Computer connection problems solved Fix connection issues in Windows 7 and 8

Most of the time, when you plug something like a printer or an external hard drive into your computer, it will work straightaway. So, it’s frustrating when Windows 7 or Windows 8 refuses to recognise a device, or the device itself won’t work the way it should.

Once you’ve tried restarting the device and the computer, use Windows’ Device Manager to track down and fix the problem.

Located in the Windows 7 and Windows 8 Control Panel, Device Manager is a tool that lets you manage and troubleshoot both your computer’s internal components and devices connected to your PC. If a Windows device isn’t working properly, Device Manager will flag the problem with an error code.

Open Device Manager

In Windows 7 – click the Start button, then click Control Panel. In the Control Panel, click Hardware and Sound. In the window that appears, Device Manager is located under the Devices and Printers section. Click Device Manager to launch it.

In Windows 8 – move your mouse cursor to the bottom-left of the screen and right-click the thumbnail image that appears. From the pop-up menu, click Device Manager.

Check devices are working properly

1. Click the arrow next to each device category to reveal individual hardware components, such as external hard drives

Device Manager

2. Double-click an item to reveal a Properties window

3. If everything’s running OK, you'll see the message ‘This device is working properly’ under the Device status

Device Manager2

Identify and fix problematic devices

Problem hardware appears in Device Manager with a small warning icon. A down-pointing arrow symbolises that a device has been disabled.

1. Double-click the device and then click Enable Device to correct this

If there’s a yellow exclamation mark next to a device or it is listed as ‘Unknown Device’, this usually means that the device driver hasn’t installed correctly.

2. Double-click the device, click on Reinstall Driver and follow the on-screen instructions

Hardware and sound

Another tool you can use in Windows to control your computer's external devices is Hardware and sound, located in the Control Panel. Here you can manage your audio, media, printers and so forth.

Open Hardware and Sound

In Windows 7 – click the Start button, and then click on Control Panel. In the Control Panel window, click Hardware and Sound.

In Windows 8 – move your mouse cursor to the bottom-left of the screen and right-click the thumbnail image that appears. From the pop-up menu, click Control Panel. In the Control Panel windows, click Hardware and Sound.

Fix devices that don’t work properly

One of the most common problems is when devices don’t work as you’d expect when you connect them, such as a music CD that doesn’t play or a digital camera that doesn’t export its images to the computer. The Hardware and Sound Control Panel can solve this using AutoPlay:

1. Click on the green AutoPlay link in Hardware and sound

Devices and Harware and sound

2. Make sure there’s a tick in the box next to where it says Use AutoPlay for all media and devices

3. Click the down arrow to select the desired outcome for an event. For example, under Audio CD you may choose Play audio CD using iTunes

Devices and Harware and sound2

4. If you’re unsure, select Ask me every time, and an AutoPlay window will appear every time you insert the media or device, allowing you to choose an action from the list. Click Save


Devices and Harware and sound3

More on this…

  • Looking for a new laptop? – Find the best laptop for you and your budget
  • Free software - save hundreds of pounds with free software downloads
  • Back up your data – All you need to know about safely backing up your data to