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Device Manager, Hardware Wizards, and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

Updated: December 16, 2009

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2

In this section

Benefits and purposes of Device Manager and hardware wizards

Overview: Using Device Manager in a managed environment

How hardware wizards communicate with Internet sites

Controlling hardware wizards to limit the flow of information to and from the Internet

Procedures for controlling communication between hardware wizards and the Windows Update Web site

Additional references

This section provides information about:

  • The benefits of Device Manager and hardware wizards.

  • How hardware wizards communicate with Internet sites.

    Device Manager provides an interface for viewing the configuration of hardware devices, and the wizards help you install and configure the correct driver for a device. This section describes how the wizards communicate with the Internet and provides background about Device Manager.

  • How to control hardware wizards to limit the flow of information to and from the Internet.

noteNote
Hardware wizards are not the only means that you can use to download a device driver from the Internet. On a computer running Windows® 7 or Windows Server® 2008 R2, if automatic updating is enabled, device drivers that are specific to the devices on that computer can be downloaded from Windows Update Web servers. For information about Windows Update and procedures related to turning off automatic updating, see Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document.

This information about Device Manager and hardware wizards is also related to Plug and Play (PnP), which is described briefly in Plug and Play and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 7 later in this document.

Hardware wizards supplement Device Manager functionality.

Device Manager is one of a group of technologies that support the installation of hardware devices and the device driver software that enables them to communicate with Windows operating systems. Features in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 give administrators the ability to control the devices that can be installed on the computers they manage.

noteNote
By default, only administrators or users with administrative credentials can install or update device drivers. However, this default can be changed by modifying Group Policy settings.

Hardware wizards simplify the process of obtaining the correct device driver for a particular device. Hardware wizards can be especially important if a new device is attached to the computer and no device driver is available locally. If the Found New Hardware Wizard is allowed to search the Windows Update Web servers and the device driver is available there, the device driver can quickly be downloaded and the device can then be used. Otherwise, the device driver must be installed manually, or the device driver can be downloaded and installed the next time Windows Update (if enabled) completes an update.

Administrators can access Device Manager through Control Panel\System and Maintenance\System. Users can access Device Manager in the same way to view information about the hardware that is installed on their computers, but they must have administrative credentials to add or update device drivers.

Administrators (or users with administrative credentials) will typically use Device Manager to check the status of the hardware on their computers and to update device drivers. Administrators who have a thorough understanding of computer hardware might also use Device Manager's diagnostic features to resolve device conflicts and change resource settings.

Device Manager can work in conjunction with hardware wizards and the Windows Update Web site to deliver updated drivers for installed hardware. If an administrator attaches a new device and Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 does not find an appropriate device driver on the computer, the Found New Hardware Wizard searches the Windows Update Web site (if an Internet connection is available) for the device driver.

If the administrator requests to upgrade a device driver, the response is slightly different: by default, a prompt appears asking whether the search for a device driver should include the Internet or only the local computer.

As an administrator, you can control whether Device Manager or hardware wizards search the Internet for device drivers. You can do this through Control Panel or Group Policy. Another option is to use Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to direct device driver searches to a server in your network instead of to the Windows Update Web servers. A third option is to turn off all access to Windows Update by using Group Policy.

For more information about these options, see the following topics later in this section:

You can also use a registry key to specify the search path for hardware wizards. For more information, see Additional references later in this section.

Hardware wizards search for device drivers in slightly different ways, depending on what type of device driver is needed. Devices include:

  • An existing device for which a new device driver is available. To update a device driver, a person logged on to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 as an administrator opens Device Manager, selects a hardware device, and on the Action menu, clicks Update Driver Software. Alternatively, the person can open Device Manager, right-click a hardware device, and click Update Driver Software. This activates the Update Driver Software Wizard. If Windows Update device driver search is not disabled, a prompt appears asking whether the search for a device driver should include the Internet or only the local computer.

  • A new PnP device for which no driver is included in Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. To install a new PnP device, a user who is logged on to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 as an administrator first attaches the device. In some instances, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 finds the appropriate driver locally and installs it without input from the user. In other instances, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 cannot find an appropriate driver locally, and the Found New Hardware Wizard starts. By default, the Found New Hardware Wizard searches the Windows Update Web servers for an updated device driver (but an administrator can control this through Control Panel or Group Policy).

  • A device that is not PnP. If users are logged on to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 as an administrator, and they attach a device that is not PnP, they can double-click Add Hardware in the Classic View of Control Panel to start the Add Hardware Wizard. This wizard does not connect to the Internet to locate device drivers.

In cases where a hardware wizard communicates with the Windows Update Web servers, the communication is like other communication with Windows Update. Therefore, some items in the following list refer to Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document.

Hardware wizards communicate with sites on the Internet as follows:

  • Specific information sent or received: See Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document.

  • Default settings: By default, hardware wizards are capable of searching Windows Update Web servers for a device driver. For a description of the defaults that are used for prompting, see "User notification" later in this list.

  • Triggers: A person logged on as an administrator starts the Update Driver Software Wizard or adds a new PnP device for which Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 cannot find an appropriate driver locally.

    ImportantImportant
    Hardware wizards are not the only way that you can download a device driver from the Internet. For example, let’s say that a user attaches a new device for which there is no driver to a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. Later, when automatic updating discovers that a device driver is available on the Windows Update Web servers, the driver will be downloaded. For procedures to turn off automatic updating, see Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document.

  • User notification: By default, if the Found New Hardware Wizard does not locate a device driver locally for a device that has just been attached, it does not notify the user before searching the Windows Update Web site for a device driver. By default, when the Update Driver Software Wizard is started, a prompt appears asking whether the search for a device driver should include the Internet or only the local computer.

    You can control whether these wizards prompt in this way. For details, see Procedures for controlling communication between hardware wizards and the Windows Update Web site later in this section.

  • Logging: Errors that result from problems installing hardware devices without drivers are logged to the event log.

  • Encryption, access, privacy, transmission protocol, and port: See Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document and the Update Services Privacy Statement on the Microsoft® Web site.

  • Ability to disable: You cannot disable Device Manager, but you can use Control Panel or Group Policy to prevent hardware wizards from searching for drivers on the Windows Update Web site. Alternatively, you can turn off all access to Windows Update.

To prevent hardware wizards from searching the Windows Update Web servers for device drivers, you can use Control Panel or Group Policy.

Another option for preventing hardware wizards from communicating with the Internet is to use Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to send device driver searches to a server in your network instead of to the Windows Update Web servers. For more information, see the following topics on TechNet:

A third option is to turn off all access to Windows Update by using Group Policy. If you turn off all access to Windows Update, users who are logged on can still use Device Manager to view information about their hardware devices. In addition, administrators still have the option to manually download driver updates from an Internet site or from an intranet server that you maintain on your network.

It is also possible to use a registry key to specify the search path for hardware wizards to use. For more information about this option, see Additional references later in this section.

This section includes procedures for:

  • Controlling Windows Update device driver search and prompts by using Control Panel.

  • Specifying driver search locations for PnP devices by using Group Policy.

    When you install new hardware, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will search the following locations for drivers, if available: the hard disk drive, the floppy disk drive, the CD drive, the DVD drive, removable storage devices, and Windows Update. However, you can configure the driver search locations to remove selected locations.

  • Turning off Windows Update device driver search by using Group Policy.

For the procedures to turn off all access to the Windows Update Web site or configure automatic updating, see Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document.

ImportantImportant
On a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, if automatic updating is enabled, device drivers that are specific to the devices on that computer could be downloaded from the Windows Update Web servers. For procedures related to turning off automatic updating, see Windows Update and Resulting Internet Communication in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 later in this document.

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel, or point to Settings and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click System.

  3. Click Advanced system settings, and then click the Hardware tab.

  4. Click Device Installation Settings.

  5. Choose one of the following options:

    • Yes, do this automatically (recommended).

    • No, let me choose what to do. If you select this option, you must then choose one of the following options:

      • Always install the best driver software from Windows Update.

      • Install driver software from Windows Update if it is not found on my computer.

      • Never install driver software from Windows Update.

  1. As needed, see Appendix B: Resources for Learning About Group Policy for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and then edit an appropriate Group Policy object (GPO).

  2. Expand User Configuration, expand Policies (if present), expand Administrative Templates, expand System, and then click Driver Installation.

  3. In the details pane, double-click Configure driver search locations, and then click Enabled.

  4. Select or clear check boxes to prevent or allow searching of available locations such as DVD drives, removable storage devices, or Windows Update.

    ImportantImportant
    Group Policy contains a setting called Allow non-administrators to install drivers for these device classes. To access this setting, expand Computer Configuration, expand Policies (if present), expand Administrative Templates, expand System, and then click Driver Installation. When this setting is enabled and a non-administrator uses a hardware wizard, the wizard does not search the Windows Update Web servers or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for drivers. If you want to use this setting to allow non-administrators to install device drivers that are not included in Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, make the drivers available through some means other than WSUS, for example, by placing them in a shared folder and notifying users of the folder location.

  1. As needed, see Appendix B: Resources for Learning About Group Policy for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and then edit an appropriate GPO.

  2. Expand Computer Configuration, expand Policies (if present), expand Administrative Templates, expand System, expand Internet Communication Management, and then click Internet Communication settings.

  3. In the details pane, double-click Turn off Windows Update device driver searching, and then click Enabled.

    ImportantImportant
    You can also restrict Internet access for hardware wizards and a number of other features by applying the Restrict Internet communication policy setting. To access this setting, Expand Computer Configuration, expand Policies (if present), expand Administrative Templates, expand System, and expand Internet Communication Management.

    The following Group Policy settings can also be used to regulate Internet communications behavior during device driver installation:

    • Under Administrative Templates\System\Device Installation:

      • Allow remote access to the Plug and Play interface

      • Prevent device metadata retrieval from the Internet

      • Do not send a Windows error report when a generic driver is installed on a device

      • Prevent Windows from sending an error report when a device driver requests additional software during installation

    • Under Administrative Templates\System\Driver Installation:

      • Driver Installation, Turn off Windows Update device driver search prompt

    For more information, see Appendix C: Group Policy Settings Listed Under the Internet Communication Management Category in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

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