This service represents that part of Windows that pops up as a dialog and asks you how you want to open it, like for example what application will you use to open a new device just inserted in the computer.
This is a service that will also get a bit in the way of removing an autorun.inf virus if your computer will ever get infected by such a thing. One of the steps you will need to do if you will get into this delicate position and so you will have to clean your computer from an autorun.inf, is that you will have to stop this service and also set it to disabled or manual at startup type, until you remove the virus from your computer.
Shell Hardware Detection service will be a pain in the ass if you let it enabled while you are debugging an autorun.inf infection on your computer. That is why in some guides for removing such a virus, they will ask you to stop this service, although not all guides will tell you that. There are other ways too, in some cases they will take longer or there will be a chance to get infected while cleaning it if you plug another hardware device while this service is enabled.
Shell Hardware Detection is not always harmful for your computer, in most cases it’s best if you have it enabled because it will reduce the actions you need to do to open an application for a plugged in hardware device or to browse it.
There are also some other applications or services that depend on this service to run, like for example Windows Image Acquisition (WIA). Windows Image Acquisition provides an interface for scanners/digital cameras. If your camera just came up with a browser you won’t need this service, so it won’t matter much if you just set it to disabled, same as for Shell Hardware Detection.
In the end, it all depends on your habits and what is your style. For example, most of the geeks out there will prefer Shell Hardware Detection along with Windows Image Acquisition disabled, both for less headaches (skip risks and dialog pop up questions) and also for optimizing their Windows experience and resource management. There will be however, the people who don’t care so much about such things and want things as simple as they can, so both of this options would be enabled as a preference for them.
Autoplay and autorun as functions are always the key-words that will affect or be affected by Shell Hardware Detection service, so think twice before choosing the way you want it to work.
If you are asking yourself: “Great! We have the details, but what does it actually do?”, well let me show you an image you are more than used to it in Windows:
I will assume you will now have a bigger picture of the entire process and what this service actually does and you can now choose wisely the solution. With it enabled, started or however you want to call it as long as it is running, Windows will always asks such questions (as you can see in above picture) for most of the hardware devices you plug in to your computer, mostly the storage and disk drives.