Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 4) - Viewing device and driver details

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Viewing device and driver details

You use Device Manager to view and configure hardware devices. You’ll spend a lot of time working with this tool, so you should get to know it before working with devices.

To open Device Manager and obtain a detailed list of all the hardware devices installed on a system, follow these steps:

  1. In Server Manager, select Computer Management on the Tools menu.

  2. Select the Device Manager node. As shown in Figure 5, you should now see a complete list of devices installed on the system. By default, this list is organized by device type.

    Use Device Manager to work with hardware devices.
    Figure 5. Use Device Manager to work with hardware devices.
  3. Expand a device type to see a list of the specific instances of that device type.

After you access Device Manager, you can work with any of the installed devices. If you press and hold or right-click a device entry, a shortcut menu is displayed. The available options depend on the device type, but they include the following:

  • Properties Displays the Properties dialog box for the device

  • Uninstall Uninstalls the device and its drivers

  • Disable Disables the device but doesn’t uninstall it

  • Enable Enables a device if it’s disabled

  • Update Driver Software Starts the Update Driver Software Wizard, which you can use to update the device driver

  • Scan For Hardware Changes Tells Windows Server 2012 to check the hardware configuration and determine whether there are any changes


The device list shows warning symbols if there are problems with a device. A yellow warning symbol with an exclamation point indicates a problem with a device. A red X indicates a device that was improperly installed or disabled by the user or the administrator for some reason.

You can use the options on the View menu in Server Manager to change the defaults for which types of devices are displayed and how the devices are listed. The options are as follows:

  • Devices By Type Displays devices by the type of device installed, such as disk drive or printer. The connection name is listed below the type. This is the default view.

  • Devices By Connection Displays devices by the connection type, such as audio and video codecs.

  • Resources By Type Displays the status of allocated resources by the type of device using the resource. Resource types are direct memory access (DMA) channels, input/output (I/O) ports, interrupt requests (IRQs), and memory addresses.

  • Resources By Connection Displays the status of all allocated resources by connection type rather than device type.

  • Show Hidden Devices Displays non–Plug and Play devices as well as devices that have been physically removed from the computer but haven’t had their drivers uninstalled.

INSIDE OUT: View and save device settings for local and remote computers

You can use Computer Management to view and work with settings on remote computers. Press and hold or right-click Computer Management in the console tree, and then select Connect To Another Computer on the shortcut menu. In the Select Computer dialog box, choose Another Computer and then type the fully qualified name of the computer you want to work with, such as, where entdc01 is the computer name and is the domain name. If you don’t know the computer name, tap or click Browse to search for the computer you want to work with.

If you want detailed driver lists for multiple computers, you can get this using the Driverquery command-line utility. Use the /V parameter to get verbose output about all drivers or the /SI parameter to display properties only for signed drivers, such as driverquery /v or driverquery /si. If you want to write the information to a file, use the output redirection symbol (>) followed by the name of the file, such as driverquery /si > system-devices.txt.

To list devices on remote computers, use the /S parameter followed by a computer name or Internet Protocol (IP) address to specify a remote computer to query. You can also specify the Run As permissions by using /U followed by the user name and /P followed by the user’s password. Here’s an example: driverquery /v /s corpserver01 /u wrstanek /p 49iners.

Working with device drivers

Each hardware component installed on a computer has an associated device driver. The job of the device driver is to describe how the operating system uses the hardware abstraction layer (HAL) to work with a hardware component. The HAL handles the low-level communication tasks between the operating system and a hardware component. By installing a hardware component through the operating system, you are telling the operating system about the device driver it uses. From then on, the device driver loads automatically and runs as part of the operating system.

Device driver essentials

Windows Server 2012 includes an extensive library of device drivers. In the base installation of the operating system, these drivers are maintained in the file repository of the driver store. Some service packs you install will also include updates to the driver store. You can find drivers in the FileRepository folder under %SystemRoot%\System32\DriverStore. The DriverStore folder also contains subfolders for localized driver information. You’ll find a subfolder for each language component configured on the system. For example, for localized U.S. English driver information, you’ll find a subfolder called en-US.

Every device driver in the driver store is certified to be fully compatible with Windows Server 2012 and is also digitally signed by Microsoft to assure the operating system of its authenticity. When you install a new Plug and Play–compatible device, Windows Server 2012 checks the driver store for a compatible device driver. If one is found, the operating system automatically installs the device.

Every device driver has an associated Setup Information file. This file, which ends with the .inf extension, is a text file containing detailed configuration information about the device being installed. The information file identifies any source files used by the driver as well. Source files have the .sys extension. Drivers are also associated with a component manifest ( file. The manifest file is written in extensible markup language (XML), includes details on the driver’s digital signature, and might also include Plug and Play information used by the device to configure itself automatically.

Every driver installed on a system has a source (.sys) file in the %SystemRoot%\System32\Drivers folder. When you install a new device driver, the driver is written to a subfolder of %SystemRoot%\System32\Drivers, and configuration settings are stored in the registry. The driver’s .inf file is used to control the installation and write the registry settings. If the driver doesn’t already exist in the driver store, it does not already have an .inf file or other related files on the system. In this case, the driver’s .inf file and other related files are written to a subfolder of %SystemRoot%\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository when you install the device.

Understanding and troubleshooting driver signing

Speaking of new device drivers, Microsoft requires that you use signed device drivers. Every device driver in the driver cache is digitally signed, which certifies the driver as having passed extensive testing by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL). A device driver with a digital signature signed by Microsoft should not cause your system to crash or become unstable. The presence of a digital signature signed by Microsoft also ensures that the device driver hasn’t been tampered with. If a device driver doesn’t have a digital signature signed by Microsoft, it hasn’t been approved for use through testing, or its files might have been modified from the original installation by another program. This means that unsigned drivers are much more likely than any other program you’ve installed to cause the operating system to freeze or the computer to crash.

The assurances you get with digitally signed drivers aren’t applicable to unsigned device drivers. With an unsigned driver, there is no guarantee that it has been tested thoroughly, and if the driver is poorly written, it is much more likely to cause the operating system to freeze or the server to crash than any other program you’ve installed. Because of this, Windows Server will not let you install unsigned drivers.

That said, an invalid or missing digital signature on a driver for an important device could prevent a server from starting. There are several ways you can work around this, allowing you to boot the server and fix the problem. The two key options require that you start the server in safe mode.

If the computer won’t start normally, the Recovery screen is displayed during startup. On the Recovery screen, tap or click Troubleshoot. On the Advanced Options screen, tap or click Startup Settings. Next, on the Windows Startup Settings screen, tap or click Restart. When the server restarts, you need to select the safe mode you want to use.

With the standard safe modes, the basic drivers loaded include the mouse, monitor, keyboard, mass storage, and base video. If one of the basic drivers is the source of the problem though, you won’t be able to use one of the standard safe modes. Because of this, select Disable Driver Signature Enforcement as the start mode.

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