How to launch Device Manager to see COM ports related to marine hardware -- Windows Vista / 7 / 8.1 / 10

Article FF12906, June 9, 2016

To see the Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 Device Manager, press the Windows logo key + X, then click Device Manager. The Ports (COM & LPT) branch (if present) lists various serial communications ports (physical or virtual) listed by number and with names that often indicate what hardware the port is communicating with.


 

Getting into Device Manager: four methods

There are numerous ways to invoke the Device Manager for the purposes understanding components of your computer. This article features an examination serial COM ports with an eye to connecting typical marine navigation hardware like a GPS or AIS.

Technical Side Note:

Some people use a business computer given to them as an employee. Sometimes a corporate IT department deliberately configures Windows to forbid access to Device Manager. If you must see Device Manager in this situation, only the IT support staff of the company can assist (i.e. Fugawi software has no influence over this configuration).

 

Here are four popular reliable ways of launching Device Manager that work across multiple editions of Windows:

By keyboard short-cut:

Press the Windows logo key + X to bring up the Windows quick-link menu; mouse click Device Manager in the list; or release the short-cut keys followed immediately with a press of the letter M (as in Manager).

Windows logo plus X leading to Device Manager

 

By the Run line:

  1. Click Start | Run or press the Windows logo key + R to bring up the Run dialog box.
  2. Enter the exact phrase: devmgmt.msc

 

By Windows 8.1 and 10 Search box:

Click the Search option (the magnifying glass icon) and enter the first few letters (at least) of: Device Manager. As you type that in, Windows lists likely matches; click on the Device Manager item to launch it.

 

By keyboard short-cut to System Properties:

Press the Windows key and the Pause/Break key (upper-right area of typical keyboards; if Pause is its own separate key, press Windows + Pause)
                   Windows key + 
This will get you into the System Properties window which always has a link or a tab to select for Device Manager.

 

First look at the COM ports in Device Manager

Find the row called Ports (COM & LPT) and click the small right-pointing triangle beside it (or a + sign in older Windows versions). This expands the Ports (COM & LPT) section to reveal any serial ports whose drivers are currently allowing examination of the port.

Technical Side Note:

If Device Manager lists no Ports (COM & LPT) row whatsoever, there is special Windows troubleshooting to do (which is outside of the scope of Fugawi's support for any complex variant issue).

Internet search with a phrase like "COM ports missing in Device Manager" and several good articles suggest the prime troubleshooting as: (i) click the View menu and set to show hidden hardware; (ii) enable serial ports in BIOS or in virtual machine settings; (iii) install updated motherboard drivers that allow for Windows to access serial ports.

Other troubleshooting may apply; if necessary, consult a computer technician or contact your computer manufacturer's support services.

 

Assuming you see COM ports listed, they always vary: sometimes only one is listed, other times several. The illustration below shows a rather above-average number of very different COM ports. See the related solution about How to determine which COM port to use for NMEA data with Fugawi Marine 5.

Example of Device Manager with a wide variety of COM ports shown