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Chapter 9. Working with Hardware

Windows Vista makes quick work of managing your hardware; to a great extent, once you plug in a device, the operating system automatically recognizes it and either finishes the installation itself or prompts you to install a disk with the proper driver.

But that's not always the case, of course. And even if it does recognize your hardware properly, you need to manage the hardware, customize the way it runs, or troubleshoot any problems with it.

This chapter covers all the ways Windows Vista works with hardware of any kind. It details the tools, screens, and options for handling hardware. Note that some troubleshooting and maintenance tools are covered in Chapter 11, and mobile-related options, such as Power Options, are covered in Chapter 7.

Here is an alphabetical reference of entries in this chapter:

Add Hardware Wizard

DriverQuery

Signature Verification Tool

Add Printer

Game Controllers

Sound

AutoPlay

Keyboard Properties

Sound Recorder

Color Management

Mouse Properties

System Information

Computer Management

Pen and Input Devices

System Properties

Device Manager

Phone and Modem Options

Tablet PC Settings

DirectX Management Tool

Power Options

Volume Mixer

Disk and Volume Properties

Printers

Windows Update Driver Settings

Display Settings

ReadyBoost

XPS Document Viewer

Driver Verifier Manager

Scanners and Cameras

 


Add Hardware Wizard: \windows\system\hdwwiz.cpl

Detect non-Plug and Play devices and install the appropriate drivers.

To open

Control Panel Add Hardware (in Classic view)

Command Prompt hdwwiz.cpl

Description

When you turn on your computer, Windows automatically scans for newly added Plug and Play (PnP) devices and installs drivers for any that it finds. If you're trying to install a device that isn't detected automatically, you'll need to run the Add Hardware Wizard (see Figure 9-1).

Figure 9-1. The Add Hardware Wizard


When you start the Add Hardware Wizard and click Next, it goes through the following steps:

  1. You're asked whether to have the wizard search for and install the hardware automatically, or whether you want to choose the hardware from a list. It's best to have the wizard search automatically.

  2. The wizard scans your system for any newly attached PnP devices. If one or more devices are found, the appropriate drivers are located and installed.

  3. If no new devices are found in step 2 (or if you decide in step 1 to choose hardware from a list), you'll be asked to click Next to choose your hardware from a list.

  4. The wizard displays a list of hardware categories from which you can choose ("Display adapters," "Imaging devices," "All devices," and so on). Select a category. A list of manufacturers appears. Select the manufacturer.

  5. If you have the drivers for the device on either a floppy, a CD, or your hard disk, click Have Disk at this point. Otherwise, choose the specific model number from the list on the right. If your device doesn't show up here, drivers for it aren't included with Windows Vista.

  6. The last steps involve copying and installing the drivers, and then prompting you to restart (if applicable).

Notes

  • Some devices have specific installation procedures that you must follow. For example, you may need to install the included software first and then connect the device. When Windows detects the device, the drivers are already in place and installation proceeds without a hitch. Make sure you review the installation instructions before you resort to the Add Hardware Wizard.

  • If your hardware comes with an installation CD, it's best to first try to install the hardware using the installation routine on the CD before launching the Add Hardware Wizard.

  • If you don't have the driver on disk, go to the manufacturer's web site, download the driver, and use that driver when you click Have Disk. The manufacturer's web site also may have an installation program. If it does, download and use that rather than the Add Hardware Wizard.

  • When Windows discovers new hardware, either during startup or when using the Add Hardware Wizard, you'll usually be prompted to specify a driver. The Install Software Automatically option is usually the best choice, as it will attempt to use one of the built-in drivers in Windows. If no compatible driver can be found, you'll be prompted to insert a disk or point to a folder containing appropriate drivers, either shipped with the hardware product or downloaded from the manufacturer's web site, respectively.

  • When installing some drivers, Windows Vista may complain that the driver is not digitally signed. This confusing and rather harsh message simply informs you that the manufacturer of the driver you're installing hasn't added a digital signature to the driver software, which, in most cases, will pose no problem. Just click Continue Anyway to proceed. See the "Signature Verification Tool" section, later in this chapter, for more information on driver signing.

See also

"Add Printer," "Scanners and Cameras," and "Printers"


Add Printer

Add and configure a printer.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Add a printer

Description

When you connect a printer to your PC via a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection, Windows Vista should automatically recognize it and install drivers for it, or prompt you to install drivers. But if you want to use a network printer, use a wireless printer (either WiFi or Bluetooth), or connect a printer to your PC via the printer port (also called a parallel port), you'll need to use the Add Printer dialog.

You'll be presented with two choices: to add either a local printer or a network printer. If you choose to add a local printer, you'll be asked which printer port you want it to use; after that point, the instructions are the same as those for the Add Hardware Wizard, so follow those.

If you install a network or wireless printer, Windows will search for the printer and then install it. If Windows can't locate the network printer, click "The printer that I want isn't listed." A dialog, such as the one shown in Figure 9-2, will appear. If you know the network location name or the IP address of the printer, enter it. Otherwise, click Browse, browse to the printer's network location, and install it that way.

Figure 9-2. Manually adding a network printer when the wizard can't find one


Notes

  • In order to use a network printer, you'll need to have its printer driver available to install on your PC. Windows may have the driver for the printer, but if not, you'll need the installation or driver disk, or the driver downloaded from the manufacturer's web site.

  • Before you can add a network printer, you first need to share it. See "Sharing Resources and Files," in Chapter 7, for details.

  • Unless you have reason to choose another port for your printer, choose LPT1: if you're connecting your printer via its parallel port.

  • If you have a network printer that Windows refuses to connect to, try installing it as a local printer. When prompted to choose a port, select Create a new Port Standard TCP/IP Port, and enter the IP address or hostname when prompted.

See also

"Printers" and "Add Hardware Wizard"


AutoPlay

Set options for how Windows handles the insertion of various types of media and content.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] AutoPlay

Description

Whenever you insert a CD or DVD in your PC, Windows either takes an action or asks you what action it should take. AutoPlay (Figure 9-3) lets you set how Windows should handle many different types of mediaand can even take different actions based on the media's content.

Figure 9-3. AutoPlay, which controls the actions Windows should take when you insert various types of media and content


Configuration is straightforward. For each type of media or content, select the action you want Windows to take when the media or content is inserted and then click Save.

If you don't choose an action for a particular type of media or content, you'll receive a message such as that shown in Figure 9-4 whenever you insert that kind of media. You can set AutoPlay options from this screen.

Figure 9-4. The message you receive if you don't choose AutoPlay options for a particular type of media or content



Color Management

Align colors on your monitor with those of input and output devices.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Color Management

Description

Color management allows you to align the colors of your monitor with those of various input and output devices so that what you see on-screen matches as closely as possible with what will be printed.

This mismatch has to do with the nature of processes that each device uses to produce colors. An LCD monitor uses different technology than an inkjet printer, obviously, so the colors you see on the monitor will not necessarily match the output of your printer. Similarly, scanners and digital cameras use different methods to capture colors.

To most of us, this is not particularly important, because what you see on-screen and what you print are close enough to one another. But professional designers and artists need more control than this approximation, and they can use Color Management for that purpose.

Color Management lets you create and choose profiles for your devices and then match them to each other. It's often used in concert with print production houses, so confer with yours to find out the best settings.


Computer Management: \windows\system32\compmgmt.exe

See "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10.


Device Manager: \windows\system32\devmgmt.msc

Configure all hardware installed in or attached to a computer.

To open

Control Panel [System and Maintenance] Device Manager

Control Panel [System and Maintenance] System Device Manager

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Device Manager

Command Prompt devmgmt.msc

Description

Device Manager is the central interface for gathering information about and making changes to all the hardware installed in a system. Device Manager has an Explorer-style tree listing all of the various hardware categories, as shown in Figure 9-5; expand any category branch to display all installed devices that fit in that category. For example, expand the Network adapters branch to list all installed network cards in the system. Right-click any device and choose one of the following actions:

Figure 9-5. Device Manager, which lets you view and change the settings for nearly any hardware device attached to your system



Update Driver

If you have a newer driver than what is currently installed (find out by using Properties), select Update Driver to locate and install the new driver. This is the preferred way to update drivers in Windows Vista, though some devices may have proprietary installation programs and don't support their drivers being updated in this way.

From the screen that appears, you can have Windows search your computer and the Internet for an updated driver, or you can manually point Windows to a drive or location on your CD where you have the updated driver.


Disable

Select Disable to effectively turn off this device, usually releasing hardware resources it normally consumes. This can be very handy when attempting to resolve hardware conflicts; if you removed the device using Uninstall, discussed next, Windows Vista would simply reinstall the device the next time Windows starts. Disabling the hardware instead turns off the device but keeps the drivers intact; you can then enable it whenever you want.


Uninstall

Uninstall is more useful than it might seem on the surface. When you uninstall a device from Device Manager, it completely removes the driver from the system and erases all the corresponding configuration settings for that device. In addition to using Uninstall when you're physically removing a device from your system, it's also very handy when you're experiencing a problem with the device. When you remove a device from Device Manager and restart your computer, Windows will redetect the device and install it as though it were plugged in for the first time; this can be a very useful tool for repairing corrupt installations and fixing all sorts of problems with devices and their drivers.

Uninstall is not the way to force Windows to stop recognizing the uninstalled device, because Windows will just reload the driver the next time it starts. Instead, use Disable for this purpose.



Scan for hardware changes

This option will force Windows to rescan the device, checking to see whether it has been removed, turned on, turned off, or reconfigured in some way.

Highlight a category in the Device Manager tree and select "Scan for hardware changes" to not only scan for changes in the installed hardware, but also force Windows to look for new devices in this category. Typically, you'd use the Add Hardware Wizard to install new devices. However, this procedure is useful for reattaching devices that have already been installed, such as USB devices or removable hard disks that are attached and reattached repeatedly. Likewise, highlight the root (the entry at the top of the tree, named for your computer) and select "Scan for hardware changes" to scan all categories for newly attached, recently changed, or recently disconnected devices.


Properties

The Properties sheet for any device contains a great deal of information about the device's driver, the status of the device, and several troubleshooting features (including those mentioned previously). Information and settings are divided into the following tabbed pages, some of which may or may not be present, depending on the device (see Figure 9-6).

Figure 9-6. The Properties sheet for a device on your system, which also shows whether Windows thinks the device is working


The General tab

Shows the name, type, manufacturer, and physical location of the device (if applicable). The Device status box shows relevant messages stating whether the driver is installed properly or whether the device is functioning.


The Advanced tab

Contains settings specific to the device. For example, the Advanced tab for network adapters contains several settings that select how to handle speed and flow control features, and many other options.


The Driver tab

Displays several pieces of information about the currently installed driver, such as the provider (which corresponds to the distributor, not the manufacturer, of the software), the driver date and version, and whether the driver has a digital signature (used to verify the integrity of the driver, available only on drivers designed especially for Windows Vista). Click Driver Details to see the individual files that make up the driver, or click Roll Back Driver to uninstall the current driver and replace it with the previously used driver (available only if the driver has been updated since Windows was installed). The Update Driver and Uninstall buttons have the same effect as the actions of the same name, described earlier.


The Details tab

Lists a great many technical details about the device, including not only basic information such as the manufacturer and a description of the device, but also other details useful primarily to developers.


The Resources tab

Lists all the hardware resources consumed by the selected device. Most devices use one or more of the following: a range of memory (expressed as a hexadecimal address), an I/O range (again, expressed as a hexadecimal address), a direct memory access (DMA) line, or an interrupt request (IRQ) line. Use the information on this page to help diagnose hardware conflicts, where two or more devices try to use the same address or IRQ.


The Power Management tab

Controls how Windows uses power-saving features in concert with the device. It controls whether Windows can turn off the device to save power in power-saving modes, and similar actions. It also gives you the option to allow the device to bring Windows out of power-saving modes, if the device needs to perform an action. Be careful when choosing this option, because the device may wake the computer at times when you don't want it awakened, or it may use up too much power. Whenever possible, use the configuration utility supplied by the vendor to configure power management options.

Notes

  • Open the View menu to rearrange the devices by type (the default) or connection. (Group all PCI devices together and all USB devices together, for example.) You can also arrange devices by the resources they consume. This is useful for resolving conflicts. See the earlier discussion of the Resources tab, under "Properties," for more information.

  • You use the "Show hidden devices" entry in the View menu to display all currently installed drivers, including those for some of the more obscure "non-PnP drivers." It is also useful for uninstalling drivers from devices you no longer use but that Windows still believes are on your system. Show the hidden devices, and then uninstall the drivers.

    When you remove a drive, card, or other piece of hardware from your computer, Windows does not automatically remove the corresponding drivers, but deactivates them. To remove the drivers for a device you don't plan to reinstall later on, you should locate the device in Device Manager, right-click, and select Uninstall before you physically disconnect the device.


  • Device Manager is a snap-in used with the Microsoft Management Console, discussed in Chapter 10.

  • Although you can use Device Manager to configure and remove installed devices, and even add devices by using "Scan for hardware changes," the preferred way to add new hardware is to use the installation software supplied by the vendor, or the Add Hardware Wizard if needed.

  • All branches in Device Manager are collapsed by default; to expand the branches, highlight the root entry and press the asterisk (*) key on the numeric keypad.


DirectX Management Tool

See Chapter 11.


Disk and Volume Properties

View and change the properties of disks and volumes, including removable disks.

To open

Right-click a drive Properties

Click a drive Organize Properties

Description

The exact number of tabs on the Disk Properties page varies according to the type of drive or volume and its characteristics. For example, a hard drive may have seven tabs: General, Tools, Hardware, Sharing, Security, Previous Versions, and Customize. A USB flash drive, on the other hand, may have six: General, Tools, Hardware, Sharing, ReadyBoost, and Customize. And a DVD-RW drive may have five: General, Hardware, Sharing, Customize, and Recording.

There is a difference between a physical disk and a volume, although Windows Vista calls them both disks. The physical disk is the hardware itself, and a volume is a separate section of the hard disk. So a single disk may have multiple volumes, or it may have only a single volume.


Following are the tabs you'll typically find on a variety of drives and volumes:


General

This tab (Figure 9-7) displays basic information about the drive, including its type, filesystem (if applicable), capacity, free space and used space, and so on. If it's a drive used for storage, it will also include tools for disk cleanup, tools for using compression to save space, and an option for whether the disk should be indexed. You can set the label of the drive or volume by typing it into the box at the top of the screen.

Figure 9-7. The General tab, which shows you basic information about the disk


Tools

This tab includes a variety of maintenance tools, including tools to defragment the drive, back up the drive, and check the drive for errors.


Hardware

This tab (Figure 9-8) lists each physical disk drive on your system, including type, manufacturer name, and so on, and shows whether it is working properly. Highlight any drive and click the Properties button, and the Device Properties dialog box appears with tabs that:

  • Include information about the drive

  • List the volumes on the drive

  • Provide information about the device's drivers

  • Let you update, roll back, disable, or uninstall the driver

  • Let you set policies for removable storage devices, such as whether they should be optimized for quick removal or for high performance

  • Offer a variety of highly technical information about the drive's specifications and capabilities

Figure 9-8. The Hardware tab, which lists all of the physical disk drives on your system



Sharing

This tab (Figure 9-9) lets you set sharing options for the drive. Click Share to share the folder or change sharing options if the folder is already shared. Click Advanced Sharing if you want to give it a share name in addition to its existing folder name (do this if you want to make it easier for someone to find the folder). The Advanced Sharing button also lets you create custom permissions for the share.

Figure 9-9. The Sharing tab, where you can see basic information about the folder


Security

This tab shows you who has access to read and modify the folder and its attributes, and it lets you change those permissions. Click each group and username and you'll be shown the rights that person or group has to the folder filewhether she can read the file, modify the file, and so on. You can modify the permissions for each person or group, add new groups or people and set their permissions, and delete people or groups, which means they would have no access to the file. The Advanced button gives you additional ways to edit permissions, as well as a way to change who has ownership of the folder.

The various permission options and their meanings are quite complex, and beyond the scope of this book. However, if you want more details about all the available options, go to the Microsoft Knowledge Base article at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308419/en-us.



Previous Versions

This tab lets you view, save, or restore a previous version of a drive, if such a version is available. Two types of previous versions may be available: those from a backup, and those from what Windows Vista calls shadow copies. A shadow copy of a folder is a copy of a file made when Windows creates a restore point. (See "System Protection and System Restore," in Chapter 11, for details.)


Customize

This tab lets you customize how the root folder of the drive looks and acts. You can choose the kind of folder it is (All Items, Documents, Pictures and Videos, Music Details, or Music Icons). Based on what type of folder it is, the documents in it will be displayed differently, and different features will be available. For example, if a folder is a Pictures and Videos folder, the details it will display about each file include the Date Taken, Tags, and Size and Rating, and the folder toolbar will include a Slide Show button so that you can display a full screen show of the files in the folder. If, instead, the folder is a Documents folder, the details it will display are the Date Modified, Type, Size, and Tags. No Slide Show button will appear on the toolbar.

The tab also lets you choose a file that will be displayed on the root folder's icon in Windows Explorer, and it lets you choose an icon different from the default.


ReadyBoost

This tab (Figure 9-10) lets you configure a flash drive (USB, SD, MMC, etc.) to use ReadyBoost as a way to improve Windows Vista performance. You can select how much of the drive to use for ReadyBoost and how much for storage. For details, see "ReadyBoost," in Chapter 11.

Figure 9-10. The ReadyBoost tab, which lets you configure ReadyBoost on a flash drive


Recording

This tab (Figure 9-11) lets you select the default recorder, the drive to use to store temporary files necessary for burning discs, and settings related to burning discs, such as whether to eject the disk after burning.

Figure 9-11. The Recording tab, which controls burning options, including which drive should be the default one for recording

Notes

  • Not all flash drives meet the performance requirements needed to use ReadyBoost, so Windows Vista tests the drive when you insert it. If it doesn't meet the requirements, a screen appears, telling you that it can't be used for ReadyBoost.

  • To restore a previous version of a drive without using the Drive Properties screen, right-click the drive in Windows Explorer and select "Restore previous versions." You'll receive a warning before you overwrite the existing drive with the previous one.

See also

"File Properties" and "Folder Properties," in Chapter 4, "ReadyBoost," in Chapter 11, and "Sharing Resources and Files," in Chapter 7


Display Settings: \windows\system32\desk.cpl

Change the settings of your display adapter and monitor.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Adjust screen resolution

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Personalization Display Settings

Right-click on an empty portion of your Desktop Personalize Display Settings

Command Prompt desk.cpl

Description

This dialog (Figure 9-12) lets you choose the resolution and color depth of your screen, change your display hardware settings, and customize how you use two monitors on the same system. Two limitations of your video card may affect the settings here. First, the amount of memory on your video card dictates the maximum color depth and resolution you can use. Second, as you adjust your color depth, Windows may automatically adjust other settings depending on your card's capabilities. If you increase your color depth, your resolution might automatically decrease; likewise, if you raise the resolution, your color depth might go down.

Figure 9-12. Choosing your screen resolution, color depth, and multiple-monitor setup with the Display Settings dialog


If you have more than one monitor, using either two separate video cards or a single video card that supports two monitors, all configured screens will be shown in the preview area. Click any screen icon to activate it; the settings below apply only to the selected monitor. You can even drag and drop monitor icons to rearrange them so that, for example, a different monitor assumes the role of the upper left. If you're not sure which monitor is #1 and which is #2, click Identify Monitors.

The Advanced button allows you to view the hardware properties for your video adapter(s) and monitor(s). You'll really never need to adjust these settings unless you're updating a driver for your monitor or display adapter, configuring color profiles (for matching the color output of your printer with your scanner and monitor), or adjusting your monitor's refresh rate.

It's worth taking a few minutes to discuss the refresh rate. Although the maximum refresh rate does not depend on the amount of memory your card has, you may have to lower your resolution to achieve the desired rate. Windows should automatically adjust your refresh rate to the highest setting your card supports, but this does not always happen. If you notice that your display appears to be flickering, especially under fluorescent lights, you'll need to raise your refresh rate either by adjusting the refresh rate setting directly or by lowering your resolution or color depth. (Note that this does not apply to flat-panel or laptop displays, which never flicker.) Consequently, if you hear a slight whine from your monitor, it means your refresh rate is too high. The minimum refresh rate you should tolerate is 72 Hz. People with corrective lenses seem to be more sensitive and might require a higher setting to be comfortable. Most cards available today support refresh rates of 85 Hz and higher, so this is usually not a problem. If your display driver supports it, you can adjust your refresh rate with the Refresh Rate setting by clicking the Advanced button, clicking the Monitor tab, and changing the rate in the "Screen refresh rate" drop-down box.


Driver Verifier Manager: \windows\system32\verifier.exe

A tool for monitoring Windows kernel-mode drivers and graphics drivers.

To open

Command Prompt verifier

Description

Driver Verifier Manager is included with Windows Vista primarily for hardware manufacturers to test their drivers to ensure that they are not making illegal function calls or causing system corruption.

Notes

For more information on using the Driver Verifier Manager, see http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/DevTools/tools/vistaverifier.mspx.


DriverQuery: \windows\system32\driverquery.exe

Display a list of the installed device drivers and their properties.

To open

Command Prompt driverquery

Usage

driverquery [/fo] [/nh] [/si] [/v] [/s [/u [/p]]]

Description

Although Device Manager displays a hierarchical view of all of the devices attached to the system, only Driver Query provides a comprehensive list for every installed driver, either on a local machine or on any remote computer on the network.

Run Driver Query without any options to print out the basic list, or use one of the following options:


/fo format

Specify the format of the display: type /fo table (the default) for a formatted table, /fo list for a plain-text list, or /fo csv for a comma-separated report, suitable for importing into a spreadsheet or database.


/nh

If using the /fo table or /fo csv format (as just discussed), the /nh option turns off the column headers.


/v

Display additional details about drivers other than signed drivers.


/si

Display additional details about signed drivers.


/s system

Connect to a remote system, where system is the name of the computer.


/u user

Specify a user account (include an optional domain before the username) under which the command should execute.


/p password

Specify the password for the user account specified with the /u parameter; prompts for the password if omitted.


Game Controllers: \windows\system32\joy.cpl

Configure any joysticks, steering wheels, and game pads attached to your system.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Game Controllers

Command Prompt control joy.cpl

Description

Before you can use a joystick or other game controller with Windows-based games, you must install its driver here. If your game controller doesn't appear in the list, run the Add Hardware Wizard.

Notes

  • Not all game controllers have settings that you can change, so the Properties button may be grayed out.


Keyboard Properties

Change the keyboard repeat rate and text cursor blink rate.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Keyboard

Command Prompt control main.cpl Keyboard

Command Prompt control keyboard

Description

The Keyboard Properties dialog controls the way characters are repeated when keys are held down, as well as how quickly the text cursor (insertion point) blinks. Tip: move the "Repeat rate" slider all the way to the right (toward Fast), and your computer may actually seem faster (see Figure 9-13).

Figure 9-13. Making a computer seem faster by moving the Repeat rate slider all the way to the right in Character repeat


The Hardware tab simply provides access to the Properties sheet for your keyboard (the same one you'll get in Device Manager, discussed earlier in this chapter).

Notes

  • Some keyboards, especially those with additional function buttons (such as web links and CD player controls), come with their own software. Some of this software includes hardware drivers and is absolutely necessary for operation, and other software is purely optional, adding only trivial features. Given the potential compatibility problems with Windows Vista and older hardware, it's best to install such software only if it's necessary, if it provides features you can't live without, or if the hardware is recent enough that the vendor makes Vista-compatible drivers available.

See also

"Control Panel," in Chapter 3


Mouse Properties: \windows\system32\main.cpl

Change settings that affect the behavior of your pointing device and the appearance of the mouse cursor.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Mouse

Command Prompt control main.cpl

Command Prompt control mouse

Description

The Mouse Properties dialog controls the buttons and motion of your pointing device and the appearance of the various mouse cursors, such as the arrow and hourglass. Settings are distributed into the following sections:


Buttons

The three settings on this page allow you to switch the left and right mouse buttons (useful for southpaws or those with unusual pointing devices), change the speed at which items respond to double-clicks, and control the ClickLock feature (which enables dragging without having to hold down any buttons).


Pointers

The Pointers tab (Figure 9-14) lets you choose how your mouse pointer looks. This affects not only the standard arrow cursor, but also the hourglass, the arrow/hourglass combination, all of the resize arrows, and even the hand cursor used in Internet Explorer. Cursors that ship with Windows are stored in the \Windows\Cursors folder and additional cursors are available on the Internet from such web sites as http://www.anicursor.com. You can also get a cursor editor, allowing you to create your own static and animated mouse pointers (try AX-Cursors at http://www.axialis.com/axcursors, or Microangelo at http://www.microangelo.us).

Figure 9-14. Choosing custom mouse pointers

A free program called Comet Cursor promises to let you customize your cursor. However, many people consider it spyware, and once you install it, it may be difficult to remove, even with antispyware software such as Windows Defender.



Pointer Options

These settings adjust how the mouse pointer responds to the physical motion of your pointing device. A fast pointer speed makes the cursor more sensitive. The "Enhance pointer precision" option enables minor mouse acceleration and deceleration, which moves the pointer more slowly when you move only a short distance.

If you use a laptop, it's easy to lose track of your pointer, and it may be difficult to find at times. Two Pointer Options settings can help solve the problem. With the "Display pointer trails" option, your pointer will leave a series of visual "trails" as it moves across the screen, making it easier to see. And the "Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key" option is particularly helpful for those times when the pointer appears to have vanished; if you choose this option, a bull's-eye appears around the pointer when you press Ctrl.



Wheel

The mouse wheel is intended to aid scrolling. Just roll the wheel to scroll up or down in a listbox, document, or web page instead of controlling the scroll bar directly with the mouse pointer. The options here also let you control wheels that tilt. If your pointing device doesn't have a wheel, these settings are ignored.


Hardware

Finally, the Hardware tab simply lists the pointing devices attached to the system. Note that the Properties page is the same one you'll get in Device Manager (discussed earlier in this chapter).

Notes

  • Many pointing devices come with their own software. Some of this software includes hardware drivers and is absolutely necessary for operation, and other software is purely optional, adding only trivial features. Given the potential compatibility problems with Windows Vista and older hardware, it's best to install such software only if it's necessary, if it provides features you can't live without, or if the hardware is recent enough that the vendor makes Vista-compatible drivers available.

  • Laptops include built-in touchpads or other devices that serve the function of mice. Many include their own software for adjusting how they work, which may either run separately from the Mouse Properties dialog or add an additional tab or tabs to the Mouse Properties dialog.

See also

"Keyboard Properties"


Pen and Input Devices

See Chapter 7.


Phone and Modem Options

See Chapter 7.


Power Options

See Chapter 7.


Printers

Manage printers.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Printers

Description

Printers (Figure 9-15) is actually a specialized Windows Explorer folder that offers a variety of ways to manage your printers and printing. The folder lists all of your printers and includes a toolbar for managing them, including adding a printer, opening the print queue, choosing printing preferences, pausing a printer, renaming and deleting a printer, sharing a printer, and so on.

Figure 9-15. The Printer folder, which lets you manage all your printers


Many of the same options are also available when you right-click a printer. To set a printer as the default, right-click it and choose Set as Default Printer.

Printers need not be actual physical printers connected to your PC; they can also be virtual. For example, the Microsoft XPS Document Writer is listed as a printer, but it's used to create XPS documents. (For details, see "XPS Document Viewer," later in this chapter.) Your computer's fax capabilities appear as a virtual printer as well. To use a virtual printer, select the virtual printer when you print from within a program, such as Microsoft Word.


For configuring a printer and setting its options, your best bet is to right-click it and choose Properties. The Properties dialog has these tabs available:


General

This tab (Figure 9-16) displays the printer name, location, and details such as its rated print speed, maximum resolution, and other specifications.

Figure 9-16. The General tab, which shows detailed information about the printer's specifications


Sharing

This lets you turn sharing on and off, and set whether the print jobs should be rendered on your computer or on the computer connecting to your printer.


Ports

This lets you choose which ports the printer should use.


Advanced

This sets many different options, including whether the printer should wait to print until the final page of the job is spooled or start printing immediately, and whether to set a separator page that will print between print jobs.


Color Management

This lets you match the output of a printer to your screen colors. This is primarily for professional designers. See "Color Management," earlier in this chapter, for details.


Security

This lets you set permissions for those who are allowed to use the printer, and how they can use itfor example, can they manage the printer as well as print to it?


Printer

This lets you set any special options associated with the printer, such as using power-saving features.


About

This provides basic information about the manufacturer and driver.

Notes

  • The default printer will have a small green checkbox on its icon.

  • Any shared printer will have a small sharing symbol on its icon.

See also

"Add Printer," "Add Hardware Wizard," and "Color Management"


ReadyBoost

See Chapter 11.


Scanners and Cameras

Displays and configures scanners and digital cameras.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Scanners and Cameras

Description

The Scanners and Cameras window (see Figure 9-17) lists any digital cameras or scanners attached to the system.

Figure 9-17. The Scanners and Cameras screen, which lists all installed scanners and printers and lets you configure them


If you have a scanner or digital camera attached to your system and it's not showing up, click Refresh. If it still doesn't show up, click Add Device, and the Scanner and Camera Installation Wizard appears. It is, in fact, the same wizard as the Add Hardware Wizard, so just follow those instructions.

When you add a USB scanner or digital camera to your PC, Windows Vista should recognize it and install the driver for it, or it should walk you through the process of installing the driver. You should also consider first running the installation routine that comes with the scanner or camera.


You can set up separate scan profiles for your scanners to set things such as the default file format and resolution for your scanned files. Click Scan Profiles to view, edit, or delete your existing profiles, or to add new ones.

The Scanner and Cameras screen also lets you view the properties of any of your installed devices and change the way the device worksfor example, setting which program should work, by default, with your scanner, or changing a network scanner's IP address. The exact tabs and properties available will vary from device to device.

Importing pictures from cameras

Most cameras come with software for importing pictures into Windows. But the truth is, you don't need that software because Windows Vista gives you multiple ways to view and import pictures.

Windows will recognize the memory card in the camera as a removable disk when you plug in the camera (Figure 9-18). You have these options for viewing or copying the pictures.

Figure 9-18. Options for importing or viewing pictures from a digital camera



View Pictures using Windows Media Center

This opens Windows Media Center and lets you view or play the pictures. For details, see "Windows Media Center," in Chapter 12.

Windows Media Center is not available in the Home Basic, Business, or Enterprise editions.



Import Pictures using Windows

This launches a wizard (Figure 9-19) that imports your pictures into a new folder it creates in \Users\username\Pictures. The new folder has the current date, so the whole path would be \Users\username\Pictures\2007-11-21 if you imported the pictures on November 21, 2007. As you import the pictures, you can tag them so that they'll carry whatever tags you apply to them.

Figure 9-19. Importing pictures from a digital camera


View Pictures using Windows

This opens the pictures in the Windows Photo Gallery, where you can handle them as you can any other photos. For details, see "Windows Photo Gallery," in Chapter 12.


Open Folder to View Files using Windows Explorer

This opens Windows Explorer to the drive of the camera, where you can view and manage the files using Windows Explorer's normal tools.

Scanning pictures using Windows Fax and Scan

It's best to use scanning software that came with your printer in order to do scans. But if you prefer, you can use Windows Fax and Scan to scan pictures as well. (For details, see "Windows Fax and Scan," in Chapter 10.)

Run Windows Fax and Scan by selecting Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Scan a Document or Picture, or by typing wfs at a command prompt. When Windows Fax and Scan launches, click New Scan and follow the instructions.

See also

"Windows Fax and Scan," in Chapter 10, and "Windows Media Center" and "Windows Photo Gallery," in Chapter 12


Signature Verification Tool: \windows\system32\sigverif.exe

Verify digital signatures in device drivers.

To open

Command Prompt sigverif

Description

Microsoft digitally signs device drivers shipped with Windows so that you can verify that they have not been modified since testing. Drivers developed by third-party manufacturers are submitted to Microsoft for testing and, once those drivers pass the hardware standards testing, they are signed as well. The Signature Verification Tool (sigverif.exe) lets you manually verify that your installed drivers have not been modified in any way since testing.

Click Start to scan your system for unsigned drivers; if any are found, you'll be notified. Click Advanced to search files other than drivers and to enable logging.

Notes

  • Windows automatically checks every driver installed through traditional channels (such as the Add Hardware Wizard) for a digital signature. If one is found, it is displayed; if no such signature is found, a warning message is shown instead.


Sound Recorder: \windows\system32\SoundRecorder.exe

Record and play sound files.

To open

Start All Programs Accessories Sound Recorder

Command Prompt Soundrecorder

Description

You use the Sound Recorder (Figure 9-20) to record simple sound clips, either in Windows Media Audio (.wma) or Waveform audio (.wav) format, depending on your version of Windows Vista. Windows Vista Basic and Windows Vista record sound files as .wav files, and all other versions record sound files as .wma files.

Figure 9-20. Using Sound Recorder to create short audio clips


Unlike the Sound Recorder in Windows XP, the Windows Vista version only records sounds and cannot play them back or edit them. (For playing them back, use Windows Media Player.) There are virtually no controls. Click Start Recording to begin recording sound; click Stop Recording to stop and save the sound, or click Resume Recording after you've stopped to continue recording where you left off.

Notes

  • .wav files are extremely large and are rarely used in sound and multimedia applications. A typical five-minute .wav file recorded by the Sound Recorder will take up approximately 51 MB, and a five-minute .wma file will be approximately 3.5 MB.

  • The Sound Recorder records both .wma and .wav files at 96 kilobits per second, at a 44.1 kHz sample rate.

See also

"Windows Media Player," in Chapter 12


Sound: \windows\system32\mmsys.cpl

Configure the sounds and sound devices used in Windows.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Sound

Command Prompt mmsys.cpl

Description

The Sound dialog (Figure 9-21) contains these tabs:

Figure 9-21. The Sound dialog, where you view and configure audio devices



Playback

Lists all the audio playback devices for your PC, including speakers, USB speakers, or any other audio hardware. A green checkmark will appear next to the one that is the default for the system. To select any other as the default, highlight it and click Set Default.

The Configure button lets you view and choose any special configurations for the device, and it includes a Test button so that you can test each sound devicefor example, if the device is a pair of stereo speakers, you can test each one independently.

The Properties button leads to a Properties dialog with multiple tabs, the exact nature of which will vary according to the device. But generally you'll be able to set audio levels, use any special enhancements such as virtual sound and bass boost, and set the default audio playback quality.


Recording

Lists all the recording devices such as microphones attached to your PC. The Properties button, like the one for the Playback tab, offers a variety of advanced configuration options, such as setting the audio level and quality. The Configure button doesn't lead you to a configuration screen, as you would expect. Instead, it links to the Speech Recognition dialog, which allows you to set speech recognition options.


Sounds

This tab allows you to associate short clips of sounds with various system events and messages. Select an event from the list and then choose a sound (.wav) file to associate with it. When you're done, save your choices into a Sound scheme for easy retrieval later (see Figure 9-22).

Figure 9-22. Changing the sounds that Windows makes for system events

Notes

  • To get to any of the individual tabs on this dialog, right-click the speaker icon in the notification area, select Sounds, and then choose the tab.

See also

"Volume Mixer"


System Information

See Chapter 11.


System Properties

See Chapter 11.


Tablet PC Settings

See Chapter 7.


Volume Mixer

Control the volume of sound devices.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Adjust System Volume

Tray Right-click the speaker icon and choose Open Volume Mixer

Tray Left-click the speaker icon and choose Mixer

Description

The Volume Mixer (Figure 9-23) lets you change the volume of your current speakers or other audio device, as well as the volume of sounds for Windows system events and for individual applications that use sounds for notifications and warnings. If you have multiple applications running, you can change their volumes independently of one another, through separate sliders.

Figure 9-23. Configuring the volume


For the device or application for which you want to change the volume, move the slider up or down to increase or decrease the volume. Click the Mute button at the bottom of each to mute it; click it again to unmute.

Notes

  • The Volume Mixer controls the current speaker or audio device; to see its name, choose the Device menu, and it will be displayed.

  • If you want to control the volume of only the current speaker or audio device and not system or application volumes, click the speaker icon, and a control for the current speaker or device appears; move the slider to make your change.

See also

"Sound"


Windows Update Driver Settings

Control how Windows finds new drivers.

To open

Right-click Computer on Start menu Properties Advanced System Settings Hardware Windows Update Driver Settings

Control Panel [System and Maintenance] System, then click Change Settings Hardware Windows Update Driver Settings

Command Prompt sysdm.cpl Hardware Windows Update Driver Settings

Description

When you connect a new device to your PC, Windows automatically finds and installs the driver. The Windows Update Driver Settings dialog (Figure 9-24) lets you change that default behavior. You can have Windows ask each time before checking for drivers, or not check for drivers at all.

Figure 9-24. Changing the default behavior for updating drivers


See also

"System Properties," in Chapter 11


XPS Document Viewer

View documents in the new .xps format.

To open

Double-click any file in the .xps format.

Description

The new XML Paper Specification (XPS), introduced with Windows Vista, is Microsoft's answer to Adobe's popular Portable Document Format .pdf format. It displays a document with all of its layout, fonts, and graphics intact. Any Windows application can create a .xps file by printing as it would normally, except choosing the Microsoft XPS Document Writer as the printer and then saving the results on disk to an .xps file. XPS documents can be read but not edited.

Windows Vista's built-in XPS Document Viewer (Figure 9-25) runs as a specialized instance of Internet Explorer.

Figure 9-25. The XPS Document Viewer, which runs inside Internet Explorer


The XPS Document Viewer has a special toolbar across the top that lets you save a copy of the document under another name, digitally sign the document so that recipients know that it came from you, and set permissions and a password that control who can view the document.

The upper-righthand portion of the viewer has a Search box. Click the down arrow to the right of the box for special searching options, such as matching case, matching the whole word, matching diacritic marks, and so on.

The bottom of the view has controls for navigation and for the display of pagesfor example, displaying multiple pages, setting page-width viewing, and other options.

Notes

  • The XPS Document Viewer is built into Windows Vista but not other versions of Windows. Those with other Windows versions can download a version of the XPS Document Viewer from http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/xps/viewxps.mspx.

  • You can copy and paste text from an .xps document just as you can from any other document.



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