Resolving Hardware Conflicts


A hardware conflict occurs when two devices try to use the same hardwrae resource, such as an IRQ or memory address.  The telltale signs of a conflict is either a particular device not working, or your system hanging or crashing every time you try to use a specific device.  Nearly all devices made since 1996 are Plug-&- Play (PnP), meaning that they adjust these settings automatically to avoid conflicts.   The more PnP devices you have, the less likely you are to experience a conflict.   (For non-PnP devices, resources are assigned by setting jumpers or switches on the device itself, or by using special drivers or software.)  So, what remains is trying to resolve conflicts between non-PnP  (Legacy)  devices;   here is a general attack strategy for this type of problem:

1.)   Open the Device Manager, select System from the top of the list, and click Properties.   Windows tries to list all your resources, and which ones are being used by which devices.

2.)  From here, you should be able to determine if there is a conflict, and which devices are causing it.  Now, it's only a matter of reconfiguring one or more of the devices so that the conflict is eliminated  (refer to the specific device's manual for information on changing its settings).  If you can't find the cause of the problem here, continue to step 3.

3.)  Remove or disconnect all unnecessary devices  (sound cards, CD- ROMs)   from your computer, except for the one that isn't working  (if applicable).   If the device still doesn't work, either it's broken, it's a driver problem , or the conflict is with a key piece of hardware  (such as the motherboard or video card).

4.)   If the problem seems to have been fixed, start adding devices one-by-one, until the problem reappears.  You've now isolated the culprit, and it's now only a matter of reconfiguring that device so that the conflict is eliminated   (refer to the specific device's manual for information on changing its settings).

5.)   Note that drivers can cause problems, too. See the next section for more information.

Troubleshooting Driver Problems

Drivers are used to help your computer communicate with a specific piece of hardware, and if the driver is flawed or outdate   (both very common),  the device will either not work properly, or will cause another device not to work properly.

Contact the manufacturers of the various devices in your system for their most recent drivers;  most are available for free download  (be sure to complain to the company if they try to charge you for drivers for their products).  Newer drivers can also improve performance and add new features.  This is especially true of video drivers; new versions can improve speed and can increase the maximum resolution and color depth of your display.

In fact, most visual problems  (flicker, mouse cursor problems, and even errant font behavior)   can be attributed to buggy video drivers.

Although it's a good policy to check with your manufacturer for the most recent drivers on a regular basis, you should only do so if you have the time to spend on it  (new drivers may introduce new problems, as well).  In other words, if it aint broke, don't fix it.

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