How to Identify Unknown Device

There are several approaches to identify and fix Unknown Device problems, and one of them, which is being practiced by many PC users, is a manual identification of an Unknown Device and its driver download. This is the procedure that we will talk about throughout our discussion.

First, we will explain the steps for accessing the Device Manager and checking it for any unknown device symbols. To view your Device Manager, follow these steps:

For Windows XP:

  1. Click “Start”
  2. Right click “My Computer”
  3. Click “Manage”
  4. Click “Device Manager”

For Windows 7/Vista:

  1. Click “Start button”
  2. Click “Control Panel”
  3. Click “System and Maintenance” for Vista | “System and Security” for Win7
  4. Click “Device Manager”

Your Device Manager Window shows the hardware devices connected or installed on your Computer. There are cases when unrecognized devices are only labeled by the phrase “Unknown Device”, while in most cases yellow warning symbols that indicate Unknown Devices are very noticeable. See below:

Identify Unknown Device in Device Manager

In our example, you will notice that there are multiple unknown devices. Similar cases occur after a fresh installation of Operating System (OS) because of missing device drivers. Other causes of Unknown Devices are damaged or corrupted device drivers, and sometimes even outdated drivers.

To continue the steps of identifying unknown device and downloading its drivers manually, let us take the “Ethernet Controller” , being highlighted, as an example. So far, all we know is that this device is an Ethernet controller. The next step is to figure out the exact name of its manufacturer and exact model of the device itself. To do that, we need to gather the IDs of this device by the following steps:

  1. Right click the “Unknown Device”
  2. Click “Properties”
  3. Click “Details”
  4. Browse for “Device Instance ID” for Windows XP | “Device Instance Path” for Vista and Win7

You should see alphanumeric data similar to the one right below:

Unknown Device Details Properties

Similar format of data will be provided for every hardware device, and what we need are the values of VEN_**** and DEV_****, which stands for Vendor ID and Device ID. In our example, Vendor ID is 14E4 and Device ID is 170C. These are the IDs we will use to search online to identify the manufacturer, exact device name, and download device drivers. One helpful online database is PCIdatabase.com, which will let you do “Device Search” and “Vendor Search” by just using the IDs obtained from the alphanumeric data. PCIdatabase provides additional information regarding hardware devices, specifically the official website of your hardware (if available). We should use both the Device and Vendor Search to make sure we have the right vendor and device, since some devices share the same device ID.

Vendor and Device Search

Using the Vendor ID from our example for the “Vendor Search” which is 14E4, the following result has been provided.

PCI Database 1

Clicking the link of the provided Vendor Name will lead us to a page with additional information of the device and a list of devices associated with the vendor ID (14E4).

PCI Database Vendor Details

In our example, the information included in the provided “Vendor Details” includes the official web site of the device manufacturer. Before visiting the provided URL address, let us identify the exact device name by using the Device ID (170C) in the “Device Search”.

Device Search Results

After matching the results, we can be certain that the manufacturer of this device is Broadcom, but we are still lacking some device details (for many devices you will be able to get adequate information in the “Chip Description” column). Now, we want to click again on the Vendor Name and then look for the Device ID 0x170C listing by scrolling down the list of Broadcom devices – Broadcom is the manufacturer of many chips and devices.

Device Detailed Information

Now, we see very important information under “Notes”, which is the exact page on Broadcom’s website. This is great, because we want to always make sure to download device drivers from official manufacturers’ website to prevent any problems such as malwares and computer viruses, and even incorrect device drivers. Also, we can see that device is identified as an Ethernet NIC from the 4401 Series (Broadcom 4401 Ethernet Controller).

Remember that websites differ in their procedures for downloading device drivers. In some cases, you will only be given a manufactures’ website and then you will have to be observant to look for device detail or driver download links and buttons.

Now, we are ready to visit the provided URL address. After entering the full URL, we get the following page (only the most important part of that page is displayed here):

Broadcom 4401 NIC Details Page

  1. Look for your Operating System, then click on the zip icon to download the zip file, and you can actually download a User Manual.
  2. Unzip the downloaded files and run the driver setup application or follow the more detailed instructions within the User Manual.

Once again, manufacturer websites differ in the procedures of Driver Downloads. This was the example of the Unknown device that happened to be the Broadcom 4401 Ethernet Controller.

If you would not like to undergo this time and energy consuming process, try the Instant Solution offered by Driver Detective, a driver update and repair tool. To begin you can Click HERE to Run Free Scan, which will give you results similar to this:

Driver Scan Instant Results