How to find out what kind of hardware is in your XP or Vista PC

If you’ve ever worked on a laptop or some kind of PC that has a proprietary motherboard (Compaq etc) then you’ve probably encountered the situation of not knowing where to get drivers because you don’t know who manufactures the device in question. Fortunately the PCI standard requires that each device on the bus is identified by the vendor and device, and this information can be used to look up in a website called

For example, a particular Toshiba Satellite Pro A200 I am working on has an "Ethernet controller" that I don’t know if I have drivers for.

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Open System
  3. Select Hardware tab
  4. Click Device Manager button
  5. Double click the device
  6. Click the Details tab
  7. Many entries including usually the first one will have a code starting with "VEN_". In this case "VEN_168C" which turns out to be Atheros
  8. The device is identified by a code starting with "DEV_", in this case "DEV_001C".
  9. When these codes are put through it tells me that the device I am looking for is "Atheros a/b/g" which is a wireless adapter based on the VGN-cr220e chip.

These distinctions are necessary because hardware manufacturers have a tendency to change the hardware specs often. The same model laptop might have two or more different network cards or wireless adapters depending on the exact subvariant. Sometimes you won’t know which subvariant you have, so this is a useful way of being able to select one manufacturer from a list.