A friend of mine gave me his old computer ..(bougth 2002-2003)
He gave me everything exept his HDD. So i installed a HDD in and installed Windows XP on the System :

The Problem :

The System is running slow, because of the lack of drivers . ( No VGA driver installed! )
I have no handbooks and i don't know anything about the hardware.
So where should i start to get the System work properly ?

  • Are you able to get into the BIOS setup menus ? They are generally quite informative in identifying hardware.
    – user4358
    Aug 5, 2009 at 22:42

8 Answers 8


If you have Windows XP running, first step is to go into System->Device Manager in the Control Panel and write down the names of everything with a yellow exclamation point. Each of those devices are the things that need drivers. Sometimes the names are very descriptive: "Realtek 8139 Ethernet". Some are less descriptive: "Ethernet adapter", "AC97 Sound Device". Sometimes they are not descriptive: "Unknown Device." Nevertheless, write them all down.

Then, I'd check to see "what's missing" in the Device Manager list - is there a sound card present? is there a video card present? is there a serial port present? It might help here to check out a normal working computer. Also, think about what isn't working. Can you hear music if you play it in Windows Media Player? Are 3D accelerated games working? Can you connect to a LAN?

Once you've figured out "what's missing", open up the case and check the motherboard / expansion cards. Check out the video card, write down the part number on the biggest chip on the board, or find the board's part number silkscreened onto the card (it should be big too). Do the same for all other stuff that's missing. Do this for "larger" chips on the motherboard too, as some devices are on the motherboard.

Go online and Google for the drivers by using the part numbers you found.

Install the drivers. Check Device Manager as you go to see which devices with yellow exclamation points remain. Repeat starting at top.

By doing the above you should get a system working fairly well in short order. When I first started building PCs, between my inexperience and download times it took me a week to do the above (mind you we only had a 56k modem at that time). I bet you could nail it down within two days, tops, given modern internet connections.

If your'e still stuck, I highly suggest befriending your local Chuck Bartowski, or some other friendly tech guy who is cool with explaining things.

  • 1
    +1, Sometimes the most reliable method is getting down there and reading those white letters off the PCBs.
    – hyperslug
    Aug 5, 2009 at 23:43

Try Belarc advisor, I have used it before to identify the type of motherboard I had to try and figure out which type of memory to buy. I however can't guarantee that it will work if there are no drivers installed, but worth a try...

  • +1 for Belarc Advisor. I install it on virtually every PC I install and save the report just to have a record of what was on the system on day one. Aug 6, 2009 at 1:15
  • I grab the output from Belarc and send a copy to my gmail account for easy search/retrieval. Aug 6, 2009 at 15:50
  • Good idea! This will get him started
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 6, 2009 at 15:51

Open the Device Manager.

For each device with a yellow question mark, right click > properties, then navigate to the details tab.

In the combo-box, choose Hardware Ids. You'll have numbers looking like this:


Google everything after PCI\. If you can find anything, drop the last parameter (ex.: REV) and continue. You'll eventually find exactly what you need (usually the drivers, but you'll get the make, model of the card too).


If it is a prebuilt computer (like one by Dell or HP), look for the model number on the front or back of machine and go to the appropriate support site and look it up.

If it is a custom build, you are going to have to take the case cover off and look at part/model numbers on the components to get the proper drivers and such.

When it boots, you should be able to hit the pause button and look at any displayed information. Also, going into the BIOS might reveal some other components information.

  • It's a custom build .. i suggested .. maybe a system tool exist for identification :(
    – n00ki3
    Aug 5, 2009 at 22:25
  • 2
    @ n00ki3 - I wouldn't be sad; it's actually a pretty straightforward process. If you don't know how to identify the different parts in your PC, now is the time to learn, it will totally pay off when you never have to call Geek$quad. The key to identifying parts is to look for the biggest chip on a given board / in a given area, and write down the manufacturer, and then Google the part number. You'll usually figure out what type of chip it is (sound, video, northbridge, southbridge, etc.), and get a lead on a driver.
    – J. Polfer
    Aug 5, 2009 at 22:52

Get a Linux live CD (e.g. Ubuntu), boot from that, and see if it does any better. It may correctly detect the video hardware, ethernet, perhaps other bits. You can then post another question asking "How do I get hardware information in Ubuntu?" :-)


SIV should be able to help you out with identifying 90% of the mystery devices.

Beyond that: just open the case, snap a few digital photos and Google the part numbers like mad.


Install Windows 7 RC as it will have better driver support than XP. This will let you identify the devices, even if you decide to go back to XP once you know what you've got. John Fouhy's suggestion of using a Linux Live CD is similar. Try both!


When you turn the computer on, you should see some information about the motherboard, it's brand and model number.

Write down this information, and visit the manufacturer's website. They'll have the drivers you need.

Since most things are on board these days, the motherboard manufacturer will get you like 99% of the drivers you need. The only real doozies are video card and network card (if seperate).

Are your video card and network on the same part of the computer as your rear USB slots?

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