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Shortcuts for Troubleshooting Hardware and Drivers on Windows PCs

Discussion in 'Tech Tutorials and News' started by Valerie Johnston, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. Valerie Johnston

    Valerie Johnston Techie7 New Member Techie7 Editor

    Hardware problems on PCs tend to be quite a bit worse than most other problems. In fact, if you have a bad enough problem going on with a piece of hardware, a driver or something else related specifically to the hardware that is installed on your machine, you may not even be able to start up the computer at all. Here are some shortcuts to help you through the troubleshooting process and, if you get a positive result on one of them, it might just make a problem that could go on for days into one that can be fixed in less than an hour.

    Always Remove the Hardware First, If Possible

    The first thing you should do if you suspect that a piece of hardware is causing your problem is remove it. Obviously, there are some pieces of hardware that this isn’t going to work for. You’re not going to be able to remove your hard drive and boot up your computer to see if it works, for instance.

    Check to see what types of hardware that you have that you may be able to remove. For example, if you installed a new soundcard and you’re having issues, and you have sound outputs off of your motherboard directly, you could detach the new soundcard and hook up your audio equipment to the old outputs to see if they function. If your computer works fine when you remove that soundcard, you can be pretty sure that’s the problem.

    The same is true of video cards and many other cards that attach to your computer. If you can remove them and the computer works without the card attached, you got your first indication that you found the problem. Determining the nature of the problem can be a bit trickier.


    Some hardware can be tested right from your computer. For example, if you suspect that you have some bad RAM, you can run a program such as Mem Test86 to get an idea of whether or not the hardware itself is faulty. This, of course, assumes that you can actually boot the computer up to conduct the test. If you can boot the computer, however, the problem with the hardware may be something that only manifests under certain conditions and testing the hardware may reveal a great deal.

    If you’re having trouble with your video card, you can try 3DMark and, if your problem seems to be coming from a soundcard, you can try programs such as SoundCheck to get some insight into whether or not the hardware is faulty.

    Windows 7 and Windows 8 have their own testing capabilities, as well, but sometimes the third-party testing programs actually do a bit more comprehensive testing and give you better feedback on what might be wrong with the hardware. Make sure you read the instructions on the testing software as some of the options actually require you to run them without booting into the Windows operating system.

    Swap It

    People who are upgrading are actually in a better position than people who are buying new hardware that they didn’t have before. If you happen to be upgrading, it means you can take out the new hardware, put the old hardware back in and see if it works. If it does, you’ve likely found in incompatibility issue with the hardware itself or you may have found a driver problem.

    Fixing Drivers

    There is an entire process you can go through within the Windows operating system to update your drivers. To access the interface, go to your Start menu, open the Control Panel and go to the Device Manager. You can right-click on any entry in the Device Manager and bring up the following screen, which is open to the tab that gives you information about drivers in this screenshot.


    Here’s a tip. Rather than trying to go through the Update Driver process, which oftentimes doesn’t really give very good results, just go to the manufacturer site for your device and download the latest driver. If you have already done this and are having problems, click on the Roll Back Driver entry on the screen shown above and it will restore your older driver, which may fix the problem.

    The basic things to remember are: If no hardware seems to be causing problems, remove it and see if that fixes the problem; check to make certain that the driver is current; and run a test program if there is one available. If you do all three of these things, you should be able to fix the problem.