'The Device Cannot Start, Code 10' Error

Error codes are beneficial for users who can parse them, but they're not always intuitive to those not 'in the know' or with useful references. A code 10 error signals a problem with a device's driver software that prevents the device from starting and can impact USB storage drives or peripherals like mice. Windows users can recover from most sources of this error with few problems by running through routine troubleshooting solutions specific to driver restoration.

As a rule, users should restart their PCs after performing any major hardware or driver changes. Many changes will not register until after Windows fully reboots, and this process also can clear up temporary code 10 errors.

Although users have generic, extreme options, such as using their last Restore Point or performing a total reset of Windows, experts don't recommend them except as last resorts. Most code 10 causes are resolvable with less severe solutions that don't wipe user data.

Windows troubleshooters may help users with their malfunctioning devices. Type 'Troubleshoot other problems' into the taskbar's search field and click the top result. Scroll through the list and choose the appropriate troubleshooting tool for the non-working device (a la the keyboard or network adapter). There also is a generalized hardware repair application that's available from the Command Prompt. Users can pull it up by typing the following command:

msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic

However, as with many other errors, a 'The Device Cannot Start, Code 10' error is, foremost, about the device's driver updates and integrity. Users should get used to opening the Device Manager and checking for an out-of-date driver version, which can cause various errors. USB devices may be in the 'Universal Serial Bus controllers' section, while some devices, such as network adapters, mice and other pointing devices, keyboards, and others, have specialized areas. Double-click the appropriate category and pay attention to any yellow warning icons – these symbols indicate problems with the device. Users also can right-click each section and initiate a general-purpose scan for any changes with devices in that category.

Upon finding the problem device, right-click its entry. Clicking Properties and then the Driver tab on the new window shows the devices' driver version and date. With this information in hand, users can download an update from the manufacturer's website (or a manufacturer-recommended source) if one is available. Alternatively, users can also update the driver through Windows from the same right-click menu as the Properties option – although experts only recommend this for Microsoft-supported products.

Additional troubleshooting features for device drivers include:

  • The 'disable' button deactivates the device, but the user can re-enable it at any time.
  • The 'uninstall' button removes the device's software entirely. In some cases, Windows may re-install it automatically, which can repair corrupted drivers. In other scenarios, users must install the driver again by themselves.
  • The 'roll back' button reverses the last update and sets the driver back at its previous version, and is useful after, for example, a corrupted update. It's unavailable if there are no previous versions.

Users with no other solutions available may try deleting the Registry's 'UpperFilters' and 'LowFilters' values, which relate to filter drivers. However, any Registry changes should be specific and targeted; inappropriate Registry edits can make other programs, hardware and Windows inoperable.

A code 10 error is one of the countless side effects of poor driver management. Users who install the appropriate updates from official sources habitually should see it rarely, although once one does, there are easy recovery options for anyone's use.

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