Most people using Windows are already familiar with device drivers, which are small software programs that enable Windows to communicate with different hardware devices. Windows XP, Vista, Window 7 and 8 actually support quite a lot of hardware by default, but some hardware devices will need additional device drivers.
Missing Device Drivers
So what happens if these additional device drivers are missing? Well in most cases that will result in unknown device errors or unknown usb device errors. Windows will show a device not recognized error and list the unknown device in the “Other devices” category in the Device Manager. An unknown usb device error happens in case of a USB device, which is actually one of the most common unrecognized type of devices.
Below is an example of unknown devices in Windows XP.
Since Vista (and now also Windows 7 and 8) supports even more devices than Windows XP, you should expect unknown device errors to happen a lot less in Vista. But they do happen. Here is an example of the Device Manager in Vista with an unknown device.
Complicating the unknown device error is the fact that different device drivers are required for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. Drivers for 64-bit versions of Windows have been very hard to find in the past, but this has improved with the increased use of Vista and Windows 7 (and now also with Windows 8), which all come in 64-bit versions. They are actually the most common versions these days, since the amount of RAM in computers has been increasing.
Unknown device errors can happen for all types of devices. As mentioned, the most common unknown device is a unknown USB device, and less common is the PCI unknown device. USB and PCI are both bus types that allow for hardware to communicate with the computer. Examples of unknown USB devices are USB webcams, mobile phones, and external USB hard drives. PCI unknown devices are more likely to be video cards, audio cards and network cards.
Solving an Unknown Device Problem
The most common cause for the unknown device error is a missing driver. The way to solve it is to find the right driver and (re)install the device driver for the hardware device. If you right-click the unknown device in the Device Manager you can select the driver update option. This will search for a device driver for your hardware.
For unknown USB devices, always try unplugging the device first and then re-plugging it after waiting a few seconds. Sometimes the device recognition fails without reason and simply re-plugging the USB device helps.
It is also useful to check the error code. You can find the error code by right-clicking the unknown device in the Device Manager, and selecting Properties in the popup menu. This will show you the device status, including the error code. Unknown devices often have error code 1, as this represents the status that the device is not configured correctly.
Other common error codes are:
- code 10, this device cannot start.
- code 28, the drivers for this device are not installed.
- code 31, the device is not working properly because because Windows cannot load the drivers required for this device.
- code 37, Windows cannot initialize the device driver for this hardware.
- code 39, Windows cannot load the device driver for this hardware. The driver may be corrupted or missing.
There are many more possible error codes, but not all result in an unknown device. Always try to uninstall the device and restart the computer as this will result in the driver being reinstalled.
If Windows does not have a driver for the unknown device, you will need to find and download a driver for the unknown device. In case you know the brand and model of the device, you can try to find the driver on the manufacturer’s website.
If you cannot find a driver for the unknown device or unknown USB device, you can try and use a driver finder program. This type of program will automatically detect and identify all your hardware devices, including unknown devices, and provide the latest drivers available for it. In a way, it acts as an ‘unknown device’ finder or locator.
Still could not find the driver for your unknown device? Leave a comment and I’ll see if we can help you out!
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