Hardware in Windows XP/2003

Hardware Support; Windows XP/2003 includes support for numerous devices, including DVD, multiple monitors, cameras and wireless communication.

Plug and Play (PnP); Plug and Play is a standard that allows hardware to configure itself, with the least amount of user-intervention.

Universal Serial Bus (USB); Allows you to connect devices to your computer without restarting.  USB1 runs at 1 to 12Mb/sec, USB2 at 480Mb/sec and both support Plug and Play.

Power Management; Supports APM (Advanced Power Management).  Supports ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface)

Use the buttons below to navigate through the lesson

Interrupt Requests (IRQ)

Devices work by interrupting the processor. Once a device has the processor’s attention it can send or retrieve data or carry out a function.  The interruption of the processor’s run time is called an Interrupt Request (IRQ). Each device has an IRQ so the processor knows which device is asking for its time.

Interrupt Requests (IRQ) Conflicts

Here, both the Printer and the Network Card are using the same IRQ number. This has confused the processor, so it doesn’t know which device to service.

Input/Output (I/O) addresses

Sometimes devices CAN share IRQ numbers. Consider this case of two COM ports.  Every device on the computer has a unique address, called an I/O address. This address acts like a mailbox number that the processor uses to communicate with the device.  While here, both COM ports share an IRQ number but they have different I/O numbers. All I/O numbers must be unique and cannot be shared.

Direct Memory Access

Using DMA, a device can directly transfer data to the RAM without using the processor, thus freeing up the processor for other tasks.  . If two devices tried to use the same DMA channel, this would cause a hardware conflict.

Multiple Displays

Multiple Display Support. Windows XP/2003 adds support for up to nine display adapters.  Any video adapters used for multiple displays must either be PCI or AGP cards.  All video adapters must support multiple displays including any on-board cards.

On-board Video Adapters. If the the on-board video card is to be used as well as a separate video adapter, then install Windows XP/2003 before installing the new device.  Windows setup will disable any on-board video card if a separate video-adapter is located.  In some systems the BIOS will disable the on-board card if another adapter is found, there may be no way to overcome this.

Configuration. One video adapter must be set as the primary. This adapter cannot be switched off as the other adapters will use it as a marking point when extending the desktop.

Device Manager

Hardware is administered through the Device Manager utility, which is the user’s main administrative interface with a machine’s hardware.

It can be used to:

  • Check the configuration of hardware devices
  • Install or update drivers
  • Remove or disable hardware

This utility can be accessed from Start > Settings > Control Panel >  System > Hardware tab > Device Manager.

Alternatively, right-click on My Computer > Properties > Hardware tab > Device Manager.

A device can be uninstalled from this window. When the device is selected, the window changes subtly.

Note this icon. Hardware changes can be detected in the device by clicking this.

This feature is available from the Action menu or from right-clicking on an item. If the item is expanded, more operations are available:

Note these icons. Hardware devices can be disabled or deleted from here.  Alternatively, right-click on the highlighted device, or click on the Action button.  You must be logged on as an administrator or a member of the Administrators group in order to complete this procedure. Domain wide policies must also permit this!

An Exclamation Mark indicates a device has a problem. Generally this will be a driver issue.

A red cross indicates that the device has been disabled.

To check the properties of a hardware item, double click on the icon, or right click and select Properties.

The message that a device is working properly does not always means it’s doing what is required of it.  Devices can be enabled or disabled as required dependent upon the hardware profile required.

The number and type of tabs varies according to the particular Hardware Device selected.  The Driver tab allows you to configure drivers for the device. A driver is a software interface that allows the operating system to use the hardware.

Common to all devices is the Resources Tab. This lists the computer resources used by the particular device to interact with the processor  and the computer memory.  Any conflict reported here implies that changes have to be made to the IRQ or I/O resources allocated to this device.