Windows

Windows Vista Help

Hardware

1. What Hardware is compatible with Windows Vista?

Most recent hardware in last 3 years will be compatible with Vista. To determine if a piece of older hardware is compatible is to to visit the manufacturer's web page.
Minimum requirements are a Pentium IV 800MHz, a 512MB or more RAM, and a 20Gb or larger Hard Disk (15 GB free space), a DirectX 9 graphics card with and a DVD ROM drive.
I would recommend these requirements Pentium IV/Athlon 1GHz, 1GB or RAM, 80GB Hard drive, a DirectX 9 or better 3D graphics card with 128MB RAM and a DVD drive.

To see what your current system setup is like, run DXDiag.exe and check out the following information: System: Processor, Memory. Display: DDI Version, Directx Features (all enabled).
For disk size, check out size of C: in My Computer.

2. How do I install Drivers for Hardware in Vista?

There are a number of ways to install drivers for hardware.
a) Plug'n'Play. You switch off your PC, add the new hardware, reboot and XP will auto detect your new hardware and if a driver is available, will automatically install it for you. If no driver is available, it will ask you to specify a CDROM, Floppy disk or folder on your hard disk where the driver can be found.
b) Control Panel. Open Device Manager via Start, Settings, Control Panel, Printers and Other Hardware. Here you can add drivers for Printers, Faxes, Game Controllers, Mouse, Scanners, Cameras and other hardware. If its something else, click on System and click on Hardware tab and then Device Manager. Select the Unknown device, select Properties, then Driver and select Update Driver to install a new driver.
c) Add Hardware Wizard. This will search for the new hardware and install drivers for you, have a CD or driver ready when you run this.
d) Third party program. To make things easier, some programs can search, download and install new drivers for you, for example, Driver Easy.

3. Vists Does not recognise my CD-RW or DVD-RW discs?

If you recorded a CD-RW or DVD-RW with a UDF packet driver program such as Nero's InCD or Roxio Media Creator programs then you will need to install the latest version of Nero or Creator to be able to read them again as Windows Vista does not natively recognise those disks.

4. My PC will not switch off when I shutdown?

Enable Power Management in the BIOS and check the settings in the Power Options Control Panel.

5. Every time I install a driver, I get a 'data invalid' error. How can I install my driver?

What is likely causing the 'data invalid' error in this instance is that the Permissions setting within the system Registry in Windows XP is incorrect and thus will not allow XP itself to install the adapter. This is not necessarily limited to 1394 controllers and you may encounter this issue installing other types of adapters.
You need to change the Permissions of the registry settings, by loading REGEDT32 and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ and look for the device entry that is causing the problem and set the Permission for that key for Everyone to have Full Control. Then you will be able to install the driver.

6. How do I uninstall Drivers?

You can uninstall some drivers via the Add/Remove Programs control panel. For example, ATI add a 'ATI Display Driver' entry which can be uninstalled before updating them.
Alternatively, a driver can be installed via Device Manager in the Properties of the device, click Drivers and then click the Uninstall button.

Uninstall Driver

7. What does it mean that a driver is not digitally signed?

To improve the quality of driver software and prevent system instability, Microsoft has added Driver Signing which means that the driver has been tested and approved by Microsoft to be used on Windows Vista. Vista needs signed drivers for some hardware such as graphics cards to ensure a stable system. Not all drivers are signed but you can still use them, but at your own risk. You can check for signed or unsigned drivers using the sigverif.exe tool.

8. I cannot find a Windows Vista driver for my hardware, can I use an older driver?

Yes, you can use some drivers written for Windows 2000 or XP. Be careful, not all old drivers will work on Vista. There are loads of websites for drivers, you should start with the manufacturer's web site for your system or motherboard and work up, try Driver Guide.

9. Where are drivers stored on Windows Vista?

Drivers are usually stored in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers folder. References to them are stored in the Registry in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\
System\CurrentControlSet\Services. Each driver has an registry entry and a line called ImagePath to load a driver.

10. Where do I find out what hardware I have and driver versions?

You can find all this in Device Manager which is accessible by right clicking My Computer, select Manage and then Device Manager. All devices are listed by type. So your graphics card is shown under Display adapters, sound cards are shown under Sound, video and game controllers and so on. Double clicking on a device will bring up Properties and clicking on Driver will give the date and version of the driver.

11. How can I tell if a driver is not installed?

Open Device Manager, and if a driver is not installed, then it will show up as a Unknown device with a Question mark next to it. If you install the wrong driver, then that driver will not start and is indicated so by a message in the device properties and a Exclamation Mark next to it.

12. What are IRQs, I/O, DMA and Memory addresses?

These are hardware resources used by devices to talk to the CPU. Some devices such as ISA, PCI and AGP cards will be allocated an Interrupt Request Queue number so that the system knows which device to talk to, IRQs are allocated to each slot, port or other device on startup. An I/O or Input/Output port is another channel used by the device to talk to the CPU . DMA or Direct Memory Access is used by devices to directly access memory and avoid using the CPU e.g. Hard Disks and FDD controllers. Memory addresses are used to store temporary data such as buffers for I/O devices e.g. Network cards and Modems.

13. How much memory does my PC have?

There are several places you can find out this information.
1. Right click My Computer, select Properties and it will display memory in Megabytes (MB).
2. Select start, run and type Winver.exe and it will display 'Physical memory available to Windows: xxx,xxx KB'.
3. Select start, run and type Dxdiag.exe and in the statistics it will say 'Memory: xxxx MB'
4. Select start, run and type Msinfo32.exe and it will say 'Total physical memory: xxxx MB'

System memory

14. How much memory does my graphics card or chipset have?

You can view this with the DxDiag.exe tool and click on the Display tab and it should say 'Approx. Total Memory: xxxx MB'.

Graphics memory

15. How do I update the BIOS?

The BIOS chip does two functions: provide some low level functions to configure the hardware, provide some minimal input/output functionality for the display and keyboard and load the operating system from disk. This information can be updated by what's called 'Flashing the ROM' which means replacing the code in the ROM chip with new code. How it is done is dependant on the motherboard manufacturer and the Rom chip manufacturer.
In some cases you have to boot into DOS and run a program to load the new BIOS code and write to the Flash memory of the boot chip or in some cases you can run the program from within Windows itself.