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70-270 Windows XP TechNote: Devices and Drivers
- Device Manager
- Display Devices
- I/O Devices
- Driver Signing
- Multiprocessor


Device Manager    Back to top

The main utility for managing hardware devices and drivers is the Device Manager. The Device Manager can be started by either clicking the Device Manager button on the Hardware tab of the System Properties, or by selecting Device Manager in the Computer Management console.

Device Manager provides information about the hardware installed on the computer. It also allows you to update the device drivers, modify hardware settings, and troubleshoot problems such as resource conflicts. For more information about Device Manager and its options, check out the following two pages:

- Description of Device Manager in Windows 2000 and Windows XP
- How to Configure Device Manager to Display Detailed Information

Display Devices    Back to top

There are too many options and settings related to "Display Devices" to cover them all in these TechNotes, so we are going to cover only the basics and the essentials for the exam.

The video adapter and monitor settings can be altered on the Display Properties. The Display Properties can be accessed by either the Display control panel applet, or right-clicking the desktop and clicking Properties, and has the following five tabs:

  • Themes - Allows you to personalize your computer by choosing a theme. A theme includes a background, icons, sounds, and other bells and whistles.
  • Desktop - Allows you to configure a background or color for the desktop. When you click the Customize Desktop button, you'll be able to add/remove/change common desktop icons such as Internet Explorer and My Documents. On this tab, the Desktop Cleanup wizard can also be enabled to run every 60 days. Or click the Clean Desktop Wizard to run it immediately. Click the Web tab on the Desktop Items dialog box to configure Windows XP to display a web page on the desktop.
  • Screen Saver - Allows you to configure a screen saver and protect it with a password. The Power button opens the Power Option dialog box to configure power saving setting for the monitor. Power options will be discussed in more detail later in these TechNotes.
  • Appearance - Allows you to change the appearance of Windows items such as buttons, dialog boxes, etc. by choosing a style, changing the colors, or choosing different fonts. The Effects button opens a dialog box for more bells and whistles than can be used to change the appearance of Windows XP. A mentionable option is the Use the following options to smooth the edges of screen fonts. Setting this to ClearType will significantly improve reading text on an LCD display.
  • Settings - The Settings tab is displayed below:

Although the Screen resolution and Color quality (also known as Color depth) can be configured on the Settings tab, this is often done using the Advanced properties to attain the best refresh frequency.

A video adapter is required to install Windows XP, hence is often already installed during Setup. In many situations however, you want to install an updated driver for the video adapter. To install an updated or third-party driver click the Advanced button on the Settings tab of the Display Properties, and then click Properties on the Adapter tab. This will open the display adapter's Properties, which can also be accessed from Device Manager. Click the Update Driver button on the Driver tab to start the Hardware Update wizard, which allows you to install a new driver. Windows XP supports up to 10 displays to be used simultaneously, which requires multiple PCI or AGP video adapters.

ACPI    Back to top

Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) is an interface for the system board that allows power management for hardware, the OS, and applications. In an ACPI computer the operating system configures and monitors the computer, not the BIOS hardware settings. The operating system ensures power is only used for devices used by active applications, allowing you to save power on a laptop for example. ACPI is usually installed during Windows Setup, but if some components such as ISA devices or older BIOS's that do not support ACPI are present, a non-ACPI Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) will be installed instead.

To change power settings that take advantage of ACPI, use the Power Options control panel applet. If the computer does not support ACPI, the Power Options properties may have an APM tab. APM is short for Advanced Power Management, and is limited compared to ACPI. ACPI is essential to take full advantage of power management and Plug and Play in Windows. If you want to use ACPI you may need to update the BIOS and/or remove non-compliant devices, and perform an in-place upgrade. This means you need to re-install Windows XP over the current installation (i.e. upgrade) to replace the non-ACPI HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) with the HAL that supports ACPI.

I/O Devices    Back to top


Usually you don't need to configure the keyboard because it is required to install Windows XP and it is configured during setup. If the keyboard is not correctly installed, or you need to replace the device driver for the keyboard, you can use the Keyboard control panel applet or the Device Manager to update the driver. The Keyboard control panel applet also allows you to set the Repeat delay, Repeat rate, and Cursor blink rate. If you need to change the layout of the keyboard, i.e. from UK to US International, you will need to use the Regional Options control panel applet, which is described in more detail in our Desktop Environment TechNotes.

Pointing Devices

Pointing devices such as a mouse, trackball, or touch pad, are usually configured using the Mouse control panel applet. The tabs and settings of the Mouse Properties often depend on the manufacturer of the mouse driver installed. Note that the terms cursor and pointer are interchangeable in the context of pointing devices. Some of the common mouse settings are:

  • Cursor Speed and Acceleration
  • SnapTo, moves the cursor to the default button (i.e. the OK button)
  • Cursor Trails, typically useful for older LCD monitors.
  • Pointer Scheme, allows different themes of pointers.
  • Button Assignments.


Installing USB devices is generally a simple task because they support Plug-and-Play. Many different types of devices use an USB connection, examples include keyboards, pointing devices, game controllers, printers, cameras, and remote storage devices. The Device Manager lists the USB controllers and root hubs under Universal Serial Bus controllers. If these are not listed, you may need to enable USB in the BIOS or even update the BIOS.


Network Interface Cards (NICs) are used to connect a computer to a network. In case of a wired network it connects to the network cable segment, and in wireless networks it will have an antenna built-in, or attached. Today's NICs are usually plug-and-play PCI cards, or PCMCIA for laptops. You can configure a network card by using the Network Connections applet in the control panel or the Device Manager.


Modems provide remote access through dial-up connections, converting analog data to digital and vice versa. Modems are either internal or external. The latter is connected to a serial port on the computer whereas internal modems are usually PCI, and in some cases, older ISA expansion boards. Modems are usually detected during setup, or during startup in case a modem is installed or attached after setup. If your modem is not detected, you should try running the Add Hardware wizard or use the manufacturer's software to install the drivers. Modems can also be added, removed, and configured also by using the Phone and Modem Options applet in the control panel.


Wireless network cards are becoming more common every day. Modern PCI, USB, and PCMCIA wireless NICs support plug and play, hence are detected and installed automatically. Configuring a wireless network card for proper communication usually requires the following minimal settings that can be configured on the Advanced tab of the NIC's Properties in Device Manager:

  • SSID (Service Set Identifier) - Can be thought of as a Windows workgroup name and should be the same for all clients and access points.
  • Channel - Allows you to manually set the channel for Ad-hoc networks.
  • Network Type - Windows XP supports both Ad-hoc and Infrastructure mode for wireless networks. Ah-hoc wireless networks are peer-to-peer; there are no access points (APs) in the network, hence clients communicate directly with each other. In wireless networks running in Infrastructure mode, one or more APs form the center of the network acting like a hub/intermediate between the clients. The network type option can also be set to automatic.
  • Power Save Mode, most wireless NICs support CAM, Fast_PSP, and Max_PSP. On laptops you should use one of the latter two to save power.

Smartcard and readers

Smartcard readers typically connect to either a USB port or a PCMCIA slot, hence are usually installed by Plug and Play. Windows XP includes drivers for most popular smartcard equipment, but you should always check the manufacturer's site for updated software. When the smartcard reader is installed successfully, you can configure Windows XP to require a smartcard for logon and individual network connections. Users do not need to press CTRL+ALT+DEL to log on to a computer when using a smart card. Instead, the smart card is inserted into the reader, and users are prompted for a PIN instead of a user name and password. Windows XP offers a security policy setting that can be used to define the action that should be taken when a smartcard is removed from a system. Possible actions are: No Action, Lock Workstation, and Force Logoff.


IrDA (Infrared Data Association) is a type of serial communication that allows half-duplex wireless data transmission from 115.2 Kbps (Serial IR) up to 4.0 Mbps (Fast IrDA) and 16.0 Mbps (Very Fast IrDA).
It is typically used to communicate with hand held devices and printers. Infrared interfaces are either internal such as on PDAs and laptops, or external such as those connected to an USB or COM port. Internal IrDA interfaces should be detected and automatically installed during Setup or when a computer starts. If you need to manually install an internal IrDA interface that isn't automatically detected, or an external IrDA interface connected to a COM port, you need to use the Add Hardware Wizard and select the manufacturer from the list or provide a driver disk.

To establish a direct infrared network connection between computers, create an Advanced connection in Network Connections, choose Connect directly to another computer, and configure the computer as either Guest or Host. The computer that hosts information that will be accessed by another computer should be configured as Host. The computer used to access information on the host computer, should be configured as Guest. In the Advanced connection properties choose the Infrared port as the Device for this connection on the host, and on the quest select the InfraRed port at Select a device.

In many situations you don't need to configure a network connection, e.g. when transferring information between a PC and a PDA or printer. You would only need to align your devices to make sure the infrared transceivers are pointing at each other and are within the maximum range. When the devices are correctly aligned, an infrared icon appears in the System Tray of the Task Bar, informing you the connection is established.

Scanners and Cameras    Back to top

Most modern scanners and cameras support plug and play. When you add such a camera or scanner, the Scanner and Camera Wizard will start automatically. You can add a scanner or camera manually by using the Scanners and Cameras control panel applet.

By default, pictures from a scanner or camera are placed in the My Pictures folder. When a camera is connected and turned on it should appear in My Computer under Imaging Devices. This allows the camera, the memory card in it, to be treated as a remote storage devices and for example, drag and drop files from and to it.

Hand Held Devices    Back to top

Hand held devices, such as PDA's, MP3 players, and GPS devices, are usually equipped with a USB or wireless interface (i.e. 802.11b, Bluetooth, InfraRed) and are therefore easy to install. Most hand held devices come with their own software to set up a connection to a PC and synchronize data.

Driver Signing    Back to top

Driver Signing is a feature that is used to control file replacement during Windows XP Setup and installation of drivers and other software. All files from Microsoft include a digital signature to ensure the integrity of the file. Driver Signing options can be configured by clicking the Driver Signing button on the Hardware tab of the System Properties.

Following are the available options on the Driver Signing Options dialog box:

  • Ignore: This will install all files, with or without a digital signature.
  • Warn: Displays a warning message before an attempt is made to install an unsigned file.
  • Block: Prevents installation of unsigned files.

You can mark the checkbox Make this action the system default to ensure the same driver signing options apply for all users.

Use the System File Checker (SFC.EXE) command-line utility to scan all protected files and check the Digital Signatures. The System File Checker also can be used to schedule scanning of protected files on boot. The File Signature Verification, SIGVERIF.EXE, is another Windows utility that can be used to check the system for unsigned system files.

Multiprocessor    Back to top

Windows XP Professional supports Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) with a maximum of two CPUs. To turn a uni-processor into a multi-processor computer, use Device Manager to update the driver of the Computer component after you physically installed the second CPU.

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Current related exam objectives for the 70-270 exam:

Implement, manage, and troubleshoot display devices.
- Configure multiple-display support.
- Install, configure, and troubleshoot a video adapter.

Configure Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI).

Implement, manage, and troubleshoot input and output (I/O) devices.
- Monitor, configure, and troubleshoot I/O devices, such as printers, scanners, multimedia devices, mouse, keyboard, and smart card reader.
- Monitor, configure, and troubleshoot multimedia hardware, such as cameras.
- Install, configure, and manage modems.
- Install, configure, and manage Infrared Data Association (IrDA) devices.
- Install, configure, and manage wireless devices.
- Install, configure, and manage USB devices.
- Install, configure, and manage hand held devices.
- Install, configure, and manage network adapters.

Manage and troubleshoot drivers and driver signing.

Monitor and configure multiprocessor computers.

Click here for the complete list of exam objectives.

Discuss this TechNote here Author: Johan Hiemstra

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