The blog of Windows Wally, a Windows Support Technician helping common people solve frustrating computer problems.



Troubleshooting Blank / Empty Device Manager Problem

Reader Question:
“Hi Wally, I got a real shock today, an empty device manager showed up when I opened it. I’ve been having problems with the microphone but I didn’t expect to see this when I opened it. I don’t know what to do, please help!”  - Kelsey W., Australia

Before addressing any computer issue, I always recommend scanning and repairing any underlying problems affecting your PC health and performance:

  • Step 1 : Download PC Repair & Optimizer Tool (WinThruster for Win7, XP, Vista – Microsoft Gold Certified).
  • Step 2 : Click “Start Scan” to find Windows registry issues that could be causing PC problems.
  • Step 3 : Click “Repair All” to fix all issues.

Setting up weekly (or daily) automatic scans will help prevent system problems and keep your PC running fast and trouble-free.

Wally’s Answer: When dealing with a Windows PC, its common sense to look at the device manager if there’s a problem with the hardware. An empty device manager is pretty weird because the device manager is never empty. It always shows devices such as the display, processor, RAM, etc.

This strange behavior can be quite confusing but don’t panic, in this article we will look at some ways that we can fix this problem.

Problem

No devices are showing up in the device manager

Cause

  • The Plug and Play service is not working.
  • The relevant registry key is not being given proper security permissions.

Solution

Here are solutions to the problems mentioned above:

Make Sure Plug and Play Is Enabled

Plug and Play is the service responsible for filling the list in the device manager with devices. Plug and play works automatically and adds a device to the list when the it is connected to the computer. Here’s how to enable it:

  1. Press Windows Key + R > type services.msc > press Enter
    Empty Device Manager - RUN - services.msc -- Windows Wally
  2. In the Services window, find Plug and Play in the list of services
    Empty Device Manager - Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Plug and Play -- Windows Wally
  3. If the Status is Running then your fine, if its not then double-click Plug and Play to see the Properties
  4. Go to the General tab > click the Startup type drop-down-list and select Automatic
    Empty Device Manager - Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Plug and Play - General - Automatic -- Windows Wally
  5. Click OK
  6. Restart the computer

The empty device manager problem should disappear after setting Plug and Play to Automatic. If it doesn’t, then follow the next steps.

The Registry Key Security Problem

There are many registry keys that are responsible for running the device manager. Registry entries define roles of different files and also define permissions for the hardware. If permissions are reset from the registry, the computer will not be able to load devices in the device manager. Follow these instructions:

  1. Press Windows Key + R > type regedit > press Enter
    Empty Device Manager - regedit - Windows 8.1 -- Windows Wally
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum
  3. Right-click Enum and click Permissions…
    Empty Device Manager - regedit - Enum - Permissions... -- Windows Wally
  4. Look under Group or user names, there should be at lease two entries in there. There are three entries in the screen-shot below.
    Empty Device Manager - regedit - Enum - Permissions... - 2 -- Windows Wally.png
  5. If it is empty, click the Add button to add a user to the list.
  6. In the Enter the object names to select.. type Everyone
  7. Click the Add button to add a user to the list.
  8. In the Enter the object names to select.. type SYSTEM
  9. Click Check Names, and click OK
    Empty Device Manager - regedit - Enum - Permissions... - 3 -- Windows Wally
  10. In the Permissions for Enum window, click SYSTEM and check the Full Control and Read boxes under the Allow column
    Empty Device Manager - regedit - Enum - Permissions... - 4 -- Windows Wally
  11. Restart the computer

Go to the device manager and see if it works. Devices should start appearing in the list now. If you liked this article then please follow us on Facebook and Google+

Is Your PC Healthy?

I always recommend to my readers to regularly use a trusted registry cleaner and optimizer such as WinThruster or CCleaner. Many problems that you encounter can be attributed to a corrupt and bloated registry.

Happy Computing! :)

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About the Author

Windows Wally is a helpful guy. It’s just in his nature. It’s why he started a blog in the first place. He heard over and over how hard it was to find simple, plain-English solutions to Windows troubleshooting problems on the Internet. Enter: Windows Wally. Ask away, and he will answer.