How to Run a Scan to Detect Hardware Changes on Windows

You might sometimes need to manually select to scan for hardware changes when Windows doesn’t immediately recognize (detect) devices connected. In this case, the peripheral won’t be visible in Device Manager. Running scans for detecting hardware changes can also resolve driver-related issues and hardware conflicts.



This is how you can scan for hardware changes on your Windows PC.

How to Scan For Hardware Changes With Device Manager

Device Manager is the utility for managing peripherals on Windows PCs. That tool includes a Scan for hardware changes option you can select, which pretty much does what its label says. You can select that option in the Device Manager as follows:

  1. First, hold the Windows key and press X to activate a black Power User menu, which has numerous shortcuts on it.
  2. Click Device Manager to open that utility’s window.
  3. Select a device category within the window.
  4. Next, click on the Action menu.
    The Scan for hardware changes option

  5. Select the Scan for hardware devices changes option.

Alternatively, right-click a device and select Scan for hardware changes on its context menu. It’s recommended to do that for devices showing exclamation marks. The exclamation mark highlights there’s an issue with the device, which selecting Scan for hardware changes could fix.

The Scan for hardware changes context menu option

You can also select the Scan for hardware devices option to reinstall a device driver. To uninstall a device, right-click on it to select the Uninstall Device option; select the Attempt to remove driver for this device or Delete driver checkbox on the prompt that appears and click Uninstall. Then select Scan for hardware devices as outlined above.

The Attempt to remove the driver for this device checkbox

Computer Management Tool is a utility that incorporates the Device Manager. So, you can also select Device Manager’s Scan for hardware changes option within the Computer Management window as follows:

  1. Bring up the Power User menu to select Computer Management on it.
  2. Click System Tools to select Device Manager.
    The Computer Management tool

  3. Select a device category.
  4. Click Action and Scan for hardware changes.

How to Scan For Hardware Changes From the Command Prompt

The Command Prompt has a pnputil.exe utility with which you can scan for hardware changes on a PC. PnPUtil is a driver management command-line tool for adding and removing device drivers. This is how you can scan for hardware changes from the Command Prompt with that tool:

  1. Click the search bar or magnifying glass icon on the taskbar to access the tool for finding files and folders.
  2. Type Command Prompt to find the app with that title.
  3. Right-click Command Prompt in the search results and select Run as administrator to launch Command Prompt with elevated privileges.
  4. Input this PnPUtil command:
     pnputil.exe /scan-devices 
    The scan-devices command

  5. Press Enter to scan for hardware changes.

You’ll see a “Scanning for device hardware changes” message after command execution. The scanning probably won’t take long. Close the Command Prompt when you see the “Scan complete” message.

How to Scan For Hardware Changes With a Desktop Shortcut

You can also create a desktop shortcut for scanning for detecting hardware changes based on the PnPUtil command. Such a shortcut will enable you to run the scan devices command directly from the desktop without entering it. These are the steps for creating a command desktop shortcut that scans for hardware changes.

  1. Right-click an empty area of your Windows desktop to select New and Shortcut.
    The New > Shortcut options

  2. Enter (or copy and paste) this command into the location of item box:
     C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /k pnputil.exe /scan-devices 
  3. Select Next to continue in the Create Shortcut wizard.
    The Create Shortcut wizard

  4. Enter Scan for hardware changes in the shortcut name box.
  5. Click Finish to add the shortcut to the desktop.
  6. Right-click the Scan for hardware changes shortcut and select Properties.
  7. Click Advanced on the Shortcut tab.
  8. Select Run as administrator and OK.
    The Run as administrator checkbox

  9. Click Apply to set the shortcut to run with elevated privileges.

You can now scan for hardware changes with the desktop shortcut whenever needed. Double-clicking the Scan for hardware changes shortcut will run the scan-devices command.

Manually scanning for hardware changes is a Windows troubleshooting method that can fix some hardware-related issues. The Scan for hardware changes option is mostly useful for detecting older hardware peripherals that Windows might not always automatically recognize and reinstalling drivers when devices aren’t working right.

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