Tip

Where's that DVD drive?

One of the stranger problems you might encounter in installing Windows XP in your organization is the disappearance of your optical drive. The problem crops up both with Windows XP Professional and XP Home. Clearly the issue is software related because you can see a question mark for devices listed in the CD-ROM drive section of the Device Manager. The problem is that even if you uninstall the drive in the Windows Device Manager, the old driver is still loaded automatically when you reboot. You've most likely installed the wrong driver or your driver has gotten corrupted. In either case, you need to get rid of the old driver.

Your first step should be to try and replace the driver. To do this:

  1. Right click on My Computer, click on Hardware, and then open the device in the Device Manager.
  2. Double click on the malfunctioning optical drive; then click on the Uninstall button and OK.
  3. Repeat Step 2 to uninstall any other optical devices with a question mark on them (if you have multiple drives, for example).
  4. On the Device Manager Action menu, click the Scan for Hardware Changes to launch Window's plug and play device wizard.
  5. Windows will look for a driver to use (Automatic option), or you can supply a new driver using the one that came with your drive or an updated one that you find on the vendor's web site.
  6. Often Windows

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  1. Update will contain an updated driver, as most vendors try to post their most current driver on that site.

In some instances simply replacing the driver won't work. The drives are still missing even after the installation. To fix this problem, you may need to try this procedure that modifies the Windows Registry:

  1. Enter regedit into the Run command's dialog box, which is accessed from the Run command on the Start menu.
  2. Open the subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/System/Curretcontrolset/Control/Class/{4d36e965-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}.
  3. Select Export from the File menu, and then in the File name text box enter savedkey and click the Save button.
  4. Click on the REG_MULTI_SZ data type UpperFilters and then select Delete from the Edit menu.
  5. Repeat step 4 for the LowerFilters data type, removing that value.
  6. Close the Registry Editor and reboot your computer.

As with all changes to the Registry, it's a good idea to backup the Registry before you begin, and to pay special attention to correctly performing these changes. A damaged Registry can force you to reinstall your operating system.

You'll find several relevant Microsoft Knowledge Base articles. The two describing this problem directly are KB320553, which is a restatement of Q320553. If you are unfamiliar with the Registry, read article 256986.


Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.


This was first published in March 2003

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