and click on the hardware tab now. The first thing on the list will be the device manager.

*****Back to Both****** Alright, from here on out it’s pretty much the same for both systems (XP and Vista) The Device manager is a really useful piece of software that lets you view everything that's installed on your computer. There is a lot of stuff here, so feel free to look around if you already don't know what kind of hardware you are using. When you are through being curious, direct your attention to the netw ork adapters menu. Make sure it is open fully, so that you can see all of the adapters that are installed.

My laptop is using four networking devices, most likely one or two more than yours. There are three major categories of devic es that you should look for. Bluetooth

You should know what this is! Bluetooth is a short-range wireless networking protocol that came seemingly out of nowhere. It predominately stayed within the cellphone market before becoming a data transfer method across platforms. Believe it or not, it is one of the major driving forces behind modern robotics! Because more and more network devices are now supporting it, it is quite possible to drive a robot with your cell phone!

Ethernet NIC

You should have heard this word before. "Ethernet" refers to a high speed networking protocol using 4 twisted pairs of wires and RJ45 jacks and plugs (These look like a large phone jack). This is used within businesses, and is capable of working at 100 times the speed of your wireless internet. Yeah, it's good‌ By the way, NIC stands for Network Interface Card. It is a device that is used to get pulses of electricity from machine to machine. Sometimes it does this over a wire, while other times it transmits it through the air as a

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machine to machine. Sometimes it does this over a wire, while other times it transmits it through the air as a radio signal. Wireless Card

802.11 is the official IEEE standard for wireless internet. There are many sub-categories of course, and I will force you to read about them in due time! >:D 802.11 A

This was the first level of wireless internet ever to exist! It wasn't very good, so it never really caught on. It could only go up to speeds of 2 MBPS. Your router most likely goes about 25 times that fast.

802.11 B

The next level up, this was a MAJOR improvement over 802.11 A, and is still used today. It can handle speeds of 11MBPS, which isn't bad if you are only transferring pieces of data at a time. I have one of these in my house for only a few computers to connect to each other.

802.11 G

This is the current standard for computers today! Most likely your computer uses this type of card. It gets up to speeds of 54MBPS, and can connect to 802.11 B Systems by default.

802.11 N

Ahh! The Future! This is currently in what would be called a "draft" stage, however everyone seems to be adopting it. The 802.11 N Wireless Protocol is capable of achieving speeds of over 100 MBPS, plenty enough for streaming several channels of video over your home network. Chances are, if your computer is more than a few years old, or not one of the expensive models, you will not currently have this type of card. Watch out for it in the future though! I would not advise you to buy a new computer unless it uses this protocol...

RIGHT! We were doing something important!?! Fixing your hardware of course! Find the adapter for the network device you are having issues with. Most likely it's your wireless card, as not many homes are wired with Ethernet (In my house only my room and the study have it ^___^ ). Right click on the entry and click "properties".

This should bring up a rather interesting menu, with a few tabs that you will need to look through. I will warn you though, from here on out the changes that you make will be unique to the card you are using. Your screen may not look exactly like mine, however I trust that you are intelligent enough to understand what is going on. The first thing you are going to need to do is to see what driver you have to control the device. This can be accessed by clicking on the "driver" tab in the upper part of the menu.

This is an important piece of software. A driver tells the device not only how to operate, but how to work so that other devices on the the system can understand what it is doing. Quite often this little piece of software can go "bad" and need to be replaced. Sometimes

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the system can understand what it is doing. Quite often this little piece of software can go "bad" and need to be replaced. Sometimes Vista or XP can do this for you by going online and downloading the driver; however as you are removing the driver that allow s you computer to connect to the internet, logically this will not work. I will also point out that quite often Vista saves a copy of the drivers that your system shipped with so that they can be restored if they are not present when you boot up your computer. We do not want to run the risk of this being the case, so we will save a copy of the files just to be safe.

To find out the names of the drivers, as well as their locations, go ahead and click on "Driver Details" now. You should get a short list of files and their locations on the drive. Before we go any further, enter a flash drive or other type of removable media and get a copy of these drivers. They are stored in the system32 folder, which I have provided a link to for convenience. c:\Windows\System32

Only once you have backed up all of these files may you continue.

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Hardware Troubleshooting: Finding New Drivers Saturday, June 20, 2009 12:14 AM

Now what? You know the piece of software that is controlling the device you have an issue with, however you don't know what to do with it. The first logical step is to find a new Driver to put into it's place. The methods of obtaining a new Driver vary from card to card, manufacturer to manufacturer. Type in the model of your card into Google and search for a new driver. The difficulty of finding a good piece of software varies depending on the system you purchased. For example, Dell is notorious for being cheap and difficult. Chances are you will need to do some digging if you are using a Dell. HP and Sony on the other hand make things a breeze to deal with. If you have a computer from them, you should have no issue whatsoever finding what you need. If you are still having some issues here are a few sites that you can go to if you are unable to find anything: Once you have found a new driver be sure it works for he system that you are using. For example, some drivers are designed to work with XP, while others are for Vista. By default, if your system was shipped with Vista, then chances are that all drivers will work for hardware installed on the system. A good thing to check as well when you are downloading is the version of the driver. You can find the version of the current one in the tabbed menu

Make sure the driver you download is up to date, as you don't want old things running your system. Alternatively, you can see if Windows can fix the problem for you...

Using the update driver button, you can tell Windows to search the internet for a new driver, and install it instead. This is a good try, however 9 times out of 10 you are using the latest release.

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Hardware Troubleshooting: Removing Old Drivers Saturday, June 20, 2009 12:30 AM

Now that you have found a suitable replacement, you are going to see if you even need to use it! You are going to uninstall the device from your system, and remove the driver that is controlling it. To do this go to the main menu of the device, and press uninstall

************************************************************************************* NOTE:YOU WILL LOOSE INTERNET CONNECTION! Without a wireless card, chances are you will have no way to connect to the internet, and no way to access this guide unless you have it downloaded to your computer. If you can't download, or need help feel free to email me at Emails are always welcome! ************************************************************************************* You will get a popup menu asking if you really want to uninstall this device. After making sure your drivers are backed up, and your new drivers are with them, press ok; making sure that the checkbox next to the deletion of drivers is checked off.

It's all gone! Are you happy? If you look back at the list, notice that it is missing!

To start with, we need to put it back on the list. To do so click on the little button that says "scan for new hardware"

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That one!

If your computer is smart, it will give you a message telling you that it was able to find a new piece of hardware, identify what it was, and would like to install a driver for it!

Go ahead and tell it yes. It just may surpirse you with fixing the problem on it' s own, but don’t plan on it… Vista will give you a message like the following

As it turns out, Vista was pretty smart about my system, and was able to look up my hardware in a large library of drivers. This however, may be the same file we just deleted…

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The only way to check is to do some more work and see if the problem persists. If you are still having issues, uninstall the device and remove the drivers AGAIN, but this time when you reinstall it, specify were you want to get the drivers from.

Be sure to specify the ones you just downloaded. Restart your system, and hope that your issues have been fixed. There really isn't much to installing and removing drivers, however it is CRUTIAL that you only use the driver for the hardware that it was designed for. Using a wrong driver can cause your computer to EXPLODE. I am NOT KIDDING. You can tell the hardware to do something wrong, causing it to badly malfunction. This quite possibly can start fires, or at the least break your hardware. I wouldn't worry too much about it though, and with any luck your system is good to go! Ping your router a few more times to see if you got any better connection, and then continue to operate as you normally would. If you are still having heat issues, feel free to contact me! I can easily write a guide on how to deal with that as well

Oh, the page following this one is of little importance unless you ran into issues. It explains what to do in an emergency situation were your wireless does not work anymore. Good Luck!

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Hardware Troubleshooting: Emergency Connections Saturday, June 20, 2009 12:45 AM

Lets hope you never have to use this, but in the chance that for some reason you are unable to get your wireless internet back I though I should remind you of one thing: Wired Internet. If for some reason you are unable to connect to your router wirelessly, whether because the drivers did not install correctly, or because you had some sort of other issue, you will most likely need a way to get online and ask for help! Most people forget that you can just plug into the back of your wireless router. You should have a port on the back looking somewhat like what is in the following photo:

The jacks that look like large phone jacks, if you recall, use the RJ-45 standard for their size (the phone line uses RJ-11)

Somewhere laying around your house I am sure you have a cable that looks somewhat like the one above. Plug one end of this into your computer, and the other into one of the four jacks on the back of the router. Be careful though, there may be a jack that is separated from the rest, or labeled WAN. Do not plug into this one, as it is designed to receive an internet connection. Again, I hope you never need to do this. It is never a good thing to completely be missing internet connection, however if you do it this way Windows will give you the files you need automatically Alternatively, it is also easy to download the drivers on another computer, and then move them over with a flash drive or other sort of removable device. Just keep that in mind if you are not able to get to your router. In some buildings they can be in fairly inconvenient places...

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Hardware Troubleshooting: Drivers  

A short guide on how to locate, remove, and replace drivers for system devices. Complete with photos and in depth commentary.

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