How to find drivers for unknown devices in the device manager

Windows is a fairly intelligent operating system and does a pretty good job automatically detecting and installing new devices; however, sometimes it simply misses the mark.

Perhaps you just attached a new scanner and now your computer is wiggin’ out or you reinstsalled Windows 8 from scratch but some devices such as your USB printer are acting funny.

Here’s what to do when your devices start acting doltish.

The first place I would check is the Device Manager.

In Windows 8, just press the Windows Key + x + m and scroll through the list looking for any devices with a yellow exclamation sign next to it.

This means that Windows detected the device but couldn’t automatically install the drivers for some reason.

We need to find a way to identify the unknown device so we can throw the ID into Google and grab the drivers. Fortunately, this is super easy.

Right click the mystery device and choose Properties.

Device Manager Device Properties

In the Device status box you should see the following error:

The drivers for this device are not installed. (Code 28)
There are no compatible drivers for this device.
To find a driver for this device, click Update Driver.

Windows 8.1 Unknown Device Code 28

If you click the Update Driver button and then choose Search automatically for updated driver software you may find something but in my experience this has NEVER worked.  If it works for you great, but I’m going to save you loads of time with a little known trick that has a better success rate.

Click on over to the Details tab, click the Property drop down box and select Hardware Ids.

Right click the first ID and choose Copy from the context menu.

Device Manager Hardware IDs

The gibberish text in the list is an identification string assigned by the device vendor that matches an INF file.

An INF file is just a text file used to install a driver.  Think of the INF as a blueprint for installing a new device.   It contains stuff such as the driver name, location, version and registry stuff.

Here’s what the INF file for my monitor looks like:

Windows INF File

Thankfully we don’t need to (nor should we) mess with these files.  I just wanted to show you an example to clear any confusion.


Alright, now that we have the hardware ID stored on the clipboard we can paste it into our browser and get our driver.

If you’re using Chrome or Firefox, just right-click the address bar and choose Paste and Go.

 

The first hit looks promising, let’s check that out:

Google Search Results for Hardware Device ID

A quick scroll through the forum produces one verified answer.  It looks like this my Unknown Device is a Memory Card reader.

Ah, that explains why my laptop never detected my SD cards.

Found device driver for unknown device

Since I can see the URL comes directly from Lenovo I can trust the executable.   But it’s true that malicious hackers can easily make it look like a link is coming from a reliable URL so you shouldn’t trust this alone. For safe measure it’s always a good idea to scan everything you download from the internet (especially .exe files) before running it.

After you find the driver, click through the installation wizard and complete the installation.

I found my device driver

Now if you flip back over to the Device Manager you’ll notice the yellow exclamation mark is gone and so is your unknown device.

In my case, if you look near the top of the screenshot you’ll see my unknown device has been correctly identified as a Ricoh PCIe SDXC controller, which is my memory card reader.

You’ll also notice near the bottom under Other Devices, that only PCI Serial Host has an exclamation mark next to it.

Unknown Device Correctly Identified

Now I need to find that driver…

I hope this helped you!  If not just share your issues in the comments and we’ll get you going.

About

Connect with Vonnie on Twitter

Posted in Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with: ,
  • Mike

    I found my RealTek RTS 5229 CardReader Driver following your steps…Great! Now my card reader is working!