Why does Windows XP show a red ‘X’ in Device Manager?

Do you see a small red x next to a hardware device in Device Manager? You may have made a change on purpose that resulted in the red x appearing, or there may actually be a problem.

Don’t worry if it’s hard to fix, though – most of the time there’s a really easy fix for a red x in Device Manager.

What does the red X mean in Device Manager?

A red x next to a device in Device Manager in Windows XP (and back through Windows 95) means that the device is disabled.

The red x does not necessarily mean that there is a problem with the hardware device. The red x simply means that Windows does not allow the use of the hardware and has not allocated any system resources for use by the hardware.

If you have disabled the hardware manually, that is why the red X appears for you.

How to fix Red X Device Manager

To remove the red x from a particular piece of hardware, you will need to enable the device, which is done in Device Manager. It’s usually that simple.

Enabling a device in Device Manager just involves selecting the device and changing its properties so that Windows starts using it again.

Read our How to Enable a Device in Device Manager tutorial if you need help doing this.

Versions of Windows newer than XP do not use the red x to indicate a disabled device. Instead you will see a black down arrow. You can also enable devices on those versions of Windows, also through Device Manager. The tutorial linked above explains how to enable devices on those versions of Windows as well.

Learn more about Device Manager and disabled devices

Disabled devices generate Device Manager error codes. The specific error, in this case, is a Code 22: “This device is disabled.”

If there are more hardware issues, the red x will probably be replaced by a yellow exclamation mark, which you can troubleshoot separately.

If you’ve enabled the device in Device Manager but the hardware still isn’t communicating with your computer as it should, the driver may be out of date or even missing altogether. Check out our guide on How to Update Drivers in Windows if you need help troubleshooting these types of issues.

Although a missing or outdated driver can be the cause of a hardware component not working with Windows as it should, the red x you see in Device Manager has nothing to do with whether or not the driver is installed. It just means that the device has been disabled for whatever reason.

Most devices that don’t work at all, even after enabling them in Device Manager, can be removed from the Device Manager list. Restart your computer after removing the device to force Windows to recognize it again. Next, if the device still doesn’t work, try updating the drivers.

You can open Device Manager in the usual way through Control Panel, but there is also a command line command you can use, which is described below.