What really is under the cover of my laptop?

I have acquired a laptop that was among the first to come from the factory with Windows 8. And I know for a fact that it has had at least two previous owners. So, there are no instruction manuals with it, and those available online do not list the specifications for this machine. And indeed, it's even running an updated operating system (OS). And although it's supposed to have a NIC on the motherboard, and it's supposed to report the presence of at least my own intranet and a WiFi connection supplied by my landlord, it reports nothing. All I get is the little networking icon with a red X. Fortunately, I have two (2) antiquated but still very functional "Hawking Hi-Gain USB Wireless-N Dish Adapters." And when I plug one of them into a USB port, I almost immediately see a whole bunch of networks popping up, including both my intranet and the landlord's WiFi.

So the questions are, "What kind of NIC is installed (other than the Hawking, of course), specifically, even though it doesn't work for some reason?" And in a more general sense, "What other devices really are installed on that machine but not being reported?"

But first, before you commence pounding away on your keyboard to tell me that, "All I have to do is...," -

1) I am intentionally not telling you the details like the brand name, model, OS, and other data because this is a general question, not specific to this particular circumstance.

2) I've already done all the obvious stuff like checking the Device Manager, Devices and Printers, the Network and Sharing Center, and Programs and Features to no avail. A possible explanation for why they didn't work will be explained shortly.

But next, we must stop for a few moments to untangle an unfortunate facet of microcomputer jargon by asking, "What exactly do we mean by 'install' ?" "Installation" in the computer sciences world is really a several step process. At least three things most generally must happen.

1) At some point the hardware (a.k.a., "device") must be added to the computer.

2) At another point, the software (a.k.a., drivers) must be written someplace (usually onto a hard drive, or more recently an SSD) so as to be accessible to the OS.

3) And lastly, something must be done to tell the OS where to find the drivers, configuration files, and the device. (In Windows this is commonly called "Registering the device.")

Just to be clear, in some cases (e.g., the aforementioned Hawking Dish Adapter) we must first write the drivers to some storage device. (Almost always, the installation program then arranges whatever is required to tell the OS where to find the software - number three above.) But in other cases we must first insert or hook up the hardware/device before "installing" the software.

And when you ask your OS to report what devices are installed, the OS almost universally reports those devices based on what drivers it finds, not the hardware! So, in my case, all that keyboard pounding referred to in the third paragraph is a waste of time, because Microsoft Windows really couldn't care less about what hardware is installed unless it interferes with the operation of the OS. Unless it's forced to, Windows seldom checks for hardware, but apparently only reports what software is registered. (Be careful here not to confuse the boot firmware - BIOS or EFI - with the OS.) And therefore, as probably in my case, it sometimes lies.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer this simple question: "Can any of you suggest any program/software that sidesteps the software/drivers hiccup, and goes directly for the beef, ferreting out hardware of any sort that either exists natively on the motherboard or that may be plugged into any USB or other port?" (Note that this would include audio adapters, display adapters, storage devices, etc. as well and NICs, which is the reason I'm posting this here rather than in "Network and Sharing." Basically all the stuff listed, plus everything else not listed, under Computer Management/Device Manager, but from the viewpoint of actually finding the hardware, not just the installed software.)

Whew! After all that I'm gonna take a nap. :)
Thanks for your patience.

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 8.1
    Computer type
    System Manufacturer/Model
    Asus G750JM
    Intel Core i7-4700HQ
    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Nvidia GEFORCE GTX 860 M
    Mozilla Firefox
    Windows Defender


VIP Member
I am intentionally not telling you the details like the brand name, model, OS, and other data because this is a general question, not specific to this particular circumstance.
Pity, because for some major brands, especially Dell, going to their support site and providing the machine's service tag (serial number) will tell you exactly what it's configuration was when it was built.

In general, click Start, type 'System information' and run it to see details of the hardware and software installed.

Perhaps for a more comprehensive and/or user friendly view, try Speccy.


My Computer

System One

  • OS
    System Manufacturer/Model