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Hardware and Sound

The Control Panel's Hardware and Sound category, shows some familiar faces. The Display icon, for example, also appears in the Appearance and Personalization category.

The Hardware and Sound category controls the parts of your PC you can touch or plug in. You can adjust the settings of your display here as well as your mouse, speakers, keyboard, printer, telephone, scanner, digital camera, game controllers, and (for you graphic artists out there) digital pen.

You won't spend much time here, though, especially coming in through the Control Panel's doors. Most settings appear elsewhere, where a click brings you directly to the setting you need.

Whether you arrive at these pages through the Control Panel or a shortcut, the following sections explain the most popular reasons for visiting here.

Adjusting volume and sounds

The Sound area lets you adjust your PC's volume, a handy technique when trying to sneak in a computer game on a Windows tablet during a boring business meeting.

Most Windows tablets come with toggle‐switch volume controls mounted along their left or right edge. The top button turns up the volume; the lower button decreases the volume. Experiment with them a bit before bringing Angry Birds into the board room.

To turn down your PC's volume from the desktop, click the little speaker by your clock and slide down the volume. No speaker on your taskbar? Restore it by right‐clicking the taskbar's digital clock, choosing Properties, and turning the Volume switch to On.

To mute your PC, click the little speaker icon at the left of the sliding control. Clicking that icon again lets your computer blare music again.

Right‐click the taskbar's speaker icon and choose Open Volume Mixer from the pop‐up menu to set different volumes for different desktop programs.

You can quietly detonate explosives in your favorite game while still allowing your desktop's e‐mail program to loudly announce any new messages. (Note: The individualized volume levels only control desktop programs, not apps, unfortunately.)

Installing or setting up speakers

Most PCs come with only two speakers. Others come with four, and PCs that double as home theaters or gaming rigs sometimes have up to eight. To accommodate the variety of setups, Windows includes a speaker setup area, complete with a speaker test.

If you're installing new speakers or you're not sure your old ones are working, follow these steps to introduce them properly to Windows:

  1. From the desktop, right‐click your taskbar's Speaker icon and choose Playback Devices.
    The Sound window appears.
  2. Click (don't double‐click) your speaker's icon and then click the Configure button.
    Click the speaker's icon with the green check mark, because that's the device your computer uses for playing sound. The Speaker Setup dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, then click the Test button, adjust your speaker's settings, and click Next.
    Windows walks you through selecting your number of speakers and their placement and then plays each one in turn so that you can hear whether they're in the correct locations.
  4. Click the tabs for any other sound devices you want to adjust. When you're through adjusting, click OK.

While you're here, check your microphone volume by clicking the Recording tab, as well as tabs for any other sound gadgetry you've been able to afford. If your speakers and microphone don't show up as devices, Windows doesn't know they're plugged into your computer. That usually means you need to install a new driver.

Adding a Bluetooth gadget

Bluetooth technology lets you connect gadgets wirelessly to your computer, removing clutter from your desktop. On a tablet, Bluetooth lets you add a mouse and keyboard without hogging one of your coveted USB ports.

Bluetooth can also connect your computer, laptop, or tablet with some cellphones for wireless Internet access - if your wireless provider allows it, of course.

To add a Bluetooth item to a computer, laptop, or tablet, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure your Bluetooth device is turned on and ready to pair.
    Most Bluetooth devices include a simple On/Off switch. Telling the device to begin pairing is a little more difficult. Sometimes you can simply flip a switch. Other devices make you hold down a button until its little light begins flashing.
    When you spot the flashing light, the device is ready to pair with another Bluetooth device including, you hope, your computer.
  2. Click the Start button, choose Settings, and click the Settings app's Devices icon.
    The Devices page of the app appears and shows you a list of currently installed devices.
  3. Click the Bluetooth option from the left side of the Devices window.
    Your computer quickly begins searching for any nearby Bluetooth devices that want to connect, known in Bluetooth parlance as pair.
    If your device doesn't appear, head back to Step 1 and make sure your Bluetooth gadget is still turned on and ready to pair. (Many give up and turn off after 30 seconds of waiting to connect.)
  4. When your device's name appears below the Add a Device button, click its name.
  5. Type in your device's code if necessary and, if asked, click the Pair button.
    Here's where things get sticky. For security reasons, you need to prove that you're sitting in front of your own computer and that you're not a stranger trying to break in. Unfortunately, devices employ slightly different tactics when making you prove your innocence.
    Sometimes you need to type a secret string of numbers called a passcode into both the device and your computer. (The secret code is usually hidden somewhere in your device's manual.) But you need to type quickly before the other gadget stops waiting.
    On some gadgets, particularly Bluetooth mice, you hold in a little push button on the mouse's belly at this step.
    Cellphones sometimes make you click a Pair button if you see matching passcodes on both your computer and phone.
    When in doubt, type 0000 on your keyboard. That's often recognized as a universal passcode for frustrated Bluetooth devices owners who are trying to connect their gadgets.
    After a gadget successfully pairs with your computer, its name and icon appear in the Devices category of the Settings app.

To add a Bluetooth device from the Windows desktop, click the taskbar's Bluetooth icon (shown in the margin), choose Add a Bluetooth Device, and then jump to Step 3 in the preceding list. Don't see the taskbar's Bluetooth icon? Then click the upward‐pointing arrow that lives a few icons to the left of the taskbar's clock. The Bluetooth icon appears in the pop‐up menu, ready for your click.

Adding a printer

Printer manufacturers couldn't agree on how printers should be installed. As a result, you install your printer in one of two ways:

  • Some printer manufacturers say simply to plug in your printer by pushing its rectangular‐shaped connector into a little rectangular‐shaped USB port on your PC. Windows automatically notices, recognizes, and embraces your new printer. Stock your printer with any needed ink cartridges, toner, or paper, and you're done.
  • Other manufacturers take an uglier approach, saying you must install their bundled software before plugging in your printer. And if you don't install the software first, the printer may not work correctly.

Unfortunately, the only way to know how your printer should be installed is to check the printer's manual. (Sometimes this information appears on a colorful, one‐page Quick Installation sheet packed in the printer's box.)

If your printer lacks installation software, install the cartridges, add paper to the tray, and follow these instructions to put it to work:

  1. With Windows up and running, plug your printer into your PC and turn on the printer.
    Windows may send a message saying that your printer is installed successfully, but follow the next step to test it.
  2. Load the Control Panel.
    Right‐click the Start button and choose Control Panel from the pop‐up menu.
  3. From the Hardware and Sound category, click the View Devices and Printers link.
    The Control Panel displays its categories of devices, including your printer if you're lucky. If you spot your USB printer listed by its model or brand name, right‐click its icon, choose Properties, and click the Print Test Page button. If it prints correctly, you're finished.
    Test page didn't work? Check that all the packaging is removed from inside your printer and that it has ink cartridges. If it still doesn't print, your printer is probably defective. Contact the store where you bought it and ask who to contact for assistance.
To print your documents to a file that you can e‐mail to nearly anybody, choose Print As a PDF. That saves your printed, formatted file as a PDF file, a format that's accessible with nearly every type of computer, smartphone, or tablet. (If somebody can't read it, tell them to download Adobe Reader from https://get.adobe.com/reader/.)
If you have two or more printers attached to your computer, right‐click the icon of your most oft‐used printer and choose Set As Default Printer from the pop‐up menu. Windows then prints to that printer automatically unless you tell it otherwise.
  • To remove a printer you no longer use, right‐click its name in Step 3 and then choose Delete from the pop‐up menu. That printer's name no longer appears as an option when you try to print from a program. If Windows asks to uninstall the printer's drivers and software, click Yes - unless you think you may install that printer again sometime.
  • You can change printer options from within many programs. Choose File in a program's menu bar (you may need to press Alt to see the menu bar) and then choose Print Setup or choose Print. The window that appears lets you change things such as paper sizes, fonts, and types of graphics.
  • To share a printer quickly over a network, create a Homegroup. Your printer immediately shows up as an installation option for all the computers on your network.
  • If your printer's software confuses you, try clicking the Help buttons in its dialog boxes. Many buttons are customized for your particular printer model, and they offer advice not found in Windows.