How to manually identify and find unknown device drivers using the Vendor and the Device ID information, the simple way


07.02.2010

As time passes, new versions of Windows (7, Vista, etc) come with packages of drivers, so users won’t be forced to manually install the drivers. But these drivers are meant for popular devices, and so if a user does not have a popular component in his PC or it’s using an older operating system like Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME and Windows 98, the Windows will not be able to find and recognize the unknown device, so it won’t install the unknown device drivers.

If you have such a problem, the device will be listed as Unknown Device in Device Manager, where a list of all devices that are installed on the computer are listed and shown. An unknown device is labeled with a yellow question mark or just a question mark as its icon and it is listed on Other Devices category.

Unknown devices? Not a problem

Causes that make a device to be categorized as an unknown device:

  • The device does not have a device driver.

  • Wrong type of device driver file, such as using virtual device driver (.vxd) files that are common to Windows 98 or to Windows 95 drivers in Windows XP.

  • Unrecognized device ID.

  • Faulty hardware or firmware.

What you need to do in order to use your device is go on to the vendor website and manually download the unknown device driver. In order to do that, you must first identify the unknown device. There are 2 methods you can do that: using an unknown device identifier (software that does the job for you, read HERE) or identify it manually.

Here’s a guide on how to manually identify and find the brand or make name of the device, thanks to the fact that every hardware device has a special identifier that is used by Plug and Play. It is possible to use both Device Manager and System Information Tool (MSInfo32) to view the hardware identifier information.

Method 1: identify unknown device using System Information Tool:

  • Go to Start and into the Start Search box type msinfo32 and the press enter.(for windows XP users, go to start -> run -> type msinfo32 -> click ok)

  • Expand Components, and the go to Problem Devices.

  • A list of the devices that are installed on your computer that may have a problem is displayed in the details pane, as follows:

  1. The Device column lists the common name for the device, or the name of the device driver associated with it.

  2. The PNP Device ID column lists device IDs

  3. The Error Code column lists the error code associated with this specific problem. Frequently, the Device Manager Error code helps determine what created the unknown device.

  • Depending on device, the unique hardware identifier can be shown in PNP Device ID or in Error Code, and should look similar to the alphanumeric string below:

PCIVEN_1180&DEV_0832&SUBSYS_30CC103C&REV_05

  • Where VEN prefix comes from the Vendor ID and DEV prefix comes from the Device ID, so in the example above the Vendor ID is 1180 and the Device ID is 0832.

  • Enter the PCI Database website, to find the unknown device, by clicking HERE.

PCI Vendor and Device Lists

  • Search the vendor name, chip number and the chip’s description with either Vendor ID or the Device ID

Device search results

  • After you found the vendor name or manufacturer name, visit the vendor website and download the corresponding driver.

Method 2: Identify the unknown device drivers using the Device Manager

This method is most used when your unknown device is not listed in the Problem Devices of System Information. Follow the steps bellow:

  • Go to Start Tab and type Device Manager in the Start Search Box or type devmgmt.msc in the Run box.

  • Locate the unknown device, usually found under Other Devices category.

  • Right click on the unknown device and select Properties.

  • Go to the Details tab.

  • Select Device Instance Id or Hardware Ids (for Windows 7) from the “Property” drop down menu.

  • Alphanumeric strings similar to below will be shown:

PCIVEN_10DE&DEV_0427&SUBSYS_30CC103C&REV_A1

  • For example, in the string shown above, VEN prefix is the Vendor ID, and DEV prefix is the Device ID, which means Device ID is 10DE and Device ID is 0427.

  • Enter the PCI Database website, to find the unknown device, by clicking HERE.

  • Search the vendor name, chip number and the chip’s description with either Vendor ID or the Device ID

  • After you found the vendor name or manufacturer name, visit the vendor website and download the corresponding driver or just Google it.

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