|Brand name system computers always have all the necessary drivers for the system installed, but I'm not sure whether that applies when the system that orginally had Vista installed on it is downgraded to having XP as the operating system - that depends on whether there's an automatic way to do that, or a tech for the vendor who is selling the laptop could but may not do that, or anyone who uses a regular XP CD to install Windows could but may not do that. |
In any case, the drivers for the mboard must be installed, particularly the ones for the main chipset, and drivers for anything else included with the system usually must be installed. E.g. Windows doesn't install some support for common components built into newer laptop chipsets until after the main chipset drivers have been installed - laptop chipset drivers are different from desktop chipset drivers, even for very similar chipsets.
If you're not sure whether the main chipset drivers have been installed, in most cases you can install them, without having to find out somewhere whether they are already there and having to un-install them if they are, before installing them again.
If you tell me which brand name model you have, I can point you to where the main chipset drivers can be downloaded from, on the chipset maker's web site if they're not on the brand name builder's web site in the software downloads for your model. .
The USB controller drivers are built into Windows - they have been since the Windows 98 original version was released. There was support for them in later versions of Win 95 too (OSR2 and later), but you had to enable the USB support via a procedure. You don't need to install them yourself, and it's quite rare for you to need to re-install them.If the mboard has USB controllers the mboard's bios also has built in USB support in it's code, so if the USB controller(s) are enabled in the bios Setup, which has been the default for mboards for many years, a USB device can work even before the operating system loads from the hard drive.
If all your built into the mboard USB ports work for at least some USB devices, then the USB controllers must already be enabled in the mboard's bios Setup.
If you need to get into your bios Setup (some brand name system mboard bioses call it something else) , there is often a text message seen on your screen while booting, early in the boot sequence - e.g. Press F1 (or F2, or Del, etc.) to Enter Setup" or similar. You must press the stated key while the line is displayed, or often you can press it BEFORE the line is displayed, but it won't work to press the key AFTER the line is displayed in almost all cases - in most cases you press the key repeatedly, don't hold it down, but for some laptops you DO have to hold it down. The key you press varies, and depends on what the bios version requires, not which operating system you're using on the computer. If you don't see a line like that, the key you press is stated in the Owner's manual for your brand name system model, or if you have a generic desktop system, in the manual for the mboard model.
e.g. it's often F1 or F2 for a HP or Compaq system, Del for a generic desktop system. In some cases you press two keys.
Older mboards that have USB have only USB 1.0 or USB 1.1 controllers - newer ones have USB 2.0 controllers, which also support USB 1.1 standards. If the mboard has USB controllers, the USB 1.0 or 1.1 controllers, or the USB 1.1 components of the USB 2.0 controllers, are detected automatically by the operating system, even before the drivers for the mboard have been installed.
So - you have support for recognizing most if not all USB devices even before drivers for the mboard have been installed.
"I did need to re-install the USB drivers and have now managed to get the new external hard drive connected & working."
Therefore - it's extremely likely the external drive was recognized because of something else you did to cure the problem.
However, USB 1.0 or 1.1 has much slower max. data transfer rates than USB 2.0 does, so if a USB device is designed to use the faster data rates USB 2.0 allows for (e.g. external hard drives, flash drives) , you will often get messages from Windows when you plug in the device that the device will work better if it is connected to a USB 2.0 controller.
If a mboard has USB 2.0 controllers, both USB 1.1 and 2.0 controllers are detected and listed in Device Manager, BUT the USB 2.0 controllers are not recognized unless the drivers for the mboard have been installed, and XP must have SP1 or later updates included or installed, in order for the USB 2.0 controllers to be detected and supported. USB 2.0 controller drivers are labelled various ways in Device Manager - e.g. often as for Enhanced controllers.
As I've already said "found new hardware" is automatic and built into the operating system - there is no wizard for that. In the case of external drives connected by USB, that will find the external drives automatically, if and only if the drive is getting enough current from the USB port or ports it's plugged into, or one USB port and an external power adapter plugged into the external case.An external drive will probably even work connected to the older USB 1.0 or 1.1 only ports, but of course the max, data transfer rate would be much slower than the hard drive is capable of. I've never come across or heard of a USB 2.0 only device - one that will only work in a USB 2.0 port - although in theory there may be such devices.
In most cases the built in "found new hardware" feature finds Plug N Play devices automatically, that includes external drives and flash drives, no problem. However, it may not find the drivers for the device automatically (it does for external drives and flash drives) if they're not built into Windows, even when you have Windows search for drivers it doesn't install by default.
Usually it's NOT a good idea to install drivers for a device when "found new hardware" pops up while booting into Windows, if you have Windows search for drivers at that time and it doesn't find any, and it asks you to point to the location of where the drivers are - if you DO show Windows where the drivers are, it's very likely at least some of the features on the device will NOT work properly. Instead of doing that , CANCEL that, and when the desktop loads, run the proper software installation for the device. E.g. sound adapters, video adapters, some network adapters won't work properly if you point to where the drivers are while booting.
For some cards you install in slots, some USB connected devices, some other devices, you must install the drivers/software for them BEFORE you first plug them in - e.g. printers, scanners, multi-function devices (e.g. printer, scanner, etc.). Read the installation instructions for the device to see if that's applicable .
Non Plug and Play Devices that are not found automatically by default (some are) can usually be automatically found by using Control Panel - Add Hardware, or by manually selecting the device with that.
The closest thing to a "found new hardware" wizard in Windows is Add Hardware in Control Panel.
However, it's extremely rare for you to have to use Add Hardware to find a PnP device, or for you to have to use that and manually have to select a PnP device.