Device and device instance identification strings

The Windows operating system uses a number of device identification strings to identify devices that are plugged / installed on a computer. Windows notably leverages certain identification strings to locate the driver package that best matches a device. Additionally, device instance identification strings are set to uniquely identity each device instance (to distinguish a device from other devices of the same type / vendor / product).

The following identification strings are defined:

  • The vendor ID identifies a specific vendor, with a mapping available on The product ID (PID) identifies a product from that vendor.

  • The device ID or hardware ID is “a vendor-defined identification string that Windows uses to match a device to a driver package”. The identifier references the vendor and product names as well as the revision version. Example for a DataTraveler_3 USB key by Kingston: Ven_Kingston&Prod_DataTraveler_3.0&Rev_PMAP.

  • The instance ID is “a device identification string that distinguishes a device from other devices of the same type on a computer”. It contains the device serial number, if supplied, and otherwise “some kind of location information”. Example of an instance ID for a device that does not supply a serial number: 5&2eab04ab&0&1.

  • The device instance ID is “a system-supplied device identification string that uniquely identifies a device in the system”. It is notably composed of the device’s device ID and instance ID.

  • The container ID is “a system-supplied device identification string that uniquely groups the functional devices associated with a single-function or multifunction device installed in the computer”. Starting with Windows 7, the Plug and Play (PnP) manager uses the container ID to group one or more device nodes (devnodes) that originated from a particular physical device.

  • The device interface class represents the type of the device (storage devices, USB devices, Bluetooth devices, etc.). Each device interface class is associated with a unique GUID, defined by Microsoft. The list of GUIDs by category of device can be found in the Microsoft documentation.

    • External physical storage GUID: {53f56307-b6bf-11d0-94f2-00a0c91efb8b}.
    • Logical volumes GUID: {53f5630d-b6bf-11d0-94f2-00a0c91efb8b}.


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