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It’s time to give your Windows system a clean How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and for All How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and for All Clutter is more detrimental than you realize. A tidy Windows desktop makes things easier to find, is more pleasing to look at, and reduces stress. We show you how to get your desktop in order. Read More of all the old and unnecessary drivers on it. This will free up your storage space Automatically Free Up Disk Space with Windows 10 Storage Sense Automatically Free Up Disk Space with Windows 10 Storage Sense When you're running out of disk space, what do you do? Windows 10 has a feature called Storage Sense that can help you clear those space hogs. We show you how to set it up. Read More  and you might see some performance improvements. We’ll show you two great methods to tidy up those drivers.

Not only does your system retain previous driver versions for current devices, it also stores drivers for devices you stopped using long ago. You might want to keep the former, but the latter can go!

If you have your own methods to share on removing old drivers from your Windows machine, please let us know in the comments below.

Remove Previous Driver Versions

When you update an existing driver, Windows will keep the old version stored on your system. This is so that you can easily roll back to the working version Take Back Control Over Driver Updates in Windows 10 Take Back Control Over Driver Updates in Windows 10 A bad Windows driver can ruin your day. In Windows 10, Windows Update automatically updates hardware drivers. If you suffer the consequences, let us show you how to roll back your driver and block future... Read More if the new one causes trouble.

Old drivers do take up space, though, so if you’d rather forgo that protection then you can remove them all. Remember, if you regret your choice, you can usually find previous drivers from the device manufacturer’s website.

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To get started, press Windows key + R to open Run. Input cleanmgr and click OK. Select your main system drive from the drop-down and click OK. Disk Cleanup will then open. Click Clean up system files. You might need to select your system drive again.

This will then bring up a window containing a list of things you can delete to save system space. Feel free to tick the boxes of other items, but the pertinent one for us is Device driver packages. Once selected, click OK and it will delete your older driver versions.

Remove Old Device Drivers

If you’ve had your system for a long time Using An Old Computer? Give It New Life With LXDE Using An Old Computer? Give It New Life With LXDE As Linux is arguably the most customizeable operating system between it, Windows, and Mac OS X; there's plenty of room to change just about whatever you please. Proper customizing can potentially lead to massive performance... Read More then you’ve probably gone through lots of different hardware. Speakers, mice, keyboards, and all sorts of devices can install their own drivers to your computer.

The drivers for these devices will remain installed, even if you don’t use that device anymore, but just hidden from view. We’re going to show you how to reveal and delete them.

Step 1: Reveal Hidden Drivers

There are two different methods you can use to reveal your hidden drivers. Both achieve the same thing but feel free to use whichever you feel most comfortable with.

Option 1: Using Command Prompt

Perform a system search for cmd. Next, right click on the relevant result and click Run as administrator.

This will open the Command Prompt with elevated permissions (though it’s not the only method for opening a administrator Command Prompt The Fastest Way to Open an Admin Command Prompt in Windows 10 The Fastest Way to Open an Admin Command Prompt in Windows 10 At times, everyone needs to open an Administrator Command Prompt. Don't waste time -- use this super-convenient method to get to it faster. Read More ). Copy and paste the following:

SET DEVMGR_SHOW_NONPRESENT_DEVICES=1

Press Enter. You won’t receive a confirmation message, but the change will have taken place.

Option 2: Using Environment Variables

Perform a system search for Edit the environment variables for your account and select the relevant result.

In the User variables section at the top, click New…. In the new window, input the Variable name as devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices and the Variable value as 1. Then click OK.

Step 2: Delete From Device Manager

Now that we’ve revealed the hidden drivers, it’s time to remove them. Do a system search for device manager and select the relevant result.

Once opened, go to View > Show hidden devices. This will give you a list of all your active and inactive devices. Those which are inactive will be grayed out.

Right click the inactive device and click Uninstall device to remove it completely. You’ll need to do this in turn for each device you want to uninstall.

Drivers Be Gone!

With these two methods, you can ensure that your system only has up-to-date drivers for devices that you’re actively using. Depending on how many drivers you’ve had stored, you’ll now have a good chunk of free storage space.

If you’re after more tips on how to get the most from your Windows drivers, see our guides on finding and replacing outdated drivers How to Find & Replace Outdated Windows Drivers How to Find & Replace Outdated Windows Drivers Your drivers might be outdated and need updating, but how are you to know? First, don't fix it if it ain't broke! If drivers do need updating, though, here are your options. Read More .

Do you have another method to find and remove old drivers? How often do you clean out your drivers?

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  1. CrankyBeach
    February 14, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Just discovered this technique, and am hoping it will resolve some difficulties. But I have many, MANY "unknown" devices, inactive hubs and the like listed under USB controllers. Is there a method to bulk-remove these? Perhaps at the command line level, or even from the registry? Thanks.

  2. ROBERTO
    November 16, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Thank you very much ! i found to my surpise more than 50 grey items, so y had to spend about 20-30 minutes to erase all of them one by one, and now my computer is clean ( sorry about my english )

  3. Zahoor
    October 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Hi! How can I run my command prompt as administrator when I click run as it opens a page which is Run As I clicked the option of =the following user and as administrator but when I click OK it says blank or incorrect password is not allowed so please answer fast thank you

  4. Cat
    October 5, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Helpful. thanks . How can I recover an Admin password on my laptop. Suddenly it won't let me do anything and reassigned me as system user.

  5. Isai
    March 17, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    My pc only has one USB that works in. the others are connecting but not successfully. but the ports are not dead because as you put in a USB,it responds well but not successfully installing

  6. SPL
    February 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Okay, so super old post, but I was curious if this was required prior to device manager allowing the ability to view hidden drivers. Or, is this different?

    • Saikat
      February 21, 2015 at 5:05 am

      That ability has been there since XP. The screenshots are of a XP machine.

      It's only that Windows does not display some types of hidden devices, even when you enable the Show hidden devices option. “Ghosted” devices, such as USB devices that aren’t connected to your computer, will not appear in the list. To view them on Windows 7, Vista, or XP, you’ll have to launch the Device Manager in a special way.

  7. Haresh
    January 26, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Thanks a lot for the tips! USB drives and Memory cards drive had stopped working. But, after uninstalling all the inactive drivers, everything works fine again.

    Thanks again :-)

  8. dimitrios
    January 8, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    10.000 thanks!!!!

  9. Patriot
    June 23, 2009 at 8:00 am

    This method does not actually delete the driver. If you remove a piece of hardware from the Device Manager using this method, the driver will be reinstalled, automatically, if you run the hardware detection scan again.

    The only way of which I'm aware to permanently remove the actual driver files is as described here: http://winhlp.com/node/199

    • Altiris_Grunt
      June 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm

      Outstanding post, Patriot!

  10. Ivor the Insufferable
    May 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    The difficulty I see, in this article and in some others, is that there's no follow-up. No explanation or link is offered as to what the hidden device names are. I've found that there are a few that should be left alone. If I had their names handy from past misadventures, I'd give them here.

    MUO needs to provide explanations of what the hidden devices are or might be, what can be removed, what's best left alone.

    Also, regarding another article, an explanation needs to be given on the process of rsstoring drivers backed up with DriverBackup. Every time I've seen this program recommended, no one, not the reviewer or any commenters, had any insights on how to restore these "backed up" drivers, nor any potential problems that might arise.

    In short, please explain things more indepth and follow through on advice given here at MUO. As in the example given, if you're going to talk about how to use a program to back up drivers, talk further about how to restore said drivers.

  11. Art_Teac
    May 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Umm, wouldn't you achieve the same result if you reboot XP in Safe Mode, go to Device Manager and delete these orphan drivers?

  12. U SUCK
    May 19, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Way to steal a post buddy.
    howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/remove-old-drivers-after-upgrading-to-new-hardware/
    This article was written on 08/1/07"

    • Saikat
      May 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm

      Let me know if there's another way to do a straightforward thing as removing old device drivers. Then I will willingly agree that I "stole" your "patented" method. I guess according to you, Windows also did not know about this and you were the first one to "discover" it. For your information, this method has been referred to for troubleshooting since the early days of XP. 2007 is pretty late. There's a Techrepublic post dated 2006. Techniques are regurgitated on the net so that new readers and newbies can benefit from them. And from the 5-6 comments and 17 tweets, I guess it has helped at least someone.

  13. Bonemonster
    May 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for putting this up, it has helped quite a bit. I do still have a question or a few. What is the most likely cause of GPU crashes, even after I have uninstalled all old drivers? I have 3 seperate GPU's I can use: Nvidia 8400GS by XFX, ATI Radeon 3650HD by Visiontek and the onboard video )noe disabled) by Nvidia. No matter which option I choose games, such as Guild Wars or WoW, will eventually hang, crash, CTD or implode windows. This problem ONLYhappens when running 3D applications such as games. I thought it might be drivers but now I am not so sure. Also, how in the hell do I get a fix for the VPU Recover Error on the ATI card, not even Visiontek knows...

    • Saikat
      May 18, 2009 at 10:25 pm

      Hi,
      Your query falls a bit outside my area of "expertise". And I haven't faced a similar problem myself...I am more into Halo and Age of Empires.What I will do is forward your query to our writers network. We have some guys with pretty high geeky quotients out there...let's see if they can come up with somehthing.

    • Saikat
      May 19, 2009 at 11:50 am

      One of my colleagues was very helpful with this suggestion:
      I found a good forum thread about the VPU Recover Error, so I thought I would pass it along to you: http://www.flexbeta.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=9316. It basically counsels users to reinstall the graphics card driver, check the power supply unit, or increase the size of a computer's virtual memory.
      Another offered that your PC could be overheating. You can check both these out. Hope it's a help.

  14. Regine
    May 17, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Thanks.

  15. Hezee
    May 16, 2009 at 3:48 am

    what about unknown devices (yellow question-mark) is it ok to remove them as well?

    thank you!

    • Saikat
      May 17, 2009 at 1:44 am

      The 'Yellow Question Mark'/Unknown device could be because of various reasons...not necessarily a bad driver. Let me direct you to this detailed Microsoft Support article which explains it.

      • Hezee
        May 17, 2009 at 3:18 am

        thanks - it helped bigtime! ;)