When travelling I have been using my Toshiba laptop (running Windows XP) to connect to the internet. There is a Belkin PCMCIA wireless card installed in the laptop, but I have found that the connection fee at caravan parks can be very expensive. Instead, I have purchased Telstra Next-G USB wireless modem so that I can connect to the internet over the Next-G cellular network, independent of the wireless offered at caravan parks. However, the computer refused to recognise the USB wireless modem. Previously I have encountered such issues and they could be resolved by enabling the device within the Device Manager, but when I go into the Device Manager it is completely blank with no devices listed at all. This functioned perfectly before I connected the Telstra modem to the computer. Disconnecting the Telstra modem does not fix the problem. How can I restore the Device Manager to its previous state and also make the computer recognise the Telstra modem?
We will first deal with the problem where no devices are displaying within the Device Manager window, since it is likely that we will need to use the Device Manager to resolve the second problem relating to the Telstra modem not installing. Additionally, as you will see below, the cause of the Device Manager problem may actually be the reason that the Telstra modem is not installing.
The Device Manager relies upon the Windows Plug and Play service to display devices within the Device Manager. This service allows Windows to enumerate hardware devices for display within the Device Manager and also recognise hardware changes to the computer. As you can see, without the Plug and Play service running Windows will not be able to enumerate the hardware devices for display. It is unknown why this service is not running, since it should always start automatically when Windows loads. To check the status of this service and start the service if necessary, go to the “Start” menu > “Control Panel”. In the Control Panel window that appears, open the “Administrative Tools” control panel (you may need to first select the “Performance and Maintenance” category). You should see a listing of various control panels which relate to administering the computer. Open the “Services” control panel. In the Services window that appears, scroll through the list until you find “Plug and Play”. If you look in the “Status” column for this service you will most likely notice that it is blank, indicating that the service is not started. Additionally, the “Startup Type” column may be listed as Manual or Disabled, explaining why the service is not automatically loading on startup. In either case, we need to start the service and re-configure to automatically start when Windows loads. Right-click on “Plug and Play” and then select “Properties”. In the Plug and Play Properties window that appears, click the “General” tab. Set the “Startup type” of the service to “Automatic”. This will tell the service to automatically start upon Windows startup. We also want to start the service right-now, so click the “Start” button. Once the service has started, click OK to save and close the changes. You should now be able to go back into the Device Manager window and see all of your devices.
While the Plug and Play service not running is the most common reason for the Device Manager not displaying any devices, there are a few other (more remote) possibilities for this problem. If you recently installed Windows XP Service Pack 3 and noticed that this problem only started occurring after that installation then a problem with the installation of Service Pack 3 could be the issue. This is because the installation of Service Pack 3 needs to create and then delete some registry keys. If you are running antivirus or other security software on your computer it may not allow the Service Pack 3 installer to delete those registry keys, thus causing the problematic behaviour. Be aware, if this is the problem then it is likely that your Network Connections window and control panel are also blank and do not show any network devices. This may be the case, but you just have not noticed since you may not frequent those windows often, so it could be worthwhile to check. Should you find that the Network Connections window (accessible through the “Start” menu > “Control Panel” > “Network Connections”, be aware that you may need to first select the “Network and Internet Connections” control panel category) is also blank then, combined with the fact that you recently installed Windows XP Service Pack 3, this is a likely cause of the issue. In this case, Microsoft has released an update to address this issue, which can be downloaded from support.microsoft.com/kb/953979/ . However, you should only apply this update if you are experiencing the problem – don’t apply the fix if you are not experiencing the symptoms of this problem.
The last possible reason that we will discuss for the Device Manager appearing blank is possible spyware or adware installed on your computer. Some users have reported that when such malware is installed it can cause the behaviour which you have described, amongst other consequences. Therefore, it would be advisable to complete a full virus scan and malware scan of your computer. I suggest that you first complete a full virus scan using the antivirus product installed on your computer, with the latest virus updates. If you do not have antivirus installed then you definitely should. If you would like a free antivirus solution AVG Free (www.avg.com.au) is a good solution. I also recommend NOD32 Antivirus (www.eset.com.au) which is a commercial product but is very good in that it does not consume a large amount of system resources and slow down the system, unlike other antivirus products. NOD32 also has a 30 day trial version available so you can try before buying. After the virus scan has been completed I suggest that you complete a malware scan of the computer. Download and install Ad-Aware Free (www.lavasoft.de), Spybot Search & Destroy (www.safer-networking.org), and Windows Defender (www.microsoft.com/downloads). Install and then scan your computer using each utility separately and remove any detected threats. I suggest that you scan the computer at least twice with each utility to ensure that everything gets removed and nothing remains behind or resurfaces. Once you have completed the scan check whether the Device Manager now displays correctly.
We will now move onto the problem of the Telstra USB wireless modem not installing. As I alluded to previously, this problem could be related to the Device Manager problem we have been discussing up to this point. The first suggestion which I proposed to resolve the Device Manager problem was ensuring that the Plug and Play service was running on the computer. In addition to allowing the enumeration of devices, the description of the Plug and Play service states that it “enables a computer to recognize and adapt to hardware changes with little or no user input”. In other words, this is used to detect new hardware which is connected to the computer and then commence the installation procedures for such hardware. If the Plug and Play service was disabled it could explain why the Device Manager was not working and also why the Telstra USB wireless modem was not being detected when connected to the computer. Therefore, if that service was disabled previously (and you have now enabled the service) connect the Telstra modem to your computer and check whether it is detected and installed.
Assuming that the above explanation does not resolve your problem it seems that we will need to undertake some additional work to resolve the issue of the Telstra modem not installing. To begin, we should verify that the modem is being detected by the computer. Connect the modem and then go into the Device Manager and check whether the modem is listed. Most likely, it will be listed under the “Network adapters” category. There are three possible outcomes from searching for the device within the Device Manager. We will deal with the most straight-forward explanations and then move onto the more complex explanations. First, the device does not appear at all within the Device Manager and the computer does nothing when you connect the device (e.g. no balloons appear from the system tray informing you that the device is being installed). This indicates that there is absolutely no communication between the device and the computer. In this situation, we need to ensure that the problem is with the device and not your computer. Try connecting the modem to a different USB port on the computer to eliminate a faulty USB port as the possible cause. Assuming that does not work, it would be useful if you could try connecting the device to a different computer. Should the device not work on a different computer then the modem itself appears to be faulty, so you should return the modem and try to get a replacement. Should the modem work on a different computer, but is not even detected on your computer no matter which USB port it is connected to, then please contact me for further advice as this could potentially be quite complex to resolve.
Moving onto the next possibility that the device appears in the Device Manger but with a yellow exclamation point against the device’s icon. This indicates that the device has been detected but is not functioning correctly. In most cases this is due to the drivers not being installed for the device and this can be confirmed by right-clicking on the device and then selecting “Properties”. In the Properties window, click the “General” tab and look at the “Device status” for an explanation as to why the device is not working correctly. Assuming that the device has been recognised but the drivers are not installed, check whether your modem came with any instructions or CDs which may contain the drivers and then follow the procedure to install the drivers. That said, in some cases the manufacturer of the devices may make the device so it does not require any third-party drivers but instead can function with default drivers built into Windows. Should this be the case, indicated by the device not coming with any drivers of its own, I suggest you contact technical support for the modem for further advice, as they will be more knowledgeable on the workings of that particular modem than myself.
The final situation is that the device is recognised in the Device Manager and is properly installed, confirmed by opening the properties for the device and checking the “Device status” which reads “This device is working properly”. In this case it seems that the hardware device itself is working fine, and most likely it is a configuration problem preventing the software on the computer (or software provided with the modem) from working correctly. Much like the last explanation, if you find yourself in this situation I suggest that you contact the technical support for the modem so they can talk you through the correct configuration procedure.