Windows Vista

How to Diagnose the “USB Device Not Recognized” Error in Windows

Windows is designed to be almost universal in its support of PC accessories, particularly USB-based add-ons like external hard drives, flash drives, game controllers, webcams, microphones, and other peripherals. Most things work out-of-the-box thanks to pre-loaded drivers, but occasionally a gadget will still give you the dreaded “USB device not recognized” error.

There are a lot of different ways that this problem can manifest, and unfortunately Windows still isn’t very good at actually telling users how to solve it. Here are the most common issues and—in at least some cases—how to fix them.

You Might Be Missing Drivers for the Device

Starting with Windows Vista, the operating system loads thousands of generic and specific drivers at the time of its installation, and adds new drivers for detected hardware periodically through Windows Update. So if the gadget you’re plugging in to your computer is simple enough, or it comes from a major manufacturer like Logitech, it should work right away or after a quick, semi-automatic download.

If it doesn’t, it might mean that your device isn’t covered by Microsoft’s generic built-in drivers or the larger database of drivers on the Windows Update servers. That means you’ll need to download the necessary drivers from the manufacturer’s website.

Most drivers should install just like any other Windows program. If that doesn’t work, though, read on.

Your Computer Might Be Using Incorrect or Outdated Drivers

As handy as Windows’ automatic driver detection is, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes it matches the wrong driver with the device, or the device hardware has been updated by the manufacturer to the point where the original driver is no longer applicable. If the installed drivers or ones downloaded from the manufacturer’s site on the web aren’t working, you’ll need to manually select the device and driver using Device Manager.

Open the Start menu and type “Device Manager”. Select the…

What Is conhost.exe and Why Is It Running?

You are no doubt reading this article because you’ve stumbled across the Console Window Host (conhost.exe) process in Task Manager and are wondering what it is. We’ve got the answer for you.

This article is part of our ongoing series explaining various processes found in Task Manager, like svchost.exe, dwm.exe, ctfmon.exe, mDNSResponder.exe, rundll32.exe, Adobe_Updater.exe, and many others. Don’t know what those services are? Better start reading!

So What Is the Console Window Host Process?

Understanding the Console Window Host process requires a little bit of history. In the Windows XP days, the Command Prompt was handled by a process named the ClientServer Runtime System Service (CSRSS). As the name implies, CSRSS was a system level service. This created a couple of problems. First, a crash in CSRSS could bring down a whole system, which exposed not just reliability issues, but possible security vulnerabilities as well. The second problem was that CSRSS could not be themed, because the developers didn’t want to risk theme code to run in a system process. So, the Command Prompt always had the classic look rather than using new interface elements.

Notice in the screenshot of Windows XP below that the Command Prompt doesn’t get the same styling as an app like Notepad.

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Windows Vista introduced the Desktop Window Manager—a service that “draws” composite views of windows onto your desktop rather than letting each individual app handle that on its own. The Command Prompt gained some superficial theming from this (like the glassy frame present in other windows), but it came at the expense of being able to drag and drop files, text, and so on into the Command Prompt window.

Still, that theming only went so far. If you take a look at the console in Windows Vista, it looks like it uses the same theme as everything else, but you’ll notice that the scrollbars are still using the old style. This is because the Desktop Window Manager handles drawing the title bars and frame, but an old-fashioned CSRSS window still sits inside.

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Enter Windows 7 and the Console Window Host process. As the name implies, its a host process for the console window. The process sort of sits in the middle between CSRSS and the Command Prompt (cmd.exe), allowing Windows to fix both of the previous issues—interface elements like scrollbars draw correctly, and you can again drag and drop into the Command Prompt. And that’s the method still used in Windows 8 and 10, allowing all the new interface elements and styling that have come along since Windows 7.

Even…