Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Plug-and-Play Doesn’t Work, Pt 1*

Windows 95 introduced a method for automatically detecting and installing (configuring) newly attached devices, which was called “Plug and Play” (PnP). The idea was that you could insert a relatively new super-enhancer, like a graphics card, or sound card, (there was a big deal called “multimedia” happening then, if you recall– “The new Pentium II, with MMX!”) into a slot inside your machine and Windows would automatically make it work.

This worked so well that folks quickly re-dubbed it “Plug and Pray”.
(For the sake of fairness, and for those of you with a historical sense, it is my belief that the responsibility for the bad name PnP acquired lies at the feet of the card makers, particularly Creative Labs Sound Blaster cards, as much as it did Microsoft.)

Before Plug and Play came along, adding a new device to your PC was a huge ordeal. There were tiny switches (called “dips”) and little wire bridges (“jumpers”) and IRQs, and such, that had to be fiddled with in an agonizing series of trial-and-error attempts that would try the patience of the most stalwart soul.

Fortunately for all of us, Windows and device manufacturers have been (for the most part) working hard to make the concept behind PnP a reality. Each successive iteration of Windows has become better and better at easy, automatic, device installation. By the time of Windows XP, it was a rare occasion when Plug and Play required additional efforts on our part before our new scanner/webcam/printer/graphics card/etc. would function as it should.

With Vista we have a whole new set of issues. PnP works almost exactly as it should, effortlessly. As long as we’re adding a brand-new, Vista compatible device, all you have to do is plug it in and power it on. The problem we have in Vista is with our old devices — devices manufactured before Vista was a gleam in Microsoft’s eye — like that old, reliable Deskjet 970Cse.

Tip of the day: Get those recalcitrant devices working, Pt.1.
The first step in installing a new device is to follow the instructions that come with it, and (usually) inserting the Installation CD, and letting Plug and Play ‘do its thing’.
Frequently this is all you need to do (although you may be asked to reboot).

The first troubleshooting step, should this fail, or should Vista reject the device, is to go online and visit the device manufacturer’s website. There you should look in their “Support” section for “Drivers” and/or “download drivers”. Find the most recent release for your version of Windows (Vista users may have to do a Web Search) and take careful note of whether it is the 32-bit, or 64-bit version. Almost all of you out there want the 32-bit version. [If you are unsure whether you have 32 or 64-bit Windows: right-click My Computer and select Properties. The info titled “System” will tell you your version.]

Now click on the download link, and when asked if you want to “run” or “save” this program, click on “Save”. You will be (or at least, should be) asked where you want to save the program to, and since it will most likely have a bizarre and forgettable name, save it to your desktop.

Once the download is completed and saved, close your web browser and any other programs you have running — it shouldn’t be necessary to shut down your protection, like antivirus, but be prepared to hit “allow”, quickly.
Now double-click the download. Usually, a wizard will open, asking you to hit “Next”, “I agree”, “Next”…just follow along.

When it’s done, odds are good your device will now work as it should, but whether it does or not, the next step is to restart your machine (“reboot”). This process will resolve the majority of, but not all, device related issues. Vista users may run into a situation where the device in question is no longer “supported” by the manufacturer, or simply hasn’t gotten around to writing Vista drivers yet. A Search for “Vista drivers for make+model” will likely turn up a solution.

There are further troubleshooting steps you can take if this does not resolve your issue (see links below. Also, there are websites that specialize in nothing but device drivers, and these are often an excellent place to start looking for hard-to-find drivers. I am including one such site below.

Today’s free link: DriversPlanet From site: “ is the Web’s trusted resource for technology enthusiasts, IT consultants and IT professionals searching for any device driver. provides an easy way of finding drivers in one spot enabling you not to get lost in worldwide chaos of drivers.”

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 18, 2008 Posted by | add device, advice, computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, PC, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vista Plug and Play issues*

It has been  a while since I’ve done a “reader questions answered” segment (and reminded you, Dear Reader, that you can post questions to me), but I’m hoping that you’ll remember the “Q’s and their A’s” format.

Q: Vista won’t recognize my new device. What’s wrong with my PnP?
A: Vista is actually quite good (in my opinion, the best yet) at automatically installing new devices with the use of PnP (Plug and Play). That said, a fair portion of the calls I receive at my online Tech Support business are troubleshooting PnP failures.
There are standard procedures for getting devices installed, when it doesn’t happen automatically for one reason or another, which I have outlined here before. Review the How To’s by clicking on this link: I advise reading all three parts, and the Comments as well (and read about USB Host controllers).
If you have tried these methods without success, there may be some “ClassID framework” missing which needs to get installed before Vista can ‘see’ your device, and you will need the help of Tech Support– I would not be averse to getting it direct from Microsoft.

You can avoid some headaches by making sure the device you want to buy is “Vista Compatible”. Vista is rather recalcitrant at accepting 3rd-party drivers that have not received Microsoft’s stamp of approval (not undergone Microsoft laboratory testing). This is to ensure that the webcam (for example) you want is going to work, and not “mess up your machine”. Visit the Vista Hardware Compatibility List, and sort by category to find approved (tested) makes and models, and purchase one from the list.

Q: I bought a gateway with Vista Home Premium, but need to convert back to XP Pro. I have a friend who is technically sound, but (they) said it would be hard to get all the drivers loaded to work right. Do you know where I can get all the drivers to make XP work on my Gateway that is less than a year old?
A: If you “must” convert back to XP Pro, you will indeed need to acquire some “for XP” drivers for some of your hardware/devices (XP will have some drivers already). Make a list of all your devices (Device Manager is a good place to start) and look on the Internet to make sure there’s XP drivers available. Make a system state backup of your current configuration. Then Install XP.

Once XP is installed, use Device Manager to find which devices need drivers (look for yellow ?’s, and red Xs).
You will then go to the device manufacturer’s website and download the XP driver. (You should not use the “Update driver” feature, as XP drivers are ‘old’.) Again, I refer you to the article link above.
A tool like Sandra Lite can help determine the make/model of your devices if you’re unsure of the manufacturer (such as the motherboard chipset).
You will have to do this on a case-by-case basis (there is no driver ‘one-stop-shop’) for those devices not covered by the XP install itself…but that shouldn’t be too, too many.

When you’re done, make a good backup… preferably with a “disk imaging” program.

Today’s free link: I use Sandra Lite quite a bit when troubleshooting distant machines. The benchmarking tool gives a very complete system profile, including the make/model of installed devices. It is often the only way I can determine the motherboard chipset. A word of caution: do not elect to make the scan results public, or “share them for further analysis”.

* Original post date: 02/14/08

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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April 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, PC, Plug and Play, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment