The Devices and Printers panel was first introduced in Windows 7 with the aim of providing a friendly way to interact with external devices connected to your computer. However, in order for the concept to work as intended, hardware manufacturers need to provide support for this feature in their Windows drivers.
This article will explain what Devices and Printers panel is, where to find it, both in Windows 7 and Windows 8, and how to use it to interact with devices.
NOTE: This article has been updated to provide the latest information about this feature and how it works on Windows 8.
What is the Devices and Printers Panel
Devices and Printers or Device Stage, as called by some, allows you to interact with all the external devices and some of the internal devices connected to your computer (desktop, laptop, tablet, etc), all in one place.
The configuration and interaction options available in this panel depend a lot on the drivers & support available for each device.
Some devices have full support for this feature while others do not. The devices which provide good support allow you to completely manage them from the Devices and Printers panel. You will be able to: see the functioning status of the device, view information about it, share it over the network, change its settings, use all features of the device, access troubleshooting tools, etc.
IMPORTANT: The devices which support this feature show a picture of the device instead of a generic icon. In the screenshot below, you can easily notice the difference in icons between my keyboard, mouse, Canon printer, webcam and all the other devices being listed.
For older devices, which don't take advantage of this feature, Windows allows you to modify a basic set of configuration options & troubleshoot some of the problems you might have with them. It is not much, but it is better than nothing.
In Windows 8, there is also a modern version of this panel, named Devices. It can be found in the new PC Settings. It lists your devices, allows you to see some brief information about their status and remove them from your computer.
To learn more about how to work with the Devices section in PC Settings, read this tutorial: Introducing Windows 8: How to Add or Remove Devices from PC Settings.
Where to Find Your Devices & Printers
In Windows 7, its shortcut can be found on the right side of the Start Menu.
Both in Windows 7 and Windows 8, you can access the desktop version of the panel by going to Control Panel and then to Hardware and Sound -> Devices and Printers.
Another alternative is to search for the word devices in the Start Menu search box (in Windows 7) or the Start screen (in Windows 8). The list of results should include the shortcut for Devices and Printers.
In Windows 8 you will have to filter the results by pressing Settings.
Then, both the Devices and Devices and Printers shortcuts will be listed.
Devices Included in Devices and Printers
Devices and Printers will show your own computer plus the external devices connected to it. The list of included devices is the following: mobile phones, portable music players, digital cameras, webcams, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, bluetooth adapters, external hard drives, media extenders and network devices connected to your computer.
It will also list some internal devices, such as your Serial ATA hard disk drives, DVD/Blu-ray players or your sound card.
Devices Excluded from Devices and Printers
Devices and Printers does not list most of the devices which are inside your computer case. This means that you will not see the following types of components: video card, memory, processor, internal modem, network card, etc.
Some external devices may not be included, depending on their support for this feature.
Examples of Usage Scenarios
What you can do with a device listed in Devices and Printers depends a lot on the support provided by the manufacturer of the device. For example, when I access my Microsoft Digital Media Keyboard, I can quickly configure it, get support for the issues I have with it, register it or get access to a guide for healthy computing practices.
If I right click on the same keyboard, in Devices and Printers, I quickly have access to configuration options such as the region and language used when typing.
For my Canon MX410 series printer, I have a useful set of options. In its Devices and Printers window, I can quickly see how many files there are in the printing queue, if the printer is ready or not, what is the default setting for page size and orientation.
I also have options for managing the FAX functions of the printer, making image scans, viewing ink information and getting support for my device.
Many other models of printers have similar options available.
Devices and Printers - Video Demo
For even more examples of usage scenarios and how this feature works, you can also try this video.
The concept for Devices and Printers is useful as it improves the interaction people have with the devices connected to their computers. Unfortunately, it is up to hardware manufacturers to take full advantage of this feature. And even though this feature is used both in Windows 7 and Windows 8, it hasn't been adopted by quite a few hardware manufacturers.