USB device doesn’t work anymore in XP? Manual driver installation might help.

This evening, C.N., a friend, told me about a problem with USB devices on Windows XP (SP3). Whenever she wanted to connect a device with one of the USB ports, she could not use it—whether it was her mouse, her webcam or her digital camera. She couldn’t even access her external hard drive, as it did not show up in “My Computer”.

Digital camera, thanks to When I told her to open device manager with Start, Run…, devmgmt.msc, she stated that “Unknown devices” were listed there, with yellow exclamation marks. I was wondering where to get their drivers, even asked for the original CDs in hopes to grab the needed drivers from there. However, there was one thing I learned tonight: Simply let Windows do the search. My friend right-clicked the unknown device and chose “Update driver…”; then she clicked “Install software automatically”. And voilà: the driver was found—something I would never have expected, as normally the system would have detected the devices automatically.

Surprisingly, this worked even for new devices. When a camera was plugged in, the drive didn’t show up instantly, only an Unknown device. Only when my friend used device manager to install the drivers (without having to browse for the driver file manually; automatic discovery was sufficient), everything worked. Nearly. Because—auto-play doesn’t work; that is, the Scanner and Camera Wizard does not open automatically on plug-in, although the settings in the device properties (“AutoPlay” tab) are correct.


  • Plug & Play does not work. (The “Plug & Play” system service is “Started” and “Automatically”.)
  • Manual driver setup with automatic search does work.
  • AutoPlay does not work.

Any tips appreciated…


  1. I believe auto-run has been disabled for most stuff for security issues. Anyway, Windows is pretty good at automatically finding drivers. I believe a recent “study” found that over 90% of all drivers can be located and installed automatically by using the “Find …” function. Pretty nifty.

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