Obtaining Drivers for Unknown Devices

Are you having trouble finding drivers for "unknown devices"? Windows cannot always recognize some devices making it difficult to find out what they are. In this guide, we will show you advanced steps on finding out what hardware is in your system and how to get drivers for it.
How to do it.

Obtaining system drivers has become relatively easy nowadays. Most manufacturers have made drivers available on their website in an easy to use fashion making it simple to obtain them. We even have several guides on our website that describe the driver download process. You can do most drivers manually, or you can install them using dedicated software such as Driver Genius.

However, this particular guide applies to those stubborn devices that show up in the device manager under the category of “Unknown”.

When a device falls in this category, Windows is unable to tell where it belongs based on its hardware identification numbers. Unless you actually know what part this may be, it would be difficult to obtain correct drivers. Even automated programs such as Windows Update, or dedicated driver programs such as Driver Genius or Driver Detective may not be able to recognize this device. In that case, manual investigation is needed to establish what device it is, and then look for the driver online like you would normally.

First Step – Obtaining Information

In order to get at least some insight on what this device could be, you will need to obtain it’s hardware ID number. You can do so by following the next set of steps:

1)      Go to Device Manager – Start > Right click on Computer > Manage > Device Manager

2)      Right click on Unknown Device > Properties

3)      Click on Details Tab

4)      From the drop down list, pick the Hardware IDs item.

5)      You should get an output like this:

Second Step – Understanding the Output

Being able to understand these lines of code will help you determine what part you have much quicker. Let’s start with the first portion in our example, which is USB\. This part indicates what type of device this is. Basically, the manner in which connects to your system. Most common prefixes include USB and PCI. Generally parts that are attached to the motherboard are considered PCI. If you’re physically plugging something into USB, it will come up as USB. Disk drives might come up as IDE, while there are other less common prefixes as well.

Next part, starting with the VID followed by numbers and letters is the Vendor ID. In our example, it is the following string: VID_0B05. What this represents is the ID of the manufacturer. This is the first portion of identification. If you’re familiar with how a MAC address is constructed, this is very similar to that. First half of the ID is typically manufacturer related, while the 2nd half is related to the part itself.

If we do a quick search on VID_0B05 it will become very obvious that this vendor ID belongs to AsusTek Computer Inc. At this point, you might’ve already recognized your own device. Based on your invoice or some other documentation, you might’ve noticed a part that belongs to this vendor. If so, it might be easier to find what it is. If it’s still unknown, we can dissect the next part of the ID, and try to identify the part itself.

KEEP IN MIND THAT THE & SYMBOL IS NOT PART OF THE ID. IT IS ONLY USED TO APPEND DIFFERENT IDS TOGETHER. LEAVE THE & SYMBOL OUT OF THE SEARCH WHEN LOOKING FOR DEVICES.

Our second half looks like this: PID_17AB. This is the Part ID, and it identifies the actual part that belongs to AsusTek. Quick internet search on this item reveals that it is related to Asus USB-N13 Wireless Adapter. We did not even have to click on any results, the answer was already in the cached search.

At this point, we obviously know what part it is, so if you needed drivers for it, you would have to go to Asus Support website, search for USB-N13 and download the appropriate driver for your system.

You might also be wondering what the last part of the ID was, REV_0200. This information is part specific and doesn’t always appear. In this case, it’s telling us the revision of the board, firmware or the controller on this particular device. Because it’s part specific, it will always mean something different. For Solid State Drives, it will be firmware revision.

It may not always be this simple to find your driver. You might not even be successful with this method. It all depends if the device is recognized properly and that there’s enough documentation online. Because this method isn’t 100% reliable, there are some tips you should consider when dealing with Unknown Devices.

1)      At the moment, most unknown devices seem to come from Bluetooth adapters. If you can identify the Bluetooth adapter on your system, you will be on the right track finding the driver

2)      If your motherboard manufacturer offers driver packages, make sure to install every single one of them. This will cover all the possibilities, narrowing down your search even more.

3)      Make sure that you’re using an operating system that is compatible with your hardware. If you’re hardware is too old, but you’re attempting to run a fresh new system, it may not be possible to find new drivers.

Lastly, be careful as always when performing internet searches. Because PID and VID numbers are massively spread, they can sometimes belong to phishing and malicious pages. If you’re using google, try to gather information from just the search results themselves. Avoid clicking on any links directly in hopes to download the driver from the site that claims to have it. Only use the search for information. Once you found who makes your part, go to that manufacturer’s page and get the driver from them. Do not rely on bogus internet pages to provide correct drives. You may get a virus, malware, or a driver that may break your operating system.

*Disclaimer: AVADirect and its Staff are not responsible for any damage to software/hardware, loss of data or personal injury by following our How-To guides. These guides are provided only as an aid to help you troubleshoot system problems. If you do not feel comfortable performing these steps its always best to send in your system to a local repair shop or contact an appropriate technical support line for additional assistance.